Best diets for 2012 as ranked by U.S. News

(CNN) -- The beginning of the year is when many people vow to lose weight, and it's also when U.S. News & World Report releases their annual Best Diet rankings, which is based on information from scientific journals, government reports and various health and nutrition experts nationwide.

There are several categories for the top spot. No. 1 on the Best Diets Overall list (out of 25 contenders) for 2012 is the DASH - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension - diet.

The publication ranks Weight Watchers. as the No. 1 "Easiest Diet to Follow." The best diet for diabetics is the Biggest Loser Diet and No. 1 in "Best Heart-Healthy Diets" is the Ornish diet, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"All of these programs have common denominators," said Marjorie Nolan, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who is not involved in the magazines rankings. "They all have a level of accountability worked into them, where they have a certain support system and different options," she said. "They generally all promote writing your food down, healthy amounts of exercise and they're all really convenient."

Some other honorable mentions various categories of the U.S. News & World Report rankings include the TLC Diet, the Mayo Clinic Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet.

Nolan says diets that are easy follow and spell out what you eat, make it easier to stick to them in the long run, consequently leading to long-term benefits. "Our lives are so busy, people just don't spend much time making really conscious choices around everything that they eat," Nolan added.

It's those choices that make a huge difference in any successful weight loss program, according to that Dr. Vincent Bufalino, cardiologist and spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

"It's what you're consuming that drives the biggest success," he said. "If you can reduce calories and the composition of what you're eating, then you're likely to be successful."

Bufalino suggests tackling weight loss in pieces. If you lose 10 pounds, then set a new goal in June or July. If you fall off the wagon, get refocused because the payoff of maintaining a healthy weight is great.

"High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle - all four of those are tied to your weight," he said. "We know that weight loss in each of those categories gives us benefit."

When lifestyle factors are controlled, heart disease risk can be lowered. For someone who already has heart disease, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is critical.

Bufalino and Nolan agree that to successfully lose weight, one should focus about 70% diet and 30% exercise.

The type of diet that worked for your best friend may not be the same one that works for you, Nolan says. She suggests first identifying your weak areas and what will work for your lifestyle. Then be patient. She says two important rules for any diet plan: plan ahead and write it down.

"Allow yourself to take it slow." Bufalino said. "People want their weight loss really quickly and that's not the reality."
 
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