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Online Weight Loss Programs – Which Ones Are the Most Sustainable?

Online Weight Loss Programs
Sports and workout equipment, digital tablet and fruit on a wooden table, training and healthy lifestyle concept, flat lay

Looking to lose weight? Thousands of people each year have the same thought, and the reasons for doing so vary. Maybe you want to work off those extra holiday pounds or the weight you gained during lockdown, or maybe you need to lose weight for medical reasons. We all know how important it is to achieve a healthy weight, but it can be difficult to sustain the lifestyle changes needed for losing weight and keeping it off.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Does this sound a tad confusing? So is weight loss to many people. Many cannot understand why, after so much effort, the weight just won’t stay away. Pounds fall off and come back, fall off and come back. Many of us find ourselves perpetually dieting throughout our lives and trying to curb this yo-yo effect.

Some consider it a natural part of getting older and having a slower metabolism, which is certainly true to some extent. But there is often more at play than most of us are aware.

Dieting and Lifestyle Change Are Two Different Concepts Driving Different Results

This concept is the biggest and most important to grasp, and once you get it, you have already won half the battle. Most of us engage in dieting and exercise. We start exercising more to burn calories and we restrict our daily food intake. We try to eat healthier and we watch excitedly as the pounds come off until we reach our target weight.

It sounds great, so what is the problem? Isn’t this the goal – to lose weight?

While that is the goal, this method isn’t sustainable or realistic. Depending on which dieting plan you choose, you may find yourself feeling miserable because of how you’re told to view food. Let’s be honest: it sucks to eat salad when your friends are eating burgers, just because you want to lose weight. The same goes for exercise. Very few of us actually want to be out running every day. These habits are simply not enjoyable because of our mindset surrounding them.

Once we reach our target weight, we often lapse back into our old habits. Maybe we justify it as celebrating our accomplishment, but it only takes a few too many milkshakes for the weight to come right back. We either end up feeling frustrated that we have to diet (again!), upset at our lack of willpower, or angry at our body for not maintaining the weight we worked so hard to achieve. But the reality is that, following this method, we were probably doomed to fail from the start.

What no one tells you is that weight management is a lifestyle choice. Much like addictions, we must face weight and health choices daily. If we never tackle the whys of our food choices, the psychology behind it, and aren't taught how to sustain our new weight, then we are going to find ourselves repeating the same mistakes.

By changing our mindset to one of maintaining a healthier lifestyle (accompanied by a strong resolve to keep the weight off), we will find that we are better able to maintain the weight once we’ve finally reached our target.

Remember, weight loss has two essential components. The first is reaching a healthy weight for your body type, age, and size. Remember that this varies from person to person, so don’t get stuck on comparing yourself to others. The second part is managing your weight and maintaining it long-term. This is where you will find your greatest success.

It’s common to hear advertisements telling you how much weight people have lost on their program, but it’s far less common to hear of someone who has been able to maintain their weight loss long-term. You’re probably wondering why that is, and the answer is simple: we haven’t been taught how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and address the issues that caused us to gain weight in the first place.

If There Is So Much Hidden, What Should We Look For?

Most companies are in business to make money. Some have a genuine interest in the success of others, while others may solely be in it for profit. 

Weight loss is an attractive avenue for businesses because it is a never-ending source of money. Many of us have likely spent a good chunk of change on the latest diet fad or exercise equipment at one time or another. And weight loss has so many components to it. Companies can make money selling food items, registrations, weight loss vitamins/elixirs/products, self-help books, online proprietary information, trackers, and even more things that are “sure” to help you slim down.

But these products only feed into the endless diet cycle because they haven’t equipped you with the one key that will make all the difference: how to sustain weight loss. Keeping the weight off would mean you would never have to sign up for these programs ever again, which would take money out of the pockets of a lot of companies. Yet imagine how much healthier the world would be if they only understood the truth.

Foods Don’t Fall into Two Categories: Bad and Good

There is no such thing as bad food. It is just a mindset we have adopted. Most programs teach you to restrict the number of calories you eat daily through portion control and the mindset that you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. There is some truth to this, but it isn’t the full picture.

The focus of these programs is to teach you how to create a weight loss plan with fewer calories, but few programs teach you why you need to eat these foods. We are told that veggies and fruit are good for us. They are part of the five food groups, and you need to eat this many servings daily for healthy weight loss.

Moderation and Thinking About Food Choices are the Keys

A good weight loss program teaches you there is no such thing as good and bad food. Many people feel liberated by this revelation because now they aren’t restricted in what foods they are allowed to eat. However, many programs fall short in this area by using portion control. They don’t teach you how to address the issues you will inevitably face.

A good program highlights what categories different foods will fall into and why. It outlines how much of the foods we love we should eat to be satisfied. The biggest obstacle to weight loss is battling hunger. 

