Comparing Weight Loss Programs

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Which Diet Plan Is Best?

When you first make the decision to lose weight, it can be overwhelming trying to compare weight loss programs. There are low-fat diet plans, low-carb diets, no-carb diets, diets that restrict calories, and diets that completely ignore calories. Some weight loss programs tell you to exercise everyday, and others tell you that exercise is not necessary to lose weight.

Yet, despite all of their conflicting advice, most weight loss programs promise to help you lose weight fast, and usually promise that you can lose weight while continuing to eat all of your favorite foods. So who is telling the truth?

Are you better off following a low-carb diet like the South Beach Diet, or a meal replacement diet like the Slim Fast diet? Will you lose weight faster with the Atkins diet. that virtually eliminates carbohydrates but is very high in animal fat, or should you become a vegetarian and follow the Dean Ornish diet plan? Should you prepare every meal yourself, as you would with Weight Watchers or the Mediterranean Diet, or should you give up cooking and eat the meals provided by Jenny Craig or NutriSystem?

The honest truth is that all of these weight loss programs will work to some degree if they are strictly followed on a consistent basis. But the real question becomes, which weight loss program is best for you? Besides helping you attain your weight loss goal, the diet plan you choose should also be in alignment with your budget, your lifestyle, your emotional needs, your world view, and be sustainable over a lifetime. And that is where many weight loss programs fall short - many diet plans are simply short-term fixes that can't be sustained over the long haul.

To help you determine the best weight loss program for your individual needs, let's take a quick look at the pros and cons of some of the most popular diet plans. Remember, none of these are perfect, but one of them may be the perfect weight loss solution for you.

Weight Watchers Weight Loss Program

What is Weight Watchers? Weight Watchers is a very familiar name in the weight loss industry - it's been around since 1960 and it's quite possible your mother or grandmother has been a member of Weight Watchers at some point in her life. But is it the right the weight loss program for you?

The Pros:

* Accountability. If you have a difficult time staying accountable to your weight loss goals, then Weight Watchers might be a good choice for you. When you join Weight Watchers, you can either choose to attend local meetings in your area, or you can join their online weight loss program that lets you interact with other members online.

* Flexibility. Weight Watchers allows you to cook your own food and make your own food choices. Instead of counting calories, different food groups are given a certain point value, with fats and carbohydrates getting the highest values and vegetables and lean protein getting the lowest. As long as you stay within your "points" allowance each day, you can virtually eat whatever you want, but within moderation, of course.

* Budget. Because you are cooking your own meals, Weight Watchers is a very affordable diet plan.

* Lifestyle. If you enjoy cooking, you'll enjoy the ability to cook your own food on this program.

* Sustainability. Weight Watchers is generally considered a very sustainable weight loss program. While you need to be vigilant about counting points in the beginning, you will eventually learn which foods work for you and which ones work against your weight loss goals. You can also continue to attend monthly meetings to keep yourself accountable, even after you have reached your goal weight. Weight Watchers takes great pride in being a sustainable nutrition plan and not just a fad diet plan.

* Family Friendly. Because you are preparing real home cooked meals, the Weight Watchers diet plan is fairly easy to incorporate into everyday family meas.

The Cons:

* Complexity. For somebody looking for a weight loss program that tells you to "eat this and not that", Weight Watchers would not be the best choice. It requires meal planning, shopping and to some extent, cooking.

Who's Using Weight Watchers: The singer/actress Jennifer Hudson has publicly endorsed Weight Watchers. It has been reported that Jennifer went from a size 22 to a size 8 using the Weight Watchers program.

Click here to visit the Weight Watchers website for more information.

Atkins Diet

What is the Atkins Diet? It is a weight loss program that encourages consumption of animal protein and almost eliminates carbohydrates for the first two-week "starter phase; the diet continues to restrict carbs during the remainder of the weight loss program.

The Pros:

*Effectiveness. For most people, the drastic reduction of carbohydrates during the starter phase resets their insulin and blood sugar levels and jolts their bodies into significant weight loss.

The Cons:

* Safety. It has not yet been determined if the large amount of animal fats consumed on the Atkins diet cause adverse health effects. There is some concern that the long-term effects of a diet rich in animal protein may affect cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

* Complexity. If math is not your forte, you might get frustrated with the Atkins Diet. It requires counting the total grams of carbs you eat in a day, while subtracting the grams of fiber, to chart your "net carbs" for the day.

