Before you sign up to online programs.

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Another day, another online diet program, or so it seems…..with anyone who has ever lost weight; has an interest in green smoothies or who has taken control of their own diet and body issues, releasing an online weight loss or diet program designed to help you reap the benefits they believe they have and ideally make them a whole lot of money quickly and easily. The reason that so many celebrities, health experts and ex biggest losers have online weight loss programs is that they are relatively easy to put together and to sell. All you need is a few recipes, a meal planner and a good technical person and you can offer a meal plan, recipes and beautiful imagery at the touch of a button. There is no accountability, the transaction is swift and at the click of a button you can receive the dietary advice and information which will help you to be just like the person you are buying your program from. Why wouldn’t you have one?
So if you are considering spending some of your hard earned coin on an online weight loss program this Summer, here are some key things to consider before you click ‘purchase’.

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1. Who has written the dietary information?

There is a big difference between throwing together a few recipes in a PDF and sending it out to hundreds of consumers and individualised programs that are overseen by a dietitian. Dietitians unlike celebrities or past weight loss success stories have to ensure the dietary information given is scientifically sound and appropriate for individuals. If you are spending $80-90 for a program, it needs to be individualised, otherwise you could see a dietitian or nutritionist for the same amount, probably claim it on your health fund and be sure you are receiving information that it right for you. Online programs that use qualified dietitians or nutritionists will clearly state this as they are aware that it is a strong sales advantage.

2. There is method in the madness.

A strong, sound online program will be able to articulate what dietary principles it is based on, such as calorie control, or macronutrient ratios or reducing carbohydrate intake to a set amount. It is important to ask what these principles are before you begin, simply so you start to understand why a particular dietary approach may or may not be working for you. It is also important that an online weight loss program has some clear basis otherwise you could be eating a haphazard mix of meals and foods which are unlikely to support the goal of weight loss long term.

3. You have access to the professional to ask questions.

One of the biggest issues with online program options is that once you ‘purchase’ there is little to no user support. You may have literally thrown your money away once you clicked ‘send’. When an online weight loss program is offered by a qualified professional there will and should be ongoing support you can access quickly and directly should you have any questions or concerns.

4. The program offered is sustainable.

It is easy to lose weight is you do not eat anything, or eliminate most foods from your diet, and probably if you spend hours and hours in the kitchen preparing low calorie meal options every day but can you continue to eat like this? Probably not. Extreme programs that promise the world often give quick results and as such tell us they are better than other programs but the truth is that they are only good for the brief period of time you can follow them. So if you know deep down you do not want to quit eating all carbs or replace multiple meals each day with a juice, again you will ultimately be wasting your money.

5. Has the program been around for a long time?

Weight loss programs come and go and the only ones that stand the test of time are the ones which are credible, get results and continually offer programs that can benefit people. When it comes to online programs this means if you are considering an option which is relatively new with little evidence they work it may be best to wait before you rush in and buy one before you can see evidence of their success. Unfortunately online programs developed by dietitians cannot use testimonials but you can get some idea of how much work has gone into developing the program simply by looking through the site, seeing what is offered and how detailed it is, and even asking for some testimonials directly from the administrators, which will be available in credible programs.

*Disclaimer: Susie Burrell is a tertiary qualified dietitian and runs her own online program, Shape Me.