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The HMR Diet has been around for 30 years, so why is it resurging now?
Earlier this week U.S. News & World Report released their rankings for 2018’s best diets, and one of the top spots went to a lesser-known plan, called the HMR Program—it tied with Weight Watchers in the “Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets” category.
So what is the HMR Diet? It’s not as new as you might think.
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Formerly known as Health Management Resources—though now titled “The Healthy Solutions Diet,” the HMR program was developed over three decades ago by behavioral psychologist Lawrence Stifler. The program involves two phases.
Phase one is the “Quick Start” phase: participants aim to lose weight as quickly as possible, eating lots of fruit and vegetables, as well as HMR-branded food that are shipped every two weeks. Phase one is based on a “three-two-five” structure: a minimum of three HMR shakes, two HMR entrees, and five 1-cup servings of fresh, canned, or frozen produce.
Participants can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds each week, with an average weight loss of about 23 pounds in the first 12 weeks.
When participants reach their goal weight, or want less structure, they move on to phase two, which lasts for 4 to 8 weeks. In phase two, participants receive HMR-approved foods monthly and slowly work in other healthy, low-calorie food options. The goal in this phase is to wean off the HMR program and begin to make healthy choices.
Participants are also encouraged to exercise and burn 2,000 calories each week. To foster accountability, users have weekly phone calls and counseling with registered dietitians and exercise psychologists.
In a 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers took a look at multiple commercial weight-loss programs, including Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Atkins, and HMR. HMR participants lost 4 percent more weight in the short-term than those in the other diet programs, but longer-term results were mixed.
The bottom line: This diet can work for people who don’t enjoy meal prepping—the HMR diet delivers all the low-cal, heat-and-eat entrees and shakes; all you have to do is add in your favorite produce. This is also convenient for when you need to pack lunch for work, or whip up dinner in a hurry. Bonus? You can have as much fruit and veg as you want, so you’ll never feel famished.
The downside? Phase one encourages participants to avoid restaurants and most social situations altogether to “avoid temptation”. You also can’t drink any alcohol in phase one, so if you’re a social butterfly you may want to choose another plan.
Also, the plan can be pricey: The 3-week HMR starter kit costs $271.50, and the standard 2-week reorder kit costs $185. Individual shakes, cereals, and soups can be purchased online and run between roughly $2 and $2.50 per serving, and entrees cost $3.70 per serving.
38 Popular Diets Ranked From Best to Worst
Just in time for your resolution, U.S. News & World Report released their annual "Best Diets" rankings today.
Happy New Year&aposs resolution time! Are you looking to change up the way you eat? Well, you&aposre not without choices, that&aposs for sure.
With so many diet plans out there, each promising their own version of better health, weight loss, or both, itâ€™s difficult to know which ones will actually help you reach your 2016 goals. Luckily, just in time for your resolution, U.S. News & World Report released their annual "Best Diets" rankings today.
And the best diet overall is. the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), for the sixth year in a row. The diet, which was originally developed to help people lower their blood pressure, focuses on a combination of low-fat, low-sodium, and plant-based meals. And U.S. News isnâ€™t the only one backing DASH The plan has years of scientific research on its side as well.
The magazine named their No. 1 after identifying 38 popular diet plans and having a panel of nationally recognized nutrition and health experts rate each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety, and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.
Once each had expert rated the diets on a scale of 5 (highest) to 1 (lowest), the magazine used the scores to create a ranked list for "Best Overall," as well as a more focused list for various categories, like the "Best Heart-Healthy Diets," "Best Plant-Based Diets," and "Easiest Diets to Follow."
Although the No. 1 spot wasn&apost a surprise this year, it&aposs not because the magazine didn&apost look at new plans. The rankings added three fresh options to the mix: The MIND diet, Whole30, and the Fertility Diet.
The MIND diet, which is said to help keep your brain young, combines the DASH and Mediterranean diets with an emphasis on research-backed â€ᔻrain-foods.â€ Unsurprisingly, this combo of two successful diets performed very well in the U.S. News ranking, landing the No. 2 slot on the list of Best Diets Overall.
