Weight loss programs are designed to provide an effective and definitive guide to weight management. They often include books to provide direction, meal prep assistance, and food that follows the guidelines provided within the program. Weight loss programs can vary significantly based on their specific nutritional focus.
In general, weight loss programs are fairly well-received, however, critics of these programs point to the lack of scientific proof or evidence to support their effectiveness. In many cases, weight loss program critics state that the changes associated with programs of this nature are not sustainable for long-term progress and, in some cases, may also cause more harm than good. Though weight loss programs have received some less than positive critiques, many benefits can be found through their use and scientific evidence to support this. \
According to a study conducted in 2015, the efficacy of commercial rate programs is higher than previously expected. Participants in popular programs such as WW or Jenny Craig experienced weight loss results at a rate of up to 4.9% greater than those who practiced portion control and counseling efforts (1).
Best Weight Loss Programs
Formerly known as weight watchers, WW has a long-standing reputation in the weight loss community. While they have been around for quite some time, however, they have managed to stay competitive.
WW provides users with a full-range of support including tools that can be used throughout the day using a point-based system. This means that no food is off-limits which makes this an easy program to follow if you keep track of the nutritional points you consume throughout the fay.
One of the best reasons to choose a weight loss program is the advantage of support and tools it can provide, and WW gives a substantial amount of support that will allow you to have long-term success. In addition to their point system, they also include snacks that can be eaten in between meals, cookbooks, a journal, and website access to a “support squad” so that you can be connected and remain motivated.
2. South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet has also been around for a while and was developed by a cardiologist. It is designed to help you lose weight and keep it off over the long term. The program focuses on food groups that are specifically healthy for your heart and on teaching you how to maintain healthy eating habits once you finish the program.
Unfortunately, the program has a very limited variety of food available, so you’ll be eating a lot of the same stuff. It is also based largely on frozen meal plans, so it will take up tons of room in your freezer. It is not recommended for vegans, vegetarians, or people on kosher and paleo diets. A lot of their meals in phases 2 and 3 contain gluten.
That being said, it’s got 3 great phases for weight loss. First, it will kick start your weight loss by eliminating starch, sugar, and gluten from your diet. This process may result in some withdrawal symptoms, so make sure your physician knows what you’re doing and is on hand to help. Next, it will slowly reintroduce healthy carbs into your diet so you get steady weight loss. Thanks to eliminating the cravings for sugars and bad carbs your system was addicted to, it will prevent the cravings you get on extremely restricted diets.
When you successfully reach your goal weight, you will receive recipes and helpful advice. This will allow you to maintain your weight once you’re off the program without yo-yo dieting or going back on the plan. It builds in practice days during each week so you can learn to cook your healthy meals that fit the program or learn how to dine out without crashing.
3. Jenny Craig
Jenny Craig is one of the most popular diet programs for a lot of people, with over 30 years of proven results backing it up and making it worth the money. They take a 3-tiered approach to food and diet to help you maintain control over your weight.
Although they don’t offer vegan and gluten-free plans, and they are pretty expensive, they offer personal weight loss consultants and in-person sessions once a week and have over 100 professionally created meals.
Out of the leading diet plans, a 2017 study by the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that participants on Jenny Craig lost more weight than the other 3 leading plans. They also lost 5% more weight than the control group, who only received education and counseling (2).
One of the reasons for their success is that this is not meant to be a crash diet and doesn’t restrict your options as much as other plans. They don’t believe in detox days, restrict any specific type of food or anything else that will cause you to get bored quickly.
Initially, you will be eating a lot of pre-packaged food. Their team of professional chefs design menus, and you can choose from over 100 options so you don’t get food you’ll hate. After a while, you will begin cooking your meals at home. When you’re halfway to your goal weight, you trade the packaged food for the freedom to cook your meals within their program’s guidelines.
When you hit your goal weight, you start cooking all your food. This period of transition lasts for a month. When you finish this transition period, you have graduated from the program and will be moving forward on your own. They will teach you how to balance your meals and control your portions so you get the nutrients you need without feeling restricted or overindulging.
Nutrisystem has meal plans that are very easy to follow. That is one of the reasons this program has remained at the top of the best diet plans for a long time. On this program, you receive 6 perfectly portioned meals per day that come from over 150 menu options. This prevents you from counting calories or going hungry at any point throughout the day.
The downside is that when you place an order with NutriSystem, it will take anywhere from 4 to 10 business days to arrive, so you need to make large enough orders on a regular enough basis not to be stuck without. It also has very limited options if you need to substitute anything in the meal plan, so it isn’t a great option for people who have allergies or restrictions., although it does have plenty of vegetarian options.