You can eat as many gallons of ice cream as you want within a certain caloric range and still lose weight, which sounds amazing! BUT at the end of the day, you will be hungry and malnourished because you are consuming too many empty (though delicious!) calories and not enough of what your body needs to function.

A good weight loss app or program will teach you that certain foods are high in fiber and water density. Even foods that we consider to be healthy can be damaging to our diet if they are consumed in large portions. A good program teaches you that foods high in fiber and water content keep you fuller.

Water benefits the body in a multitude of ways, and it is not just drinking water that helps us. Water is present in many foods and gives the benefit of making us feel fuller for longer durations. When we feel fuller, we are less likely to snack. 

Water also helps in elimination. It flushes out excess salt from our bodies and eliminates waste and toxins. The best way to trick your body into feeling fuller is to drink a glass of water before eating. You will feel fuller faster and therefore eat less.

These keys will help you lose weight. But to keep the weight off, you must make them a permanent part of your lifestyle. A good program will teach you why you should eat certain foods, which is certainly important to know, but the choice of what to eat is still up to you. The more you examine what foods you are eating and why you are eating them, the closer you will be to not only dieting but creating a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for yourself.

A good program should also teach you to enjoy the things you love, but do it in moderation. You can still have chocolate, but maybe not the entire bar in one sitting. You can learn that a single piece of chocolate can make you just as happy as eating the entire thing, and without the guilt that often accompanies indulgence. If you’re skeptical about that theory, go ahead and test it out!

Good programs teach people to pause and think about their foods, why they are eating them, and what will make them feel full. This helps in maintaining their target weight. 

A good program teaches you how to lose weight and maintain a lifestyle. It eliminates the concept of good and bad food by replacing the thought that all foods are good but in moderation.

While most programs fail because they only teach you how to lose weight, a good program will teach you how to maintain your weight once you have reached your goal. It should outline how many calories to eat and what food choices are best. What you eat is your choice. A good program will just enable you to make better choices. 

The Psychology of Eating

A good weight loss program gets to the root of the issue regarding eating. While on the surface we may believe that we are eating because we are hungry, this may not always be the case. Some people eat because of emotions – like the stereotype of devouring an entire gallon of Rocky Road ice cream after a breakup.

Emotional eating, however, is just one component of why people make the choices they do. Overeating can stem from a variety of reasons, including:

  • Family members making you feel guilty for not eating everything on your plate
  • The pressure to eat junk food in social settings to fit in
  • To compensate for low self-esteem
  • To self-soothe

These are just a few reasons people overeat or indulge in the food they know isn’t healthy. Everyone's reasons are different, and a good program needs to address these. It should teach you how to navigate these tricky situations and feelings of guilt so you can feel empowered in making different lifestyle choices. 

Once you have finally broken free of old habits, you can learn to evaluate why you developed those habits in the first place. You’ll start to think about why you are reaching for a second helping of that triple-layer chocolate cake – which will help you decide if your body really needs it.

How to Adapt

To be sustainable, you should be able to adapt a good diet plan to your life. It should equip you with tips and tricks to battle common reasons for overeating and incorporate human psychology into weight management and weight loss. All these aspects are intertwined. You must address the psychology behind it to get to the core.

For example, we often feel compelled to snack in front of the TV. We bring the whole bag of chips to the couch so we don’t have to miss any part of the show or game. But doing this sets us up for failure because we are distracted by the television and therefore not paying attention to our body’s satiation cues, which leads to mindless eating. Before we know it, the entire bag is gone, and the feelings of guilt set in. 

Many of us continue overeating after we’ve dieted because we’ve only addressed a symptom of a larger issue. For a diet program to be sustainable, our focus needs to be long-term. We need to have goals that we can work toward and achieve each day, goals we are empowered to do for ourselves. 

If we never address the core issue, we will find ourselves repeating the same mistakes without understanding why. We may even get frustrated and want to give up. An effective weight management program addresses these issues, setting you up for both long and short-term success.

Things That Will Limit Your Success

Programs that teach you that you can only eat certain foods tend to not be sustainable for the long term. Once we’ve reached our initial goal weight, we tend to go back to our old eating habits.

Programs that provide food for a cost can limit success because, instead of teaching you to use a food scale to weigh your food and dish up appropriate portions, they are teaching you to rely on a prepackaged product. So, what happens when you reach your goal? Will you be able to sustain the new lifestyle when you’re no longer eating pre-prepared meals? If you don't learn what healthy portions are, you may end up returning to the old ingrained habits.

Support groups are great. They can be a wonderful source of encouragement and accountability when you’re trying to lose weight. It helps to have people who can journey with you and offer helpful advice when you’re struggling. However, if you find yourself relying too heavily on outside motivation, you won’t learn to advance on your own and find confidence in your own abilities.

