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With the holidays over, you may be looking down at the bulging evidence of too much merriment around your waistline. If you've resolved to lose weight in , you might be considering signing up for a commercial diet plan, such as Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, or Jenny Craig. The TV ads, filled with celebrity endorsers and regular people holding out their enormous "old jeans" make the diet plans sound terribly tempting. Although a new FTC rule now requires testimonial ads to cite typical results, the looming question still remains: Which of these diet programs are worth your money?
To find out, MoneyWatch analyzed eight of the biggest diet plans. Three are support-only plans that don't require you to buy their food, and five are food-delivery plans. We interviewed leading nutritionists and weight-loss professionals, pored through clinical studies, and tallied up membership fees and food costs to determine the ones most likely to help you slim down and to see how much you'd pay to drop 20 pounds.
Our favorite for value and efficacy is Weight Watchers , designed to help you change your eating habits for good. Nutrisystem is the least expensive meal delivery plan we reviewed Medifast is cheaper, but you have to provide one meal a day on your own.
And the silver-spoon award undoubtedly goes to In The Zone Delivery , a white-glove service for people who'll spare no expense to drop the pounds. Here's how the plans stack up. See the handy chart at the bottom of the page for a side-by-side comparison.
The oldest national weight-loss program, its members rave about the encouragement they get at weekly meetings led by former Weight Watchers dieters. Nutritionists praise the portion-control points system: Each food is assigned points based on its serving size, calories, fiber, and fat; and no foods are forbidden. Your point allowance is based on your weight, height, gender, age, and activity level. A recent clinical study in the New England Journal of Medicine linked group counseling sessions to weight-loss success.
That explains why Weight Watchers has impressive short-term results. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed participants lost an average of about 5 percent of their body weight 10 pounds in six months.
Two years later, they had kept about half the weight off. To help members stay on track, Weight Watchers encourages them to attend meetings until they've stayed within 2 pounds of their goal weight for six weeks. After that, you get free lifetime membership. The company says members using its online tools in addition to attending meetings lost 50 percent more weight than those going to meetings alone.
Cost to lose 20 pounds: We looked at two plans from eDiets - one that offers support alone, and another with meal delivery. You can choose from among more than 20 diet plans, including ones for diabetics and vegetarians. Online tools let you set goals, plan menus and generate shopping lists.
There's no face-to-face support, but you get support through online message boards and a mentor program that connects newbies with an experienced member.
Also, you can reach a registered dietitian or personal trainer by phone at any time. The optional meal delivery service offers freshly prepared, calorie-controlled meals delivered by FedEx. But telephone support has some evidence in its favor: Yes, it's a bargain for round-the-clock support. For about the same money, other services offer better track records. For the first two weeks, you eat three extremely low-carb meals a day plus mandatory snacks.
After that, you gradually add "good carbs," such as fruits and whole grains. You can customize menus, search a database of more than 1, recipes and get a personalized shopping list. There's online support from staff dieticians and members plus daily motivational emails. Studies have shown that after one year, carb-restricted diets led to greater weight loss and increased heart health than low-fat diets. However, the advantage disappeared over the long term.
How much can you expect to lose? Figure on 8 to 13 pounds during the two- week kick-start phase, then 1 to 2 pounds a week thereafter. It doesn't cost much, but you don't get as much support as with Weight Watchers or eDiets. The Zone diet is mostly meat, fruits, and vegetables. You eat three meals per day plus two Zone protein-powder snacks. A study of people in the Journal of American Medical Association found the Zone diet helped people achieve modest weight loss after one year, comparable with those on the Atkins , Weight Watchers and Ornish diets, and improved cardiac risk factors.
Premium-priced Jenny Craig lets you order its heart-healthy, nutritionally balanced packaged food by phone and pick it up at a Jenny Craig center or have it delivered through Jenny Direct.
You eat three Jenny Craig meals plus a snack per day, and supplement with fruit, vegetables and dairy. Once a week, you get a weigh-in and pep talk with a consultant - who is not a dietician and who earns commissions from selling you products.
There's also round-the-clock phone support. Jenny Craig has a good track record for short-term weight loss up to one year. In a UC San Diego clinical trial of dieters funded by Jenny Craig , Jenny Craig clients lost 11 percent of their initial weight after 12 months, compared with 3 percent weight loss by those who were dieting on their own.
The "doctor-designed" Bistro M. The price is a cut above the competition, too. The plan tries to help you avoid a weight-loss stall out by varying the daily calorie intake between 1, and 1, By eating a little more some days and a little less on others, you'll supposedly prevent your body from becoming used to the same number of calories every day. While no university studies support the theory that varying caloric intake aids weight loss, the high quality of the food and the relatively large portion sizes have been praised by Health magazine, Dr.
Phil and The New York Times. Some plan users have complained of a lack of choices and menu flexibility compared to other plans, but a company spokesman says they offer more than entrees and can make substitutions to accommodate allergies and food preferences.
