When would a guy with a fairly well established reputation for ranting against the gimmickry, failings and false promises of weight loss programs not only get involved in one, but take pride in having done so? When such a program was done his way. Or in this case, my way.
RediClinic®, which currently operates a network of health care clinics housed in H-E-B® supermarkets throughout Texas and has plans to expand nationally, has just launched their Weigh Forward weight management program. And I do, indeed, acknowledge with pride that I am the medical director of the program and that it was built to my specifications. But before we get back to that, a few confessions.
First, I confess that I did not listen to my mother who told me that I when I had nothing nice to say, I should say nothing at all. It turns out, saying the not-always-nice-things on my mind is an integral part of my job as a medical professional involved in making sure the public gets accurate information about health. There is a lot of snake oil for sale, and the only responsible thing to do about it is say so.
And so I have warned repeatedly that struggles with weight breed desperation, and desperation breeds gullibility. People with common sense in fine working order routinely turn it off when it comes to weight loss hucksterism. The more outrageous and too-good-to-be-true the claims attached to lotions, potions or programs, the more irresistible they have tended to be. But look where we all are as a result -- heavier than ever before.
I confess as well that I have done all I could to provide reasonable alternatives to false promises of effortless weight loss oblivious to calories, up to and including a weight loss book or two of my own. But when I have forayed into this space, I have been careful to speak only the truth to the best of my ability. (Alas, a bit of creative confabulation is a more reliable means to the best-seller lists!)
And finally, I confess that there are legitimate weight management programs out there already, the best established of which are household names, well known to you. Some of these programs are quite good, and clearly can facilitate weight loss over the short term at least. But I have recently had a chance to review formally the best-established diets and weight loss programs of our day, and none would satisfy all of the criteria I imposed on RediClinic.
What, then, are those criteria? A truly good weight loss program cannot be first and foremost about losing weight; first and foremost, it must be about finding health. We are not clueless about the basic care and feeding of human beings, and we are not at liberty to toss out all we know about eating for health in order to get to weight loss. Buying weight loss by mortgaging health is a non-starter for me. Only a plan that is about losing weight as a by-product of finding better health meets my criteria.
I remember Aesop's fables, and I know that the tortoise won the race. A good weight management program is about a steady, sustainable, winning rate of weight loss based on behavior changes that can last. The most-pounds-lost-per-week makes for titillating reality TV, but makes for a very disappointing reality. More often than not, ultra-fast weight loss by unsustainable means, means very bad ends: ultra-fast weight regain with interest. Another non-starter for me.
An acceptable weight loss program cannot choose between dietary pattern and physical activity, but must cultivate the full potential contributions to vitality of both. Physical activity is the birthright of every body; diet is the fuel that powers it. Both deserve a full measure of attention, and must get it for me to be satisfied.
And then there is the fact that no man (or woman or child) is an island, but most weight loss programs act as if they were. Diets tend to be for individuals, while individuals tend to live with families. Going on "a diet," while the rest of your family goes another way is a sure formula for failure. Only a program that is suitable for the whole family, whether or not they want to lose weight (everyone should want to find health!) is satisfactory to me.
And finally, the program must build skill power.
While working on the program with RediClinic, we routinely referred to a Chinese proverb that goes something like this: give a person a fish and they will eat for a day; teach them to fish, and they will eat for a lifetime. My idea of an ideal weight management program includes a meal plan that provides the participants with that tasty, healthful, perfectly grilled fish -- and while they are enjoying it, teaches them to fish. The program should systematically teach skills for identifying and choosing more nutritious food; preparing healthful meals quickly and conveniently; navigating a restaurant menu to choose food you will love that will love you back; figuring out how best to fit fitness in every day, however hectic; engaging the support of family and friends; and more.
The last hurdle, I told them, is that in order to be effective over the long term, a weight loss program must be customized to some degree. While the basic principles of weight loss apply to everyone, my own research along with that of others indicates there are many reasons why a person might start a weight loss program and not be successful (177, to be exact -- but who's counting?), and each person has a special set of them. Everyone deserves to have their own, unique set of barriers identified, and busted with expert guidance.
I told the folks at RediClinic everything an ideal weight management program should include, expecting them at some point to say "Is that all? You must be crazy!" Instead they said, "What else can we do?"
So, RediClinic and I have designed Weigh Forward to meet all of these criteria, and more. (Weigh Forward was a step ahead of the USDA, by the way, incorporating a food and portion guidance plate before that recent announcement!) It is the first comprehensive, medically supervised weight management program that is delivered in a grocery store, where people shop on a regular basis and can easily purchase the food items they need to follow the program's weekly meal plans.
Weigh Forward gives people the diet/nutrition and physical activity skills they need to lose weight and keep it off while gaining health at the same time. The early results have been so impressive that the company is offering a money-back guarantee if patients don't lose at least 10 percent of their body weight in 10 weeks.
I will, of course, continue all of my other efforts, along with those of many colleagues, to make health and weight control more accessible to all; ideally, we should all be able to lose weight and find health without difficulty. But that ideal is not the reality today.
Today, most of us clearly need a new way paved that provides manageable means to those desired and deserved ends -- right now. And right now, Weigh Forward provides them -- my way, and perhaps ... yours.
Dr. David L. Katz; www.davidkatzmd.com