Ask these questions when looking for a safe and effective weight loss plan

August 13, 2019 in Preventive Care  •  By Miles Varn, MD
effective weight loss

If you’re overweight, losing even a relatively small amount of weight has many health benefits, from lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer to decreasing joint and back pain. Diets that promise fast weight loss may be tempting, but they’re often not safe or evidence-based and don’t lead to long term weight loss.

To find a healthy eating and weight loss plan, it’s wise to start by talking with your primary care physician. Your doctor can recommend a safe amount of weight to lose each week and may be able to connect you with nutrition and exercise specialists who can help you build a plan that’s tailored to your goals and any current health issues you face like joint pain or high blood pressure. A health advisor can be another resource for finding an evidence-based weight loss plan.

What to look for in a weight loss plan

There are four key aspects that a safe and effective weight loss plan should include:

  • Lifestyle or behavioral counseling that teaches you how to build healthier eating and activity habits and how to manage stress and get enough sleep
  • Feedback and support, either in person, by phone, or online, to help you stay motivated as you change your habits and work towards achieving your weight loss goal
  • Steady, moderate weight loss goals, usually about one or two pounds per week
  • A tailored plan to help you keep off the weight you lose and maintain your new healthy habits

It’s also helpful to know the red flags that can indicate that a weight loss plan isn’t safe and effective, such as claims of fast, easy weight loss, very rapid weight loss, and programs that don’t require any changes to your diet or activity levels.

Before deciding what approach to take, ask yourself these questions:

  • What weight loss plans have you tried before? Which ones worked and which didn’t? What did you like and dislike about the plans?
  • Do you prefer a plan that includes group support, either in person or online, or do you prefer to do a program on your own?
  • Do you have a health condition that may affect what you eat and what types of exercise you can take part in, such as food allergies, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, or arthritis?
  • Do you have time for the food preparation required by this eating plan? If not, a plan that includes prepared foods may be a better option.
  • Does the plan include a healthy approach to eating focused on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats?
  • Does it include foods that you enjoy eating? Many weight loss attempts fail or don’t help people make long term changes when they don’t include foods you like to eat or when they limit your food choice a great deal.
  • Does the plan include regular physical activity? Even if you do lose weight just by changing what you eat, physical activity is an important part of maintaining your weight loss.

There’s no one weight loss plan that works for everyone, so take the time to figure out which approach is the one you’re most likely to stick with and you’re more likely to achieve your goals.