Do you think you need to lose weight? Have you been thinking about trying a weight-loss program?

You are not alone. More than 70 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or have obesity —and many of them try to lose the extra pounds through different kinds of weight-loss programs. A number of these programs are advertised in magazines and newspapers, as well as on the radio, TV, and internet. But are they safe? And will they work for you?

Here you’ll find tips on how to choose a program that may help you lose weight safely and keep it off over time(1)

What should I look for in a weight-loss program?

To reach and stay at a healthy weight over the long term, you must focus on your overall health and lifestyle habits, not just on what you eat. Successful weight-loss programs should promote healthy behaviors that help you lose weight safely, that you can stick with every day, and that help you keep the weight off.



Safe and successful weight-loss programs should include:

  • Behavioral treatment, also called lifestyle counseling, that can teach you how to develop and stick with healthier eating and physical activity habits—for example, keeping food and activity records or journals
  • Information about getting enough sleep, managing stress, and the benefits and drawbacks of weight-loss medicines
  • Ongoing feedback, monitoring, and support throughout the program, either in person, by phone, online, or through a combination of these approaches
  • Slow and steady weight-loss goals—usually 1 to 2 pounds per week (though weight loss may be faster at the start of a program)
  • A plan for keeping the weight off, including goal setting, self-checks such as keeping a food journal, and counseling support

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The most successful weight-loss programs provide 14 sessions or more of behavioral treatment over at least 6 months—and are led by trained staff.

Some commercial weight-loss programs have all of these components for a safe and successful weight-loss program. Check for these features in any program you are thinking about trying.

Some weight-loss programs use very low-calorie diets to promote quick weight loss—3 or more pounds a week for several weeks—in people with a lot of excess weight. You should be monitored closely by a health care professional if you are on a very low-calorie diet that provides 800 calories a day or less.

Although these diets may help some people lose a lot of weight quickly—for example, 15 pounds in a month—they may not help people keep the weight off long term. These diets also may have related health risks, the most common being gallstones.

For people who are overweight or have obesity, experts recommend a beginning weight-loss goal of 5 to 10 percent of your starting weight within 6 months.2 If you weigh 200 pounds, that would amount to a loss of 10 pounds, which is 5 percent of starting weight, to 20 pounds, which is 10 percent of starting weight, in 6 months.

Changing your lifestyle isn’t easy, but adopting healthy habits that you don’t give up after a few weeks or months may help you maintain your weight loss.



Weight-loss programs to avoid

Avoid weight-loss programs that make any of the following promises:

  • Lose weight without diet or exercise!
  • Lose weight while eating as much as you want of all your favorite foods!
  • Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!
  • Lose weight in specific problem areas of your body!
  • Other warning signs to look out for include

Very small print, asterisks, and footnotes, which may make it easy to miss important information
Before-and-after photos that seem too good to be true
Personal endorsements that may be made up

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