The Battle of Your Bulges: Weight Loss Programs

Whether you’re truly overweight like me, or you just think you need to lose a couple of pounds, you’ve probably been sucked into the diet phenomenon at some point in your life. After all, you’ve seen the TV commercials, maybe read some reviews, or even known people who’ve lost a bunch of weight with one of the many weight loss programs. Or maybe, like me, you’ve tried one, two…or ten of them in an attempt to improve your health and your look. So what’s wrong, if anything, that a not-so-small percentage of customers complain about failing with them? Can you actually succeed long term with any of them?

Losing weight can be difficult, but weight loss programs aim to make it easier, at a cost. I review 3 popular programs, and what it takes to lose long term.

Hey Mr. and Mrs. America, You’re Fat!

As a country, America seems to have a real weight problem, greater now than ever before. You may be or may not be actually fat, but you are still often feeling the pressure of losing a few pounds because of health or the ever-present social pressure we all live with to be thin and look “good”. As if you can’t really look good with a little meat on your bones!

The health concerns are real though, and not addressing obesity early on can lead to some nasty, and expensive, diseases later on such as type 2 diabetes and all its complications. Believe me, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s in all our interests to find a healthy diet and exercise regimen that we can live with long term. But it can be a struggle.

Enter the Weight Loss Industry

Weight loss programs have been around since forever it seems with Weight Watchers being one of 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. And who can ever forget Richard Simmons and his TV show and videos like “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” Volume 1 through 1000! If you’re old enough, you may even remember Jane Fonda and her workout videos, too.

But they are not alone as weight loss has become a super competitive industry. According to Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., a leading independent market research firm, the industry had over $67 billion in sales in 2017. As you can imagine, a lot of those dollars come from repeat customers who did not keep their weight off.

In addition to Weight Watchers, some of the biggest diet programs you probably know of are Jillian Michaels, South Beach Diet, Dr. Oz Weight Loss, Nutrisystem, and of course, Jenny Craig. And these are just a few! There are also many companies who are simply marketing health care powders, pills, and exercise programs that don’t involve their own specific foods.

So it’s a given that the ongoing mental assault we see and hear every day will continue to make the weight loss industry grow and grow and will cause it to fatten up their pockets!

My Personal Weight Loss Experience(s)

One of my favorite quips is based on actual truth about my experience with Jenny Craig back in the 1980’s. I like to say this: yes, I went on the Jenny Craig program and I lost $300!

I may have lost a couple of pounds and kept them off for a few weeks, but I wasn’t really changing any of my habits after I finished shoveling out my money and collecting a few books and folders about doing just that. It was an experience all right, but I wasn’t really 100% committed; only my wallet was after signing the contract. I lost money and not pounds so hence the “joke”.

By the way, I have also been on Weight Watchers and other weight loss programs over the years and yes, I am still way overweight. It’s not that I can’t lose weight, I always do lose some. It’s that I can’t keep it off.

Ranking the Diets

The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets for U.S. News & World Report. Volumetrics came in second, and Jenny Craig was third on this weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in this ranking for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health. Keep in mind that for healthiest diets, the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet scored better.

Of course each program has its own pros and cons. Participation can be pricey, though often deemed worth it depending on your commitment and the results it potentially can produce.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers scores highest because you can eat what you want; no foods are off-limits and (trust me) that goes a long way to keeping you sticking to a diet. You literally have enough flexibility to shape your own diet.

The cost varies with promotions throughout the year and depending on whether you choose to attend weekly in-person meetings, work with a coach, use the online tools only, or all three. All new members pay a $20 starter fee and then select an offering that fits their needs such as their OnlinePlus program. It includes digital tools and a 24/7 chat service, which costs $19.95/month.

Meetings, which include access to OnlinePlus in addition to unlimited in-person meetings, cost $44.95/month. Or, if you don’t want a monthly meetings subscription, you can pay-as-you-go at $12 to $15 per week.

Personal Coaching, which includes one-on-one support with a coach and access to OnlinePlus digital tools, costs $54.95/month and Total Access (which includes OnlinePlus, Meetings and Personal Coaching) costs $69.95/month.

None of the costs include food, as there are no required food purchases on the program. Weight Watchers encourages members to choose the foods they want.


Volumetrics is all about getting more mileage out of what you eat. Some foods are less energy dense than others—that is, they have fewer calories per gram. Filling your plate with more of those means you’ll be eating fewer calories without actually eating less food. Low-density foods low in calories but high in volume help you feel full and satisfied while dropping pounds. Fruits and veggies are ideal and they’ll fill you up without breaking your calorie bank.

