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Why You Should Think Twice Before Signing Up for That Weight-Loss Program

posted: 04/20/15
by: Mara Betsch
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There's no magic bullet for weight loss.
Photo by Alan Cleaver

Bathing suit season is upon us, which may have you peering down at the scale and promptly signing up for a new weight-loss program. But when it comes to weight loss, throwing money at the problem won't help you shed extra pounds. Even though Americans spend billions of dollars (that's right BILLIONS) on frozen meals, low-fat shakes and empty promises, it turns out this isn't always money well spent.

A recent review of commercial weight-loss programs (aka Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and so many more) sought to find out if these plans helped with weight loss more than dieting by yourself. They found that 1. there aren't a lot of good studies (most were short or lacking a double-blind setup) and 2. the weight-loss programs provided modest results at best.

Unsurprisingly, some of the most popular programs showed the most promise. When compared to groups who received standard nutritional counseling, Weight Watchers participants had 2.6% greater weight loss after 12 months (aka, if the control group lost 10 pounds, Weight Watcher Members lost 10.26 pounds). Jenny Craig fared better, with 4.9% greater weight loss in 12 months compared to a control group. And though Kim Kardashian swore by Atkins when trying to lose weight post baby, the diet proved the most polarizing, with dieters seeing between .1% to 2.9% greater weight loss than counseling.

With most memberships coming in around $20 a month, plus food, the cost isn't insignificant. But as anyone who's dieted knows, every person is different, and what works for you may not work for your co-worker or your friend or even your sister. If these diets prove to be too expensive for you, there's no harm in stealing some of the components that make them successful, like social support, creating a structured meals plans, and tracking your progress.