* Sustainability. Because the Atkins Diet severely restricts consumption of fruits, and even many vegetables, some users become bored with this eating model and find it difficult to stick with it over time.

Who's Using the Atkins Diet: Renee Zelleger, Stevie Nicks and Dennis Frantz are all reported to have lost at least 30 pounds using the Atkins diet. While Jennifer Anniston also followed Atkins for a time, she is no longer on the Atkins diet plan.
Learn more about the Atkins diet at Amazon.

South Beach Diet

What is the South Beach Diet? The South Beach diet plan is sometimes referred to as the "lite" version of the Atkins Diet. While it also restricts the intake of carbohydrates, the South Beach diet is a bit more flexible in allowing fruits and vegetables into the diet. South Beach is also based on a short hard core "starter phase" and then introduces a larger list of allowable foods for the remainder of the diet plan.

The Pros and Cons are very similar to that of the Atkins Diet, but the wider variety of foods on the South Beach eating plan make it more sustainable than Atkins.

Who's Using the South Beach Diet: When first introduced, the South Beach diet became the diet plan of choice among celebrities, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Nicole Kidman, and former-Dallas-Cowboy-quarterback-turned-sports-announcer, Troy Aikman. Learn more about the South Beach diet at Amazon.

Zone Diet

What is the Zone Diet? The Zone Diet is a weight loss plan that is based on controlling the hormones that our body releases when we eat various types of food groups. The Zone diet plan uses their own food, which has replaced a lot of the carbohydrates with protein. Much like Jenny Craig and NutriSystem, the Zone Diet has the user purchase various food products which as supplemented with a few store-bought items, such as vegetables.

The Pros:

* Simplicity. For those who don't want to plan meals or cooks, it's easy to order a week's worth of Zone food.

The Cons:

* Budget. When store-bought items are added to the cost of the weekly food shipments, your monthly grocery bill will likely be more than if you were cooking for yourself.

* Not Family Friendly. Pre-packaged diet food may work for individuals who are trying to lose weight, but unless the entire family is on board, it requires the preparation of two separate meals.

* Sustainability. Many dieters are likely to get tired of eating the same pre-packaged diet food week in and week out. Once the goal weight has been attained, it's tempting to go off the diet and revert to old eating habits, often results in regaining the lost weight, plus more.

Who's Using the Zone Diet: While the Zone Diet is not endorsed by any leading celebrities, there are a number of lesser-known actors, actresses and athletes who claim that the simplicity of the Zone pre-packaged meals work well with their busy schedules. Learn more about the Zone Diet at Amazon.

Jenny Craig Diet Plan

What is the Jenny Craig Diet Plan? The Jenny Craig diet plan is based on pre-prepared food delivered to your home. But is also includes a face-to-face meeting or phone consultation with a Jenny Craig representative to help you prepare a personalized weight loss plan that includes a nutrition plan, activity plan and motivational plan.

The Pros:

* Accountability. For those who need some help determining their weight loss plan and then staying on track, Jenny Craig offers a lot of assistance in these areas.

* Variety. The Jenny Craig food plan provides three meals and two snacks per day, but you are able to add your own fresh vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products.

The Cons:

* Affordability. The cost of the Jenny Craig diet food varies depending upon which food plan you choose. The CEO of the company says that most Jenny Craig users spend about one dollar per day more on Jenny Cruisine then the average American, but that doesn't include the additional groceries used to supplement the Jenny Craig food.

Who's Using Jenny Craig: Jenny Craig spokesperson, actress Sara Rue, lost fifty pounds during her first year on the program. Other Jenny Craig celebrities have included Queen Latifah, Kristie Alley, Valerie Bertinelli, actor Jason Alexander, and actress Nicole Sullivan.

NutriSystem Diet Plan

What is the NutriSystem Diet Plan? NutriSystem is another pre-packaged diet food program that manage the users insulin levels by offering foods that are low on the glycemic index. In other words, the food is low in sugar, which keeps the users blood sugar level throughout the day. This is essentially the same approach taken by Jenny Craig and the Zone diet, and is also the basis of all the low-carb diets.

The Pros:

* Simplicity. By ordering all of your meals ahead of time, there is no last minute panic about "what to eat for dinner tonight". There is also less planning required than similar diets that require you to choose and prepare your own food, such as the South Beach diet or Weight Watchers.

