Trust for America's Health, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, released a report last week that states' populations are getting fatter. Yet somewhere, subconsciously, people know that weight management is simple arithmetic: Weight loss happens when you eat fewer calories than you burn.
But simple hardly describes the eccentric self-made rules and mantras that nutritionists, trainers and doctors hear about from their clients. Even reasonable people who wouldn't buy into magic-bullet weight loss pills can fall into total fitness flops.
To help others steer clear of the next plan that crosses the line between creative to ill-conceived, some of the best minds in nutrition have shared real-world fitness plan failures.
Above all, know thyself. According to Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian and an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, an unrealistic view of your personality can make you susceptible to fitness failure.
"People get into ill-conceived fitness plans because they hate it," Ayoob said. "They hate it because it's drudgery, and if they liked it, they wouldn't be needing the plan."
Take, for example, correspondence gym courses. Brigham Young University offers a variety of mail-order gym courses that include correspondence jogging, bowling and swimming. Students can receive gym credit for mailing in written quizzes and honor system exercise time logs.
"That can be useful, but you have to know yourself," Ayoob said. "It's easy to slack off, it's easy to fake that."
As with many instructional videos, unless you're a home-schooled teen, or honestly don't know about running techniques, taking a correspondence gym course might be a fitness flop for the very reason the gym course seems appealing.
"If you're a self-starter, cool," Ayoob said. "But for many people, if they were self-starters, they would already be jogging."
Aside from being dishonest about motivation or interest in an exercise, Ayoob said some of the most common personal fitness flops are diet books with seductive reasoning.
"My favorite is that caveman diet book.," Ayoob said. "You eat foods only the caveman would eat."
The caveman diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet, is a return to what people ate 10,000 years ago before agriculture. The diet is premised on the idea that the human body is better adapted to an ancient diet and less adapted to the relatively new introductions like legumes, grains, dairy, oils, salts and other refined foods.
But Ayoob is not convinced. "On one hand there's not much anything that is packaged, but it includes a lot of meat -- you have to eat what you catch, right?" Ayoob said.
"Do they know that the caveman died at age 30? You didn't need to worry about cholesterol or osteoporosis when you're going to die at that age," he said.
Dietitians and doctors believe most single-premise diets like the caveman diet may be too simple for people who want to last until retirement.
Registered dietitian and diet book author Cynthia Sass has seen clients in the past 15 years with some odd single-premise diet ideas. For example, the one-color diet idea.
"It's only eating foods that are the same color -- that's popular," said Sass, who is also a co-author of the "Flat Belly Diet" book.