This is a great plan for people who desire a strict regimen. The meal spreads your food throughout the day, ensuring you eat 6 times a day so you never feel hungry and always have the energy you need when you need it. In fact, they even offer a 14-day money-back guarantee if you don’t lose weight!
The Atkins diet is one of the oldest and most well-known diet programs available when it comes to weight loss through carb restriction. Low carb diets are effective because they reduce your appetite, which means you won’t feel as deprived and won’t eat as many calories. Unlike calorie counting diets, these avoid the problem of feeling deprived because of a focus on restricting calories. This diet focuses on allowing you to eat your fill of proteins and healthy fats.
The Atkins diet works through 4 different phases. The induction phase requires taking in fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day. This phase lasts 2 weeks. This will rapidly drop weight for you. The other 3 phases focus on reintroducing carbs to your diet slowly as you near your goal weight. This prevents you from regaining all that weight the second you touch a carb and teaches you the healthy types of carbs you should eat rather than the unhealthy variety.
This diet has been extensively researched and many studies agree that it leads to quicker weight loss results than low-fat diet methods (3). These studies also show that the diet is very successful at reducing belly fat. They also decrease the risk of different diseases, including those related to insulin and blood pressure (4, 5).
The Atkins diet is a great way to jump-start rapid weight loss and can have other health benefits, but should be monitored by physicians if you remain on the plan for extended periods of time.
Noom is relatively new but has become a very popular diet program. This diet will tailor itself to your preferences and use technology to track your progress and keep you motivated. It offers challenges and incentives based reward programs, personalized coaching, and reasonable pricing.
Noom has a ton of features which can be overwhelming at first, especially since it doesn’t have phone-based support and does require you to log all your meals. The program begins with a questionnaire that asks you about your goals, activity, and lifestyle and typical meals. They also ask about your neighborhood, how regularly and what type of food you eat, and any medical issues or allergies.
Noom also offers a lot of guidance from certified professionals. Their programs were developed by PhDs and MDs who graduated from Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. Their coaching team helps you with every step and even gets you through obstacles and setbacks. Each member is also assigned to a group so their journey becomes a social experience with help from people who are going through the same thing as you.
Noom is a lot more work than other programs, so if you need something more low maintenance this may not be a great program for you. If you don’t mind doing some extra work in exchange for connection to a network of certified coaches and health professionals, it’s well worth it.
Once you get your account, you need to log your meals every day, log your weight each week, and log any exercise you do. They send you articles each day and expect you to remain in contact with your goal specialist.
They also offer you tons and tons od different menus, so you can plan and cook meals that fit within your goal requirements but also leave you feeling happy with your choices instead of wishing your diet program wasn’t bland and tasteless. Their focus is on helping you learn to eat healthy in a way that allows you to maintain your weight loss long term.
7. The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is another program that limits your carbs. This diet focuses on low glycemic levels. Your carb intake will only be 35 to 45 percent of your total daily calories. Proteins and healthy fats will each take 30 percent. This diet features foods and carbs with a very low Glycemic Index.
The Glycemic Index of food is a determinant of how much it will raise the levels of glucose in your blood when consumed. This diet was initially developed to reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases (6, 7)
It works by creating balanced meals that have 1/3 protein, 2/3 fruits and vegetables, and just a dash of healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and almonds. It limits foods that are high on the Glycemic Index, like bananas, potatoes, and rice.
The main benefit of this diet is that it reduces your risk for heart disease by lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This diet can also improve your blood sugar control and lower chronic inflammation in individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes.
8. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a plan that will restrict when you eat. It essentially offers cycles where you will eat for some time then fast for some time. Instead of tackling which foods you eat or eliminating any type of food, it simply tells you when to eat. This is more of a pattern of eating.
If you are sensitive to changes in your blood sugar levels, pregnant, breastfeeding, under 20 years old, underweight, or deficient in any nutrients, then this is not the right plan for you. If you’re healthy then it may be a great option for someone who can’t stick to restrictive diet plans.
This plan has a few different methods of following it, so it is one of the most versatile options for diet plans. A lot of people use a 16/8 method. This means you skip breakfast and restrict your body to a period of 8 hours, where you’re allowed to eat. The remaining 16 hours of a day you fast.
Another method is the eat stop eat method. This means that you fast for 24 hours twice a week on non-consecutive days. Most people will eat 3 days, fast 1, eat 2 days, and fast 1. The 5/2 diet is similar. In this method, if you can’t last a full 24 hours, you will pick 2 days in the week (non-consecutive) to restrict your caloric intake to 500 or 600 calories for the day. The remaining 5 days of the week, you do not restrict your food.
