Ask questions before joining weight-loss programs


April 21, 1992|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

Thin is no longer "in."

Despite past admonitions to achieve ideal weight, a recent conference held by the National Institutes of Health on Voluntary Weight Loss and Control concluded that "cover girl" weights are not reasonable, appropriate or achievable for most people.

"Maintenance of stable weight, or of a newly lowered weight, is the most important feature of a successful weight-loss program," the NIH panel reported. If you really need to lose weight, the panel suggests you not listen to advertising claims, but evaluate any weight-loss program by asking for the following information:

* The dropout rate.

* Weight lost by those who complete the program.

* Weight loss maintained after one, three and five years.

* Negative medical effects experienced by participants.

* Relative mix of diet, exercise and behavior modification.

* Amount and kind of counseling. Private or closed-group are preferred.

* Availability of multi-disciplinary expertise including medical, nutritional, psychological and physiological.

* Relapse prevention training.

* Type and length of maintenance training.

* Flexibility of food choices.

* Method for setting weight goals.

When you ask these questions, you'll find, as the NIH panel did, that there are no existing programs that can provide all this information. Most will probably begin collecting and tabulating it now that the pressure is on, but it's going to take a while to get those five-year statistics.

It's sobering to note that, for programs that do have five-year information, the best blends of well-balanced diet, regular exercise regimes and behavior-modification programs still produce only a 5-percent success rate.

The NIH panel called for research on many fronts to untangle the mysteries of obesity, weight loss and weight maintenance.

But what do we do until then?

Epidemiologist David Williamson, Ph.D., from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, suggested this approach:

* Build up to walking 45 minutes five days a week.

* Eat more fruits and vegetables.

* Cut fat to moderate levels.

In a year, you will achieve your own healthy weight. Then focus on this healthy lifestyle forever.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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