You read an advertisement for a nearby weight-loss clinic and you’re thinking about giving the program a try. Before jumping into this type of investment, it is important to do a little research. There are dangerous weight-loss clinics out there that offer up unrealistic weight-loss claims and methods that are not clinically proven to be safe or effective. We read and filtered information from medical journals, university studies and experts to give you the best chance at weight-loss.
What is a Weight-Loss Clinic?
A weight-loss clinic is a business that aims to help dieters lose more weight with counseling, diet and nutrition advice and, in some cases, supplements. The cost is often more at a weight-loss clinic than other self-guided programs.
What to Do Before Choosing a Weight-Loss Clinic
Even if the ad convinces you that this program is the one that will work for you, it is important to do a little groundwork before writing out that check.
Check With Your Healthcare Provider – Ask questions about realistic weight-loss goals, how much is safe to lose each week, optimal weight and suggested exercise that is both safe and effective.
Look Online for Reviews of the Weight-Loss Clinic – There are bound to be others who’ve tried the program – some with good experiences and others that are not so good. Read both to get a complete look at what you can expect.
Interview Employees at the Weight-Loss Clinic – Just like finding a new doctor, it is important to ask questions before choosing a program. Remember, the person you’re interviewing may have reason to tell you all the good things to sell the program. Ask for proof of success rates and average costs before signing anything. You also need to find out just how much time you need to spend at the clinic. If you’re expected to visit two or three times a week, that may be unrealistic.
Employee Credentials – During your interview, make sure to ask about who started the program, who currently supervises the weight-loss clinic and the credentialing process for the employees who help with your weight-loss journey. All of these pieces of information will be available from a trustworthy weight-loss clinic.
How Likely Are You to Stick With the Program?
There are some factors that affect the number of people who stick with programs at weight-loss clinics. According to the journal Obesity, “Significant risk for dropout, measured as bivariate relative risk, was found among patients who were: females, divorced, African Americans, age 40 and ages 40 to 50.”
Do Weight-Loss Clinics Work?
This is a tough question. There are clearly some people who find success with weight-loss clinic programs and others that didn’t reach expectations. It’s interesting that the Annals of Internal Medicine found that weight-loss clinics were not what they cracked up to be, based on research. “The evidence to support the use of the major commercial and self-help weight loss programs is suboptimal. Controlled trials are needed to assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these interventions.”
How Much is Too Much?
Cost is a huge factor with weight-loss clinics. The best way to look at the cost is price per pound. Jenny Craig, for instance, costs about “$237.56 per pound for one-on-one weight loss support and special food products,” according to ABC News. This is more than weight-loss surgery, in some cases.
The trouble with using this information to give you an idea about how much you’re expected to pay is that many weight-loss clinics don’t offer cost details until you come in for a consultation. Most consultations are free, so take advantage of the offer to find out the estimated price.
Effectiveness of Weight-Loss Clinics and Programs
There are some popular weight-loss programs that come with group meetings and/or pre-packaged meals, but they are not necessarily more effective than diet and exercise. According to Duke Global Health Institute, two of the most popular are not that great. “Average weight loss at one year ranged from 2.4 kg (about 5 pounds) for Weight Watchers to 7.4 kg (16 pounds) for Jenny Craig.” While the costs for these programs are less than some weight-loss clinics, you may want to consider other options if you’re only going to lose 5 pounds in a year.
What About That Guarantee?
You will find some weight-loss clinics that guarantee you’ll lose a set number of pounds, or more, in a certain timeframe. If you read the fine print, this guarantee may be null and void if you don’t follow strict rules. Often you have to follow the program exactly without falling off the wagon and you may have to purchase foods or supplements from the clinic.
Avoid HCG Weight-Loss Clinics
There’s been a recent upswing in weight-loss clinics that use HCG supplements, or what they claim to be HCG, as a means of controlling hunger and targeting fat. HCG is not clinically proven to have any effect on weight-loss and it is likely that the unhealthy, very low-calorie diet (often fewer than 800 calories per day) is the facilitator of weight-loss. The Jefferson City Medical Group puts it simply, “Even IF drop formulations actually contained HCG, the protein molecule would pass into the stomach where it would be broken down into small peptides and amino acids by gastric acid—just like your dinner portion of chicken—again, no potential for biological action!”
Dangers to Look For in a Weight-Loss Clinic
There are a few things to look for that can help you make an immediate decision about a weight-loss clinic.
Fasting or Very Low-Calorie Diets – Fasting is not a safe means of losing weight and neither is the very low-calorie diet (if you’re not under the care of a physician). If this is the basis on which the weight-loss clinic is built, it’s not a safe option.
Cleansing or Detox – The body naturally cleanses without taking supplements or eating specific foods. If you feel you need a good cleanse, try increasing fiber and water intake and your body will work for you. According to the American Journal of Gastroenterology, “moderate physical activity and increasing fiber intake are associated with substantial reduction in the prevalence of constipation.”
Unrealistic Weight-Loss Promises – The safe way to lose weight is to shed up to two pounds a week. The first week on any program often comes with higher weight-loss, but the average will even out the second week forward. If any weight-loss clinic promises you’ll lose any more than this, it may not be the safest option.
The Last Word on Weight-Loss Clinics
There are weight-loss clinics out there that can help dieters lose more weight, if only because of the check-in that is part of the program. Taking the cost into consideration is just as important as researching the clinic and interviewing the employees and, if possible, the director. Never choose a program that utilizes “fads” like fasting, HCG or very low-calorie diets.