Volumetrics has no exotic ingredients required, so groceries shouldn’t cost more than they typically do. And there’s no membership fee. This diet’s individualized nature gives you financial wiggle room by making dinner from whatever produce is on sale, for example. You will, however, need “The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet” diet plan and cookbook which sells new in hardcover at Amazon for under $30.

You won’t go hungry—daily menus are designed to be filling, and include snacks and dessert. The focus is on making tweaks to your eating habits that lower the overall caloric density of your diet. Volumetrics doesn’t ban or severely limit any entire food group, so your chances of sticking with it are higher.

Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig is as simple as restricting calories, fat, and portions. Jenny’s prepackaged meals and recipes do all three, plus emphasize healthy eating, an active lifestyle and behavior modification. Personal consultants guide members through their journeys from day one. You’ll gain support and motivation, and learn how much you should be eating.

Jenny Craig is pretty expensive and that deters a lot of dieters. Right now you pay a $99 enrollment fee and at least $19 a month for the “Premium” program. If you’re afraid of commitment and only want one consultation each week, you can skip the enrollment fee but shell out $39 a month for the “Trial” month-to-month option. If you want to go all-in, on the other hand, ask about Jenny Craig’s “Super Premium” program, which is available at the company’s centers and through Jenny Craig Anywhere.

The prices don’t include food, which costs an average of $15 to $23 each day. Tack on shipping costs, if you plan to have your meals delivered. But keep your eyes open for special deals, as the company shares various offers throughout the year online, on TV, and in magazines.

The Secret to Long-Term Weight Loss

Searching through all the different weight loss programs out there can be a mind-boggling effort. There are so many different programs, each promising that it is the key you need to your perfect body. They also take no shame in trying to discount each other. This leads to a lot of information, as well as a lot of misinformation to sift through.

In short, they all can work! Compared to sitting around and doing nothing and eating whatever you want, all of the programs out there that are designed to help you lose weight will do so. But you have to resolve yourself to actually taking the recommended steps in the programs and doing some kind of exercise too. It’s the only way to make a change last in your life. Buying a book or a course or a DVD is not enough. Reading them and knowing what you should do is not enough. Putting it into real practice day after day and not being afraid to try and fail is the key to success. To make it work, you need discipline and commitment, and you need to eat differently for good.

There are weight loss programs that definitely don’t work well, and that can be costly. If the program sounds like it will take minimal work and no exercise, it likely is not worth it. “Too good to be true” programs typically are not very effective, no matter how convincing consumer testimonials sound on the subject.

What do you know from personal experiences about weight loss programs? Have you tried and succeeded? If so, what did you do to become a success? Have you maintained your weight loss and can you recommend a program that worked for you?

Update 09/10/2018: Thanks to an anonymous reader, I’d also like to include some information about Overeaters Anonymous. This 12-step program is for people with a compulsive eating problem, binge eating, or other problem related to food. The program has no dues, no fees, and no weigh-ins. Participants achieve and maintain a healthy weight by abstaining from compulsive food behaviors. If this approach sounds like it might help, check out the website to find a local meeting.


  1. I have lost as much as 50 lbs dieting over the years, but have then put it back on. The keys I have found are you need to change your eating habits. Dieting suggesting something short term or over a period of time. Once you stop dieting you go back to old eating habits and gain weight back. To be successful over the long term you need to changes the things you eat daily. I like weight watchers approach. They are incorporating real food, eating out, and support from others. I’m currently down 20lbs overall, but still, need to lose some more weight.

  2. Oh, man. What a timely post. Jaws was on the other night and I happened upon the beach scene where all summer tourists decide to tentatively enter the water. And what is remarkable about the scene is that there are no obese people. A few may have been portly, but none were obese. Was this due to an obeseaphobic casting director? I doubt it. Jaws came out in 1975. Back then, we had fifty to sixty kids on our block and only one was obese. And maybe only one or two adults were obese. What happened to us between 1975 and 2018? What changed?

    1. An informal survey I’ve taken with myself tells me that we eat a lot more fast food, dine out, and don’t exercise nearly as much as we did back in the day when the only entertainment we had was to put our sneakers on and do something out in the fresh air. Today it’s sit in front of the computer or our gaming machine, and we call that exercise. I’m just sayin’.

  3. Prudence Debtfree

    So many people say that they can lose the weight but not keep it off. I think that points to addiction. And from what I’ve heard, the only way to manage an addiction is to take part in regular meetings of some kind. I know an alcoholic who has been sober for 25 years, and she continues to attend AA meetings regularly. Too bad the Weight Watchers meetings cost so much to attend. A free 12-step model would be more effective I think. (And I just Googled it – there is an Overeaters Anonymous.)

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