9. Paleo Diet
The paleo diet takes you back to your ancestry, restricting your food to the same food the hunter-gatherers ate before the days of agricultural innovation. The theory behind paleo diets is that modern diseases can be linked to the Western diet and our consumption of excessive grains, dairy, and processed food. Although this theory is debatable, studies have shown that this diet has several great health benefits.
This diet will eliminate whole grains, legumes, and dairy from your diet. These foods are actually very healthy when taken in proper proportion as part of a balanced meal, and all have plenty of health benefits of their own. Several studies have shown that the paleo diet can lead to significant weight loss. Paleo dieters will automatically consume much less carb, far more protein, and about 300 to 900 fewer calories per day without realizing they’re doing it or counting calories and carbs (8).
This diet is also effective at reducing the likelihood of heart disease. This is because it reduces cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar (9). It works by placing a focus on whole foods, lean proteins, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit while eliminating processed food, sugar, dairy, and grains. Flexible versions of the paleo diet allow cheese and butter, or potatoes and sweet potatoes.
10. Vegan Diets
Another massive health trend is a vegan diet program. This plan restricts all animal products and byproducts. It is an extremely strict version of a vegetarian diet. This eliminates meat, dairy, eggs, and any animal byproducts like honey, gelatin, whey, casein, and some forms of Vitamin D3.
This diet seems to be very effective at helping people drop weight without having to be a slave to calorie counting because it is naturally low in fat and high in fiber, which helps you feel full for longer periods.
These diets do require some physician supervision when you transition and begin them. They also require a lot of education. These diets tend to be low in several animal-based nutrient sources. You may need to find alternate ways to get vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Despite these drawbacks, the vegan diet can be healthy and sustainable for long periods. These diets are linked to lower BMI and body weight compared to other diets (10).
Calorie for calorie, they are not any more effective for weight loss than the other diet plans on this list, but one study that took place over 18 weeks showed that vegan dieters lost nearly 10 pounds more than those on a control diet plan. These vegans were allowed to eat until they were full while the control group was required to restrict their calories (11).
The diet is primarily effective because of the naturally reduced caloric intake. It has also been shown that a vegan diet can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other issues. It may also reduce the risk of cancer or Alzheimer’s (12, 13)
How We Ranked
First, we decided which weight loss programs had clear and definitive guidelines for their users. While many weight loss programs simply characterize their structure as “low-carb”, we wanted to choose programs that went in-depth and provided a structure for its participants. Those that were missing this aspect were fully eliminated from consideration.
As commercial weight loss programs also have a somewhat unfair reputation for being part of a “fad”, we also wanted to focus on the reputation of companies associated with our ranked products. Longevity in this particular market serves to establish a history of success and trust in the program. Programs such as Jenny Craig and Noom were chosen for this specific reason. Each has been around for a significant amount of time and established a track record of effectiveness. New or “fad-like” programs were not considered for our rankings.
Next we looked at the practicality of each weight loss program. We quickly removed programs from consideration that were designed to focus on rapid weight loss rather than a gradual decrease and practical lifestyle management for long-term success. This was a primary reason why both the South Beach Diet as well as the Zone Diet were ranked highly.
Lastly, we looked at different lifestyle friendly weight loss programs. Programs like Vegan diets made our ranking because of the special nature of the diet that catered to a different type of lifestyle. The top ranked programs, like WW, were able to accommodate different lifestyles.
After all this, we determined the top 10 best weight loss programs on the market.
Weight loss programs could result in a decreased risk of diabetes and other health issues. Though weight loss brings many benefits, one of the most important is its possible effects on diabetes, specifically type II diabetes. In general, individuals who are overweight or considered obese have a higher risk of developing type II diabetes. Losing weight through the use of a weight loss program can help to lessen the chance of this development and enhance the quality of life.
Multiple studies have indicated that reducing weight by as little as 10 pounds could result in not only a decreased of developing disease but an increased chance of remission. According to a study conducted over the course of 2002 and 2006, participants who decreased their weight by 10 – 20 pounds had a 30% higher occurrence of remission if they had already been diagnosed with the disease (14).
Though the direct link or reason as to why weight loss has a significant impact on diabetic development is still unknown, conclusive evidence continues to show that weight loss is a viable option for diabetic health management and treatment.
Weight loss programs can provide a built-in support group. In general, social connectivity has been shown to have a significant impact on mood and overall health. Friendships tend to foster feelings of purpose, belonging, and an increase of self-confidence which in turn can have a positive impact on productivity and goal-setting (15).
