How to Choose a Weight Loss Program

Story by Mimi Greenwood Knight

It was rare for our ancestors to struggle with weight loss. Their lifestyles were naturally active, and their diets were “cleaner” than ours. But with the additives and preservatives in much of our food and a far less active lifestyle in general, many Americans today have a little — or a lot — of weight they need to lose.

Our health depends upon it. But with so many viable weight-loss programs to choose from, it can be challenging to find the one that’s right for you. Take some time to evaluate the top programs in your area to decide which one gives you the best chance at long term success.

To being with, remember the adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Use your common sense and avoid weight-loss programs that make seemingly outrageous claims that are never substantiated with plans or methods. In general, look for programs that focus on education and lifestyle changes with a realistic (and healthy) goal of steady weight loss of a couple of pounds a week.

You’ll want a program that’s conveniently located near your home or business, especially if you’ll need to check in or weigh in throughout the week. You’ll want a program you can reasonably afford. But if your weight is affecting your health to the point that you’re shelling out for doctor’s appointments and pharmaceuticals, consider that maintaining a healthy weight may mean you’ll no longer endure those expenses. It may be worth the initial added output.

Contact some of the programs in your area and ask whether their staff includes qualified counselors and health professionals such as registered dietitians, doctors, and exercise physiologists. What are their qualifications and length of time in the business? Find out about the program itself. How limited will your food choices be? Who sets your weight loss goal, you or someone else? How much support will you receive?

Ask about what percentage of people who begin the program complete it and what the average weight loss is among people who finish the program. Do they have follow-up stats regarding how long participants keep the weight off? What percentage of participants have problems or side effects and what are they?

Do the programs you’re considering include a maintenance program to help keep weight off once you’ve lost it? Maintaining weight loss is just as important — maybe even more important — than losing it. Get some information about the total cost for the program, including any foods or supplements required. Ask around in your circle of friends if anyone has first-hand knowledge of the programs you’re considering.

And of course, if you plan to lose more than 15 to 20 pounds, have any health problems, or take medication on a regular basis, talk to your doctor before you start any weight loss program, especially one that involves a very-low-calorie diet.