Also, be on your guard against people looking for an outlet to express their feelings without putting action behind them. A support group is meant to empower people and should teach you how to overcome specific feelings and situations. As much as we need to air our complaints from time to time, it is usually best to do so within your circle of friends.

What Type of Program Will Help Me Succeed?

This background information outlines what to look for in a program and what factors will set you up for long-term success. Many diet programs fail within the first month because they require changes that are not sustainable. Good programs are there for you when you succeed and when you fall short. Success and failure are both a part of the weight loss journey.

If you are looking for a program that will simply help you lose weight, there are a multitude of diets you can choose from. If you stick to it, you will eventually reach your goal. But to achieve lasting results, you may have to do some soul searching as well. Diet and exercise just aren’t enough to keep the weight from coming back, and this is where many programs fall short. 

Online Prescription Weight Loss

The success of this method rests upon whether the individual meets the following criteria:

  1. Your body mass index (BMI) is over 30
  2. The BMI is over 27, and there is an existing medical issue directly related to obesity like high blood pressure, diabetes, knee/back/body pain, etc. 
  3. Unable to lose weight through diet and exercise

If you are going through a doctor, they will examine your history and health concerns. Then, they will discuss the pros and cons of each weight loss drug along with what to expect. Prescription weight-loss drugs are not for everyone. If you are pregnant, are trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should stay off these drugs.

There are a variety of weight-loss drugs available online that are not prescribed by a doctor, but they come with a certain level of risk. Several studies show that some types of pills have proven to be risky, and while people have lost weight, there were some significant side effects. You should always be aware of what you are putting into your body.

For more information on the potential hazards of prescription weight loss, specifically those purchased over the counter, visit the FDA website. They have provided an extensive list of medications that may be harmful to your health. 

While prescription weight loss medication provided by a doctor will work, you will still need to modify your diet and exercise routines. Most people experience a sustained weight loss of 3-7% of their body weight. While the amount may appear insignificant, it is enough to benefit your overall health.

The common side effects of these medications are constipation, diarrhea, and nausea, which lessen over time. Only in rare cases do people experience severe side effects. This weight-loss method does have a few drawbacks: most people regain weight after stopping the medication, and insurance does not always cover the drugs.

Online weight loss medications can sometimes be dangerous, and you take them with discretion. Side effects can be severe depending on what medication is used. Although medication is typically effective in the short term, it is not sustainable long term. Without a modification to habits, the weight will return. Medication alone is not enough for lasting results.

Online Weight Loss Programs

Calories counting, diet , food control and weight loss concept. tablet with Calorie counter application on screen at dining table with salad, fruit juice, bread and vegetable

The success of these programs varies. If you are dedicated and stick with it, there can be many advantages. Some will teach you the importance of healthy eating and what nutritional foods to eat. They instruct you on how many calories you should eat, based on your lifestyle, to lose weight. 

Some programs help you track the food you eat and measure the progress you make through daily weigh-ins. They will teach you the psychology of eating, what to expect, and how to overcome challenges. Many have coaches and support groups available to help you achieve your weight-loss objectives. These are all great, but are they sustainable?

The answer lies within the program. We tackle the top three weight loss programs available and dissect what each has to offer. In it, we will examine the following characteristics:

  • Is it sustainable?
  • Does it offer sound nutritional advice?
  • Is the program safe health-wise?
  • Are the goals realistic?
  • Is the advice sound?
  • How easy is it to maintain?
  • Does it teach you what to do after you reach your goal?

Noom

Noom is one of the fastest-growing and most popular weight loss programs out there. A lot of people have reported great success with this program, but those who haven’t tried it don’t fully understand why or how you can lose so much weight using this psychology-based weight loss approach.

In terms of nutritional advice, their methods are both sound and realistic. They will calculate how many calories you need to consume based on height, age, weight, and physical activity level. Then, they create a customized program based on the food you should eat. They use a color-coding system, where red is for foods that contain empty calories. You can still eat these types of foods but only in moderate amounts.

Yellow is for foods that are healthier but have low water content. They are denser and contain more calories but are not as satisfying as foods in the green group. Yellow is considered the moderate category.

Green foods should make up the bulk of your diet. They have the least number of calories, the highest amount of water content, and are high in fiber. They are also the most satisfying when dealing with hunger. They will keep you fuller for longer.

Noom helps you track what you eat from each group. It encourages users to weigh their food since they don’t offer food portions. By doing this, they teach you what to eat. 

They also provide you with realistic goals and encourage you to do a daily weigh-in. This daily weigh-in isn’t forever, just at the beginning to monitor your progress. While this may seem intimidating, the program offers short lessons detailing the common issues people face while dieting and how to overcome them.

This weight management program is actually sustainable. It deals with the psychology of eating and helps you overcome roadblocks that may be detrimental to your health. It tackles weight loss from all sides to increase your chances of success. Noom’s goal is that you won’t have to use it indefinitely. They try to wean you off the app and teach you what to do once you have attained your weight loss goal.

