Losing weight can be challenging. The primary components of changing your eating habits and increasing physical activity appear simple on the surface, but prove extremely difficult for many, as evidenced by the rising obesity rates. A commercial weight loss program may be just the ticket for you since it provides structure and support that can help keep you on track. Research suggests it may even lead to greater weight loss success compared to going it on your own.
A study by researchers at Columbia University for example, compared weight loss and other parameters between participants of commercial weight loss programs and people who went the ‘’self-help’’ route at six major academic centers in the US. After two years, more than 70 percent of the 423 participants completed the study. Researchers found that those in the commercial weight loss program experienced greater weight loss after both one year and two years. Waist size and body mass was also greater in the group following a structured weight loss program.
If you do go the program route, lack of choice is certainly not the issue; there are myriad commercial weight loss programs out there. But, they are very different in important ways such as the type of diet offered, level of support and probably most importantly for most people, cost. You want to carefully weigh your options before starting a program to make sure you are picking the one that best fits your needs and offers you the greatest chance of success. Here are some tips to help get you started.
While it is tempting to drop as much weight as possible, you want to remember your goal is permanent lifestyle change and sustainable weight loss. You will only achieve this with a program that encourages gradual weight loss-one to two pounds a week with a diet that provides between 1,000 and 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,200 to 1,600 for men. But, there are exceptions to every rule. Some people may benefit from programs that promote very restricted calorie intake initially to jumpstart the process, whether through a liquid diet or limited food intake. If you are considering the latter type of program, definitely talk with your doctor first, who can offer guidance and determine if it is appropriate for your situations.
You also want to choose a program that encourages adopting a healthy lifestyle, not just losing weight fast. You are going to need to do a lot of work on yourself to make lasting changes and you need a program that will help you change your behavior. Unless you are on a special low-calorie diet initially, a program should not call for severe restrictions on food or totally eliminating certain foods or groups of foods. It should also provide an exercise component and information on how to increase physical activity.
While all weight loss programs are operating with the same end result in mind, how they go about it varies greatly. Choosing the best program for your needs will require some research on your part so you can get the full picture and make an informed choice. There are several things you want to consider such as the nature of counseling—one on one, group or both, whether there is a set meal plan, are you required to keep records of what you eat, if there is a set eating plan, are you able to make changes based on allergies or food preferences, is there information and/or instruction on exercise, does the program teach you how to swap unhealthy behaviors for healthy ones that encourage weight loss, does it provide information on how to maintain your weight loss and do you need to purchase any special foods, drugs or supplements? This is not an exhaustive list but it is a good start and you should seek answers to each of these questions to aid you in picking the right program.
The type of people running the weight loss program is a major factor in your success and is definitely something you need to investigate in your search for the right program. You need to know who supervises the program. Are there medical doctors, exercise physiologists and registered dietitians? What is the training and qualifications of staff?
You of course want to choose a program that is safe. When speaking with different programs, you want to inquire about any risks that may be involved with following the regimen—for example, programs that promote intense weight loss through very low calorie diets may pose risks, especially if you suffer from certain health conditions. Are you evaluated by a doctor before starting the program? Will the program work with your doctor if you have any health problems that need monitoring? Does any of the staff follow up with you throughout the program to ensure you are safe?
When it comes to a weight loss program, there are no guarantees to be made about how much weight you will lose or how much success you will find with the program overall in terms of affecting other aspects of your health. But, before choosing a program, it is a good idea to gather some data on the experience of past participants. How much weight does the average person lose? How long do they keep it off? Have other parameters of their health improved, such as blood pressure or cholesterol levels? Most programs should be able to provide you literature detailing this type of information.
Kelli Cooper has been researching and writing about various health topics for several years. If you are considering a commercial weight loss program, check out the Nutrisystem discount for October or the discounts and savings codes for Bistro MD. A frequent contributor at Make the List’s health section, Kelli has covered a range of topics from nutrition tips for weight loss to how to lose belly fat. She has a passion for living a healthy life and gets great pleasure from sharing knowledge with others to help them do the same.