Its worth the money to pay for a weight loss program: Those in the program enjoyed more success compared to going it alone

For people trying to improve their health and lose weight by themselves — privately tracking and journaling meals and exercise — new research from UBC Okanagan suggests it is time to call in the professionals.

Dr. Lesley Lutes’ latest research paper, published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, suggests people trying to make lifestyle changes are more successful when they use a commercial weight loss program compared to those trying to do it on their own. She is the Director of UBC’s Centre for Obesity and Well-Being Research Excellence and studies behavioural change programs aimed at improving physical and emotional health and personal happiness.

“Given the prevalence of obesity, accessible and effective treatment options are needed to manage obesity and its comorbid conditions including heart disease and pre-diabetes,” she says. “Evidence-based commercial weight management programs are a potential solution to the lack of available treatment and considerably cheaper than a clinic-based approach.”

But, she notes, very few commercial programs have been rigorously evaluated, making it difficult for doctors to refer patients to for-profit programs due to a lack of evidence-based success rates.

While there are hundreds of commercial weight loss programs available — only six meet the United States Preventive Services Taskforce criteria — the quality and success rate, along with behavioural and nutritional components, isn’t well known by health-care providers.

Even fewer of these programs integrate cognitive, affective and behavioural factors — seen as critical elements of care and supported as the basic standard of any care.

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