Coaches and support groups are available to help you on your journey. The app also has an activity tracker. Once you log a sport or activity, even one as simple as housecleaning, your daily caloric intake rises in response, which is a great incentive to keep moving.

Noom teaches that there is no such thing as good and bad food. It tackles common misconceptions to create sustainable success for users. 

The app includes:

  • Food, water, weight, and exercise tracker
  • Personalized lessons geared towards the psychology of weight gain, eating, and tackling dieting issues
  • Reward systems for attaining goals
  • Lessons that are easy to fit into a busy schedule
  • One-on-one coaching, emergency plans, and support groups
  • Barcode scanner for food
  • Database of restaurants and their food selections
  • Workouts

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers has been around for decades, and people have experienced a great deal of success with it. Users are asked lifestyle questions using a PersonalPoints Engine. They get a food list based on that information. PersonalPoints factor in calories, but they also consider fiber and protein. They distinguish between added and natural sugar and saturated and unsaturated fats. 

Weight Watchers rewards people who engage in healthy habits to motivate them to keep at it. Points are added for exercising, consuming water, and eating healthy foods such as veggies. 

Much like Noom, no food is off-limits. People can eat what they want, just in moderation. Weight Watchers has its own portion-controlled foods to make choosing meals more convenient and easier to implement on your journey. 

The app includes:

  • Meal planners
  • 10,500 recipes
  • Food and water tracker
  • Database of restaurants and meals with calories
  • Barcode scanner for food
  • On-demand workouts
  • 24/7 chat lines with a coach
  • Weekly progress reports

Weight Watchers certainly has the potential to help you lose weight. It introduces you to proper nutrition and tackles the concern of not having time to make healthy meals. It offers behavior modification techniques to motivate you to lose weight. 

The drawback is that if you use its proportioned foods, you won’t learn how much to make for yourself after you are finished with Weight Watchers. It also doesn’t necessarily discuss the psychology behind eating, so you may be tempted to fall back into your old habits after you are off the program.

Healthi (Previously iTrackbites)

Healthi recognizes that each body is unique, individual weight loss goals vary, and everyone has their objective for managing weight. Healthi has six different weight loss plans to aid people in achieving their goals. Users can select their plans based on their goals.

The great thing about Healthi is that it allows you to find recipes, listen to health podcasts, and receive personalized support from coaches. Food has an assigned BITES value, and the lower the value, the more food you can eat from this category. 

Each day, you have a BITE amount that you can consume. You can earn additional BITES through activity and exercise. The app lets you keep track of your BITES, which helps you to meet your weight loss goals. 

The app includes:

  • 6,000,000 food libraries
  • Meal plans
  • Restaurant meal tracker
  • Recipe book
  • Voice recognition in tracking food consumption
  • Barcode scanner for food
  • Snack/beer guide
  • Macronutrient tracker
  • Coaches and community support

While Healthi offers the same thing as the programs mentioned above, again, it may not fully be sustainable. While it will teach you what foods to eat and in what proportions, it doesn’t deal with the causes behind the food choices. It also may not discuss what to expect while dieting or how to work through it. Therefore, it may not be fully sustainable.

Online Weight Loss Clinics

These programs may work, but only with an experienced medical practitioner. Not all clinics are equal. Physicians must be licensed, the place must be reputable, and you need to ensure access to prescription diet medication. 

While you may lose weight, generally the support provided is limited. Dieting has physical, emotional, and psychological effects on people, but these types of companies generally don’t address all these aspects.

Online Weight Loss Coaches

Good weight loss coaches incorporate diet and exercise advice but address behavioral patterns, emotions, and support, too. They should have vast expertise in the arena of weight loss. A great weight loss coach should have the characteristics of a physical trainer, therapist, dietician, and supportive person, all rolled into one. 

Online weight loss coaches can provide great exercise advice. However, they are often as busy as you are. It may be difficult to connect for a training session, or they may not have available times that are convenient for you. They typically don't have a dedicated app to track progress or motivate you. You must find your own motivation and track exercise in an outside app.

However, they can observe your form while you work out to prevent injury and help you maintain the best posture while exercising. 

While counseling from a coach is great, they may not always be available when you feel you are in crisis. They will, however, help you dissect what is happening and provide useful advice to help you on your journey. 

Is this method sustainable? That will depend on your coach, the level of personalization, and what behavior modifications you incorporate. There is no hard answer to this question with online weight loss coaches.

When it comes to which method of online weight loss to select, it will depend on what you are looking for and what works best for your lifestyle. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses. For the best result, don’t look at the short-term goal of weight loss but the long-term goal of whether you can sustain the lifestyle. This is where the greatest success lies.

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