There are many diet plans on the market, so it can be difficult to determine diets that work. To be on the safe side, don't hesitate to ask questions about the weight-loss program to make sure it's legitimate. Just because a diet is trendy doesn't mean it's a good one. Watch out for some common red flags.
- Many weight-loss programs, especially television commercials, use images of people who wear white coats and hold stethoscopes to give the impression that a doctor sanctions the diet plan. However, the person wearing the white could simply be an actor or model. Also, it's important to realize that not all doctors are physicians, and not all physicians have experience in weight management. Ask these questions: What are the qualifications of the people involved in this weight-loss program? Do they have professional training, education, and experience in weight management? Are qualified health professionals involved in developing the program and counseling clients? A team of experts is best and may include a physician with weight management training and experience, a registered dietitian, an exercise physiologist, a psychologist, and a nurse.
- Popular gimmicks include "before" and "after" pictures or testimonials. Don't believe everything you read or see in advertisements. Even with the most basic computer graphics, "before" and "after" pictures can be made to look better than reality. Additionally, even if a celebrity endorses a weight-loss program, it doesn't mean the diet is safe and effective. Most likely, these celebrities are paid to endorse the weight-loss programs. These endorsements simply don't compare to well-designed scientific studies that evaluate the safety and effectiveness of weight-loss programs. Aside from the "before" and "after" pictures or testimonials (which often show the best-case scenario) or the celebrity endorsements, are there any studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the weight-loss program? How much average weight does a person lose on the diet? How long have participants kept the weight off?
- Beware of unrealistic weight-loss claims, such as "Lose 20 pounds in two weeks." Promises of quick weight loss are appealing, but don't expect them to last. Remember that weight is gained slowly and has to be lost slowly. Although weight tends to drop faster in the first couple of weeks, it then slows down to a more reasonable pace. A safe and realistic rate of weight loss is about one to two pounds after the first couple of weeks.
- If the weight-loss program insists you need to purchase expensive dietary supplements or herbal products, don't buy it. Your first priority should be learning how to eat a balanced, healthy diet, including a variety of nutritious foods in reasonable portions. Any weight-loss program that doesn't teach you how to change your eating habits is not likely to help you lose weight and keep it off. And if you're taking prescription diet medications, it should be under the supervision of your doctor.
- A whole industry has sprouted up around weight loss. So how much does it cost to lose weight? It's possible that the total cost of a weight-loss program is more than face value. Inquire about registration fees and the cost of weekly meetings, pre-packaged meals, and/or supplements. If medical tests are part of the program, is there an additional charge? Are you charged for missed meetings? Do you get your money back if you decide to discontinue the program or if you don't meet your goal weight? After you've reached your goal weight, are there optional fee packages to periodically check in with a counselor to maintain your weight?
The next page will introduce you to the different diet types, making it easier to spot the legitimate ones.