What is Weight Management?
Weight management is a part of healthy living; it is not about losing weight quickly or yo-yo dieting. It’s a lifelong project to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Weight management comes easy to some people, but for others it can be a struggle. A weight management program is a systematic and organized approach to losing and maintaining weight.
What to Look For in a Weight Management Program
A reasonable weight management program aims for slow and steady weight loss, with a goal of losing about one pound of stored fat per week. Reducing caloric intake and increasing physical activity are the major components of a sound weight management program. After the desired amount of weight is lost, a good program addresses weight maintenance and education to prevent you from gaining the weight back.
To be effective, you must be able to incorporate the weight management program into your daily life. The program must have the flexibility to address your individual habits and personal preferences, including cultural needs. For example, if a participant in a program enjoys eating out, the program should educate the person on how to choose healthy foods in a restaurant.
The food that is included in any weight loss program should be readily- available, ordinary foods. The dieter should not have to purchase unusual foods with claims of special properties. The food choices should provide a nutritional, balanced diet according to the current dietary recommendations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As much as possible the diet should include foods the you enjoy.
Behavior modification is an important part of a weight management program. Weight management is a lifelong endeavor that requires changes in not only what people eat, but also how they eat. Changes should be reasonable enough that you can keep them up. Behavior modification is individualized; examples include eating more frequent, smaller meals; not keeping high calorie snacks or sweets in the house; and avoiding buffets when eating out. The weight management program may include social support and plans for addressing relapses.
Participants who have existing health problems, who want to lose weight quickly, or who are above a certain age (40 for women; 50 for men) and plan to increase physical activity substantially should be screened by a medical provider. Medical care may be needed for followers of special formula diets or very low calorie diets.
The program should encourage regular physical activity, stress reduction, adequate rest, and other healthy lifestyle changes that support weight management. Any psychological issues such as depression or addiction that may impact weight control need to be addressed. Many good weight control programs include counselling sessions.
What Are Weight Management Programs Doctors Like?
It is not uncommon for a dieter to start his or her search for a weight management program with conversation with a health care provider. A doctor or other medical professional can listen to your weight loss goals and health concerns. He or she can suggest programs or make referrals to a registered dietician or a local support group.
Your doctor or dietician may suggest specific programs or guide you in finding a program that is right for you. With rare exceptions a medical professional is going to recommend a program that combines gradual weight loss with physical activity and a healthy, balanced diet.
Many weight management programs have convincing brochures, websites, and advertisements that promise almost miraculous weight loss. Against all reason the promotions make it easy to believe that losing weight is as easy and fun as they say, but in reality few participants in these programs keep their weight down over the long term. Before investing time, hopes, and money in a commercial weight loss program, people should ask weight management companies questions such as these:
- What are the health risks?
- What are the credentials of the people who run the program?
- Do participants have to buy special foods, medications, or supplements?
- Exactly what is the diet that must be followed?
- Does the program aim for slow and steady weight loss or quick weight loss?
- What type of counselling and support are included?
- Does the program emphasize a balanced diet and exercise?
- What rate of weight loss does the average participant aim for?
- What percentage of participants is successful in reaching their weight goals?
- What percentage of participants keeps the weight off long term, for 6 months? For one year?
- What is the total cost for membership, weekly or monthly fees, counselling, food and supplements/medications, and other products? Are there any other costs beside these?
- How does the program help dieters keep the weight off?
Most people do not need prescription diet medicines, many of which have side effects, to lose weight and keep it off. Over-the-counter diet pills can also have dangerous side effects. The appetite suppressant PPA can increase the risk of stroke. Ephedra is an over-the-counter diet drug that can cause dizziness, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, chest pain, heart attack, stroke, seizure, and even death.
To summarize what a weight management program includes—that is, a responsible weight management program:
- Healthy, balanced eating plans that include all food groups;
- Help increasing physical activity;
- Slow and steady weight loss;
- Support with behavioral and lifestyle changes; and
- A plan to keep the weight off.
As the Mayo Clinic puts it, “The key to successful weight loss is a commitment to making permanent changes in your diet and exercise habits.”