However the very popular Whole30 diet, which requires adherents to cut all processed foods, legumes, grains, dairy, alcohol, and added sugar for 30 days, came in 38th place, aka dead last, in the "overall" category, following suitÂ with other trendy diets that have come before it (like the Dukan Diet). Whole30 came in at No. 37 (of 38) when ranked for helping with weight loss, diabetes, or heart disease, and landed the No. 17 spot on the magazine&aposs "Best Diets for Fast Weight Loss" list.
Meanwhile, The Fertility Diet, which claims certain diet changes can help you get pregnant faster, was named the best diet for diabetes, mainly due to its ban on trans fats. (How&aposs that for a surprise?)
â€œOur rankings put hard numbers on the belief that no one diet is ideal for everybody, but the best food plans overall are sustainable,â€ Angela Haupt, senior health editor at U.S. News, said in a press release. â€sides the rankings and data, each diet has a detailed profile that includes how it works, evidence that supports or refutes its claims and a nutritional snapshotâ€”tools that, along with the advice of a physician or nutritionist, can help consumers invest in diets that suit their lifestyles and further their health and wellness goals.â€
Before you jump on the latest diet bandwagon, check out the full list below, ranked from best to worst. Your waistline will thank you!
Best Diets Overall
1. DASH Diet
2. MIND Diet
2. TLC Diet (tie)
4. Weight Watchers
4. Mayo Clinic
4. Mediterranean (tie)
8. Volumetrics (tie)
10. Jenny Craig
11. Biggest Loser
11. Ornish (tie)
13. Traditional Asian (tie)
15. Slim Fast
15. Anti-Inflammatory (tie)
18. Flat Belly
18. Nutrisystem (tie)
21. Engine 2
21. South Beach
21. Abs (tie)
25. Glycemic-Index (tie)
28. Medifast (tie)
30. Supercharged Hormone
30. Acid Alkaline (tie)
32. Body Reset (tie)
34. Raw food
34. Atkins (tie)
36. Paleo (tie)
38. Whole 30
Looking for a more targeted plan? Here are some highlights from U.S. News&apos more specific lists:
For Weight Loss
1. Weight Watchers
2. Biggest Loser Diet
3. Biggest Loser Diet
3. Jenny Craig
3. Raw Food Diet (tie)
Easiest to Follow
1. Fertility Diet
2. MIND Diet
3. Weight Watchers
For Heart Health
1. Ornish Diet
2. TLC Diet
3. DASH Diet
Best Plant-Based Diets
1. Mediterranean Diet
2. Flexitarian Diet
3. Ornish Diet
For Fast Weight Loss
1. Biggest Loser Diet
1. HMR Program
3. Weight Watchers (tie)
1. Fertility Diet
2. Biggest Loser Diet
2. DASH Diet (tie)
For Healthy Eating
1. DASH Diet
2. TLC Diet
3. Mediterranean Diet
3. MIND Diet (tie)
Winners for 2020:
Best Overall: The Mediterranean diet took first place, followed by:
- The flexitarian (mostly plant-based) and DASH diets tying for second place
- WW (formerly Weight Watchers) in fourth place. It assigns point values to foods, with more nutritious choices having fewer points.
Best Weight Loss Diets: WW got first, followed by:
- Volumetrics (emphasis on low-calorie but filling foods) and a vegan diet (no meat, no dairy) tying for second.
- Flexitarian took fourth.
Best Commercial Diets: WW took first, followed by:
- Jenny Craig (prepackaged, low-cal meals, along with consultation and support)
- Nutritarian diet (foods high in nutrients, low in calories)
Best Fast Weight Loss Diets: HMR (meal replacement shakes, along with fruits and vegetables) took first, followed by:
- Optavia (a mix of healthy foods and products called "Fuelings")
- Four diets tied for third place: WW, Jenny Craig, Atkins (low-carb) and ketogenic, or “keto,” diet (high-fat, very low-carb).
Best Diets for Healthy Eating: Mediterranean and DASH tied for first, followed by:
- Flexitarian diet
- MIND diet (combines DASH and Mediterranean plans aims to boost brain health).
