Information On Different Weight Loss Programs

Here are four of the best weight-loss programs. Choose the one that best fits your personality and lifestyle.

Fad diets abound. It has become a sort of "flavor of the month" for the weight and fitness-conscious, with plans ranging from no fat and no meat to high-protein and low carbohydrates. A common problem is that some plans focus on a very distinct foods, food groups or types of eating. That means balance is not always the order of the day, and exercise may be ignored entirely in some plans. Worst of all are companies that claim a pill or herb will burn your calories without you having to lift a finger or change your eating habits.

If you want to lose weight and don't trust yourself to make the right choices, and you're not at a point where you need to have medical assistance in reaching your goals, choosing an established weight-loss plan might be a good idea. There are any number of choices out there, but in terms of the most visible, accessible and popular programs, it pretty much comes down to Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig and eDiets. They vary in their approach. For some, you buy your food at the store like you always have, but according to new rules. Some have their own line of food and expect you to buy that instead of store-bought items. Also, some plans focus on regular attendance of meetings, while others may be more self-directed.

Weight Watchers

Traditionally, Weight Watchers has been based on a "point system." You purchase books that help you determine the point value of certain foods you buy in the store or at chain restaurants, and you aim to stay below a certain number of points each week. So, if you want to consume high-point items like desserts and soda but are willing to balance that with lots of low- or no-point foods like vegetables and water, you can do so. If you engage in various levels of exercise, you can earn extra points in a week. Weight Watchers calls this the Flex Plan.

Recently, Weight Watchers added a Core Plan, which doesn't involve point-counting but instead focuses your eating on a group of foods that Weight Watchers says will provide eating satisfaction, are wholesome, won't trigger overeating and provide nutrition from all the food groups.

You attend meetings at a local Weight Watchers center to talk about progress with others in the program and to get weighed in. There are products (including desserts, snacks and other foods) that you can buy from them, but the focus is on you learning how to purchase the right foods for you to lose weight.



NutriSystem

This program has four main options: a women's plan, men's plan, type II diabetes plan and a vegetarian plan. Overall, NutriSystem's Nourish meal plans feature foods that are on the low glycemic index and provide optimal amounts of protein. The goal is to keep blood sugar levels stable and bolster metabolism in order to burn off fat. The plans call for eating five times a day and eating "perfect portions" with every meal.

Membership itself is free, but you order your food directly from the program, either online or over the phone. Those foods, from entrees to desserts, are then delivered to your home or office. Although the programs are very self-directed and there are no meetings or weigh-ins to attend, participants can consult with weight-loss counselors via phone or online if they so desire. Because foods are pre-packaged, there is less flexibility than in some other plans, but for people who don't want to have to think about portions, points, calories and other specifics, that might be a very positive thing.

Jenny Craig

This weight-loss plan provides two ways to plan your weekly menus. For people who feel they need structure to succeed, Jenny Craig has preplanned menus. The other option is a customizing plan that allows you to design your own menu based on the foods you prefer or those that fit best into your budget.

Jenny Craig also encourages participants to gradually add activity to their daily routines, based on their personal lifestyles and interests. Programs include walking audiocassettes and other tools designed to encourage users to try out various cardiovascular, respiratory, resistance and stretching activities.

The program includes weekly one-on-one guidance and support sessions with a counselor, which is intended both to keep participants motivated and to help them identify tools that will help them succeed. For example, Jenny Craig recommends keeping a journal to track daily food and water intake, physical activity and stress management.

eDiets

In the age of e-mail, instant messaging and the Internet, why not have weight loss online, too? Working on the concept that there is no one "right" diet for everyone, eDiets aims to provide personalized diet plans.

Online at eDiets.com, you can generate a diet profile and choose from a wide range of customized services. Participants can learn about popular diet plans and choose which one is best-suited to them.

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