Whether your weight loss goals involve trying to lose 5kgs or more than 50kgs, the same principles determine how much weight you lose and how fast your weight loss will occur. A healthy weight is an important element of good health. How much you eat and what you eat play central roles in maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight, exercise is the other key actor. In Zambia, there is a substantial market for products which promise to make weight loss easier, quicker, cheaper, more reliable, or less painful. These include books, DVDs, CDs, cremes, lotions, pills, rings and earrings, body wraps, body belts and other materials, fitness centers, clinics, personal coaches, weight loss groups, and food products and supplements.

What works for you?

A variety of options exist to help you lose weight and keep it off. The key to successful weight loss is making changes in your eating and physical activity habits that you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life.

Types of weight loss programs

To lose weight and keep it off, you should be aware of the different types of programs available and the important parts of a good program. Knowing this information should help you select or design a weight loss program that will work for you. The wide variety of weight loss programs can be placed along a continuum on the basis of many factors, including intensity of treatment, cost, the nature of the intervention(s), and degree of involvement of health-care providers. The three types of weight loss programs include: do-it-yourself programs, non-clinical programs, and clinical programs.

Do-it-yourself programs

Any effort to lose weight by yourself or with a group of like-minded others through support groups, worksite or community-based programs fits in the "do-it-yourself" category. Individuals using a do-it-yourself program rely on their own judgment, group support, and products such as diet books for advice.

Nonclinical

Nonclinical weight loss programs should use educational materials written or reviewed by a physician or dietitian that address both healthy eating and exercise. Although many commercial programs may promote proprietary foods, supplements, or products, these may be costly and will not teach participants about appropriate food selection to maintain long-term weight loss. Programs promoting specific formulas or foods for easy weight loss may offer short-term weight loss because of calorie restriction but should be avoided because they may not provide essential nutrients, do not teach healthy eating habits, and are not sustainable.

Clinical

Clinical weight loss programs are administered by licensed health care providers including physicians, nurses, dietitians, or psychologists in a clinic or hospital setting. These programs may include nutrition education, physical activity, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), prescription weight loss drugs, or gastrointestinal surgery, depending on the desired weight loss and health status. Clinical programs may also use other weight-loss methods, such as very low-calorie diets, prescription weight loss drugs, and surgery, to treat severely overweight patients.

Evolving from weight loss to weight management

In order for weight loss to be permanent, changes in diet and lifestyle must be permanent as well. Short-term dieting has not been shown to produce either long term weight loss or better health, and may even be counterproductive.