Easiest Diets to Follow: Mediterranean diet got first, followed by:
Best Diets for Diabetes: Mediterranean diet took first, followed by four diets tying for second place:
- Mayo Clinic Diet (emphasizes fruits, vegetables, movement)
- Vegan diet
Best Heart-Healthy Diets: Ornish Diet (low in fat, refined carbs, and animal protein) took first, followed by:
Best Plant-Based Diets: Mediterranean diet took first, followed by:
- Ornish, vegetarian, and Nordic diets tying for third. Nordic, a recent addition to the list, focuses on fish, vegetables, and whole grains.
Scientists Agree This Is The Most Effective Diet For Weight Loss
Run a Google search for the “best diet for weight loss,” and you’ll get 11,200,000 results. Near all of them will disagree as to what the best diet for weight loss actually is. Some will say that low-fat diets are the way to go, and others will maintain that carbs, sugar or gluten are evil minions that sew your clothes tighter and tighter every night while you’re sleeping. Counting calories is always a popular approach. But, then again, elimination and intermittent fasting diets are all the rage right now.
Pump the brakes and back up the cursor. While there are definite health pros and cons to every approach, in the end, experts and studies agree that getting hung up on those details is a lot like that saying, “not seeing the trees through the forest.” That’s because, simply put, the best diet for weight loss is the one that you can actually stick with. Not for a week or month – but forever.
Case in point: In 2014, when University of Toronto researchers examined 59 scientific weight-loss articles, including 48 randomized control trials, they concluded that the best diet is the one that people can adhere to over the long term. What’s more, a previous JAMA study found that people who went on the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and Zone diets for a year all lost similar amounts of weight – albeit modest amounts due to low adherence levels. However, those who stuck to their diets, no matter the type, lost significantly more weight. According to researchers, your ability to follow a diet may be a larger predictor of your weight-loss success than the diet you choose.
“People have these unbelievably strong beliefs against fat or carbs,” says obesity researcher Tim Church, chief medical officer of ACAP Health Consulting and professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. “But despite the never-ending list of best-selling books that exist on weight loss, there is no macronutrient that wins the day.”
After all, when you cut through all of the mumbo jumbo, if you are consuming fewer calories than you are burning per day, you are going to lose weight. So why not cut them in a way that’s actually doable?
“You didn’t gain 20 pounds overnight. It took time. The same goes for losing 20 pounds,” says NYC-based registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist Albert Matheny. “Consistency and change of lifestyle over the long term is what leads to health and weight-loss success.”
Plus, even after losing weight, between one- and two-thirds of dieters gain back more than they originally had lost, according to one University of California–Los Angeles review. Weight regain is a serious issue that many dieters underestimate. And weight regain is simply a result of going off of your diet after hitting the so-called “finish line.”
“If you can’t eat a certain way for the rest of your life, that diet is an exercise in futility,” Church says. “Find a way of eating that becomes your new normal, your new lifestyle. The goal is to find a way of life that happens to improve weight loss. That’s the program that will work.”
What Diet Can You Stick With?
That’s the million-dollar question, right? And, as you can probably tell, it’s different for everyone. However, any sustainable diet has to fulfill a few criteria:
1. It’s healthy.
This might sound obvious, but it’s important not to skip out on certain food groups or live on packaged diet foods just because it’s doable. The best approach addresses not just weight loss, but also health, Church says. Because what good is losing weight if you also end up losing your health?
2. It’s all about small changes.
“A diet should involve making small changes in many areas, rather than extreme changes in one area,” Matheny says. For instance, eating veggies at every meal, reducing added sugar intake and not letting yourself get ravenous between meals is a much more comprehensive and practical approach.
3. It’s based on skills.
Any diet worth its calories doesn’t just tell you what and what not to eat. It gives you tools for dealing with food triggers, learning how to love healthy foods, combating emotional overeating and gauging true hunger, Church says. Those skills are vital to allowing you to stick with your diet.
The Paleo diet is a style of eating that mimics what we think our cavemen ancestors followed -- aka a hunter-gatherer style of eating. The main tenets of the diet involve eating fruits, veggies and meats mainly, and nixing dairy, grains, beans, wheat and some other foods.
