How to choose the best diet for you…

Horizon's Dr Chris van Tulleken and Professor Tanya Byron reveal new ideas about why we put on weight - and how to take it off again

If you are battling a post-Christmas bulge, you’re not alone. A quarter of the UK population is now obese, and while health professionals say it’s just a case of eating less and exercising more, the message is falling on deaf ears. As Dr Chris van Tulleken, co-presenter of What’s the Right Diet for You?, a three-part Horizon special, points out, “We understand everything about how to lose weight – except how to change behaviour.”

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But now Horizon’s team of leading scientific experts think they have the answer: personalised dieting. Shedding pounds is not just a one-size-fits-all game, they argue, and set out with some groundbreaking research to prove it. The idea is to ditch fad diets and combine understanding of individual biology and behaviour so that bad eating habits are swapped for good ones that last a lifetime.

Advances in genetics and neuroscience mean researchers understand more about what drives us to eat too much and put on weight, but perhaps most exciting are new studies into how hormones affect how full we feel.

To test their theories, Horizon recruited overweight volunteers and subjected them to a battery of genetic and hormonal tests as well as testing their attitudes and emotions around food. Three groups emerged as a result, Feasters, Emotional Eaters and Constant Cravers.

The volunteers were invited to a week-long “diet lab” for more tests, diet-related activities and advice, then sent home for three months to follow an eating plan devised specifically for each group, with return trips to monitor progress. The aim, as co-presenter and psychologist Professor Tanya Byron explains, was for the group to lose 67 stone overall – five per cent of their body weight.

The results were impressive. The guinea pigs were no longer so cuddly, losing a total of 103 stone – far more than the team expected. The volunteers agreed almost unanimously that they had found the right diet. 

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So which diet tribe are you? Take this quiz to find out, then learn more…