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.
Top 10 Most Reviewed Weight Loss Programs
Nutrisystem has been a weight loss company for more than 35 years. Based upon a food delivery system, Nutrisystem allows people to choose pre-crafted meal plans, as well as have access to counselors and dietitians.
|Read 2002 Reviews|
Medifast, founded in 1980, offers consumers a trusted weight loss program developed by a physician. The company, headquartered in Owings Mills, Maryland, offers customers more than 70 meal replacement options.
|Read 152 Reviews|
Beachbody is a weight loss company that was founded in Santa Monica, California in 1998. The company offers an array of weight loss products and programs, including popular fitness plans P90x and Insanity.
|Read 83 Reviews|
Founded in 2012 in Texas, Personal Trainer Food is a meal delivery service specializing in nutritionally optimal foods for weight loss. The company cooks, freezes, and ships meals to clients and provides diet coaching services.
|Read 15 Reviews|
Weight Watchers is one of America's oldest operating weight loss companies. Founded in the early 1960s, the company offers a full-service weight loss program, including diet advice, support and weight loss education.
|Read 385 Reviews|
LA Weight Loss, founded in 1989, is a company dedicated to weight loss solutions. The company provides a three phase weight loss program, including a weight loss plan, a stabilization plan and a maintenance plan.
|Read 266 Reviews|
Herbalife is a nutrition company founded in 1980 that serves customers in 91 countries. Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, the company sells nutrition and weight loss products, as well as a skin care line.
|Read 170 Reviews|
Jenny Craig is a weight loss company headquartered in Carlsbad, CA. It was founded in 1983 by Jenny Craig and her husband. There are more than 700 centers, and it offers clients weight loss consultants, diet advice and more.
|Read 93 Reviews|
Provida Life Sciences is a weight loss company that was founded in 2000. The company offers a wide range of weight loss and nutrition products, as well as educational information and online support for clients.
|Read 84 Reviews|
BioSlim began as a weight loss program at a physician's office in 1990. Today, the company offers a range of weight loss programs and products, including a weight loss program intended for youth participants.
|Read 82 Reviews|
What features matter most?
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.
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.
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.
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?
What are different 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.
Some weight loss programs rely on Internet-based forums or communities or mobile applications for meal planning, counseling and/or group interaction and support.
Some weight loss programs rely primarily on meal-replacement products such as shakes, bars or other snacks.
Some programs primarily market a dietary supplement, powder or other ingredient designed to block fat or promote feelings of fullness instead of hunger.
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's it for?
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.
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.
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 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.
What do the experts have to say?
Nutrisystem was founded over 40 years ago and is today a leader in the weight loss industry. In 1999, Nutrisystem moved from brick-and-mortar centers to primarily Internet and mail order. You can also find their products on QVC, at Costco and at several major grocers and mass retailers like Kroger and Walmart. This low-calorie diet plan features over 150 different food options available as part of several different diet plans, with either pre-selected menus or customized options. Customers can benefit from an online health tracking platform and individualized counseling from dieticians and weight loss coaches.What consumers say
Nutrisystem gets generally good grades from ConsumerAffairs readers. Claire of Palmerton, Pennsylvania, reported losing 40 pounds in seven months while Jim of Hiawatha, Iowa, dropped 44 pounds in seven months. A few years ago, ConsumerAffairs reporter Joe Enoch tried Nutrisystem and lost 13 pounds in 28 days.
- Separate plans: Nutrisystem offers separate plans for men and women, with different options and price points customized to your weight loss goals. Because it is not a “one size fits all” plan, Nutrisystem could work well for anyone on the go who demands fast, satisfying meals for weight loss.
- A diabetes plan: With meals containing 12 grams or less of sugar, Nutrisystem takes the guesswork out of choosing optimal low-glycemic foods to stabilize blood sugar -- which could be good for people with any degree of insulin resistance.
- Convenience: Any busy person who does not have time to prepare their own meals would benefit from having frozen and other pre-packaged meals and snacks delivered to their home. Nutrisystem will ship all the food you need to your doorstep, with free shipping included.
- Transition and maintenance plan: This program provides long-term fat loss success rather than just focusing on initial weight loss, which is important for those who need to establish lifelong healthy habits.
- Vegetarian options: While all of the meals offered by Nutrisystem are designed to comply with the USDA's recommendations for a nutritious diet, those who want to stick to a vegetarian diet can especially benefit from Nutrisystem. You can avoid all animal products and still lose weight with Nutrisystem, with over 90 vegetarian options.
- Frequent meals: Many people fail at diets because their bodies crave snacks to maintain their blood sugar levels throughout the day. Because Nutrisystem allows 6 meals a day, you can avoid a dip in your blood sugar that could lead to cravings. By eating smaller portions, you can eat more frequently and still reach your weight loss goals.
