Winning Your Losing Battle: The Top Diets Compared

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This article was written by Karen Sjoblom for Adaptu.com.

As if dropping pounds isn’t difficult enough, we consumers get to choose from a plethora of diet options as well.

While some don’t deserve a second look (Tapeworm Diet, anyone?), there is a handful with solid track records. So how to choose? Here are the pros, cons, and stats for some of the top diets…

Diet Pros Cons Annual Cost
Jenny Craig Simple, accountable. 1:1 support Not much wiggle room for special events/not great if you like to cook $359
Weight Watchers No food considered “off limits,” weekly group support, e-tools Must keep track of everything you eat $519 (based on $43.25/month)
Slim-Fast Fast weight loss, products easily available Limited options, high fiber content can also cause bloating $1,387 + additional food (based on three $0.60 snacks/day & two $1 meal bars/day)
Atkins Ease in shopping, no calorie-counting, fast results Takes lifestyle change to keep up long-term Cost of food (expect more than usual due to emphasis on protein over carbs)

Jenny Craig (estimated annual membership cost: $359) recently won accolades as being the top diet in the U.S. according to Consumer Reports, earning 85 out of 100 points. Prepackaged, portion-controlled, nutritionally balanced and microwavable meals are supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables for a total of three meals and one snack daily. Participants also receive 1:1 support in Jenny’s centers. One woman who found success locally on the Jenny Craig system chalked it up to simple portion control and accountability. The Journal of the American Medical Association estimated the cost of an annual membership to be $359.

If you like to cook, and/or need to cook for other family members, this might not be the program for you. There’s also not much wiggle room in terms of accommodating special events into your lifestyle and staying on plan.

Weight Watchers (monthly cost: $43.25), originating in the 1960s and third on the Consumer Reports listing, has a long track record of applying scientific research into its programs. Its popular PointsPlus program assigns a numeric value to foods, with nothing considered “off limits”. Participants are allowed a certain number of points daily (calculated upon their current weight) with some wiggle room available throughout the week for special occasions, and enjoy group support in the form of weekly meetings. People following Weight Watchers with the greatest long-term success tout its flexibility, the ability to eat/cook “real” food (versus prepackaged), and the group support and accountability. A monthly pass for $43.25 also affords free registration, unlimited meetings, and free e-tools for weight management.

Carb lovers will be disappointed in that their Points don’t go as far as they used to now that there’s a greater WW emphasis on lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Also, journaling your food is a must, as “no off-limits foods” can easily get out of hand.

Slim-Fast (estimated annual cost: $1,387) boasts faster weight loss with a plan of three 100-calorie snacks, two Slim-Fast shakes or meal bars, and one 500-calorie balanced meal daily. Ranking No. 2 in Consumer Reports, Slim-Fast is easily accessible, with most products offered at local supermarkets, and easy to follow with little to no measuring or counting. That said, dieters go at it (mostly) alone on Slim-Fast, although its site offers online connections to discuss and compare weight loss, goals, challenges, and successes. Prices vary, but Amazon.com offers both ready-to-drink shakes and meal bars at around $1 each, and snack bars at about 60 cents each (excluding shipping).

Slim-Fast has limited options, so the product isn’t well-suited for long-term adherence. Also, the high fiber content, designed to help dieters feel full, can also cause bloating and queasiness in some.

The Atkins Diet has gotten a little more respect as more and more scientific studies suggest that high-protein, low-carb diets can be healthful. Atkins focuses on lean proteins and vegetables as its mainstays, eventually moving dieters toward nuts, fruits, and, eventually, limited starchy carbohydrates. Benefits include ease in shopping and food prep, numerous choices, and lack of calorie-counting or measuring. Cost is simply the expense of your regular supermarket foods; however, expect to spend more due to the greater emphasis on protein in your meals. The Atkins site also offers online support.

The Atkins Diet touts quick initial weight loss. However, the plan takes some real lifestyle changes and imagination to follow it long-term. It’s not easy to continually avoid breads, pastas, crackers, rice, etc., and one has to be dedicated to cooking creatively to stay motivated.

As with any diet, however, the usual disclaimer applies: Your mileage may vary. So much of dieting success depends not on the body, but on the mind. No matter how much you spend, if you’re not ready to lose weight, it’s likely you won’t stick with any plan for long. Conversely, if you’re truly ready to make lifestyle changes, you’ll likely find success no matter which (if any) “diet plan” you choose.

For more tips on saving money this holiday season, visit Adaptu.com, and follow Adaptu on Twitter.

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