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Questions You Should Ask of Any Weight-Loss Program


Updated February 15, 2014


If you are in doubt about the requirements or guidelines of any weight-loss program, ask your doctor to review it.

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If you are considering starting a weight-loss program, there are a few questions you should ask before you begin.


How Many Calories Will I Eat?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that anyone considering a weight loss program asks for details about how many calories will be consumed daily.

Most people can lose weight by following a diet that contains approximately 1,500 calories a day.

For diets under 1,500 calories, the FTC recommends that you check with your health care provider to ensure the plan meets your nutritional needs.

It is unsafe to consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day unless you are directed to do so by your doctor and kept under medical supervision.



What Will I be Eating?

Next, you should ask what foods are required and/or limited from the eating plan.

A sensible weight loss program will tailor itself around the advice given in the American Dietary Guidelines. This will include allowing several daily servings of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Healthful diets will also include lean meats (or other protein sources for vegetarians) and low-fat dairy products.

You should be wary of any weight loss program that cuts out entire food groups.


Is Exercise Recommended?

Additionally the FTC suggests that you inquire if the program includes regular physical activity. Any reputable weight loss plan should recommend its participants take part in regular, moderate physical activity.

Any weight loss program that suggests you can experience long-term weight loss success without incorporating physical activity is just plain lying.



Which is More Important?

Most of us experience long-term success when we reduce our calorie intake and raise our calorie-burn (by increasing daily activity and exercising) by between 500-1000 calories per day. Doing so can help you lose about one or two pounds a week.

Cutting too many calorie without exercise can lead to poor nutrition and health problems. It can also lead to becoming so hungry that you end up over-eating or, eventually, binge-eating.

Too much exercise can lead to weakness, burn-out, decreased immunity, and increased injury risk.

A combination of both increased calorie-burning and calorie-cutting is healthier and easier to stick to than doing either to the extreme.

If a diet program suggests a stringent calorie-reduction beyond what sounds reasonable or suggests that you exercise more than 30-40 minutes each day if you have previously been sedentary, take the details of the plan to your doctor and get his informed opinion before starting it.


The Bottom Line

A healthy weight loss program will suggest that you initially approach both dieting and exercise with an attitude of moderation. As you lose weight and increase strength, you can cut more calories and exercise for a longer duration (or more often).

Following this type of plan will lead to permanent weight loss without putting your health at risk.


FTC, Federal Trade Commission. Weight Loss: Finding a Weight Loss Program that Works for You. 4 June 2007.


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