"[The Paleo diet] excludes processed foods, inflammatory foods such as grains, dairy, refined sugar, foods high in lectins. It can be very beneficial for reducing inflammation , especially in people who have autoimmune conditions," says Dr. Peter. Some studies show that the diet can be helpful for weight loss (although there needs to be more research).
The Paleo diet requires you to cut out grains, which is a controversial topic in the nutrition world. Some say that the benefits of grains outweigh the potential negative effects, and that removing all grains is too restrictive. According to Peter, removing grains from your diet, "can enhance mineral absorption. Grains contain phytates, which can interfere with mineral absorption."
"Some research suggests that the eating style could lead to short-term improvements in waist circumference and fasting blood sugar, risk factors for chronic diseases. But there hasn't been a lot of research on the diet, especially on its long-term benefits. For this reason, I don't think it's the best approach to weight loss, especially considering how restrictive it is," Gorin says.
Peter also points out that the Paleo diet can be tough to transition to, especially if you are used to the Standard American Diet.
The Keto Diet
Just as the Mediterranean diet has enjoyed the spotlight as one of the healthiest diets in the last few years, the keto diet is equally publicized for promising results on a controversial meal plan. For most health professionals, understanding a diet's effectiveness boils down to why it was created in the first place. And the ketogenic diet was largely designed, interestingly enough, as a form of treatment for pediatric epilepsy in the 20th century, Sassos says. For those of you who don't know, manipulating your body into ketosis requires you to vastly restrict almost all sources of lean protein and almost all carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, and legumes included). But Sassos believes cutting out nutrient-dense veggies and other complex carbohydrates could do damage to much more than just your waistline. "The first thing that your brain needs to function are carbs. When you cut out carbs completely, you could be affecting regions of your body that you're not even aware of," Sassos says. "You need carbs cooking the right kinds of healthy carbohydrates and watching your portion sizes are much more valuable tips that any kind of exclusion from your diet."
There's some science behind why you may lose weight during the first few weeks (mostly, water weight) and Sassos says that she appreciates the awareness that keto programs have brought to added sugar. "It does keep you away from candy and really sugary treats, but the fact of the matter is that you do need to eat natural sources of sugar," she argues. "Apples, Ezekiel bread, grains like farro and quinoa, beans all of these things will contain natural sugars and complex carbs, and they're part of a wholesome, balanced diet."
Staving off all sources of carbohydrates in the long term isn't sustainable for most. Sassos says a failed attempt at the keto diet could end up in even more weight afterwards, or long-lasting damaging side effects from the increased dependency on fat. "If you're a normal healthy person and you're suddenly eating bacon, butter, and all of this red meat, it will affect your heart and overall cardiovascular system in not so great ways." Weight cycling, or the aspect of continuously dieting just to gain weight back later, has been shown to be severely damaging on our psyche and may even impact longevity, especially in young adults and teens &mdash and critics of the keto diet highlight this, as getting off the diet can often lead to rapid weight gain shortly thereafter.
What Can We Learn from Other Fad Diets?
There are too many harmful trendy diets to count, but sometimes the allure of a fad diet (often adopted by celebrities in a dramatic fashion) has to do with results. Sassos highlights the following three diets as being bad choices for long-term, sustained weight loss, but she also agrees that there are some lessons hiding beneath all of the glossy photos of their successes.
- Alkaline diet: This trendy diet (championed by the likes of Kelly Ripa) is frustrating for Sassos, because the principles of the diet are nutritionally sound &mdash but the claims that the diets' fans are making are not based in true science. "This diet basically promotes a healthy diet and a healthy eating pattern it asks you to lean into vegetables and a meal plan that is anti-inflammatory, without processed foods, in addition to upping vitamins and minerals," Sassos explains. "But the mechanisms by which the proponents of the diet say it works doesn't have any clout in actual research." Adopting the meal plans may serve you well, but you shouldn't try to actively change the pH levels in your body with certain ingredients.
