Reader Question: Medically Supervised Weight Loss Programs

I received something completely awesome this morning – a question from a reader! I thought her question might be a topic of interest to others, so I’m posting my answer here too.

The question was: “I have a large amount of weight to lose. What should I look for in a medically supervised weight loss program?  How can I find a good one?  Any advice/direction would be appreciated.”

If you can’t get to the HMR program in Sunnyvale, CA (my gold standard – a program which was a huge component of setting me up for both short-term and long-term success), here are some things that you should look for when considering a program in your area, and which I think a good program should incorporate. These are the things that contributed significantly to my success in such a program:
  • Weekly and mid-week check ins. I was required to attend class every week, and if I didn’t I would be dropped from the program. I was also required to call or email in the middle of the week to report my progress so far and get coaching/guidance as needed. (This also means I was required to track my intake, a skill which has been invaluable ever since.) This kept me really accountable.
  • Medical supervision. This is necessary for any VLCD (very low calorie diet) as the change you’re undertaking can be quite a shock to the system. You should be monitored by both a nurse and a doctor: regular blood draws, weigh-ins, blood pressure, temp, and EKGs for your heart health are part of this monitoring. Also this means any questions you have can be answered by a medical professional in a confidential setting.
  • Qualified Nutritionists and Behaviorists. The people teaching the classes need to be registered, credentialed nutritionists and behaviorists using science-based methods and materials. None of this “I lost 30 pounds once so I’m an expert” bullcrap. Truly educated instructors, not just enthusiastic amateurs.
  • A required maintenance phase. When I signed up for HMR I was told that the Maintenance Phase of the program would last 18 months, and I was required to sign a statement saying I agreed to participate throughout the entire course of the program (and I did). The maintenance classes met once a week for an hour with a midweek check in, and I took them just as seriously as I took the weight loss phase (honestly, they are probably more important in the long run).
  • Bonus: Any program that promotes “positive thinking” as a weight loss tool should be shunned. Hard.
Those are the things I can think of off the top of my head. What did I miss? Anybody else out there have ideas based on your experiences with such a program? (Note: if you haven’t had personal experience with such a program this question is not for you).

6 Responses to “Reader Question: Medically Supervised Weight Loss Programs”

  1. Christy Says:

    I agree 100% with everything you’ve written. In January of 2014 I began a medically supervised program and it was a game-changer for me and I lost 100 pounds. The classes weren’t just whiny bitch sessions, but were very instructive in examining the emotional/behavioral aspects of our relationship with food. The maintenance (which I’m still involved with) has been crucial, and I’m still working very hard at developing a new lifestyle – but I have support and help! All the best to anyone looking at a good program in your area!

  2. Mel Says:

    I second that. And Congratulations Christy! Awesome accomplishment! I lost 130 pounds on HMR and my husband lost 105. 3 years and counting. We stumble once in a while, I think everyone does. I gained weight over the Holidays, and I’ve gained weight on vacation…but it never spirals and I always lose it. Not with a crash diet, but by applying the skills I learned in the class. Recording my intake and my exercise (The HMR program makes you try new physical activities, I am eternally greatful for that – I’ve found exercise I actually love to do…not that I always love it, but it helps to enjoy it more often than not)…and by mitigating over the Holidays and on vacation – the class sessions are instructive in how to handle these situations. All of the above advice, in my experience, is right on the mark.

  3. uncoveringfood Says:

    I think the structure and accountability along with the trained staff are what make HMR so successful. I would add that a program should be relatively clear-cut and understandable. From their billing/costs to what you need to do to be successful. HMR is straightforward with no hidden fees or secret steps which helped me feel like I could be successful.

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