Weight loss for most people is really a matter of learning to eat properly. Developing a weight loss plan can seem difficult, but it doesn't have to be. For many of us the closest we ever came to learning about proper eating was the food pyramid in 6th grade health class. The pyramid, which is questionable in its own-right, does little to teach someone how to eat. For example, two of the key blocks in the food pyramid are carbohydrates and dairy, however the pyramid does not distinguish between good carbs and bad carbs or low-fat and high-fat dairy. Failing to make these distinctions could lead someone with, the best of intentions, into a life of obesity and heart disease. Over time most people will begin putting on weight and eventually reach a point where they decide they want or need to lose it. Enter the four letter word "DIET". There are numerous diet fads out there, but any weight loss plan needs to be sustainable or you will likely give-up and rebound (sound familiar?). Diets based around dramatic restrictions of essential nutrients, be it carbohydrates, fats, or proteins are not sustainable. You will lose weight for sure. The likelihood of maintaining the weight loss is extremely low, and health risks of starving your body of essential nutrients compiled with the likely yo-yo affect are borderline unethical.
To find a sustainable weight loss plan, you need a plan that teaches you to eat properly, both from a portion size and ingredient perspective. Eating to much of the right foods is not good either. You can (and should) study calories, nutrients, measure, and journal to eat properly. The problem is for most, by the time they realize they need help (e.g., best friends wedding is in four months), there is no time to begin an educational journey in healthy eating. Moreover, doing it on your own can be difficult and time-consuming. Fortunately there are true weight loss plans that can both help you lose weight and teach you how to eat properly. The idea being that with some structure in the beginning you move towards your goal while you learn the significance of controlled portions and healthy choices.
Of the diet plans I have reviewed the top three weight loss plans, in my opinion, are:
Weight Watchers The Biggest Loser Jenny Craig
Weight Watchers is a point based diet that gives you the flexibility to eat whatever you want, while teaching you the importance of portion, calories, and nutrients. The program offers point values for more than 40,000 foods. After enrolling a member is given a point limit that they must maintain over the course of each week. Making smart choices allows you to eat more food. This subconscious reward system quickly trains your brain to think about your diet from a broader perspective (e.g., I am going out tomorrow so I will skip desert and just drink water today). There is a cost to join which ranges from a monthly pass $39.95 (with unlimited meetings for support and access to e-tools) to a pay as you go for $12 per meeting. There are other options as well and recipe books that make sticking to the plan and enjoying your food very simple. I have personally used Weight Watchers and found it to be extremely effective. I followed the plan to support my wife after she had our first child. I was never hungry and was amazed to learn how much I was over-eating. I also enjoyed learning all the possible substitutions for high-calorie foods that still tasted as good or better. My goal was to increase definition without losing muscle and it worked. If I was still personal training I would require all of my clients to follow this program as well.
The Biggest Loser plan is based around the reality show of the same name. I like this program because it is based on the idea of eating healthy and exercising regularly. This is not just good advice for a weight loss plan, it is good advice for living healthy. To follow the program you need to pick up a Biggest Loser book and follow the guidelines. It is primarily a balanced approach to eating that focuses on more vegetables and fruits. It is a less structured program then Weight Watchers, but there is no membership fee. As long as you have the discipline you can't go wrong with this approach and the stronger emphasis on exercise makes it a great lifestyle plan that you can enjoy long after reaching your weight loss goals.
Jenny Craig is a prepackaged plan with support groups and one-on-one counseling. I am not a big advocate of the prepackaged plans (I like to see what goes in my food and they tend to be costly). I also question whether they are sustainable if you ever decide to stop buying the meals as you haven't really played in active role in your food preparation. That said, for those that are not into or don't have time to cook and the alternatives would be eating out or other frozen meals, this is definitely the way to go. You do get a personalized meal and exercise plan. As I said, the tend to be expensive, and this is no exception. The registration fee can exceed $400 (you get half back if you are within 5 pounds of your goal weight after one year) and $100 per week for the meals.
All three of these plans can work. Of course it will take commitment on your part. They are not miracle plans but the advantages of learning how to eat properly and their emphasis on exercise can set you up to lose weight and keep it off, while improving your overall health. The most important thing to remember is that "dieting" is a four letter word, DIET is a lifestyle, Live FIt, Be Fit...