So, what's one of the key secrets to winning the battle of the bulge? Getting the right weight-loss warriors on your team. They can provide knowledge, experience and encouragement that you just won't get going it alone. Here are five experts worth enlisting – and why.
Your family physician
Why: Check out the instructions on any piece of cardio and resistance equipment at the gym – chances are it bears an advisory instructing you to see your doctor before starting a fitness regimen. The warning's there for a reason: You need to ease in slowly.
Being overweight is connected to cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, high-blood pressure and sore joints, all of which translate into: "Don't hit the gym 'til you see your doc!" Period. You could get hurt otherwise.
Your physician can advise you on how to start your weight-loss routine – after checking for any underlying medical conditions.
Who would benefit most from this pro: Everyone
Cost: Free (covered by provincial health care plans)
Why: A personal trainer works one-on-one with you, helping you set goals and also helping you reach them. During your sessions, she'll take you through a customized workout, ensuring you use gym equipment properly and maintain proper form throughout exercises – crucial for avoiding injury while efficiently blasting fat and building lean muscle. Most will give you a written program to work with between personal training sessions.
Who would benefit most from this pro: Newbies through to advanced gym bunnies.
Beginners will appreciate having a pro introduce them to the weight room or to new cardio machines. Once the gym feels like home to you, your trainer can provide novel ideas for switching up your routine, thus avoiding dreaded "plateaus" (where weight loss slows or stops as your body becomes accustomed to its routine).
Consider starting with once-a-week sessions that taper down to once per month, or less, once you've gotten into the gym groove.
Cost: Varies, but approximately $30 and up per one-hour session. Many gyms include one or two free sessions with an annual membership.
Page 1 of 2 – Meet 3 other professionals who can help you to shed (and keep off) extra pounds on page 2.
Dietitian or nutritionist
Why: If you need to overhaul your diet, a registered dietitian or nutritionist should be on your must-meet-with list. A dietitian or nutritionist can analyze your dietary needs and teach you healthier eating habits during individual counseling.
Who would benefit most from this pro: Those requiring a special diet due to diabetes, who have significant weight-loss goals (or, on the other extreme, are recovering from eating disorders such as anorexia) and need help in establishing a suitable diet.
Also, anyone who needs a 101 course in healthy eating - such as anyone who is overly reliant on convenience foods like takeout and heat-and-serve meals.
Cost: Varies. One free resource we love is the Dietitians of Canada website (http://www.dietitians.ca/) which includes interactive tools to help you assess your Body Mass Index, and plan a healthy diet.
Overeaters Anonymous (OA)
Why: Emotional support is crucial in successful weight loss. The encouragement you'll get from people facing the same struggle you are can be a lifesaver.
OA operates on the same 12-step, "fellowship" model as its more famous cousin, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing issues are discussed at weekly meetings.
Who would benefit most from Overeaters Anonymous: Compulsive eaters. Many women have a complex relationship with food. But do any of these statements apply to you?
• "I've hidden food to enjoy it later – alone."
• "I've lied to myself or someone else about what or how much I just ate."
• "I worry no one loves or understands me for who I am."
If so, you may really benefit from the peer support that OA provides.
Cost: Free (donations optional)
Why: A therapist can help you work through the roots of your compulsive eating, if this an issue for you. A therapist can also help you deal with low self-esteem, body-image issues, and problematic family dynamics, all of which can be connected to body weight.
Who would benefit most from this pro: Whenever overeating has a psycho-emotional aspect, it may be useful to talk it out as a means of discovering constructive alternatives, via one-on-one therapy or a support group such as OA.
A therapist familiar with working with women in your age group can help you with low self-esteem and body image issues, while one experienced in family or couples therapy can help you navigate complex family dynamics. Permanent weight loss is about permanent lifestyle changes, and sometimes spouses or other loved ones can be threatened by that change in the status quo. If this is an issue in your home, a therapist's guidance can be helpful.
Cost: Varies from about $40/hour to $180/hour for therapists in private practice. This fee is not covered by provincial health care plans, but may be partially or completely covered by extended health benefit plans.
Page 2 of 2 – On page 1, find out how your family doctor can assist your weight-loss goals.