Starting a Weight Loss Program

Right now 67% of Americans are either overweight or obese.  Being in this category increases your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, joint problems, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatigue, and the list goes on…

Many people are looking for a solution and want to help themselves obtain a healthier weight, but with so many diets to choose from, aren’t sure where to start.  Here is a list of questions you should ask when considering a weight loss program.

1.  Does it promote healthy dietary habits that can be followed for life?

There are many diets that promote eating a lot of one kind of food, or eliminating foods entirely.  Is this practical?  Could you really go your entire life without ever eating bread or chocolate?  Probably not.

2.  Is there enough variety?

Eating the same meals or foods over and over again can get old very fast.  A good diet will include a lot of variety with many different foods.  Remember, the more variety in your diet, the more chance you have of getting all of the nutrients you need.  Once you start eliminating foods (or food groups) you increase your chance of developing nutrient deficiencies.

3.  Are the foods easy to obtain?

Unless you have a health problem like Celiac Disease, weight loss programs should not require you to go out of your way to obtain food.  You should be able to find most, if not all, of what you need, at your local grocery store.  This also includes eating out and eating while traveling.  If your diet doesn’t allow for these things, it isn’t really practical.

4.  Does it meet your nutrient needs?

This is a point much worth considering.  There are a variety of minerals, vitamins and nutrients that your body needs in order to function.  Reducing your calories too much, or eliminating foods and food groups, can cause you to lack all of these nutrients.  You need a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates a day to fuel your brain, a minimum of .8g/kg of body weight of protein, and at least 50-60 grams of fat per day.  If you restrict calories too much, you most likely will not meet these needs.  In addition, you are more likely to create deficiencies in calcium, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and fiber.

5.  Does it promote reasonable and healthy weight loss?

a.  It should provide a reasonable number of calories per day (no less than 1200, may be higher depending on your weight).

b.  It should recommend 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week, and no more.

6.  Does it promote physical activity?

Though most weight loss plans focus on diet, the plan should at least highly recommend physical activity and allow for additional eating to compensate for additional calories burned during exercise.  Sound weight loss, and weight loss that will stick, needs a physical activity component.

7.  Does it promote behavior change?

The program should focus on lifestyle and behavior changes  that can be maintained for the long-term.  There may also be a social support system that is encouraged.  The program should also promote healthy eating habits and not “diet” habits.

8.  Is it scientifically sound?

This may be hard to discern, especially for the non-scientific community, but to simplify things look for components of the program that follow generally accepted principles that are promoted by the ADA (American Dietetic Association), the AMA (American Heart Association), and the USDA Food Pyramid.  Be suspicious of people or companies that tout studies that are not widely accepted or were paid for by the person/company selling you the diet.

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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