If you would like to lose some weight, and keep it off, then you are not alone. Millions of people across the country are in the same position supporting an industry estimated to be worth over £11.2 billion a year. Weight Watchers alone claims to have over a million members, while the Dr Atkins book has sold over ten million copies.

This leaves you with a mind-numbing variety of options, from patches to shakes, group meetings to full menus. Worse still, many of these seem to be offering contradictory advice about what you should and should not eat.

So how do you choose a plan that’s right for you and will bring you success, not just in the short term, but for the rest of your life? How can you get past the expensive advertising and unbelievable claims and get to the truth that really matters? Here are a few questions you should ask to make sure you choose a plan that will work for you and that you can stick to in the long term.

This article is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

Are these plans safe?

This may seem the most obvious of all, but there have been countless diet plans through the years that have neglected the basic demands of the human body in their single-minded drive towards weight loss.

You need to ensure that your plan includes the recommended daily allowance of all the essential vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. It’s not unheard of for people to suffer malnutrition as a result of a strict diet regime. Your diet also needs to include enough calories to keep you going, even if these are restricted. A diet of around 1,200 calories a day for women, and 1,500 calories a day for men should result in a healthy weight loss.

Are these plans steady?

Crash diets and rapid weight loss plans may yield impressive short-term results, but since no one can live like this long-term, you will soon put the weight back on when you return to your normal eating pattern.

You should look for a plan that aims to reduce your weight by one or two pounds a week in a way that you can maintain in the longer term. You may still lose weight rapidly at the start, but this will level off to a steady, sustainable loss.

Are these plans backed by science?

Before you commit to a weight loss plan, you should check that it’s based upon sound scientific research and that the people administering the course are properly trained and qualified.

Beware of ‘pseudo-science’ which offers pills or potions that claim to do all the hard work for you. If there really was a magic diet ‘pill’ to help you lose weight while you sit and eat pizza, we would all know about it and no one would be overweight.

In reality, there are no shortcuts. Weight loss is achieved by a combination of reducing your calorific intake and increasing your exercise.

Do they fit your tastes and lifestyle?

The more complicated a diet is to follow, and the more prescriptive it is about what you can and cannot eat, the harder it will be to stick to, and the more likely you will be to cheat. Diets that depend on shakes and pre-packaged food will soon lose their appeal, however wide the variety of flavours. What’s more, this type of diet does not educate you about what to eat when you have finished the plan – and you don’t want to live on shakes for the rest of your life!

It’s much more sensible to choose a diet plan that’s suitable to your own tastes and lifestyle. Diet plans with points systems allow you to eat what you enjoy at the time that suits you, within a total allowance for the day. Often, it can be much easier to maintain this type of eating after you have finished the plan.

Do these plans suit your personality?

Personality is a huge factor in weight loss. For some people, personal, one-on-one coaching works best; for others, the mutual support of a ‘meeting’ keeps them going. However, you may not want either, and would prefer to keep your diet privately.

Whichever kind of person you are, there is a diet style for you, so make sure your plan fits your personality. If you get embarrassed being weighed in public, chances are you won’t enjoy a ‘meeting’ style group and will not stick to the plan for long.

Can you afford them?

For many people, the fact that they are paying for their weight loss plan is a motivation in itself. Paying weekly subs to attend the meeting means they have to make that meeting ‘worth it’.

However, you need to ensure you can afford your weight loss plan, or you will simply give yourself a good reason to stop after a few weeks. Make sure you ask for the full price, including membership, supplements, classes, and ready meals or shakes. This can vary between simple weekly subscriptions, to having to pay for your full meal plan for the week.

You should also budget for eating healthier, as fresh, healthy food will inevitably cost a little more than junk food.

Will they last?

The final and perhaps most important question to ask about any diet plan is: will it last? There is little point in committing to a short-term fix only to put the weight straight back on afterwards. It will be much more useful to find a plan that you can integrate into your lifestyle, and which will teach you the way to make the long-term changes you need to keep your weight off for good.

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