* Peace of Mind. As opposed to the "cook your own food" diet plans, pre-packaged meals such as NutriSystem free you up from counting calories, carbs or points. You know you've eaten the right amount from the right food groups without having to track anything.

The Cons:

* One Size Fits All. Unlike Jenny Craig, which offers a personalized eating plan based on an initial consultation, the NutriSystem program requires each user to simply choose a food plan and order it. There is no real customization to this approach.

* Price. A four-week meal plan costs at least $300 and that doesn't include fresh or frozen items that need to be supplemented from the grocery.

Who's Using NutriSystem: Over the years, NutriSystem has featured a bevy of Hollywood celebrities as spokespersons including Marie Osmond, Jillian Barberie, actress Tori Spelling and former NFL quarterback Dan Marino.

The Cookie Diet

What is the Cookie Diet? The Cookie Diet is the brainchild of Dr. Sanford Segal, a doctor in Miami, Florida who created the diet in 1975. Its purpose was to help Dr. Segal's patients stick to their diets by using a special diet cookie formulated from a secret amino acid protein blend to suppress the appetite and control hunger. The Cookie Diet requires users to eat 6 specially formulated protein cookies throughout the day, and then eat a nutritionally balanced dinner. The result is a very low calorie diet of about 800 calories per day.

Pros:

* Effectiveness. Over the 35-year history of the company, many users have reported large amounts of weight on the Cookie Diet, ranging from 20 to 180 pounds. Most of the successful users of the Cookie Diet started out with a large amount of weight to lose and had run out of diet options.

* Simplicity. There isn't much planning or preparation required for this diet. Simply buy the cookies and eat one health dinner per day.

Affordability. A week's worth of diet cookies costs about $60. The user's only other food expense is the cost of healthy homemade dinners.

Cons: * Sustainability. While effective for losing weight, an 800-calorie diet is not sustainable in the long run. Since it doesn't teach users how to develop healthy eating habits during the weight loss phase, a severely-restricted diet such as the Cookie Diet can leave users at the mercy of their old eating habits once they go off the diet.

Who's Using the Cookie Diet: Most of the testimonials for the Cookie Diet come from regular folks who had a lot of weight to lose, in fact, weight loss of 100 pounds is probably average for users of the Cookie Diet. One well-known figure following the diet is NFL defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, who lost about 34 pounds on the Cookie Diet.

Learn more at The Cookie Diet's Official Website.

Dean Ornish Diet Plan

What is the Dean Ornish Diet Plan? The Dean Ornish diet is a vegetarian diet based on the concept that low-fat high-fiber foods allow you to eat more and weight less. Dr. Ornish's diet plan also encourages at least 30 minutes of exercise per day and some form of stress management such as yoga or meditation. His diet plan is intended to reverse the effects of heart disease, with weight loss as secondary but related benefit.

The Pros:

* Health Benefits. In addition to weight loss, followers of the Ornish diet plan will likely enjoy reduced risk of heart disease.

* Simplicity. The Dean Ornish weight loss plan does not require you to count calories, fat grams, carbs or points. It is based on three lists of foods: food to eat, foods to eat in moderation and foods to avoid altogether.

* World View. This weight loss plan will work well for those seeking a vegetarian lifestyle.

* Affordability. This diet plan does not require the user to purchase any prepackaged foods. All recommended food is easily found at the super market.

* Sustainability. Rather than a short-term diet plan, the Ornish diet is intended to be an ongoing lifestyle where certain foods are embraced and others are avoided.

The Cons:

* Deprivation. Unless a dieter is specifically seeking a vegetarian diet plan, she may feel a bit deprived on the Dean Ornish plan; the "bad" foods list includes not only all forms of meat and dairy products, but also alcohol and all forms of sugar including honey and molasses. Foods high in fat are also excluded, even those with mono-unsaturated fat such as nuts, avocados and olive oil.

* Cooking is involved. Busy dieters who are seeking a quick prepackaged solution for their weight loss program may find it a bit time consuming and tedious to plan and prepare all meals.

You can read more about the Dean Ornish diet at Amazon.

Conclusion: Well, we're finished comparing weight loss programs, and it's probably clear that there is no one best diet plan. When it comes to weight loss programs, one size definitely does not fit everybody. So choose the plan that best meets your own weight loss goals, fits your budget and your lifestyle, and then go for it. Because ultimately, the best weight loss program is the one that you will stick with until you attain your goal weight … and then help you stay there!