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Best Weight Loss Programs

Profile picture of JJ Virgin
by JJ Virgin Weight Loss Programs Contributing Editor

Americans spend more than $60 billion each year on weight loss products, a number that may not be surprising considering almost 70 percent of adults living in the United States are overweight or obese. Many Americans have turned to weight loss programs, branded diets and supplements to help them shed unwanted weight.

Whether they want to lose weight to be healthier or more confident, weight loss programs help all types of people lose weight by offering services like in-person coaching, full meal plans, prepackaged foods and online support. By considering the different programs, consumers can find the program that works with their lifestyle.

Compare Reviews for Top Weight Loss Programs

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Nutrisystem
Read 3198 Reviews

Promotes a 6-meals-a-day weight loss program with food to be eaten every 2-3 hours. Features 100-150 menu choices under 4 plans. Prices start at $10.18-$13.93/day. Also offers special sets for men and diabetics.

WW (Weight Watchers)
Read 1904 Reviews

Features 2 online weight loss program options that track your food and weight. Pricing starts at $3.30/week. Apps allow you to access 4,000 recipe choices, 24/7 advice and inspiration from a community that shares your interest.

Jenny Craig
Read 255 Reviews

Offers a meal plan that features over 100 healthy menu options and a dedicated consultant to provide support and encouragement. For an average price of $20/day, you’ll receive 3 meals and 2 snacks to eat every 2-3 hours.

Beachbody
Read 353 Reviews

Offers fitness, weight loss and nutrition programs. On Demand membership starts at $8.95/month, featuring low- and high-intensity workouts, yoga, martial arts and dance exercises. The performance sampler kit is $19.95.

Personal Trainer Food
Read 117 Reviews

Features weight loss diet plans with home delivery for people on the go. Offers 3 nutritious restaurant-quality meal plans that cost between $16-$19/day. Orders come in 14- or 28-day orders, delivered every 2 or 4 weeks.

Herbalife
Read 205 Reviews

Features 4 healthy weight programs that incorporate the company’s weight management products. Plan prices range from $11.95 to $229.30. Also offers protein powders and protein-powered snack bars and beverage mixes.

BioSlim
Read 123 Reviews

Offers weight loss formulas for adults and kids to supplement the prescribed diet and exercise plans. Formulas contain all-natural ingredients with no harmful drugs. Prices start at $59.85 for complete kits and $12.50 for refills.

Medifast
Read 264 Reviews

Provides 2 weight loss meal plans with starting prices at $299 and $329. Plans include 3 protein-packed meals and 3 snacks to be eaten every 2-3 hours a day, with an optional plan for healthy smoothies, shakes and bars.

bistroMD
Read 22 Reviews

Features chef-prepared weight loss meal plans for men and women with options for a 5-day or 7-day program. Price range is $89.96-$134.96/week. Also includes selections for gluten-free, diabetic, menopause and senior diets.

Slim-Fast
Read 80 Reviews

Recommends a diet of 1 sensible meal, 2 meal replacement shakes, smoothies, bars or cookies and 3 100-calorie snacks per day. For best results, drink plenty of water and do 30 minutes of daily exercise. Price range is $4.96-76.49.

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What to look for when choosing a weight loss program?

Individual foods allowed on diet

Consider a diet's overall approach to food. What will you be eating every day? Is there much variety, or will you be eating the same foods frequently? If most (or even some) of the foods on a plan aren't enjoyable, within your budget, or readily available, you're going to find a particular plan hard to stick with. Ask yourself: realistically, could you eat the foods on this plan more or less for the rest of your life?

  • Preferred tastes: Think about whether the foods on a given diet are things that you generally enjoy. If you hate eating your greens, you might not like a diet filled with salads; but if you have a sweet tooth, a diet that substitutes milkshakes for meals might be more up your alley. Ask yourself whether you will enjoy the foods on a given diet, or if it will feel like a “diet” food that you won’t be able to stick with long-term.
  • Accessibility to foods: Some diet plans ship foods straight to your door, while others require you to shop for very particular ingredients. There are also a range of price points, with some diets costing substantially more than others. Consider whether the food allowed on a particular diet will fit into your budget and be relatively easy to find at grocery stores.
  • Food allergies and sensitivities: Many people have food allergies or sensitivities that could make a given diet difficult or impossible to follow. Consider whether the diet plan features potentially allergenic or reactive foods, particularly if you plan to eat the same foods daily.

Meal plans

Factor in time, convenience, and cost when determining whether a plan's meals will work for you. If you prefer home-cooked meals, packaged shakes and processed snacks aren't going to work for you; likewise, if a plan demands elaborate meals and you need convenience, you'll probably struggle with the plan.