- Intermittent Fasting: Whether you follow a 16:8 daily fasting plan or a more rigorous 5:2 weekly fasting plan, Sassos says she's weary of active people (especially those who work out regularly) skipping meals so frequently. While she believes sticking to a time to fast overnight is best, fasting for 16 hours of the day may encourage you to overeat during the nine hours that you're allowed to do so. Instead, try an overnight fast first, but if you get up to workout before work, Sassos believes having breakfast will set you up for success later in the day.
- Dukan diet: Because it requires you to completely restrict multiple food groups and doesn't consider calorie counts in the slightest, Sassos immediately questions the validity of this program (not to mention a lack of published clinical research on its effectiveness). There are countless rules to follow on the Dukan diet, but if there's one thing you can take away, it's that lean proteins can be quite filling. Incorporating more fatty fish, shrimp, chicken, and the once-in-a-blue-moon steak can keep you satisfied throughout the day (perfect for lunch ideas!).
The bottom line: Nearly all of the diets that health experts love encourage a variety of food groups and moderation, whereas diets that restrict what you eat or when you eat it could inhibit to keep weight off in the long run. Anything that seems questionable probably is, Sassos says &mdash case in point, the Dr. Sebi Diet, which is currently making rounds on the internet for fast weight loss. Try to look for any scientific credentials within the book or website in question, and see if the diet's name has been attached to any scientific research published in journals. If you've never heard of it, it's probably for good reason.
Top diet trends: Mediterranean, Dash, Keto
The Flexitarian diet also emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains with less meat, though it doesn’t advocate completely giving up meat like vegetarian or vegan diets. The Mediterranean diet relies on similar foods as the DASH diet, but encourages the consumption of healthy fats, such as olive or vegetable oils, and permits occasional alcoholic beverages.
“We were excited to see that the Flexitarian diet tied for No. 2 for best diets overall for the first time,” Haupt said. “The experts (liked) its flexibility about the idea that more plant-based eating is better.”
Health & Wellness Doctor names best healthy diet for losing weight + 8 weight-loss boosters
When it comes to commercial diets, WW, formerly Weight Watchers, ranks No. 1 followed by Jenny Craig and Nutritarian. The ketogenic diet, a moderate protein, high-fat, low-carb diet, remains very popular, but it only ranked well in one category: best fast weight-loss diet.
“Our experts say, ‘Yes, it works for fast weight loss. You will drop pounds in the short term if that is your goal,’” Haupt said. “However, that doesn't translate to healthiness. Losing weight quickly does not mean you were doing it in a healthy manner and it certainly doesn't mean you can expect to keep those pounds off.”
Foods to Limit on an Obesity Diet Plan
Of course it’s fine to treat yourself occasionally, but these are the type of foods that will keep the weight on if you eat too much of them:
- Junk foods: fast food and potato chips
- Refined carbohydrates: white bread, pasta, crackers, flour tortillas, biscuits
- Fried foods: french fries, donuts, fried meats
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, tea with added sugar, sports drinks
- Processed meats: bacon, canned meat, salami, sausages
- Trans fats: vegetable oil and margarine
Experts Question Long-Term Outcomes
"The easiest way to help people lose weight is to take over for them and provide the food," Katz said. "The less you leave to chance, the more assured the outcome."
So he's not surprised by the 92 percent retention rate of the featured Jenny Craig study.
"The high retention rate does not impress me," Katz said. "If you were invited to enroll in a trial that would pay for your food, how much trouble would you have staying engaged? The likelihood that this outcome is generalizable to populations in the real world is very remote."
Katz questioned the long-term possibilities of most diets, but especially a diet that requires expensive membership and meals.
"From the perspective of someone who works to advance the public health, I have to ask: Jenny Craig is the winner for whom?" Katz said. "Certainly not the masses who most need help. There is no way they can afford a diet of pre-packaged foods."
But while none of these regimens are likely to garner full support from nutritionists and other diet experts, Metcalfe of Consumer Reports Health said, the fact that those promoting the diets offered them for study and comparison is a positive sign.
"Really, I take my hat off to these diets that subject themselves to clinical trials and researchers who have been finally addressing how to devise diets that people can follow and not be so starving that they're just thinking of their next meal," Metcalfe said.