Americans spend more than $60 billion dollars each year on weight loss products, a number that may not be surprising considering about 70 percent of those living in the United States are overweight or obese.
Whether they want to lose weight to be healthier or more confident, weight loss programs help all types of people lose weight by offering everything from in-person coaching to online support and everything in between. 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 1872 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 116 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 34 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 366 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 166 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 91 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 81 Reviews|
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|
What features matter most?
Individual foods allowed on diet
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: Am I going to enjoy this food or will it feel like a “diet” food that I won’t be able to eat long-term?
- Accessibility to foods: Will this food fit into my budget and be relatively easy to find at grocery stores?
- Food allergies: Is this a potentially allergenic or reactive food, particularly if I eat it frequently? (e.g. Soy, Dairy, Eggs, Gluten)
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 shakes 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: Am I okay with prepackaged meals and/or shakes or do I need “real” meals?
- Lifestyle fit: Can I feasibly do this plan with my lifestyle? Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work.
- Caloric intake: Will the meal keep me full considering my metabolic requirements? Some meals might be too low in calories for athletes and other active folks.
Cost and budget
Be wary of “initial cost” advertisements and initiation fees. Most diets have hidden costs and other fees that can make some plans become pricey. Set an approximate budget and ask questions (most plans have customer service) before you commit to a plan.
- Price: How much am I willing to spend a month on this plan?
- Level: Do I need the basics or a more comprehensive plan? (Many plans offer multiple options)
- Monthly costs: What is the overall cost I will be spending a month for this program? Many programs include initiation fees, food fees, etc. while others require you to buy expensive foods and/or supplements. Consider the “big picture” rather than the initial price they mention.
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/need?
- Counseling: Do I need a supportive diet-related community to succeed on this program? (Some people prefer to go it alone or involve their friends or family rather than a forum)
- Type of support: Do I succeed better with in-person or online support?
- Community demographics: What is the demographic of this program’s community? If you’re a college male and the community is middle-aged women you might feel out of place.
Exercise and other lifestyle factors for fat loss
Some plans focus entirely on diet, while others incorporate exercise and lifestyle strategies as part of their fat-loss plan.
- Fitness requirements: Does this plan include an exercise plan, and if so, am I able and willing to do it?
- Lifestyle changes: Does this plan emphasize quality sleep, stress control, and other tools that contribute to fat loss?
- Personal preferences: Am I able to enjoy this diet or will it feel cumbersome and miserable? Remember that pleasure is a nutrient!
Maintaining fat loss is just as important as losing it. Does a plan provide the tools and strategies you need to stay lean for the long haul?
- Weight loss maintenance: Does this program offer a long-term maintenance plan for permanent fat loss?
- Ability to continue plan: If it does, am I realistically able to stick with this plan for the rest of my life?
- 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
Meal delivery services
Delivers meals or meal ingredients to your home
Where you would do everything from the comfort of your own home, including group interaction as well as receive support and accountability
Shake supplement programs
You incorporate shakes, bars, and other meal replacements
Typically offers a supplement, powder, or other ingredient that blocks fat, carbs, etc. or promotes satiation
You choose among many different diet plans and formulate 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
Very busy, successful middle-aged women and men who have put on weight in recent years and want to get back into their “skinny jeans”
College students and 20-somethings who have always been able to eat what they want and burn it off, but as they get older find those calories are landing around their midsection (e.g., the Freshman 15)
Older men and women
Older men or women who have gone through andropause or menopause and are struggling with excess weight
A former athlete or jock who has gained weight and wants to become lean and muscular as he ages
A new mom who wants to burn off the baby fat
Dieters on a budget
Individuals looking to lose pounds and inches off their waistline, not their wallets.
Kids and teens
Overweight/obese kids or adolescents who, with parental supervision, need a sensible plan to lose fat
Dieters with food sensitivities
Whether allergic to soy, gluten, dairy or any other ingredients, these dieters want to lose weight, but may have stricter dietary requirements than others.
What do the experts have to say?
In 1999, Nutrisystem moved from brick-and-mortar centers to Internet and mail order. You can find their products on QVC and Costco, and Kroger sells their “Everyday” breakfast and snack lines. Recently Walmart began carrying a five-day Nutrisystem “Jumpstart” line. Addressing different demographics for fat loss is good, but this is simply a low-calorie diet filled with some potentially problematic foods for people with certain food sensitivities.What consumers say
Nutrisystem gets generally good grades from ConsumerAffairs readers. Claire of Palmerton, Pa., reported losing 40 pounds in seven months while Jim of Hiawatha, Ia., dropped 44 pounds in seven months. Read more consumer reviews here. 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. Looking beyond the “one size fits all” plan, Nutrisystem would 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.
