Nutrition Column – Weighing in on Weight-Loss Plans

‘Tis the season for post-holiday guilt, which for many Americans means going on yet another diet. Whether it’s the Atkins diet, the Pritiken diet, the Jared diet or any multitude of other diet plans, more than 50 million Americans go on a serious diet at least once a year. Yet, only about 5 percent of dieters successfully keep the lost weight off for more than a year. What’s the catch? Many times, weight-loss plans include strict guidelines that are difficult to incorporate into a person’s lifestyle for any length of time.

Achieving good health and weight management requires a lifelong commitment. Effective weight-loss plans should be relatively easy to adapt to your current lifestyle, promote a nutritious eating plan and encourage physical activity. Before you begin a weight-loss plan, check to see if it meets the following criteria outlined by the American Dietetic Association.

  • Does the plan include a variety of foods from all five of the major groups in the Food Guide Pyramid? No one food supplies all of the nutrients needed by the body. To ensure you’re meeting your nutritional requirements, eat a variety of foods both within each food group and among the five food groups.
  • Does the plan include appealing foods that you will enjoy for the rest of your life, not just for a few weeks or months? You should be allowed to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. Also, there should not be a list of forbidden foods.
  • Are the foods recommended by the plan available at the supermarket where you usually shop? If you have to go out of your way to buy the foods, you will be less likely to stick to the plan for an extended period of time.
  • Does the plan recommend changes in your nutritional habits that also fit into your lifestyle and budget? You should not be required to purchase expensive special foods or dietary supplements.
  • Does the plan provide an adequate amount of energy from at least the minimum number of servings from the Food Guide Pyramid? As a general rule of thumb, weight-loss plans should not recommend less that 1,200 calories per day. Weight-loss goals should not exceed one to two pounds per week.
  • Does the plan include regular physical activity? In addition to eating healthfully, regular physical activity is key in losing and maintaining lost weight. Research studies have repeatedly shown that people who lose weight and keep it off for more than one year usually exercise on a regular basis. However, you don’t have to be an exercise fanatic to get the benefits. Try to find an activity that you enjoy and can do for about 30 minutes most days of the week.

Losing weight is not easy. Selecting a safe and effective weight-loss plan before you begin can increase your chance of success. As a precaution, always check with your health-care provider before you begin. For help with meal planning and other nutrition-related questions, consult with a registered dietitian.