How To Choose A Safe And Successful Weight Loss Program

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In 1994 the Weight- control Information Network (WIN) was formed as an information service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institute of Health (NIH). They have published a guide to choosing a safe and successful weight loss program. As we are approaching bathing suit season I thought I would share some of their tips so you can make a good choice for yourself.

How do I find a responsible and safe weight-loss program?

Look for one that is based on regular physical activity and an eating plan that is balanced, healthy, and easy to follow. Weight-loss programs should encourage healthy behaviors that help you lose weight and that you can stick with every day. Safe and effective programs should include:

• Healthy eating plans that reduce calories but do not forbid specific foods or food groups.

• Tips to increase moderate-intensity physical activity

• Tips on healthy behavior changes that keep your cultural needs in mind

• Slow and steady weight loss. Depending on your starting weight, experts recommend losing weight at a rate of ½ to 2 lbs. per week. Weight loss may be faster at the start of a program.

• Medical care if you are planning to lose weight by following a special formula diet, such as a very low calorie diet

• A plan to keep the weight off after you have lost it. Weight maintenance is the most difficult part of controlling weight and is not consistently implemented in some weight-loss programs. The program you select should help to permanently change your dietary habits and physical activity.

What questions should I ask?

Gather as much information as you can before deciding to join a program. Professionals working for weight-loss programs should be able to answer these questions:

*What are the staff qualifications? Who supervises the program? What type of weight management training, experience, education, and certifications do the staff have?

*What does the program consist of? Does the program offer one-on-one counseling or group classes? Do you have to follow a specific meal plan or keep food records? Do you have to purchase special food, drugs, or supplements? Does the program help you be more physically active, follow a specific physical activity plan, or provide exercise instruction? Does the program teach you to make positive and healthy behavior changes? Is the program sensitive to your lifestyle and cultural needs?

*Does the product or program carry any risks? Could the program hurt you? Could the recommended drugs or supplements harm your health? Do participants talk with a health care provider, such as a physician or nurse? Does a health care provider, such as a physician, run the program? Will the program’s health care provider work with your primary care provider if you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure or are taking prescribed drugs?

*How much does the program cost? Are there other costs, such as weekly attendance fees, food and supplement purchases, etc? Are there fees for a follow-up program after you lose weight? Are there other fees for medical tests?

There are many weight-loss programs. Look for a safe and responsible program that motivates you and fits your lifestyle. Remember, weight control is a life-long effort. Find a program that teaches you long-term healthy eating and physical activity lifestyle changes. There is no magic solution. It takes dedication, commitment and work. The pay-off is a healthier, and hopefully, a longer future!

Dr. Kenneth Luckay DO is the Medical Director at the Center for Medical Weight Loss located at 4515 Brambleton Ave in Roanoke. He can be reached at 398-1547 or Email: [email protected]