You’ve made the decision to lose weight and you go to Amazon.com and search for “diet plans” and you get 1,468 diet books. Then you go to Google and type in “diet plans” and you get 17,600,000 indexed search results. How do you begin? How do you know if the diet plan you choose is right for you? What criteria should you use to evaluate the various diet plans?
First, let me congratulate you on your decision to lose those extra pounds. You’ve taken the first step to a healthier and happier life. If you’re more than 30lbs overweight or have any pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, go see your doctor. Let him know your decision to lose weight and ask his advice. Make sure to ask:
- What is my ideal weight?
- What weight loss books, plans or programs do you recommend?
- Does my current medical condition limit me on exercising?
- What are the benefits of seeing a registered dietitian?
- Does my health insurance cover any of the costs of a weight loss program?
After your doctors visit your next step is to establish your weight loss goals. Write down your goals. I can’t emphasize this step strongly enough. Do not skip this step. Use the SMART goal design. SMART stands for specific, measurable, action, realistic and time-bound.
Be specific, don’t say “I’m going to lose weight” instead say “I’m going to lose 30lbs by July 4th.” Step on your scale once a week to measure your progress. It’s best to weigh yourself at the same time of day to get the best basis for comparison. I’ve made it a habit to weigh myself just before I take my morning shower. List what actions you are going to take to reach your goal (remember write these down). Make sure your goals are realistic. For example, don’t set a goal to lose 60lbs in two months that is an unrealistic time frame. Set little goals leading up to our primary goal. If your primary goal is to lose 52lbs in six months than your little goal should be to lose 2 lbs per week. One more goal setting step is Biofit to write down the obstacles between you and your desired weight and next to each obstacle write down how you plan to overcome that obstacle.
Depending on what weight loss plan/program you select you can come back to your goals and modify them accordingly but it is best to establish your weight loss goals prior to selecting a plan. And, I say again, write your goals down. There have been countless studies on goal setting and the one overwhelming result has always been the people who have taken the time and effort to write down their goals have achieved greater success than those who did not.
Armed with information and advice from your doctor and specific and written goals you are ready to select the diet plan/program that’s right for you. Diet plans/programs can be placed it two broad categories: (1) plans that you implement yourself and (2) plans that provide food and/or supplements plus ongoing support. The primary example of the first category is buying and reading a diet book and then implementing the authors’ suggestions. Examples of the second category include Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Medifast and Optifast.
Here is where you’ll realize the first benefit of your SMART goal setting. What is your goal? Is you goal to lose 20lbs so you can look your best for your best friends wedding in two months or is your goal to lose 50lbs in six months and keep that weight off? In other words, do you have a specific short-term goal or specific long-term goal? I hope your goal includes keeping the weight off but if not that’s OK. Just keep in mind that even if you have a short-term goal you will feel so much better without the extra weight you may decide to modify your goal to keep the weight off.
If your goal is short-term you need to compare plans that will allow you to lose your target weight by the specific date you’ve set. Depending on the time fame you may want to review plans categorized as very low calorie diets (VLCD). Wikipedia defines a VLCD as:
- Having 800 calories or less per day.
- Formulated nutritionally complete liquid meals
- Carbohydrates can be completely absent
- Products are usually in powder form and are mixed with water or another low calorie beverage
Most VLCD recommend drinking substantial amounts of water every day. There are health risks with a VLCD including gallstones and constipation (due to lack of fiber). An important note, VLCD are not recommended for those seeking permanent weight loss. They are not sustainable.