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Do Weight Loss Programs Work?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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It’s hard to give a blanket answer to the question of whether weight loss programs work, since there are so many of them which differ in basic structure and directions. Also, adhering to the program a person chooses influences the results, and the degree to which a person continues to stick to sound diet and exercise after the desired weight is lost is part of the equation. It would be fair to state that many weight loss programs can work, but whether they help keep weight off after it’s been lost may depend on the type of program used, the way it educates people about nutrition, and the desire to keep behavior modified when the program is over.

Probably the most successful types of weight loss programs emphasize a mild to moderate calorie restricted diet which is low in fats, and high in dietary fiber, with consistent exercise to help burn calories and build lean muscle. Theoretically, people who exercise should have an aerobic type exercise and also one that involves some muscle building, since greater muscle mass enhances metabolism and helps burn calories quicker. In the beginning, if people are carrying significant weight, they may need to start slow and should get the advice of doctors.

It’s also been shown that some people do better in weight loss programs that offer some support. Many people won’t stick to a diet unless they have group or individual support, even if information about the diet could be easily accessed elsewhere. Support could mean working on a weight loss program with a couple of friends, or it might mean belonging to an Internet group or a local group that has a specific diet plan. Many plans have flexible alternatives, offering people either weekly meetings or Internet consultations.

Meetings or consultations should emphasize more than current state of weight loss, and should also focus on teaching food nutrition so that people will have a good chance of maintaining loss when the diet is done. It is easy to put weight back on, and there are some people that tend to yoyo up and down, which is not healthy. Thus as diet produces more weight loss, it should begin to focus on how to keep it off.

There are weight loss programs that definitely don’t work well, and that can be costly. If the program sounds like it will take minimal work and no exercise, it likely is not worth it. Too good to be true programs typically are not very effective, no matter how convincing consumer testimonials sound on the subject.

To sum, weight loss usually takes a healthy diet, exercise and education. Those weight loss programs most likely to be effective are ones that contain these components. It is possible to get information on how to lose weight without joining a program, but people in programs might reach their weight loss goals more frequently. Programs shouldn’t be viewed as ending when diets end, but as continuing to the next level where healthy weight is maintained through good dietary habits and continued exercise.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By ValleyFiah — On Jun 03, 2011

@framemaker- Cougars essentially outlined a healthy weight loss program. For me, one of my biggest issues is moving around enough throughout the day. Although I go to the gym regularly, I work behind a desk so I am not actively on my feet. The gym just was not enough to keep my metabolism going throughout the day.

The two changes I made were to eat more often (five to six small healthy meals throughout the day), and to move around more. I work at home, so I have a sit and stand desk so I can be on my feet more often. I also take a five-minute break every hour to take a walk. These two things have helped significantly.

By cougars — On Jun 01, 2011

@framemaker- Honestly weight loss programs are often hard to follow because they are seen as short-term "solutions" to long-term problems. It is like trying to fill a bathtub without plugging the drain. The biggest problem with weight loss and diet programs is that they do not address the underlying causes of excess weight. The cause is often the person's lifestyle. I was not able to get my weight under control until I did a lifestyle assessment and determined what was causing my issues. I examined stress levels, dietary habits, exercise habits, and my environment.

Once I figured out where my weaknesses were, I decided to set small goals that ere obtainable. I began by adding more fiber and vegetables into my diet. Eventually I started to remove bad things from my diet, especially sugar, corn syrup and salt. This slow pace of change made my dietary changes permanent, and I slowly began to enjoy the healthy foods that I used to think were bland and boring.

After correcting my diet, I began to address my exercise and stress issues. I found that the two were very closely related. The more I exercised, the less stress I felt. This also made me evaluate my environment and establish goals (Where I want to live, work, play) that I can easily work towards. It is not easy, but I wish you the best of luck.

By FrameMaker — On May 30, 2011

This was such a great article. I always feel so overwhelmed by all the different weight loss programs and products on the market. It seems like none of the programs ever work. Either they make me too hungry, are too complicated to follow, or they are filled with workout routines that are nearly impossible. I have probably wasted more money than it is worth on failed weight loss programs. I guess there is no quick weight loss program that is easy and will keep the weight off.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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