  • Packaged meals: Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement bars, shakes, or other snack type foods. Still others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet. Ask yourself if you are okay with a bulk of your diet relying on prepackaged snacks, shakes, or frozen meals, or if you prefer the flexibility of cooking your own meals or eating out frequently.
  • Lifestyle fit: Think about how much time and planning goes into each weight loss program. Some people will find that meal planning and preparation takes too long to fit into their busy lifestyle, while others will have the time to commit to a more demanding plan. Figure out whether a plan is compatible with your lifestyle before committing. Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work.
  • Caloric intake: While it is true that less calories usually means more weight loss, some diet plans are strict and can leave you feeling hungry most of the time. Additionally, some people need more calories because of metabolic issues or high activity levels, and low-calorie plans might be insufficient. Think about whether a diet plan will keep you full.

Cost and budget

Every diet plan company has a different business model, and some require an upfront sign-up or initiation fee before you can begin the program. Some diet plans also have hidden costs and other fees that become pricey. Set an approximate monthly budget, then contact customer service to ask questions about price before you commit to a plan.

  • Budget: Ask yourself how much you are willing and able to spend a month on a weight loss plan. Factor in what you get for the cost; plans that provide your meals for you will be pricier but you may save money on grocery bills in the long run.
  • Level: Many plans offer multiple tiers of service or options customized to your preferences. Consider: Do you need the basics or a more comprehensive plan? You may be able to save money by opting out of the unnecessary features of more expensive plans.
  • Monthly costs: Many programs include initiation fees, food fees or counseling fees, while others require you to buy expensive foods and/or supplements. Consider the “big picture” rather than the initial price they mention.

Community interaction

It can be difficult to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle if you don't have adequate social support. Some weight loss programs offer in-person support group meetings, others offer one-on-one counseling via telephone or text messaging and still others use online message boards or forums to connect you with others using the plan.  Corresponding with like-minded people can make your fat-loss journey easier and more productive, but what level of accountability and interaction do you want or need? 

  • Counseling and community: Think about whether you need one-on-one guidance from an expert or a supportive diet-related community to succeed on a weight loss program. Some people prefer to go it alone or involve their friends or family rather than a forum, but others enjoy finding acceptance and encouragement from others who are using the same program.
  • Type of support: Every person has different needs when it comes to what motivates them to succeed. Think about how you have met other important goals, quit bad habits, or motivated yourself to change in the past. Would you be more likely to succeed using social media; in-person meetings with strangers or acquaintances; or expert counseling using text messaging, phone calls or email?
  • Community demographics: What is the demographic of this program’s community? If you’re a college male and the community is middle-aged women who meet in person, you might feel out of place. Think about whether you will fit in with the community and whether that matters to you personally.

Exercise and other lifestyle factors

Losing weight means using more calories than you take in, but whether this is accomplished soley through dietary changes or through a combination of diet and exercise will vary according to each diet plan's requirements. Some plans focus entirely on diet, while others incorporate exercise and lifestyle strategies as part of their fat-loss plan. 

  • Fitness requirements: Think about whether a diet plan has activity or exercise requirements, suggestions, or even the ability to track your daily exercise. If exercise is required, are you willing and able to do it? If it is optional, will the plan motivate you?
  • Lifestyle changes: Many people struggle with weight not only because of their eating and exercise habits, but because their lifestyles are stressful or exhausting, which makes losing weight more difficult. A plan that emphasizes quality sleep, stress control, and other tools that contribute to fat loss can help you lose the pounds and keep them off long term.
  • Personal preferences: Each weight loss program is different, and your personality, preferences and habits will impact whether or not a given plan will be right for you. Ask yourself whether you would find a plan's requirements enjoyable and sustainable, or if you would be miserable on it. Remember that pleasure is important for your success.

Long-term sustainability

While many plans emphasize quick upfront results, maintaining fat loss is just as important as losing it. Think about how the plan supports members after they've met their initial weight loss goals. Does a plan provide the tools and strategies you'll need to stay lean for the long haul?

  • Weight loss maintenance: Does this program offer a long-term maintenance plan for permanent fat loss? The program should have a specific plan in place, with specific suggestions, guidance and support.
  • Ability to continue plan: If it does, are you realistically able to stick with this plan for the rest of your life? Think about factors like price, time requirements for meal planning and preparation, satisfaction and flexibility with your lifestyle.
  • Ongoing fitness and support: Does the long-term plan provide an exercise plan, strategies to navigate specific obstacles, and other tools to enhance permanent fat loss?

Types of weight loss programs

In-person group meetings

These structured programs typically meet at a community center or brick-and-mortar business on a weekly or otherwise scheduled basis. Participants might engage in a group discussion, breakaway groups, or one-on-one sessions with other members or program counselors.

Meal delivery services

Some weight loss programs deliver meals or meal ingredients to your home, either as a part of a broader plan or as their primary service.

Online programs

Some weight loss programs rely on Internet-based forums or communities or mobile applications for meal planning, counseling and/or group interaction and support.

Meal-replacement programs

Some weight loss programs rely primarily on meal-replacement products such as shakes, bars or other snacks.