- Best for college students, busy adults and new moms.
Developed by a physician, Medifast takes the guesswork and planning out of dieting by providing full meal plans for adults, teens and those with special dietary needs. Medifast offers over 70 meal replacements for consumers to choose from, including macaroni and cheese, brownie soft bake and Dutch chocolate shake. Their special needs meal plans can be customized for diabetes patients, nursing moms, those with gout, teenagers, seniors, vegetarians, those on Coumadin (warfarin) and people with gluten intolerance.
The Medifast plan consists of 4 Medifast Meals, 2 lean and green meals and one healthy snack per day, which can be eaten in any order throughout the day. The Medifast Meals are portion controlled items like a Caramel Crunch Bar, Cinnamon Pretzel Sticks, or Calorie Burn Cappuchino purchased through their website. The rest of the meal plan is purchased separately by the consumer: the lean and green meal is a salad made of a 5 to 7 ounce portion of protein such as fish, turkey or eggs combined with three servings of vegetables, while the snack is a healthy option purchased from the grocery store or through Medifast.
- No guesswork: You’ve got everything laid out for you. The meal plan takes the guesswork out of losing fat, ensuring that you stay within your daily calorie range without having to do any calculations of your own. This can be ideal for those who don't have the time or interest to maintain a complicated plan.
- Weight loss and maintenance phases: While many diet plans help you lose weight, Medifast goes a step further with its Thrive Healthy Living Plan, which is designed to help you maintain your healthy lifestyle and keep the weight off permanently. On this plan, you can purchase "Thrive Healthy Fuelings" which are similar to Medifast Meals but higher in protein and fiber to help you maintain instead of lose weight. On the Thrive plan, you are also able to add one sensible meal to your daily dietary plan.
- Variety: Dieters can choose among 70 low-glycemic meals. Since many people fail at diets because they become bored with their food options, having choice and variety is crucial, especially if you easily become bored with meal plans. Medifast has a plan that fits any busy person who wants to attain fat loss.
- 30-day money back guarantee: Consumers who are not satisfied with their Medifast food or blenders are eligible for a refund within 30 days of their first shipment. Any promotional and/or free items that were sent with your blender or perishable contents are yours to keep.
- Best for teens with diet-related health concerns, college students, new moms and busy adults.
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.
- Protein-based diet: The Personal Trainer Food diet plan includes only meat, vegetables, eggs, cheese and nuts and does not include processed fillers like rice or noodles. Protein helps you feel fuller longer, so that your hunger doesn’t sabotage your weight loss goals.
- No additional shopping: Most diet plans require you to prepare or purchase a snack or meal each day, which increases the cost of your diet and requires a trip to the store. While you can choose a smaller plan if you prefer to prepare some of your own food, the complete Personal Trainer Food plan provides all the food you need, so you don’t have to supplement your diet with other purchases from the grocery store.
- Choice of plans: Personal Trainer Food offers several meal delivery plans to meet your needs and budget. You can choose between a 14-day subscription that automatically renews, or a 28-day plan that does not automatically renew. You can also customize your plan and menu. You can choose whether to receive two meals a day or three meals a day and can select all of your menu options. All programs come with free Weight Loss Coaching.
- Freshly prepared: Your meals arrive to you freshly prepared and flash-frozen to preserve nutrients and flavor. Personal Trainer Food uses a proprietary cooler to ship all your food, so you don’t have to worry about spoilage or damage during shipping.
- Free shipping: Personal Trainer Food ships your meals to you via FedEx and does not charge for shipping, even for Saturday deliveries. You’ll receive shipment tracking information and updates to ensure you receive your delivery on time.
- Reliable weight loss: The Personal Trainer Food plan provides all the food you need, and because it is portion- and calorie-controlled, you can expect to lose an average of 2-6 pounds every week on this plan.
- Best for dieters who don’t want to count calories, those who don’t have time to prepare their own meals and meat-lovers.
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. These products are marketed in categories including weight management, targetted nutrition, and energy and fitness. To purchase Herbalife products, customers must contact an independent sales representative, called a distributor; you can find a distributor near you through the Herbalife website.
- Best for new moms, former athletes, busy adults and college students.
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. Slim-Fast uses a "3-2-1" diet plan to help you remember your daily dietary requirements: each day on the program you can consume three 100-calorie snacks; two 200-calorie meal replacement products including shakes, smoothies or meal bars; and one 500-calorie dinner of your choice.
- Best for teens, college students, busy adults, dieters on a budget, older men and older women.
