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What Is the Best Weight Loss Program?

March 1, 2022 - Katie McCallum

Whether you've hit a roadblock in your weight-loss journey or you're just starting out, you might be looking for some guidance on how to lose weight — particularly when it comes to your diet.

There are plenty of apps and online services designed to help, but is there really a "best" weight loss program that works for everyone?

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

"The best weight loss program is the one that works for you, specifically — with details varying depending on your health goals, pre-existing health conditions and current weight and fitness level," says Dr. Laura Choi, a weight loss surgeon at Houston Methodist. "There are various diets and exercise plans out there to try, but they don't work for everyone. Some people need a tailored weight loss strategy designed by professionals and more hands on support."

If you're considering your weight loss options but don't know where to start, here's what you need to know.

What is the best diet for me?

From the keto diet to intermittent fasting, there are no shortage of dieting options and strategies out there. So which should you choose to help you lose weight?

Many of the trendy diets we're used to hearing about are very restrictive. Some even restrict entire foods groups — beneficial ones, at that — which isn't necessarily healthy and can leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.

And, of course, what happens after your diet?

It's true that to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. (Related: How to Stop Overeating: 10 Tips to Avoid Eating Too Much)

But while accomplishing that, you also want to develop a healthy eating pattern you can sustain long-term. This is why the "which diet is best?" question can be a tricky one to answer. (Related: Which Diet Would a Dietitian Actually Do?)

Additionally, rapid weight loss isn't always safe.

"It's safe to lose up to two pounds per week, but if you're following a diet that's causing you to lose weight more quickly than that, it's time to consult your doctor," says Dr. Choi. "There are ways to safely lose weight faster than that, but it should only be done under medical supervision."

Plus, some diets are dangerous for people with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications. For instance, people with kidney disease should not undergo a juice cleanse.

"Before starting a diet, be sure to let you doctor know," adds Dr. Choi. "You may also consider meeting with a registered dietitian so you can make sure the diet you've chosen won't result in a depletion of important nutrients."

Rather than spending months researching which diet program is best, skip the trendy diet altogether and start by taking simple steps toward eating healthy That is, choose good foods more often than you do "bad" ones, which include refined, processed foods that are full of added sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and empty calories.

In reality, the best weight loss program will look different for different people

The benefits of losing weight are universal.

Weight loss can help you live longer and reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. It can also help manage existing diabetes and prevent complications of other chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. In some cases, eating a healthy diet can even eliminate the need for medications that help control these issues.

It's the "how" to lose weight where things become more nuanced, specific and individualized.

"For instance, a person who is moderately overweight and looking to help better manage diabetes will likely need to approach weight loss differently than someone who is very overweight and has tried dieting in the past with little success," says Dr. Choi. "This is when working with a weight management team can help."

There's also the other component of any weight loss plan to consider: exercise. Beyond the overarching goal of moving more and sitting less, this also should be highly individualized.

There are many different exercise classes, plans and routines out there. Whichever activities you choose, just be sure they're things you enjoy doing and can stick to consistently. Be realistic with your goals and don't overthink it. Maybe that means starting exercising by taking a walk every day and doing body-weight exercises a few times per week. Building your fitness and strength over time, increase the pace on your walk, swap a chair squat for a full one.

If you're struggling to lose weight, let the experts help

Depending on where you are in your weight loss journey, you may have identified that you need help achieving your goals.

"Often, people who are trying to lose weight struggle with what's called yoyo dieting," warns Dr. Choi. "This is when you go on a diet and lose the weight, only to regain it once the diet ends. This isn't just frustrating, it's unhealthy. Yo-yo dieting can lead to muscle loss and potentially even bone loss. It can also take a toll on your mental health."

If you're ready to take the next step towards losing weight and keeping it off, Dr. Choi recommends working with a weight management team designed to help you do just that.

"A weight loss program staffed by doctors, dietitians, exercise physiologists and mental health professionals can help you begin your journey, lose weight safely and empower you with the tools needed to make lasting changes to your lifestyle," says Dr. Choi. "From self-monitoring tools, nutrition education and exercise tips to medically supervised weight loss plans, there are many strategies a medical weight loss program can offer."

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