If history has shown us anything, it's that popular diet plans often lead only to disappointment, an overabundance of cheat days, and less-than-surprising results.

Papa Joe Aviance has perhaps the simplest solution available: shopping at the 99-cent store.

Eighteen months ago, Aviance weighed 450 lbs. It was a startling realization he made, said the LA-based musician and clothing designer, when he watched one of his music videos and saw how large he'd become.

"I was two cheeseburgers away from diabetes or high cholesterol," recalled Aviance. "I had been big for pretty much all of my life, and I was sick of hating myself. It was now or never."

Strapped for cash, Aviance heeded a friend's advice and checked out his local 99-cent store. What he discovered astounded him.

"Oatmeal, raisins, nuts, bananas, apples, oranges, bell peppers, spinach, salad dressing, tuna fish, eggs... I was shocked," Aviance recalled of the affordable selection. "I was blown away. It was a huge savings. I literally spent no more than $50 a week on food."

Aviance kept strictly to his "99-Cent Diet" and eventually included a daily walking regimen to incorporate some exercise into his lifestyle. He said he began walking so much his neighbors' heads started turning.

"Since I walk every morning, people have started giving me high fives," Aviance said. "I felt like a mini rock star in my community. I've even had people stop me and tell them I motivated and inspired them to start walking."

Aviance's diet plan is admittedly simple: he started eating healthier and became more active, and his weight loss story highlights an important tenet of healthful living — it doesn't require much else than basic dietary modifications, exercise, and the motivation to stay on track. There is no "best" diet, just the best dieter. Or as the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) says, the best diet is the one you'll follow.

In one 2009 study, a group of researchers at the New England Journal of Medicine enlisted the help of 800 overweight and obese participants to keep a specific diet over a two-year period. Subjects maintained some variation of several popular diets, including the Atkins, Mediterranean, and Ornish diet, which all emphasize varying combinations of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.

The subjects were given specific exercise regimens and were monitored at six-month, 12-month, and two-year intervals. The results confirmed what many dieticians have been pushing for years (and what diet programs probably wish to keep quiet) — that no one diet worked better at reducing weight and improving overall health. Controlling for slight variation at each interval, subjects on all four diets reported similar results.

"In conclusion, diets that are successful in causing weight loss can emphasize a range of fat, protein, and carbohydrate compositions that have beneficial effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes," the researchers wrote. "Such diets can also be tailored to individual patients on the basis of their personal and cultural preferences and may therefore have the best chance for long-term success."

In other words, as long as it stays within acceptable ranges, do whatever makes you happy.

Trying to count the number of diets available today is a task best left up to encyclopedias. For the concerned consumer, the best information with which to arm oneself is to keep things simple.

"Once you know how many calories you take in on an average day, you can set a target for the future," writes the HSPH. "A 500 calorie deficit is a good place to start. Do that for a week, and you'll lose a pound of fat (which is the equivalent of 3,500 calories). You can adjust your diet to take in 500 fewer calories a day. Or you can cut back by 250 calories and exercise long enough to burn an extra 250 calories (walk an extra 2 miles, take 5,000 more steps, swim for an extra 20 minutes, or do whatever exercise you prefer)."

And as Papa Joe Aviance demonstrates, you can reduce spending by grocery shopping at the 99-cent store — another simple alternative to an endless cycle of costly fad diets.

Here is a sample of what Aviance ate on his 99-Cent Diet:

1. Three egg omelet with spinach, green pepper, and tomatoes, and two slices of wheat toast
2. Cottage cheese with fresh fruit (oranges, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or apples)

Snacks (1 or 2 items)
1. Trail mix
2. Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat
3. Raisins
4. Snack size peanut M&M's (for cheat day only)

1. Yogurt with fresh fruit (cantaloupe, mango, banana, or honeydew)
2. Salad with tuna or salmon and balsamic dressing

1. Chicken pot pie with a side of potatoes, squash, or mixed vegetables (broccoli, string beans, cauliflower, carrots)
2. Quiche (eggs, spinach, mixed vegetables) with beans and rice