Consumers must become knowledgeable about the claims of the promoters of weight-loss plans. The factors to consider when evaluating a program include the rate of weight loss and the success rate.
If it’s Monday, it’s time for a new diet,” Cathy thought to herself. She frowned at her reflection in the mirror and wrestled with her skirt zipper.
“This time it’s going to work. This time I will lose weight. No more ice cream, no more chips. I’ll never b this fat again.”
Cathy is just one of the 65 million Americans who diet to lose weight. Each year, they spend an estimated $33 billion on liquid diets, over-the-counter appetite reducers, prepackaged foods, and support groups.
But as they continue to crowd into the growing number of diet programs, exercise classes, and weight-loss clinics, more people are starting to ask the same questions. Are these programs safe? Do they really work? Can they keep the pounds off in the long run?
These unanswered questions have even received Congressional attention. Because the weight-loss industry is largely unregulated, Democractic Congressman Ron Wyden of Oregon claims that questionable products, untrained instructors, and deceptive ads are exposing consumers to potential health risks. Rep. Wyden has proposed an industry-wide investigation, to be followed by the development of higher industry standards to protect Americans against potential weight-loss scams. Until such a program is in place, it is up to the individual to become an educated consumer.
Here’s the menu of weight-loss items:
- Very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) programs. VLCDs include a 400-calorie- to 800-calorie-per-day high-protein liquid diet. Because of the severe calorie restriction, this semistarvation diet is available only through a physician’s office or a hospital; it requires a thorough health screening and constant medical monitoring. some VLCD programs will not allow anyone under the age of 18 to participate. Most VLCDs are targeted to people who are severely obese, or who are at least 30 percent above their ideal body weight.
- Some programs also include a modified diet. Designed for people who are only 20 percent above their ideal weight, this liquid diet includes one meal per day.
Many patients in these programs lose an average of three to five pounds per week, depending on their age and the amount of weight they need to lose.
VLCD programs are expensive. They cost about $ 2,000 to $ 3,000, but some charges may be reimbursed through health insurance.
- Diet clinics/food plans. Many of these programs are 1,000-calorie-to 1,500-calorie-per-day diets. Usually clients follow a controlled menu plan and average a one- to two-pound weight loss per week. In some cases, participants are required to buy specially packaged meals and supplements available only from the company. Many of these plans include behavior modification and nutrition classes.
Fees for these programs vary widely. The cost of reaching a targeted weight loss can range from $250 to more than $1,000. Unless prescribed by a physician, these programs are not covered by health insurance.
- Over-the-counter products. These products range from diet pills to high-fiber cookies, diet snack bars to milkshakes. Many health experts are concerned with these dieting aids because there is no way to screen potential users, nor is professional guidance offered. Dieters of any age, weight, or health status can buy these items almost anywhere.
Some dieters can become too enthusiastic about their weight loss and put their own health at risk. If onediet pill is good, then four pills are four times better, some think. In reality, experts say that taking extradiet pills can be dangerous. As with any drug, label directions must be followed carefully.
To protect yourself, authorities recommend you ask doctor, dietitian, or pharmacist about any weight-loss product before you buy it.
Look Before You Leap
With hundreds of weight-loss programs out there, how do you find the one that’s best for you?
Nutrition experts from Tufts University have developed nine questions for you to ask when looking for a health diet:
1. Is this a diet you could live with indefinitely? If the eating choices are too restricted, the diet may not provide you with the important experience of preparing balanced meals.
2. What is the recommended rate of weight loss? Health professionals agree that you should lose no more than one to two pounds per week. Research shows that the slower you lose weight, the better chance you have of keeping it off.
3. Does the program account for individual differences when determining caloric needs? A teenager needs more calories than an adult, even on a weight-loss program.
4. Does the program contain detailed nutrition education, behavior modification, and exercise instruction? Without this information, you cannot make the permanent lifestyle changes necessary to keep the weight off.
5. Are physicians, dietitians, exercise physiologists, and psychologists part of the program? Instructors in these programs can be health professionals or they can be program-trained “graduates” of the weight-loss program itself. If the instructors are program-trained, they may not be health professionals. Make sure these instructors have professional support within the organization.
6. What percentaged of clients lose their weight and keep it off? In other words, how successful is the program? Be wary of those who do not keep track of their client’s longterm progress.
7. Does the program offer a maintenance plan once you’ve lost your weight.? For many dieters, losing weight is easy. The part they need the most help with is keeping the weight off.
8. What is the basis of their advertisements? Do they provide scientific proof that their program is legitimate, or does a celebrity claim that the product works for him or her? Remember–famous people are paid to endorse products.
9. What are the costs? Usually the costs are based on how much weight you need to lose. Make sure there are no hidden fees–the cost of extra supplements, videotapes, and other items can add up.