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Choosing a Safe Weight-Loss Program

The not-so-secret secret to weight loss is to burn more calories than you eat. You can do this safely and effectively by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Although many people can lose weight on their own, others believe they'll be more successful if they enroll in a weight-loss program that provides support, information, and specific diet and exercise guidelines.

Keep the following suggestions in mind when checking into weight-loss programs.

Essential elements

All weight-loss programs should encourage healthy behaviors that help you lose weight and maintain the weight loss over time.

They should include:

  • Eating plans that reduce calories

  • Guidelines for regular physical activity and/or exercise

  • Tips on how to make healthy behavioral changes

  • Slow and steady weight loss of about 1/2 to 2 pounds a week

  • Direct medical supervision, if you'll be following a very low-calorie diet

  • Plans to help you keep the weight off after you have lost it

Questions to ask

Gather as much information as you can before deciding to join a program, and seek answers to the following questions:

What does the weight-loss program consist of?

  • Does the program offer individual counseling and/or group classes?

  • Do I have to follow a specific meal plan or keep food records?

  • Do I have to purchase special food, drugs or supplements?

  • Does the program encourage me to be physically active and offer advice and support about different exercise programs?

  • Does the program help me make healthful behavioral changes?

What are the staff qualifications?

  • What types of weight-management training, experience, education, and certifications does the staff have?

  • Does the product or program carry any risks?

  • Are there risks related to using recommended drugs or supplements?

  • Does a medical professional oversee the program?

How much does the program cost?

  • Are there recurring costs, such as weekly attendance fees, or costs of food and supplement purchases?

  • Are there additional fees for a follow-up program or to reenter the program for follow-up after you lose weight?

What results do participants typically have?

  • How much weight have the usual participants lost and how long have they kept it off?

Losing weight with the help of a program can be expensive, but is often more effective than trying to do it on your own. Getting answers to your questions can help you decide the best way for you to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Online Medical Reviewer: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 2/25/2014
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