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5 Things You Need in a Weight Loss Program

Finding a reliable weight loss program is important. More than a third of people in the U.S. are considered obese. And it’s not just adults. The CDC says 1 in 6 kids are dealing with the condition, too. Weighing too much puts you at risk for many serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

“Eat less and exercise more” has always been the golden rule for dropping pounds. But how do you really accomplish that? Here are the five must-haves in a weight loss program, according to the researchers at Johns Hopkins.

1) Plenty of interaction and support. You want ongoing contact with the program’s support team. Researchers recommend at least 14 sessions over 6 months. This might be in person or by phone or email. “Support is so critical in helping people through the weight loss process,” Gudzune says.

2) Diet changes that are backed by science. “Things like the Paleo diet are very hot right now but haven’t been studied with their effects on weight loss,” Gudzune says. You want an approach that has solid evidence to support it works. This might be a low-calorie eating plan or meal replacements, or a well-studied diet for weight loss, like Atkins, she says.

3) Exercise encouragement. Opt for a program with some type of plan to get you moving more. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity (like walking) each week. You can divvy that up however you like. Keep in mind that exercise is key if you want to stay at your lighter weight once you’ve dropped pounds, but doctors say it’s hard to lose weight with just exercise alone.

4) Behavior strategies. Your program should encourage things like weighing yourself, meal planning, or tracking your food or exercise.

5) Approved meds only. Steer clear of programs that push fat burners or other supplements that aren’t FDA-approved for weight loss. The FDA offers a list of dangerous weight loss products. You can sign up for email alerts, too.

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