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The only proven way to help you lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. If you need to lose weight, talk with your doctor about the options that are best for you. Most health experts agree that the best and safest way to lose weight is to modestly cut calories, eat a balanced diet, and exercise. People usually do best when they reduce their usual calorie intake or increase the calories they use by 500-1,000 per day. This allows you to eat enough for good nutrition yet lose about one to two pounds a week. Steer clear of harmful tactics such as smoking, fasting, purging, or abusing laxatives.

Avoid fad diets and other weight loss programs that promise fast results or limit your food choices. Ask yourself the following:

  • How does the product or service work? Does the program emphasize diet, exercise or a combination of both?
  • How much will it cost? Ask for an itemized list that includes membership fees and fees for weekly visits. Ask if there are extra fees for diagnostic tests, food, dietary supplements, or other products in the program.
  • How well does it work? Ask to see the studies that back up success claims. Look for how many people completed the program, how much weight they lost, and how long they kept the weight off.
  • What are the risks? Get details about possible side effects. Check with your doctor before you take prescriptions, over-the-counter weight loss drugs, or dietary supplements. Diets that require drastic food restriction should be under the supervision of a physician.
  • How many calories will you eat each day? For diets under 1,500 calories, be sure to check with your doctor to make sure you get all your nutrients.
  • What are the staff qualifications? Ask about their training and experience.
  • What type of attention will you receive? Will you get individual counseling or group support? How often?

Complaints concerning fraudulent weight loss claims should be directed to the Federal Trade Commission.

Cancelling Gym Memberships

Signing up for a gym membership can be a great step, but it is important to know what commitments you are making before you sign on the dotted line. For example:

  • Read the contract. Pay attention to cancellation policies, including whether there is an "exit fee" for breaking the agreement.
  • Know your state's laws. Many states have consumer protections that offer a "cooling-off period" during which you can back out of contracts, including gym memberships. However, these laws vary from state to state.
  • Know your gym's rules. Some gyms grant waivers if you are temporarily incapacitated, out of the area for an extended period, or move a certain distance away. These rules vary from gym to gym.
  • Cancel in writing
  • Always put your intention to cancel in writing, even if you are advised that is not necessary, and keep a copy of your letter. Make sure you follow the advance notice requirements in your contract.