What to Look for in a Weight Loss Program

There are plenty of good reasons to join a weight loss program. Some people do it for the added support they receive, while others do it for the convenience of having ready-made meals. You may have thought about joining one too. If so, it could be helpful for you. Just remember, there is no such thing as effortless weight loss.

No credible program will promise extreme results. A weight loss of about two pounds a week is generally safe. Bear in mind that effective weight loss means reducing calories and exercising regularly. A good program will also stress the benefits of making permanent lifestyle changes so you can keep the weight off.

The Institute of Medicine offers the following tips for evaluating a weight-loss program:

Match the program with the consumer. Programs should give information on who should enroll. See a doctor before undertaking a “do-it-yourself” or non-clinical program. Discuss the specific program or product with your doctor.

Find out if the program is safe and sound. Medically supervised (clinical) programs should monitor the physical and psychological health of patients, while non-clinical and do-it-yourself programs should encourage a visit to a health care provider. If you choose a non-clinical program, you have a greater responsibility for monitoring your own health. Information about qualifications and training of the program designers and staff should be available.

Look for hard evidence that the program works and is worth the effort and cost. All programs should be judged on their success in achieving long-term weight loss – at least a 5 percent reduction in body weight for one year or longer. Make sure not only that evidence of success does exist, but that it has been verified by someone outside the program. These independent evaluations are generally the most reliable.

The program should also offer information and guidance on health improvement and dieting risks. Clinical programs should offer medical assistance and monitoring. Keep your expectations realistic, and devote the time and effort required for getting fit and healthy.