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 obesity1 —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. You’ll also learn how to talk with a health care professional about your weight.
Your health care professional may be able to help you make lifestyle changes to reach and maintain a healthy weight. However, if you’re having trouble making these lifestyle changes—or if these changes aren’t enough to help you reach and stay at a healthy weight—you may want to consider a weight-loss program or other types of treatment.
Talking with a health care professional about your weight is an important first step. Sometimes, health care professionals may not address issues such as healthy eating, physical activity, and weight during general office visits. You may need to raise these issues yourself. If you feel uneasy talking about your weight, bring your questions with you and practice talking about your concerns before your office visit. Aim to work with your health care professional to improve your health.
Talking with your health care professional about your weight is an important first step.
Before your visit with a health care professional, think about the following questions:
You can be better prepared for a visit with a health care professional if you
During your visit, a health care professional may
People who are overweight have a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9. People with obesity have a BMI of 30.0 or higher, and those with extreme obesity have a BMI of 40.0 or higher. You can use this online tool or chart to see what your BMI is.
If a health care professional says you should lose weight, you may want to ask for a referral to a weight-loss program, dietitian, or weight-loss specialist. If you decide to choose a weight-loss program on your own, consider talking with the health care professional about the program before you sign up, especially if you have any health problems.
Ask questions if you don’t understand something your health care professional has said, or if you need more information.
You may want to ask a health care professional the following questions:
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
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.2
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.3
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. Read how to change your habits for better health.
Many weight-loss programs are now being offered partly or completely online and through apps for mobile devices. Researchers are studying how well these programs work on their own or together with in-person programs, especially long term. However, experts suggest that these weight-loss programs should provide the following:
Whether a program is online or in person, you should get as much background as you can before you decide to join
Many weight-loss programs are now being offered online and through apps for mobile devices.
Avoid weight-loss programs that make any of the following promises:
Other warning signs to look out for include
Weight-loss program staff should be able to answer questions about the program’s features, safety, costs, and results. Find out if the program you’re interested in is based on current research about what works for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
If the response is “yes,” ask for a copy of the report or how you could get it. If the answer is “no,” the program is harder to evaluate and may not be as favorable a choice as programs that have published such information. If you have questions about the findings, discuss the report with your health care professional
Here are some other questions you may want to ask:
Find out if the program offers ways to help you be more physically active.
These questions are especially important if you are considering a medically supervised program that encourages quick weight loss (3 or more pounds a week for several weeks):
If a weight-loss program is not enough to help you reach a healthy weight, ask your health care professional about other types of weight-loss treatments. Prescription medicines to treat overweight and obesity, combined with healthy lifestyle changes, may help some people reach a healthy weight. For some people who have extreme obesity, bariatric surgery may be an option
 Fryar CD, Carroll MD, and Ogden CL. Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 1960–1962 through 2013–2014. National Center for Health Statistics. Health E-Stats. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_adult_13_14/obesity_adult_13_14.pdf . (PDF, 341 KB) Published July 2016. Accessed July 6, 2017.
 Jensen MD, Ryan DH, Apovian CM, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity Society. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S102–S138. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437739.71477.ee . Accessed July 6, 2017.
 Gudzune KA, Doshi RS, Mehta AK, et al. Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2015;162(7):501–512.
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