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Choosing a weight loss programme

Many people have the willpower to lose weight with simple measures like eating less and exercising more.

Others may benefit from an NHS or commercial weight loss programme for help.

When considering joining a weight loss programme, choose wisely.

Almost any of the commercial weight loss programmes can work but only if they motivate you sufficiently to reduce the amount of calories you eat or increase the amount of calories you burn through regular exercise - or both.

Some local NHS organisations may refer people to private services like Weight Watchers and Slimming World instead of to an NHS service.

What should I look for in a weight loss programme?

  • Make sure it is safe. Whether you create your own weight loss programme or use a commercial one, make sure it is safe. A safe diet should include all of the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for vitamins, minerals, and protein. The weight loss diet should be lower in calories (energy) only, not in essential vitamins or minerals. In general, a diet containing 500 fewer calories a day is suitable for most people.
  • Slow, steady weight loss. The programme should be directed toward slow, steady weight loss unless your doctor feels your health condition would benefit from more rapid weight loss. Expect to lose only about a pound a week after the first week or two. With many calorie-restricted diets, there is an initial rapid weight loss during the first one or two weeks, but this loss is largely fluid. The initial rapid loss of fluid also is regained rapidly when you return to a normal-calorie diet. Thus, a reasonable goal of weight loss should be expected. The rate of weight loss should be one or two pounds each week.

When inquiring about a commercial weight loss programme, be sure you are given a detailed statement of fees and costs of additional items such as dietary supplements or foods. Other important questions to ask of any potential weight loss programme include:

  • Does the staff consist of qualified counsellors and health professionals, such as registered dieticians, doctors, and exercise physiologists?
  • Are food choices flexible and suitable?
  • Are weight loss goals set by the client and/or the health professional?
  • What percentage of people complete the programme?
  • What is the average weight loss among people who finish the programme?
  • What percentage of people have problems or side-effects? What are these?

If you plan to lose more than 15 to 20 pounds, have any health problems, or take medication on a regular basis, speak to your doctor before starting a weight loss programme. A doctor can assess your general health and medical conditions that might be affected by dieting and weight loss.

Also, a doctor should be able to recommend appropriate programmes and help you come up with a sensible weight loss goal. If you plan to use a very-low-calorie diet, it is essential that you are examined and monitored by a doctor.

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