Weight Loss Clubs

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Losing weight and keeping it off is a lifetime challenge for most of us, and with obesity at epidemic levels among African–Americans, shedding unhealthy pounds should be a priority for every Back man, woman and child in our community. But how do we reach this goal? Going it alone without a plan, basic information about good nutrition or outside support can make a difficult challenge even harder. Weight loss clubs are an available option. But if you decide to join such a group, scrutinize and evaluate what they are really offering and how they can work for you.

Weight Watchers is the grand old dame of weight loss clubs. Its chummy meetings held in many Black neighborhoods and group weigh–in sessions set the standard for later groups like Nutri–Systems, Jenny Craig and Quick Weight Loss clinics, among others. Each has its own claims of effectiveness and slightly varied meeting formats, but one baseline is common, each requires membership with monthly dues that can take a real bite out of your income, a possible deterrent for African Americans on limited incomes.

When evaluating which club is best for you, consider the following. First, can you afford the monthly dues? Will your schedule permit regular attendance at meetings? Do you work well with group support or do you prefer one–on–one interaction? Does the club have a licensed nutritionist on board? Are you prepared to comply with the dietary restrictions and allowances the club recommends? Are you prepared to also begin a regimen of exercise, as any weight loss program will surely fail without it?

A further consideration is the (sometimes mandatory) purchase of pre–packaged meals that many clubs sell to their members. The convenience of these ready–made products can’t be denied. They limit caloric and fat intake in measured portions and the variety of selections of entrees, snacks and desert items is fairly wide. Eliminating the task of food shopping and preparation is a plus for folks on the go. However, it should be remembered that the very convenience these products offer puts them in the "fast–food" category, despite claims that may make you believe otherwise. Hence, many of these meals contain preservatives and have extremely high sodium contents, a major "no–no" for many Blacks who have high or borderline hypertension and anyone else concerned about proper diet and nutrition. In addition, the monotony of weeks or months ’eating from a box’ may leave you (rightfully) longing for something fresh.

To my mind, the best of these clubs are ones that offer customized food plans tailored to your specific weight–loss goals and your even more specific health and lifestyle profile. Under the best circumstances, your customized food plan will be developed by a licensed health professional like a dietician, nutritionist, registered nurse or physician’s assistant who will meet one–on–one with you at regular intervals to assess your progress and find solutions to any stumbling blocks. Through this interaction you will learn to discern good eating patterns from bad, and foods that nurture and heal against those that harm and destroy.

An individualized plan, by its very nature, is less artificial and intrusive to the way we normally live. Most important, it will encourage us to think of the changes we make in our eating patterns less as a diet and more as a permanent change to our overall approach to effective food choices and healthy living.

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