Weight loss programs offer an increased opportunity to connect with others with similar experiences. This inevitably can help in the promotion of motivation and eventually produce more positive results.
According to a study conducted in 2010, those who participated in a weight loss program with a support group function lost 2.6% more weight over the course of 12 months compared to those who chose to lose weight in a more solitary manner (16).
Weight loss programs can improve mobility. Being overweight can increase fatigue and weight loss programs may help to improve mobility and reduce fatigue. The change in mobility seen with the occurrence of weight loss appears to be related to increased self-confidence and mood improvements that occur due to neurological changes that occur with the presence of weight loss.
According to a study conducted in 2012, those who lost approximately 10 pounds over the course of 3 months, experienced a 3% increase in their mobility rate. Longer periods of time subsequently saw an increase in mobility as well as demonstrating a trend and link between the two occurrences (17).
Rapid weight loss from weight loss programs could result in hormonal changes. Rapid weight loss can have multiple effects on the human body. Just as increased body fat could result in an increase of hormones throughout the body, a dramatic drop in weight could also have an effect on hormones.
According to several studies, extra body fat increases the levels of estrogen in both men and women, as well as other hormones that regular many bodily functions. Though this change will eventually balance itself out, there may be a slight period of discomfort in which your mood or behavior may undergo dramatic, and sometimes erratic, changes (18).
These changes can be mitigated with the assistance of a trained and trusted physician. In some cases, medication may be an appropriate solution, while in others slight changes in diet that align with your chosen weight loss program may be viable as well.
Weight loss programs could cause saggy skin. In most cases, gradual weight loss is recommended rather than rapid or dramatic weight changes. While this is important for multiple health reasons, it is also important for the elasticity of the human skin. Dramatic weight changes, large or small, may result in undesired effects including skin that is considered saggy.
In general, skin that has lost its elasticity is not likely to go back to its original state entirely. Most cases of severe stretching may require surgery to correct entirely. In accordance with this possibility, it is always recommended that you consult your physician to ensure you choose the healthiest weight loss program and have a comprehensive understanding of the effects your weight loss may bring.
Weight loss programs could result in withdrawal symptoms. Though it can be inconvenient in many cases, weight loss may result in symptoms similar to those seen during the withdrawal process. In most cases, this will occur in individuals who significantly decrease their sugar intake in accordance with their chosen weight loss plan.
As added or refined sugars account for a large component of weight gain and metabolic rate decreases. Sugar is considered to be a high caloric food that provides few nutrients during its consumption. According to several studies, sugar is not only unhealthy, it also contains properties similar to those found in addictive substances. A study conducted in 2008, demonstrated that sugar affected dopamine production in the brain in much the same way as illicit drugs. These effects ultimately result in increased difficulty when attempting to decrease or eliminate use (19).
As a result, those participating in weight loss programs that limit sugar intake may experience periods of depression, mood changes, fatigue, or anxiety. Though these are uncomfortable symptoms, they should be fairly short-lived as the body becomes more accustomed to its new state.
Weight loss programs should be tailored to individual needs. As such, there is no standard dosage for everyone. Always make sure to consult your doctor before beginning a program.
How long will it take to see results from using a weight loss program? In general, the answer to this question will depend heavily on the specific weight loss program selected. In most cases, those who choose a sensible weight loss program may begin to see results anywhere from 1 to 4 months after beginning their new routine. It is important to remember that you may see varying results based on the weight loss plan chosen in conjunction with any additional physical activity you choose to start as well.
Do all weight-loss plans include support groups? No, not all weight loss programs include access to support groups, however, there are multiple options available in the event you happen to choose a program that does not include this benefit. As the prevalence of social media and the internet have increased, the choices to join remote support groups or locate groups in your local area have also become more prominent. While the majority of programs do have a support group offering, searching for individuals in your location to create a support group of your own will offer the same connective benefits.
How do I evaluate my progress on a weight loss program? The most common answer to this question is to use the scale as a measurement of success. While this is one way to evaluate your success, weight loss programs will often provide guidance on how best to measure your success. This measurement can usually range from goal-setting and planning for short time periods, or highlighting the fit of your clothing rather than the numbers on the scale. Regardless most weight loss programs will guide you as to what will work best.
What diet should I pick? With so many diet choices out there today, it can be difficult to know which one to pick. This becomes especially difficult because everyone who has been on these plans feels passionate about how awful it is… or swears by how amazing and life-changing it is!
