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Diet Programs

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Diet ads are everywhere. So how do you cut beyond the hype to find a plan that's right for you?

Take your choice: Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, The Zone, Atkins. There is no shortage of weight loss programs. And most of them will work, at least in the short run.

The key is whether they are safe, and will they help you in the long run?

That's why the National Institutes of Health has come up with some guidelines to help consumers pick a plan.

First, a diet should be safe. It sounds obvious, but being safe means it should include all the recommended daily allowances for vitamins, minerals, and proteins.

A diet can be low in calories, but it shouldn't be low in essential foodstuffs.

Second, it should promote slow, steady weight loss rather than losing a large amount quickly.

Expect to lose only about a pound a week after the first few weeks.

The plan should include plans for weight maintenance. Shedding unwanted pounds is only the first part of the problem. Often the tougher part is keeping that weight off.

Your plan should include education on healthy eating habits, behavior modification, and exercise. In fact, exercise may be the single most important element in maintaining weight loss.

Finally, the program should include a detailed statement of what it will cost you.

That means any pre-packaged meals, any extra consultations, or dietary supplements that you need are included in the cost.

When it comes to weight loss, there's no magic bullet. So don't fall for the diet plans that claim you can lose weight while sleeping or without changing your lifestyle or eating habits. They just don't work.

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