Founded 50 years ago, Weight Watchers has evolved from solely a group-meeting weight loss program to strategic plans for different demographics and an online option. Weight Watchers assists members in losing weight by forming helpful habits, eating smarter, getting more exercise and providing support. Consumers looking for a budget-friendly option can simply purchase Weight Watchers brand food products at their grocery store or mass retailer and follow the plan's basic diet, which is available online. Those who want more support can join the program, which offers individuals plans including options like a smartphone-based app for tracking food and activities, in-person weekly support meetings, online community support and one-on-one coaching via text messaging or telephone.
- Best for new moms, college students, busy adults, teens, older men, older women and former athletes.
The Jenny Craig system combines nutrition and physical activity with counseling, to help clients change both their lifestyles and eating habits. Unlike some programs, the goal of Jenny Craig is for clients to reach their desired weight levels and no longer be reliant on the program's prepackaged foods, planned menus, or consultations to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Jenny Craig offers weight loss programs tailored to women, men, people with diabetes and seniors. To use Jenny Craig's system, clients pay a monthly fee to be assigned a personal consultant to help them create a personalized weight loss plan. Clients then purchase pre-packaged food items from over 100 menu options, eating five Jenny Craig meals or snacks a day and one snack from a list of approved options. The meals can be purchased at local Jenny Craig retail centers or online. The program guarantees results.
- Best for college students, new moms, busy adults and former athletes.
Neurologist Alan Hirsch created this crystallized product that you sprinkle onto food. According to Sensa, its blend of maltodextrin, tricalcium phosphate, silica and flavoring enhanced food's scents and tricked your brain to make you feel full faster (Hirsch called this “sensory-specific satiety”). Sensa didn't require you to restrict any food. The company ceased operations in 2014.
- Best for dieters on a budget.
Right Size markets weight loss bars and smoothies that are specially formulated to curb appetite and provide optimal nutrients so you burn fat fast. Each smoothie or bar is intended to replace one meal, and the company recommends replacing breakfast and lunch and eating a sensible dinner of your choice. You can purchase Right Size protein bars in quantities of 30 to last one month, and the protein shakes are available in 16 or 32 ounce sizes in chocolate or vanilla.
- Best for college students, new moms, busy adults, former athletes and dieters on a budget.
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. For a monthly fee, the Vitabot Plan allows you to create a personal profile and weight loss goals, then use their online database to create a meal plan and shopping list. The fully integrated mobile app makes it easy to track your progress, and can even be integrated with your FitBit activity tracker. The Nutrihand Plan takes a bit of the guesswork out of the process by suggesting top diet plans instead of asking you to choose your own meals weekly. Diet options with eDiet are vegetarian- and diabetes-friendly and tailored to your individual needs.
- Best for those who want a customized diet plan, dieters with food sensitivities, teens and former athletes.
Think of finding the right diet as akin to going on a long road trip. The more tools and guidance you have on your journey, the smoother your trip will be. Losing weight is a journey, not a destination, and along the way you'll learn a lot about yourself. Everyone wants to get there now, but what you'll discover along the way can ultimately be more fulfilling, rewarding, and even enjoyable. Finding the right weight-loss plan takes work and investment, and I hope I've helped simplify the process somewhat.
Don't become overwhelmed with the initial hype. Really consider whether you can maintain a plan and if it provides the tools and strategies you require for long-term success. Can you realistically eat this way for the rest of your life? Does the plan include other strategies – exercise, sleep, stress control, etc. – that complement long-term success? Once you've found the right plan, commit to it. What you put into it, you'll get back. Very best wishes as you begin your fat-loss journey.
Expert grades are based on multiple variables within each program including convenience, food accessibility, effectiveness, awareness of potential food intolerances, practicality, and how much science and research substantiated each particular plan.
More Information about Weight Loss Programs from ConsumerAffairs
Weight loss is one of those topics that is constantly discussed, with everyone from scientists to hucksters to everyday consumers offering opinions, findings and claims. You’ll find hundreds of stories warning you away from scams and questionable programs and presenting the latest research findings in the ConsumerAffairs Weight Loss News section.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
11 – 15 Most Reviewed Weight Loss Programs
Right Size Smoothies is a company that makes healthy smoothies intended to aid in weight loss. The company, headquartered in Lake Zurich, Illinois, promotes the replacement of two meals per day for weight loss benefits.
|Read 66 Reviews|
Slim Fast is a popular weight loss company that provides meal replacement products to aid customers in their long-term weight loss goals. The company, founded in 1977, is headquartered in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
|Read 59 Reviews|
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.
|Read 10 Reviews|
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.
|Read 8 Reviews|
|Out of Business||Read 148 Reviews|