|You do not need to join a program to lose
weight. However, if you're having trouble losing weight on your
own (and many people do), a weight loss program may be helpful.
Weight loss programs can have a number of advantages, such as
providing peer support, guidance from professionals, and helping
you focus on your goals. However, be careful about which program
you choose -- some programs promise more than they can deliver.
What to look for in a program
How do you know which group to join? Ask the
following questions about any weight loss program that you are
- What does the program promise?
If the program claims that you can lose a lot of weight
quickly, it is not a good program.
- Does the program encourage you to keep
a balanced diet? Everyone should
keep a diet that includes all types of foods. Be careful if
the program emphasizes one type of food over the others,
such as in high-protein diets.
- Does the program encourage physical
fitness? Physical activity is key
to living healthfully, and you should strive to be active
throughout your life. Plus, physical activity is a
cornerstone to losing weight.
- Does the program teach you to be
self-sufficient? You won't want to
pay for a weight loss program your whole life, and when you
leave, you should be able to maintain your weight on your
own. For example, programs that require you to buy food from
them do not teach you how to shop, cook, or order from
restaurants on your own.
- Does the program provide what you are
looking for? Consider your needs.
Why do you want to join a program in the first place?
Different groups offer different things. Choose one that is
a good fit with your life.
- Does the program push weight loss
medications? You should only
consider taking a weight loss medication if you are
medically obese (BMI higher than 30) and have not been able
to lose weight by making adequate and appropriate lifestyle
changes. If you are considering medication to help you lose
weight, make sure you are working with a doctor who knows
your medical history.
- Does the program screen you for health
risks? Only join a program that
assesses your health status before you begin. A program that
is willing to take anyone, regardless of his or her health,
could be dangerous.
- Are you attracted to the program
because of a celebrity endorser?
Celebrity endorsements can be a powerful draw. Remember that
most celebrities are not health experts. These programs are
not necessarily poor choices, but you should look carefully
at what they can do for you and if they can fulfill your
Many popular diets sound very appealing
because they tend to offer a "quick fix". Remember that no
specific diet is a magic cure. Again, there are two key
guidelines in any successful diet program:
Many popular diets are just a fad. A fad diet
is any gimmick that does not provide the proper balance of
nutrients or can only be sustained for a short period of time.
In addition, fad diets are NOT based on proven science, even
though almost everyone knows someone who did well on a given
diet. Beware of claims like "Lose 30 lbs in 30 days!",
"Scientific miracle - medical breakthrough!" or "keep the weight
off for good - just $39.99!" While such statements are tempting
and play off your emotions, they are usually made by companies
wanting to get rich off your desire to lose weight, so keep them
Examples of some popular diets include:
- Food combining diets
-- These diets claim that eating foods in specific
combinations or only at certain times of day promote weight
loss. There is no scientific merit to food combining diets.
- Liquid diets
-- Liquid diets are a short-term answer to a long-term
problem. Liquid diets cannot provide all of the nutrients
you need to stay healthy, and are ultimately unsustainable.
Have you ever tried eating nothing but liquid for any length
of time? Most people can't do it, and nobody should!
- High protein diets
-- High protein diets work by reducing your intake of
carbohydrates like pasta, rice, and sugar. While it is
important to eat fewer of these simple carbohydrates, on
these diets you make up for their absence by replacing them
with protein. It is extremely difficult to eat large
quantities of protein without consuming too much fat and too
few vitamins and minerals. You need protein in your diet,
but only in moderation, along with a healthy balance of
other nutrients. Furthermore, eating too much protein can be
dangerous, as it can cause damage to your kidneys and your
bones. Finally, very few scientific studies have examined
this approach to determine if it is truly effective for
losing weight or if it is safe, particularly if followed for
a long time.