- 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.
- Processed foods: Many of the foods they sell are processed and might be too high in sugar for some people. Even though sugar content is fairly low, remember that ALL carbohydrate breaks down to sugar in your body.
- Carbs: Because Nutrisystem allows 6 meals a day, a person’s insulin levels might stay high which could prevent fat loss. This could negatively affect anyone prone to sugar/carb cravings or someone with any degree of insulin resistance such as the elderly or new moms who struggled with gestational diabetes.
- 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 with Coumadin (warfarin) and people with gluten intolerance.Medifast certainly sounds doctor-endorsed, and though they provide a variety of studies to support their meal plans, recently government agencies sued because their 5 & 1 Plan low-calorie diet claimed could "lose up to 2-5 pounds per week,” yet Medifast couldn't provide scientific evidence to support that claim. The key principle for Medifast are their over 70 meal replacements, which include macaroni and cheese, brownie soft bake and Dutch chocolate shake.
- No guesswork: You’ve got everything laid out for you. As they say, enjoy “five of our specially formulated meals and one Lean & Green™ Meal of your own.” This takes the guesswork out of losing fat, which is perfect for those who don't have the time or interest to maintain a complicated plan.
- Three phases: Medifast provides 3 phases – weight loss, transition, and maintenance – to make fat loss permanent. Many diets neglect the maintenance phase, which is crucial for lasting fat loss, making this a very well-planned diet.
- Variety: Medifast actually provides 5 plans to benefit a variety of people including plans specifically for nursing mothers and one just for teens. Dieters can choose among 70 low-glycemic meals. Boredom is a key factor many people fail at fat loss, so food 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, college students, new moms and busy adults.
A multi-level marketing (MLM) company, Herbalife markets skincare and weight-loss products. Among these weight-loss products are a meal replacement shake and a “Formula 1 Express Meal Bar.” They offer 3 programs for fat loss: Quick Start, Advanced, and Ultimate. The Quick Start contains Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix, Formula 2 Multivitamin Complex, Formula 3 Cell Activator®, and Herbal Tea Concentrate.
- 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. In 2009 “Slim-Fast simplified its product line with the "3-2-1" diet plan. The plan emphasized three 100-calorie snacks, two 200-calorie meal replacements (shakes or meal bars) and one dinner.”
- 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 a group-meeting weight loss program to strategic plans for different demographics and an online option. Weight Watchers' approach is to assist members in losing weight by forming helpful habits, eating smarter, getting more exercise and providing support. The latest evolution is Weight Watchers 360, which combines their PointsPlus® system with the latest digital devices to enhance accountability, compliance, and success.
- Best for New moms, college students, busy adults, kids and teens, older men, older women and former athletes.
The Jenny Craig system combines nutrition and physical activity with counseling, to help clients change lifestyle and eating habits. The goal of the program is that once clients reach their desired weight levels, they no longer need to rely on the program's prepackaged food, planned menus, or consultations to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Jenny Craig offers weight loss programs tailored to women, men, people with diabetes and seniors. The MyDays plan combines 5 days of delicious Jenny's Cuisine® with 2 days of your own healthy food choices.
- Best for College students, new moms, busy adults, kids and teens 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 enhances food's scents and tricks your brain to make you feel full faster (Hirsch calls this “sensory-specific satiety.”). While Sensa doesn't require you to restrict any food, they now offer a Sensa Skinny in Six Kit: “the SENSA® Skinny in Six Kit features the SENSA® 6-Month Weight-Loss System, a complete 6-Month supply of SENSA® doctor-formulated to help you lose weight as well as SENSA® QUENCH Orange Crush, an energy-packed vitamin mix to help support a healthy metabolism.”
- Best for Dieters on a budget.
“Simply replace your current breakfast and lunch with our easy-to-make smoothies,” says the website, “and you can expect to lose up to 18 pounds in 12 weeks.” Right Size Smoothies are specially formulated to curb appetite and provide optimal nutrients so you burn fat fast.
- 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 plans like the Glycemic Impact Plan, Vegetarian Plan, and New Mediterranean Diet.
- Best for Dieters with food sensitivities, kids and teens and former athletes.
Look at 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.
A few recent stories:
Sometimes politeness can backfire
Another possible factor in modern obesity rates
Reputable research studies suggest it does
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 – 14 Most Reviewed Weight Loss Programs
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 55 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|