Data Journalist

Many Americans aim to eat a healthy diet, and some might be hoping to lose a few pounds. But which diets are Americans sticking to, and which ones are actually helping them lose weight? 

A YouGov poll of more than 1,200 US adults finds that a majority of Americans have changed their diet at some point in order to lose weight (56%) or improve their physical health (54%). 

Intermittent fasting, a diet where you only eat during certain times of day, is one of the most popular: 24 percent of US adults say they’ve tried this diet for weight loss. An equal number say they’ve tried the Atkins diet, which emphasizes foods that are low-carb. 

About one in five have tried Weight Watchers (21%), the keto diet (19%) and the Mediterranean diet (18%).

But which diets do Americans say have been effective in helping them lose weight? 

YouGov’s data finds that majorities of people who have used these diets for weight loss find them to be effective.

Almost nine in 10 (87%) people who have tried intermittent fasting to lose weight say that this diet was very effective (50%) or somewhat effective (37%) in helping them lose weight. A similar number of people who have used Weight Watchers (86%) or the keto diet (85%) say these diets were effective for weight loss. 



Majorities who have used Atkins (83%), the Mediterranean diet (81%), or vegetarianism (78%) for weight loss also say that these diets were effective in helping them to lose weight. 

The diet Americans say is the best weight-loss diet may also be the most affordable one.

Intermittent fasting, which 87 percent of users say was effective for weight loss, is also seen as more inexpensive (80%) than expensive (18%), according to people who have tried it.

That isn’t the case for many of the other diets YouGov asked Americans about. Majorities of users are more likely to see Weight Watchers, keto, Atkins and the Mediterranean diet as more expensive rather than inexpensive. Those who have adopted a vegetarian diet for weight loss are close to evenly split: 49 percent say it is expensive, 46 percent say it is inexpensive. 

But in spite of the fact that many of these diets seem to be effective according to the people who have tried them, they remain largely unappealing to the American public. 

A majority (58%) of US adults say that the vegetarian diet is somewhat or very unappealing. A plurality say the same when asked about the keto diet (47% find it unappealing), Atkins (47%), intermittent fasting (47%), or Weight Watchers (47%). 

The only diet of this grouping that was seen as more appealing than unappealing was the Mediterranean diet. Over half (55%) say this diet is somewhat or very appealing; 31 percent say it is unappealing.

See the full survey results and sign up to be a part of the YouGov panel.  

Related: One in five Millennials has changed their diet to reduce their impact on the planet

Methodology: Total unweighted sample size was 1,241 US adults, which included 137 who have used the keto diet for weight loss, 165 who have used the Atkins diet for weight loss, 172 who have used intermittent fasting for weight loss, 120 who have used the Mediterranean diet for weight loss, 146 who have used Weight Watchers for weight loss, and 95 who have used vegetarianism for weight loss. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (ages 18+). Interviews were conducted online between January 3 - 6, 2020. 

Image: Getty

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