Check It Out: Before You Sign Up for Any Weight-Loss Program
Choosing a weight-loss program may be a difficult task. You may not know what to look for in a weight-loss program or what questions to ask. This fact sheet can help you talk to your health care professional about weight loss and get the best information before choosing a program.
Talk With Your Health Care Professional
You may want to talk with your doctor or other health care professional about controlling your weight before you decide on a weight-loss program. Doctors do not always address issues such as healthy eating, physical activity, and weight management during general office visits. It is important for you to start the discussion in order to get the information you need. Even if you feel uncomfortable talking about your weight with your doctor, remember that he or she is there to help you improve your health. Here are some tips:
♥ Tell your health care professional that you would like to talk about your weight. Share your concerns about any medical conditions you have or medicines you are taking.
♥ Write down your questions in advance.
♥ Bring pen and paper to take notes.
♥ Bring a friend or family member along for support if this will make you feel more comfortable.
♥ Make sure you understand what your health care provider is saying. Do not be afraid to ask questions if there is something you do not understand.
♥ Ask for other sources of information like brochures or websites.
♥ If you want more support, ask for a referral to a registered dietitian, a support group, or a commercial weight-loss program.
♥ Call your health care professional after your visit if you have more questions or need help.
Find out as much as you can about your health needs before joining a weight-loss program. Here are some questions you might want to ask your health care professional:
About Your Weight
♥ Do I need to lose weight? Or should I just avoid gaining more?
♥ Is my weight affecting my health?
♥ Could my extra weight be caused by a health problem such as hypothyroidism or by a medicine I am taking? (Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, a condition that can slow your metabolism—how your body creates and uses energy.)
About Weight Loss
♥ What should my weight-loss goal be?
♥ How will losing weight help me?
About Nutrition and Physical Activity
♥ How should I change my eating habits?
♥ What kinds of physical activity can I do?
♥ How much physical activity do I need?
♥ Should I take weight-loss drugs?
♥ What about weight-loss surgery?
♥ What are the risks of weight-loss drugs or surgery?
♥ Could a weight-loss program help me?
Some people lose weight on their own; others like the support of a structured program. Overweight people who are successful at losing weight, and keeping it off, can reduce their risk factors for heart disease. If you decide to join any kind of weight-control program, here are some questions to ask before you join.
- Does the program provide counseling to help you change your eating activity and personal habits?
The program should teach you how to change permanently those eating habits and lifestyle factors, such as lack of physical activity, that have contributed to weight gain.
- Is the staff made up of a variety of qualified counselors and health professionals such as nutritionists, registered dietitians, doctors, nurses, psychologists, and exercise physiologists?
You need to be evaluated by a physician if you have any health problems, are currently taking any medicine or plan on taking any medicine, or plan to lose more than 15 to 20 pounds. If your weight-control plan uses a very low-calorie diet (a special liquid formula that replaces all food for 1 to 4 months), an exam and followup visits by a doctor also are needed.
- Is training available on how to deal with times when you may feel stressed and slip back to old habits?
The program should provide long-term strategies to deal with weight problems you may have in the future. These strategies might include things like setting up a support system and establishing a physical activity routine.
- Is attention paid to keeping the weight off? How long is this phase?
Choose a program that teaches skills and techniques to make permanent changes in eating habits and levels of physical activity to prevent weight gain.
- Are food choices flexible and suitable? Are weight goals set by the client and the health professional?
The program should consider your food likes and dislikes and your lifestyle when your weight-loss goals are planned.
There are other questions you can ask about how well a weight-loss program works. Because many programs don't gather this information, you may not get answers. But it's still important to ask them:
- What percentage of people complete the program?
- What is the average weight loss among people who finish the program?
- What percentage of people have problems or side effects? What are they?
- Are there fees or costs for additional items, such as dietary supplements?
Remember, quick weight loss methods don't provide lasting results. Weight-loss methods that rely on diet aids like drinks, prepackaged foods, or diet pills don't work in the long run. Whether you lose weight on your own or with a group, remember that the most important changes are long term. No matter how much weight you have to lose, modest goals and a slow course will increase your chances of both losing the weight and keeping it off.
A Responsible and Safe Weight-loss Program
If your health care provider tells you that you should lose weight and you want to find a weight-loss program to help you, 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 weight-loss 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 habits that also keep your cultural needs in mind, such as lower-fat versions of your favorite foods.
♥ Slow and steady weight loss. Depending on your starting weight, experts recommend losing weight at a rate of 1/2 to 2 pounds 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 program that requires careful monitoring from a doctor).
♥ A plan to keep the weight off after you have lost it.