Once you know what features you need in a weight-loss plan, look closely at the plans that seem to fit. And be sure that ones you are interested in are scientifically sound, Farrell said.
Key factors to look for, she said, include:
In addition, Farrell said, "look for a plan that emphasizes physical activity and encourages eating regularly throughout the day."
And watch out for claims and promises that sound too good to be true, Farrell added. A common one, she noted, is rapid weight loss. "It should be no greater than two pounds a week," she said.
She's also skeptical of plans that say no exercise is needed. Weight loss means a lifestyle change, she said, and maintaining the loss is best done by keeping an eye on food intake and on staying active.
Another red flag, Farrell said, is a plan that totally eliminates foods or food groups.
But whatever plan you choose, focus on making small changes to your eating and activity habits, Rodriguez said. Look at what you currently eat and then figure out how you could make small healthy changes.
Just substitute low-fat crackers for the doughnut you usually eat, she said.
"Do this for one to two weeks, then go back and make another small change," Farrell said. "Keep doing this. Continuing self-improvement is a great thing."
Then do the same for physical activity, she said. Try tracking the steps you take in a day with a pedometer, and then increase them.
The bottom line? The experts agreed that if your diet plan is suited to you, chances are you'll follow it longer, take the weight off at a slow but steady pace and maintain the loss.
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