Selecting a Weight Loss Program

The New Year comes with resolutions of weight loss. Each year, Americans spend over $30 billion in the weight loss industry. There are hundreds of diet books and programs on the market, and they each seem to have a different twist: low fat, high carbohydrate; high fat, low carbohydrate; high protein; liquid supplements; food combining; eat for your blood type; and many others. Finding a program that is safe, realistic and effective long term is quite a confusing task.

We have all heard the statistics: 95% of people who lose weight subsequently regain it. This is because the majority of the diets are fad diets that promise quick easy results, but unfortunately end up in weight gain. Most programs do not focus on changing behaviors. Therefore once you go “off” the diet, the weight is regained. Most of the diets are also not realistic or even safe to follow on a long-term basis.

As a registered dietitian in private practice, I am frequently asked which is the “best diet” to follow. Before you continue onward to read my suggestions, I would recommend that you ask yourself two questions to assess your readiness to begin any weight control program:

1. Is this a good time for me to start a program? If you are under heavy stress or a hectic travel schedule, etc., you may want to postpone your efforts until the timing is better. You want to be able to give this effort 100%, as changing behaviors is a difficult task.

2. Are you self-motivated to lose weight or are you being pressured to lose weight by a spouse or health professional? You are most likely to be successful in losing weight if you are trying to lose weight for yourself–not to please others.

Once you have determined that you are ready to begin a weight loss program, use the following recommendations to help select a safe, effective program that will hopefully result in permanent weight control.

Look for a diet program that promotes a safe and realistic weight loss of 1 — 2 pounds a week. Many people are still looking for the “quick fix” and gravitate towards diets that promise the most rapid weight loss. However the old saying holds true: the quicker the weight comes off, the quicker it goes back on. Loss of over three pounds a week (or over 1 — 2 pounds for a smaller person) will consist mainly of water loss. Once you return to your normal diet, the weight will return as well. Slow and gradual weight loss is not as appealing as the rapid loss promoted in many of the fad diets, but it is more effective. I would recommend that you steer clear of those diets promoting quick weight loss.

Look for a diet that is not too restrictive in calories. The hazards of a diet too low in calories include:
1. Slowing of the body’s metabolism so that you actually burn less calories, making weight loss very difficult. I have witnessed this phenomenon many times with some of my clients who have put themselves on very restrictive diets. They are unable to lose weight even though they are consuming only 900 calories per day. Once the calories are slowly increased, the metabolism will start to speed up, making weight loss possible.
2. Deprivation from a restrictive diet often leads to bingeing.
3. Muscle will be used for fuel when the calories are too low. Muscle is an active tissue that burns calories. As you lose muscle, your metabolism will slow down.

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