Managing your weight can reduce your risk of serious health problems. Obesity is associated with health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. There is a range of weight management services available, including doctors, dietitians, commercial weight loss programs, very low-calorie diets (meal replacement programs) and kilojoule-controlled meals. If you are looking to lose weight, choose your weight management service with care. Many commercial weight loss programs offer safe weight management and lifestyle suggestions to their clients. Others may rely on unproven or unhealthy methods of weight control.
Talk to your doctor about weight management services
Your doctor knows your medical history and can either advise you on suitable weight loss strategies or recommend a dietitian. It is important to speak with your doctor before starting any weight loss program.
Consulting your doctor is especially important if you take any form of prescription medicine or if you have a pre-existing condition, such as:
- pregnancy or breastfeeding
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- food allergies
- digestive system disorders such as coeliac disease
- high blood pressure
- heart disease, angina or cardiac arrhythmia
- an eating disorder
- thyroid disease
- gall bladder problems such as gallstones
Advice about weight management services
You can choose from a range of weight management support options to help you start losing weight and improving your health. Apart from your doctor, you can consult with industry bodies to help you make a safe choice. These include:
- Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) [http://daa.asn.au/] – this is the national association for dietitians with branches in every state and territory. Standards of practice are contained in the Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) Program
- Weight Management Council Australia – the primary goal of this council is to protect the financial interests of the consumer. Weight management industries that choose to belong to this council must adhere to the code of practice.
Choosing a dietitian
Accredited practising dietitians (APDs) are recognised professionals who can provide expert nutrition and dietary advice. Dietitians can guide you to sound food and health information.
You can contact a dietitian in various ways, including:
- Your doctor may recommend a suitable dietitian.
- Your council can provide a list of local dietitians.
- There may be a dietitian based at your local community health service. You can use the Better Health Channel services directory to find a dietitian.
- The Dietitians Association of Australia can give you contact information on dietitians working in private practice, either by giving them a call or visiting their website.
Choosing a reputable weight management service
Generally speaking, a good weight management service will:
- emphasise improved health, such as lower blood cholesterol, and plan to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease
- emphasise a balanced approach to eating, including foods from all of the core food groups
- focus on the loss of body fat (for example, waist measurement), not just total body weight
- include regular exercise and physical activities
- advise against a daily energy intake of less than 5,000 kJ
- recommend a gradual weight loss of around one to four kilograms a month to begin with, and aim for 10–20 per cent loss of total body weight in the longer term
- appreciate input from your doctor or healthcare professional
- advise on how to improve long-term eating and exercise habits
- offer ongoing support with your weight management, even when you have achieved your goal weight
- offer details on all fees and costs of additional items
- give clear information on the refund policy.
Avoid dubious weight management services
Don't use a weight management service that advises you to:
- cut out one or more of the major food groups
- replace food with powders or supplements
- use unproven or unsafe equipment such as saunas, passive exercise machines, diuretics and body wraps
- aim for rapid weight loss
- focus on quick weight loss, but doesn't include any guidance on how to maintain a healthy weight for the long term
- sign up without being clear about all fees and costs of additional items
- sign up without offering you clear information about their refund policy.
If you decide to start a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) using meal replacement shakes, bars or soups, consult a dietitian to make sure you are still meeting all your nutritional requirements, have ongoing support to continue the program and advice for reintroducing solid foods to avoid any weight regain.
Choosing a kilojoule-controlled meal service
According to the Weight Management Code of Practice, a reputable home-delivered meal service should offer:
- a written health warning about the dangers of rapid weight loss, including the suggestion to consult with your doctor
- detailed written information on the services offered, including delivery arrangements and the nutritional value of the meals
- clear information on all costs, including delivery charges
- the option to cancel after five days, including a pro rata refund.
Making a complaint about a weight management service
If you are unhappy with a weight management service, you should complain to the company. If you are unsatisfied with the response or outcome, you can take the complaint further.
Depending on the weight management service chosen, you could contact:
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Community health centre
- Dietitians Association of Australia Tel. 1800 812 942
- Weight Management Council Australia Tel. (03) 8637 4722
- Diabetes Australia Information and Advice Line Tel. 1300 136 588
- Life! Helping you prevent diabetes, heart disease and stroke (Victorian based program) Tel. 13 RISK (13 7475)
- Consumer Affairs Victoria Tel. 1300 55 81 81
Things to remember
- The range of weight management services available includes doctors, dietitians, commercial weight loss programs and kilojoule-controlled meals.
- Always consult with your doctor before starting with any weight management service.
- A reputable weight management service encourages you to lose weight slowly and safely, and offers advice on how to maintain a healthy weight for the long term.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Diabetes Australia Victoria
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.