Supplement programs

Some programs primarily market a dietary supplement, powder or other ingredient designed to block fat or promote feelings of fullness instead of hunger.

Customizable plans

Some programs are flexible and allow you to choose among many different diet plans, formulating one that works for your needs and preferences. These often require more homework but provide a more custom fit than one-size-fits-all programs.

Who uses weight loss programs?

Busy adults

Most weight loss programs are designed with busy, successful middle-aged women and men in mind, especially those who have put on weight in recent years and want to get back into their “skinny jeans.” While women are often the target consumer for these products, more and more men are also turning to weight loss programs for support.

College students

Many college students and 20-somethings have always been able to eat what they want and burn it off. As they age, they may find calories landing around their midsection (e.g., the Freshman 15) and turn to weight loss programs to help them shed the unwanted weight.

Older men and women

Many older men or women who have gone through andropause or menopause begin to struggle with excess weight, and may find a weight loss program helpful.

Former athletes

Athletes at their prime must consume many more calories than the average person to be at peak performance, but as they age and become less active may find that their old eating habits are hard to break. Former athletes who have gained weight and want to become lean and muscular as they age may turn to weight loss programs for help getting on track.

New moms

New moms often struggle with shedding the excess pounds left over from pregnancy, and also have little discretionary time to spend on elaborate diet and meal plans. They may find a diet program helpful, especially one that saves time by taking the planning out of meals.

Dieters on a budget

Many individuals are looking to lose pounds and inches off their waistline, not their wallets. These customers may be looking for affordable weight loss plans to help them achieve their goals.

Kids and teens

While most kids and teens should avoid weight loss programs, some may need a well-defined dietary plan to lose excess fat and become healthier. Kids and teens should always be under the supervision of a physician before starting a weight loss program.

Dieters with food sensitivities

Whether allergic to soy, gluten, dairy or any other ingredients, some dieters want to lose weight, but may have stricter dietary requirements than others. These customers may benefit from pre-packaged meals and dietary programs that avoid certain ingredients.

Weight loss program expert reviews

Nutrisystem

Nutrisystem's low-calorie diet plans feature both pre-selected and customized menus with more than 150 pre-packaged food options. Customers can benefit from an online health tracking platform and individualized counseling from dieticians and weight loss coaches.

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Medifast

Developed by a physician, Medifast offers full meal plans for adults, teens and those with special dietary needs including diabetes patients, nursing moms, people with gout, vegetarians, people who take Coumadin (warfarin) and people with gluten intolerance.

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Personal Trainer Food

Founded in 2012 in Forth Worth, Texas, Personal Trainer Food is a meal delivery service specializing in nutritionally optimal foods for weight loss. Unlike other meal delivery plans, Personal Trainer Food provides all the food you need for a successful diet.

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Herbalife

Herbalife was founded in 1980 as a weight-management program and multi-level marketing (MLM) company. Herbalife specializes in meal-replacement shakes and bars, as well as dietary supplements, beverage mixes and skin and hair care products.

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Slim-Fast

Slim-Fast carries a line of nutrient-enriched bars, snacks, pre-packaged meals, protein powders, and dietary supplements. However, it is most known for its canned shakes that work as meal replacements.

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WW (Weight Watchers)

Lose weight by learning how to recognize and eat the right foods. Keep the weight off with the support of digital and in-person meetings along with personal coaching.  Members are losing 10 percent more weight with their newly revamped program than ever before.

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Jenny Craig

The Jenny Craig system combines nutrition and physical activity with counseling, to help clients change both their lifestyles and eating habits. The program guarantees results.

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eDiets.com

Customizable diet plans, expert support and a community forum are among the benefits of eDiets. Rather than a one-size-fits-all plan, eDiet allows you to choose from weight loss and wellness plan options which include the Vitabot Plan and the Nutrihand Plan.

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Compare Reviews for Top Weight Loss Programs

Provida Life Sciences
Read 85 Reviews

Features food and exercise programs for weight loss. The fat loss program involves eating anything with the proper proportions of proteins and fast and slow carbs. The food program costs $119.94. Workout DVDs are $29.94 each.

LA Weight Loss Center
Read 266 Reviews

Choose from 3 weight loss programs that include breakfast meals, meal replacements, properly portioned snack bars and dietary supplements. Prices start at $257.45 for a single option shipment. Monthly shipment is also an option.

eDiets.com
Read 10 Reviews Out of Business

eDiets is a weight loss company that helps clients develop effective weight loss programs on their own terms. The company was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Clearwater, FL.

Metabolife
Read 9 Reviews Out of Business

Metabolife is a dietary supplement company that was founded in the early 1990s. The company offers products to aid in weight loss, as well as educational information and resources for its customers.

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Profile picture of JJ Virgin
JJ Virgin Weight Loss Programs Contributing Editor

Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin is author of New York Times bestseller “The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days.” She is also the best-selling author of “Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy” as well as a prominent TV and print media personality.