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Slim4Life is a center-based approach to weight loss that helps dieters lose weight through regular sessions with personal diet counselors.
The Slim4Life program is based around weight-loss centers. At these centers, dieters meet one-on-one with counselors to receive personalized advice, support, and guidance. The Slim4Life Web site says that its programs focus on supervision, individual counseling, and behavior education. The centers offer programs for men and women, as well as children ages 10 and up.
Dieters interested in participating in the Slim4Life program can set up a free 30-minute meeting and consultation with a diet counselor. If the dieter decides to enter the program, he or she will meet regularly with counselors, sometimes as many as two to three times a week. Dieters do not have specifically assigned personal counselors, and do not need to make appointments. Instead, dieters may come into the center whenever it is open (usually Monday through Saturday) and see counselors on a first-come first-served basis.
The focus of the Slim4Life program is the individual needs and preferences of the dieter. The program offers dietary guidance for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health conditions, as well as for vegetarians and people with serious dietary limitations. The guidelines set by the dietary counselors allow dieters to make many choices about the foods that they eat each day. The program is designed to allow dieters to prepare foods from the supermarket, and does not require that prepackaged meals be purchased.
Slim4Life emphasizes a diet high in vegetables and fruits and includes whole grains and other healthy foods. Sugar and fats are limited, and some dieters have reported restrictions on dairy or other foods. In general, Slim4Life, tries to help dieters stay away from processed foods and eat healthier, fresh foods. The counselors can also provide dieters with suggestions for how to choose healthy foods when eating out.
Slim4Life tries not only to teach dieters about what foods to eat, but also how much to eat. An important part of helping dieters prepare to maintain their weight loss is through focusing on being able to visually identify what constitutes an appropriate portion size. Most Slim4Life diet plans restrict the dieter
to fewer than 1500 calories per day. The specific number of calories determined for each dieter based on age, weight, activity level, and other factors.
Slim4Life does not provide specific exercise recommendations. Although the program does encourage its dieters to be active and promises increased energy levels, dieters do not receive a personalized exercise plan or guide. Although Slim4Life does not require the dieter to buy prepackaged meals, many dieters have reported being encouraged to buy various nutritional supplements such as bars and mixes, as well as various dietary supplements. The cost of the program varies, but may exceed $600.00, much of which may be due up front. This cost may be prohibitive for many dieters.
There are many benefits to weight loss if it is achieved at a moderate pace through healthy eating and exercise. Most experts suggest that a moderate pace is about 1–2 pounds of weight loss per week. Slim4Life claims that its dieters lose weight at about twice this rate. Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and many other diseases and conditions. People who are the most obese are at the greatest risk, and are most likely to have severe symptoms if the diseases do develop. Weight loss can reduce the risk of obesity-related disease and can even reduce the severity of the symptoms in some cases when the diseases have already developed.
Many dieters may find that the one-on-one nature of the counseling at Slim4Life centers is extremely helpful. People who are shy or have feelings of embarrassment about their weight may find that it is easier to talk about weight and weight-related issues in an individual, instead of a group setting. Others, however, may find that they would prefer the social support system that group settings can bring. Individual counseling can also help by addressing the individual needs and preferences of dieters. Slim4Life says that it can work with a dieter’s personal physician to address any dietary needs related to diseases and conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. This possible integration of physician and weight-loss center may be beneficial for people with strict dietary requirements or concerns, and may help the dieter make the best dietary decisions for his or her particular needs.
Anyone thinking of beginning a new diet should consult a medical practitioner. Requirement of calories, protein, and other nutrients vary from person to person based on age, weight, sex, activity level, and many other factors. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should be especially cautious because what the mother eats can have significant impact on the health and well-being of the baby. When accepting advice about diet and other health concerns, dieters should not be afraid to enquire about the credentials of the person who is advising them. Trained and certified dieticians, nutritionists, registered nurses and others will usually be happy to share information about credentials, school, training, and certifications. Dieters should be
cautious about accepting dietary or medical advice from people who are not trained and certified.
There are some risks to any diet, but there are generally more risks to a diet that is very restrictive of any type of food. This is because eating a limited variety of foods can make it difficult to get all of the vitamins and minerals required for good health. Dieters may want to talk to their doctor about whether a multivita-min or supplement would help reduce this risk. Dietary supplements have their own risks, even if they are herbal or ‘‘all nautral’’. Dieters should discuss any recommended herbs, vitamins, or supplements with their doctor or another health care professional to ensure that the supplements are necessary and safe before beginning to take them.
There have been no significant scientific studies investigating the effectiveness of the Slim4Life program. It is generally accepted that a moderately reduced calorie diet, when combined with exercise, is a good way for people to lose weight. Most experts recommend 1–2 pounds a week, less than Slim4Life promises, as a reasonable amount of weight to lose each week for most people.
Some dieters have reported that dairy products were extremely limited or completely eliminated from their diet while following the plan set by their Slim4Life counselors. MyPyramid recommends that healthy adults consume the equivalent of 3 cups of dairy products each day for good health. Low or non-fat dairy products are strongly recommended. Any diet that does not meet this recommendation means that a dieter runs the risk of having a calcium deficiency, which can lead to osteoporosisand other negative outcomes.
The necessity and wisdom of taking pills, herbs, and other products intended to aid weight loss is a hotly debated subject. Many people believe that such dietary supplements can help dieters achieve weight loss more quickly and may have positive health benefits. Other people believe that such supplements are usually unnecessary, and that their effectiveness is questionable because of the lack of controlled, reproducible, studies indicating their effectiveness. Critics of such supplements also often argue that because dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as strictly as prescription medicines, they may have negative side effects that are not yet documented.
An example of this kind of problem occurred involving supplements containing ephedra. On April 12, 2004 the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra because of evidence that the compound increased a dieter’s risk of cardiovascular complications and because of a lack of evidence of significant positive health benefits that could outweigh this risk. Before this time, many dieters all over the United States were taking supplements that contained ephedra without being aware of the possibility that it could cause extremely serious side effects.
The Centers for Disease Control recommended in 2007 that adults get 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise each day for good health. Slim4Life suggests that its participants be active, but it does not make specific exercise recommendations. Therefore it may be up to the dieter to ensure that he or she follows an exercise regimen that meets these minimum requirements. Regular exercise is a generally accepted part of a healthy weight-loss program. Studies have shown that diet and exercise are more effective at producing sustainable weight loss when done in combination than either diet or exercise is when done alone.
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American Dietetic Association. 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995. Telephone: (800) 877-1600. Website: <http://www.eatright.org>
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Tish Davidson, M.A.