wellness GET WITH THE PROGRAM By Tresa Erickson You can’t stand it. Last January you vowed to lose weight and went on a diet. You lost several pounds over a period of months but now it’s all come back. Don’t feel bad. You are not alone. Thousands of people go on diets every year and lose weight only to gain it back later after they have stopped dieting. The difficulty in losing weight and keeping it off pushes many people to join a weight-loss program. If you are among those looking for a weight-loss program, be careful in your selection. Study the programs carefully and ask questions. It could make a difference as to how much weight you safely lose and whether you keep it off. Experts agree that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to cut calories gradually, eat a balanced diet and engage in regular exercise. The weight-loss program you choose should reflect each of these principles. Any program that promises you will lose weight fast without having to cut calories or exercise is leading you on a wild goose chase. Safe, effective programs should include all of the following: • Healthy eating plan that cuts calories without eliminating specific foods or food groups • Regular exercise • Slow and steady weight loss goals, not more than three pounds per week • Guidelines to keep the weight off after you lose it If the program reduces calories drastically or relies on a special formula, it should also include medical supervision. As you look at a program, gather as much information about it as you can. Ask for referrals and get answers to these questions: • What does the weight-loss program consist of? Ask if there is meal plan and if you will have to purchase specific foods for it. Make sure the food choices are flexible. Look to see what kind of exercise is prescribed and what other services are offered, such as individual or group counseling sessions. • What are the staff’s qualifications? Find out who supervises the program and what their qualifications are. Ask about the training, education and credentials of other staff members. Better programs are overseen by a medical professional and have a staff of qualified professionals, including dieticians, nurses and exercise physiologists. • Does the program carry any risks? Some methods for losing weight are riskier than others. If the program involves a method that seems risky, check with your doctor to ensure your health will not be compromised. If you would like your doctor to be directly involved, make sure the program providers are willing to work with them. Don’t forget to ask about the side effects or problems others have encountered while using the program. • How much does the program cost? Ask for the total cost of the program and a list of fees, including diagnostic tests, meal replacements, dietary supplements, etc. Find out if a follow-up program is available and what it costs. • What are the typical results of the program? Try to find out how many people actually complete the program, the average weight lost and how long participants generally keep the weight off. Better programs will not only be able to answer these questions but will have the studies to back them up. Choosing the right weight-loss program takes time, but because it affects your health, the wait is worth it. With the right program, you will not only lose weight but keep it off, decreasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.
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