To determine the right plan for your needs, do your research. Look into how each diet works, the way it affects your body, and the meal options available on these diets. Find one that meets your needs as far as flavor preference, weight loss goals, and dietary restrictions are concerned.
Are weight loss programs expensive? In general, the cost of a weight loss program will depend on the program itself. While there are many weight loss programs that may cost more than others, choosing an expensive weight loss program does not increase your chance of success. It is important to choose a weight loss program that not only helps you to achieve your ultimate health goals but also appeals to you and personal tastes and preferences. If you experience difficulty choosing a weight loss program, consulting your physician will be a great option to explore all of your possible choices.
Can weight loss have an effect on cholesterol levels? Yes, though it is not true of everyone, losing weight could decrease the amount of cholesterol in the body. Losing weight has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol levels, as well as triglyceride levels. These prove to be highly effective in the prevention of heart disease and the decrease in the chance of heart attack or stroke
Do I still have to exercise? A lot of these programs are designed to ensure weight loss regardless of your lifestyle. That being said, exercise is crucial for a healthy life. Skinny is not the same as healthy. If you neglect your exercise regimen, you will have weaker muscles and be at a higher risk for a lot of different disorders, including heart disease.
As an added bonus, exercising will speed up your metabolism, so it will work together with your diet program to help you shed pounds quicker. If you want that sculpted, toned beach body, that will also come only through exercise. A diet can reduce your fat, but it can’t build 6-pack abs!
Are weight loss programs useful for both men and women? Yes, weight loss programs could prove to be beneficial for both men and women. This is heavily dependent on the specific program and goals intended. In general, however, most weight loss programs are unisex and able to be used as preferred
Should I tell my doctor about my diet program? Talking with your doctor about your program is a personal decision. While many of these programs are perfectly safe for most people, some of them are pretty aggressive and may need physician supervision. That being said, it is a great idea to talk with your physician about your weight loss concerns.
If you are on an aggressive diet, letting your physician know about the drastic dietary changes can help them monitor your overall health. They will know how the dietary changes will interact with medications, be able to better diagnose you if you begin experiencing side effects, and know-how to help you manage and maintain your goal weight and transition from the diet program into a lifestyle change that sustains your lower weight without yo-yo dieting.
Can weight loss improve sleep? Yes, weight loss can have a significant impact on sleep patterns and experiencing restful sleep cycles. Those who experience frequent insomnia or have difficulty sleeping generally have less opportunity to go through the restorative process. This could also lead to higher stress levels which result in a metabolic decrease. If you have experienced significant problems with sleep while attempting to lose weight, it is recommended that you contact your physician for additional guidance.
Do I have to follow the program forever to keep the weight off? This will depend on the diet program. Some of them are not meant to be sustained for longer periods of time. These diets are just meant to jump-start your weight loss quickly. Others are built for longevity, and attempt to teach you healthy portion sizing and how to create balanced and nutritious meals. Regardless of which program you are on, you will need to make a permanent change to keep the weight off once you lose it.
Can teenagers use a weight loss program? Though there is generally not an age limit set for most weight loss programs, the use of commercially popular programs are not recommended for teenagers in most cases. This can vary from person to person based on their specific set of circumstances, however. If you are considering a commercial weight loss program for your teenager, it is important to consult your physician for further guidance and recommendations of programs that may work best.
Can changing your diet make you sick? Yes, there is the possibility that dropping significant amounts of weight or drastically modifying your diet may cause mild to moderate discomfort at the beginning of program use. This is generally due to hormonal and chemical changes that occur within the body during the initial change. These symptoms should normally decrease over time, however, continued issues or concerns should be discussed with your physician to avoid any unforeseen complications.
There are a ton of different diet programs out there today. Each person may benefit differently from different programs. Before beginning a diet program, consult with your doctor and consider blood tests to figure out your LDL, HDL, cholesterol, and metabolic rates. Knowing the way your specific system works and which areas your body is weakest and strongest will help you determine the appropriate program for you. Your doctor can partner with you to ensure that you are safe and that your body is responding well to the program.
You also need to incorporate a lifestyle change with your diet program. Many people will begin diet programs and see a lot of great, immediate success with weight loss. They will drop the weight down to their goal size, exit the program, and gain all the weight back plus some extra before too long because they’ve learned to follow a regimen rather than learning healthier eating habits.
It is important to avoid rapid weight loss when possible and focus on gradual results. A healthy amount of weekly weight loss will be somewhere between 1 to 4 pounds depending on your current weight and muscle mass. Often, it takes a while to see results. Changes will generally occur within a month of beginning your weight loss program, however, it is important to balance your consumption and work on developing habits that can be sustained over long periods.
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