It's a reasonable price for well-made food with slightly faster average weight loss than with Jenny Craig. This meal-delivery service, endorsed by Marie Osmond and Dan Marino, emphasizes foods with a low glycemic index. The underlying premise is that controlling blood sugar levels leads to weight loss. The heat-and-eat prepared meals and snacks contain roughly 55 percent "good" carbs, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fats; like Jenny Craig, you add fruits, vegetables and dairy.
Support is available through phone counseling and online chat rooms. Dieters are excited with how quickly this product drops the weight, with users noticing changes within 5 days.
BistroMD was founded by Dr. Caroline Cederquist, one of about doctors nationwide who has achieved board certification in bariatrics, a specialty in weight management. Bistro MD has become one of the popular diet meal plans by offering delicious gourmet meals structured with a scientific approach to fluctuating your daily caloric intake.
After filling out a profile, Dr. Cederquist and her team of nutritionists determine your appropriate caloric selection and address issues such as food allergies, religious restrictions and diabetes. Customize your meal plan: Meals delivered right to your door Meals are fresh prepared Delivered flash frozen Just heat and eat No cooking or cleaning. The amount of weight loss depends on the plan you choose, and factors such as age, level of activity, current weight and medical condition.
One of the most unique and exciting aspects of Bistro MD is daily calorie fluctuation. By fluctuating daily caloric intake, you prevent your metabolism from adjusting to one set point. This expedites weight loss and makes Bistro MD unique compared to other weight loss programs.
You also have access to free dietician support online as well as a free subscription to the Bistro MD Newsletter. You have access to dietitians and chefs, and will enjoy a continuous change in menus and food selections. In summary, dieters loved how delicious the meals taste, helping them easily stick with this diet.
They also noted that this meal plan costs much less money than the heavily advertised meal plans they see on TV. Unless you specify snacks in your food plan, there are no desserts. Food selections, though changed weekly, are fixed for that time period. Bistro MD, which has customers who range in age from 18 to 80, has earned the full endorsement of Dr. Phil who uses this plan for his obese patients.
With outstanding gourmet food and scientifically proven calorie shifting to speed up weight loss, this meal plan is a true winner. You are probably familiar with many of the heavily advertised meal plans for the past 30 years, and most dieters know the food tastes terrible.
Bistro MD has finally nailed it with the most delicious food you will ever taste in a diet meal plan. Our compliments to the chef! The meals are savory and affordable. A lot of dieters have commented that they were able to lose pounds per week on this program. This diet is a no-brainer. The 3 Week Diet. The 3 Week Diet has quickly become the diet of choice for quick weight loss among celebrities and personal trainers.
And the results have been amazing. Typical diet plans work on burning the fat and fatty acids from the foods you consume. And with exercise and hard work, maybe you can also lose a few pounds of stored body fat. The 3 Week Diet goes much further by targeting and breaking down stored fat, which releases fatty acids that our bodies love to burn for fuel. The diet focuses on providing you with the nutrients that you need to stay healthy, and eliminates the nutrients that stop you from burning fat.
They promise within 21 days you will have: The 3 Week Diet is immediately downloadable online. There are 4 manuals that are worth their weight in gold:. Introduction — Explains how fat is stored and how it can be burned off. It also details the foods and supplements needed for quick weight loss.
Diet Manual — Helps you calculate your lean body mass and current body fat percentages, and sets up this diet for your own body type.
You will get a breakdown of what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it. It also provides a secret weapon to maintain your lighter weight going forward. Workout Manual — Provides you with a quick easy 15 minute routine to do each day — that you can do in your living room — that will help you burn twice the fat in that same 21 days.
It will keep you motivated, and help you keep the weight off going forward. There is a 60 day money back guarantee. You can get started immediately as everything is immediately downloadable. This diet is intended to make a difference quickly. The trick is to incorporate the changes after your weight loss to keep the weight off for good.
Dieters are commenting that this diet cuts to the chase…that you notice the weight loss right away. We know that most dieters would be ecstatic if they could drop 12 pounds in 3 weeks — and that is easily achievable with this diet. It is incredibly effective at raising your metabolism — which burns fat faster. Dieters are giving this product very high marks, with many mentioning a noticeable change in belly size right away.
It is a great deal for the price, and it works so well that they even offer an unconditional 60 day guarantee. They spell it all out for you and make it easy to lose weight fast.
If you are tired of trying all of the usual diet plans, give this one a shot. You can start this diet right away at The 3 Week Diet Website. Dieters lose pounds the first 2 weeks, and then pounds every week thereafter. Very healthy diet that encourages unlimited portions on healthier choices. We are still searching for a negative. Users also express joy having a diet that does not count calories. Dieters like the simplicity — eat healthy, eat as much as you want.
Dieters rate the gourmet meals very highly, and they found that the calorie shifting approach works extremely well in shedding all of the excess weight. Lacks an online community or forum. The official meal plan used by Dr. Phil for his obese patients with proven effectiveness. Dieters rate this meal plan as a very delicious diet with outstanding meals.