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Weighing your options for weight loss

With so many diets and weight-loss plans out there, selecting the right option for you can be a challenge. Knowing what to look for may make the process easier.

Deciding you should slim down is the easy part of losing weight. Figuring out how to do it is where the challenge lies.

You can probably find several weight-loss programs for every pound you want to shed, and many have merit. So how do you know which one is best?

What worked for a friend might not work for you. For everyone, though, this much is true: You need to burn more calories than you take in.

Some people do this by eating less, exercising more or both. If these lifestyle changes can become habits without help from a formal diet, you're well on your way to successful weight loss.

But if you need guidance to accomplish your goals, a more structured weight-loss plan may be for you.

Questions to tip the scale

As you research your options, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advise that you ask yourself these questions:

Am I clear about my health and health needs?

Some health problems, such as hypothyroidism, may contribute to excess weight. Others, like diabetes, are affected by diet and exercise. This makes it very important to discuss your weight-loss plans and goals with your healthcare provider.

What's important to me?

Think about your preferences and lifestyle. If, for example, you don't like cooking, a plan that has prepared meals may be a good option for you.

But consider the expense involved and whether prepackaged meals will help you learn the food selection and preparation skills needed to maintain weight loss.

Is it safe?

Be wary of plans touted as:

  • Effortless.
  • Fast, easy, quick or immediate. Diets that promise quick results are generally neither safe nor effective in the long term. Your goal for healthy weight loss should be about 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you lose too much weight too quickly, you'll lose muscle, bone and water.

Is the eating plan balanced?

According to the academy, there are no bad food groups or foods that will help you magically shed pounds. So avoid diets making claims about either.

In moderation, all foods can have a place in your eating plan. Variety—and the nutrients that come with it—is more important than any one food. And you need to make changes in your lifestyle that become permanent, including becoming more active.

Is the program legitimate and likely to be successful?

Consider the following when evaluating a weight-loss program:

  • Are qualified professionals, such as registered dietitians and doctors, involved?
  • What risks are associated with this method?
  • Are all potential costs spelled out?
  • Does the program address how weight loss will be maintained?
  • Is there proof of the success of the program beyond testimonials?

A lighter future

Losing weight and keeping it off isn't easy, but you can do it. And if you need to, you should. Better health, improved self-esteem—and maybe even a new wardrobe—could be in your future.

Reviewed 11/22/2023

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