Selecting a Weight Loss Program

Here are some items to check out BEFORE you sign up for a program!

You may not need motivation, but...! You should know that overweight people who are successful at losing weight, and keeping it off, can reduce their risk factors for disease. Being obese is directly harmful to one's health. Obesity also increases the risk of developing a number of other chronic diseases including:

Some people lose weight on their own; others like the support of a structured program. If you decide to join any kind of weight control program, here are some questions to ask BEFORE you join.

Does the program provide counseling to help you change your eating activity, and personal habits?

The program should teach you how to change permanently those eating habits and lifestyle factors, such as lack of physical activity that have contributed to weight gain.

Is the staff made up of a variety of qualified counselors and health professionals such as nutritionists, registered dietitians, doctors, nurses, psychologists, and exercise physiologists?

You need to be evaluated by a physician if you have any health problems, are currently taking any medicine, or plan on taking any medicine, or plan to lose more than 15 to 20 pounds. If your weight control plan uses a very low-calorie diet (a special liquid formula that replaces all food for 1 to 4 months), an exam and follow up visits by a doctor are also needed.

Is training available on how to deal with times when you may feel stressed and slip back to old habits?

The program should provide long-term strategies to deal with weight problems you may have in the future. These strategies might include things like setting up a support system and establishing a physical activity routine.

Is attention paid to keeping the weight off? How long is this phase?

Choose a program that teaches skills and techniques to make permanent changes in eating habits and levels of physical activity to prevent weight gain.

Are food choices flexible and suitable? Are weight goals set by the client and the health professional?

The program should consider your food likes and dislikes and your lifestyle when your weight loss goals are planned.

There are other questions you can ask about how well a program works. Because many programs don't gather this information, you may not get answers. But it's still important to ask them:

  • What percentage of people complete the program?
  • What is the average weight loss among people who finish the program?
  • What percentage of people have problems or side effects? What are they?
  • Are there fees or costs for additional items, such as dietary supplements?

Remember, quick weight loss methods don't provide lasting results. Weight loss methods that rely on diet aids like drinks, prepackaged foods, or diet pills don't work in the long run. Whether you lose weight on your own or with a group, remember that the most important changes are long term. No matter how much weight you have to lose, modest goals and a slow course will increase your chances of both losing the weight and keeping it off.

Portions of the above information was provided with the kind permission of the National Institutes of Health.


Last Editorial Review: 7/25/2002




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