Got a few (or more) pounds to lose? One of your first impulses may be to head toward an established diet plan to help lose that excess weight. The problem: there are literally hundreds of plans to choose from, and each argues that they’re the best and most effective. Do you choose the plan based on its price and ease of use? Or should you rely on the celebrity spokespeople these companies have hired to promote their products?
This article reviews some of the most popular diet companies, and compares their effectiveness.
According to the Top Diet Review site’s ‘Top Twenty’ ratings, Nutri-System rates the highest, in terms of customer satisfaction. This diet plan is one of the very easiest to follow — all you need to do is eat the food delivered to you. (As of this writing, a basic plan geared to women is $8.21 a day, and a more specialized program tailored to your individual taste is $9.64 daily. (Men’s plans are about a dollar more. There are also plans for vegetarians and diabetics.)
The My Weight Loss blogger swears by Nutri-System for her 65-pound weight loss. It took her eight months, incidentally. You should be doing some multiplying now — just one month of food at the cheapest price equals $229.28! (That figure doesn’t include extra costs for the “fun, fresh grocery items” you’re supposed to incorporate into the daily diet plan.) But the blogger also attributes her success to “getting the correct portions, drinking water and exercise–” all typical parts of many plans. This is particularly interesting, when compared to the ‘success stories’ on the Nutri-System website: they range from 20-30 pounds, and always accompanied by those magic words: “results not typical.” (You’ll find this phrase often in small print on every site.)
Final assessment: easy to use, but on the expensive side. The custom-geared plans give you food that’s more to your taste; on the other hand, they also cost more. Does it work? Many customers say yes — at least while they’re still eating the food provided.
Next in popularity on Top Diet Review is the Medifast diet.The primary weight loss program is known as “5 plus 1:” five daily Medifast meal-replacement drinks or food, plus one “lean and green” meal of lean meat or fish plus salad or green vegetables. The plan is high-protein and low in carbs, giving approx. 800-1,000 calories a day. (The Medifast people say you’ll lose 2-5 pounds a week.)
“Weight loss varies according to stage of the program, how much you have to lose and physical activity,” explains Lisa Davis, PhD, Medifast vice president of research and development. “Initial weight loss is usually much greater than amount lost in later weeks.” Medifast has all sorts of plans tailored to age (teens to seniors), as well as new moms and people who’ve had weight loss surgery. There’s even one for gout sufferers! Meal replacements will cost about $80 weekly, or $300 a month. That cost doesn’t include the daily “lean and green” meal, however.
Final assessment: good, as long as you use the items provided, and don’t mind sticking to the program during the ‘plateau’ period. The drinks and snacks are tailored to provide the nutrients you need, without losing muscle mass, according to the company. Faster weight loss is advocated than many other programs. Expensive? You bet.
Jenny Craig is another weight loss program often mentioned, and in a very interesting context — it’s said to have the tastiest food. The meals are also delivered; average cost is $15-20 a day. It’s easy: just eat the food provided. But like the others, your success depends on following the program rigorously. On one of the forums, ‘BKW’ commented, “My brother-in-law tried it. I don’t know how much weight he lost, but he looked good. Then as soon as he didn’t have the little pre-measured Jenny Craig meals, he put the weight right back on and then some. Personally, I think that the Jenny Craig meals are like a crutch and if you don’t have the willpower to continue healthy eating habits after Jenny Craig, it won’t work. But, that’s just me.”
Final assessment: Jenny Craig has a lot of fancy celebrity spokesmen, and a reputation for delicious, though skimpy meals. If you eat the food provided, you’ll most likely lose weight — but you’ll also pay for it. This is the most expensive plan, by far.
If you’re looking for a more do-it-yourself approach, Slimfast products are one of the easiest to find. Think of this program as a riff on Medifast — you’re to substitute a can or serving of ‘milkshake’ (approx. $1.25-1.50 each) for two meals, then eat ‘sensible’ portions of meat, greens and veggies for meal #3. Three snack bars or servings of ‘bites’ are also part of the plan (50-75 cents per serving).
The Slimfast program has been around for quite some time, and many people swear by it. On one of Yahoo’s public forums, ‘Rhiannon’ comments, “its quick to shed bu to keep it off you have to have better eating habits. the 3-2-1 has shown me to be careful with calories. Instead of a shake sometimes i eat the equivalent in calories. its awesome. i also work out 20 min a day.”
Final assessment: Slightly less expensive than the other plans. Weight loss can be achieved, as well…as long as you stick to the diet and the products. (This is the only plan this writer has actually tried, but it didn’t last long — the milkshakes tasted like chalk.)
Our final consideration is Weight Watchers. Although it also has a line of frozen foods similar to Nutri-System and Jenny Craig and a line of snack bars, similar to Medifast and Slimfast, this program also lets you craft a diet plan from foods you purchase at the local grocery store. A “points” system assigns values to a wide range of foods; this gives you more access to your favorites, lets you include a wider variety of food, and also makes it easier to cook for family and friends who may not be planning or needing to lose weight.
Regular meetings are part of the plan. (Jenny Craig also encourages regular participation, and even has a range of forums you can post on, including “Val’s Pals,” a group connected with their spokeswoman Valerie Bertinelli.) The kicker is the reasonable price: as of this writing, Weight Watchers requires a $29.95 signup fee and a monthly $18.95 participation fee. If you’re willing to pay for three months upfront the plan cost drops to $56.85. (Obviously, this doesn’t include any of the actual food costs.) Geeta Dhavale comments on the Buzzle site: “Many people find the point system and certain complex formulas…confusing and complicated. According to a few experts, Weight Watchers is not effective for extremely overweight or obese people as it allows them to eat some fatty foods in large quantity. This results in putting on more weight, if not, does not help at all in weight loss process. Apart from this, the importance of exercise is not stressed as much as it should have been…”
Final assessment: Probably the most reasonably-priced of all the diet plans mentioned here. Certainly it’s one of the more realistic ones for the long run, since it makes use of foods that can be used in your everyday diet. The company says you won’t feel hungry or lack necessary nutrients. (On the other hand, every one of these companies says the same thing.) Going to the meetings may be an encouragement or not, depending on your temperament.
There are plenty of other diet plans to explore out there. (Good Housekeeping has a wide-ranging list you should particularly check into. Go here for more.) And all of them, regardless of specifics, seem to emphasize certain tenets:
- Eat more greens vegetables and lean meat
- Exercise more (20 minutes a day was a popular suggestion)
- Drink water
- Watch your salt, and get a balanced vitamin intake
- Include a few snacks to help with hunger pangs
And of course, the golden rule of weight loss:
- Eat less. Period.
Note: To learn more about these programs, add “.com” to their names for their websites. Or do a Google search. Their products, including weight loss shakes, bars and snacks, are often available for delivery, or via grocery stores and Amazon. Coupons and other discounts are not uncommon. Be sure to do a “Does —- work?” search, then read the comments. That will help you make a better-informed decision for your particular situation.