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Commercial Weight Loss Programs
If weight loss is your primary goal, enrolling in a well-known diet plan may be right for you. These long-term programs, which often highlight celebrity success stories in their marketing campaigns, focus on dropping pounds through calorie restriction and portion control.
What It Is: Since introducing its Points system 14 years ago, Weight Watchers has been teaching men and women to eat healthier foods and smaller portion sizes. Members have access to online benefits, including recipes, workouts, and tracking tools, plus optional meetings. The emphasis is steady weight loss without rigid restriction. It’s the plan that worked for entertainer and Weight Watchers spokesperson Jennifer Hudson.
How It Works: Enroll in the program (weightwatchers.com, starts at $18.95 a month, plus a joining fee of $29.95), then decide if you’d prefer to follow the plan online only or with the added support of in-person meetings. The company does sell its own food, but most people who follow the plan prepare their own meals. Regular exercise is encouraged and tracked along with your food intake.
What You’ll Eat: In 2010, Weight Watchers revamped its Points system to calculate your points based on macronutrients such as protein and carbohydrates instead of just calories, fat, and fiber. Each person is assigned a personal PointsPlus goal based on factors such as weight and activity level. More than 40,000 food values are detailed online, which makes it easy to weigh the cost of your favorite meals and snacks. Veggies and fruits are worth zero points, so plan to eat plenty of those. Lean proteins, fiber, and whole grains are also encouraged, although no food is off-limits.
Bottom Line: This plan is best for those who like to be in charge of the foods they eat and are comfortable being online. The accountability of this program (you’re asked to keep an online log) appears to keep dieters on track according to scientific studies, which found that Weight Watchers participants were effective at keeping off the weight they’d lost.
Jenny (formerly Jenny Craig)
What It Is: This program received a face-lift just in time for the 2012 diet season. While the name and the spokesperson are new (Mariah Carey recently lost her baby weight on the plan), the tenets of the program remain the same. The eating plan is based on low-fat, low-cal packaged foods. After you register you’ll have one-on-one counseling sessions to review your progress, as well as access to online tools that will help you manage the plan. If you’d like more support, it’s available for a fee.
How It Works: There are three options in this plan, which vary depending on how much you want to lose and how intensely you would like to commit. At a base level you receive standard coaching; at the most stringent level you’re offered cash incentives for meeting goals and will be outfitted with an accelerometer, which measures your physical activity. When you factor in food costs, the tab may add up to around $400 a month. (For more info, see jennycraig.com.)
What You’ll Eat: Between 1,200 and 2,300 calories a day. At the start of the plan you’ll rely solely on Jenny foods—which include offerings like chicken Marsala and pizza—plus fruits and veggies. As you near your goal weight you’ll slowly add home-cooked meals (following Jenny recipes) back into your plan.
Bottom Line: If weight loss is your goal but you don’t want to have to fuss over new recipes or track calories or portions, this plan might be for you. The prepackaged foods make this a particularly good choice for a person who doesn’t cook much, or tends to eat on the run. The high cost may be prohibitive for some people.
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