Which weight loss programs work best?

In my last post about obesity, I described a woman who lost weight by some fairly simple yet effective lifestyle changes.

6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope

But some people like and do better with something structured. Therefore, commercial weight loss programs are plentiful and popular. But do they work?

Do structured weight loss programs help people lose weight?
Do structured weight loss programs help people lose weight?

A group of internal medicine specialists reviewed 45 studies which evaluated the effectiveness of several commercial weight loss programs, including Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Medifast, Nutrisystem, Slim Fast, The Biggest Loser Club, eDiets and Atkins. They looked at amount of weight loss as well as possible harms. The studies compared the use of these programs to doing nothing, or minimal counselling and support.

I think this study is helpful because it looked at sustained weight loss at one year. People often can lose weight short term, but then gain it back. Successful weight loss must be maintained. Of the programs evaluated, Jenny Craig performed best, with almost 5% greater weight loss than the control group; Weight Watchers was next with 2.6% greater loss.

There are other factors which may have impacted the results. People who use these programs may be more motivated in the first place. Also, most of the participants were female, so the results may not apply to males.

These programs often involve some amount of counselling, education and group support, which helps some people stay committed to the process. Some involve purchasing food plans or meal replacement products which make it easier to eat healthy food but are sometimes cost prohibitive.

If you have used these or other structured weight loss programs, please leave a comment about your experience. Was it helpful, and for how long? Was it easy or hard to stick to? Was it worth the money you paid?

via Efficacy of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs: An Updated Systematic ReviewEfficacy of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs | Annals of Internal Medicine.


Books featuring recipes from these two successful programs (these are affiliate links)

Weight Watchers Cook It Fast

Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

The Jenny Craig Cookbook: Cutting through the Fat

Jenny Craig Diabetes Cookbook

Go here for a true story about one woman’s success using Weight Watchers- “Breaking up with junk food” 

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

4 thoughts on “Which weight loss programs work best?”

  1. I’m an avid Weight Watchers fan and agree that it only stopped working for me because I stopped using it and went back to unhealthy eating. I tried Slimming World briefly but found it too difficult to manage, it has worked for some people I know but I’ve always found WW more realistic and the online tools really help between the weekly meetings in keeping me on track, upping my water and fruit and veg intake and increasing my exercise xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Katie for sharing your experience and insights. I am pleased that you persevered until you found what works for you, since it is different for everyone. Your experience shows how important it is to develop a plan compatible with your goals, lifestyle and needs. It sounds like you make healthy choices and will continue to do so. Glad you stopped by.


  2. I have used Weight Watcher’s in the past and found it very helpful. I am an introvert, so I did the online version, but some people find the group accountability, fellowship, and encouragement of the groups more useful. Eventually, I switched to MyFitnessPal, because it was mainly the tracking of calories that I needed. I think these programs tend to be better for the detail-oriented people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for starting the discussion. I have heard more feedback from patients and friends about Weight Watchers than any of the other programs mentioned, and all of it has been positive. I never had anyone say it didn’t help at all; if they had gained weight back, they admitted it was because they quit following the plan. I used MyFitness Pal for a while and liked it also. I think it is good that there are so many different choices, since so much of the success of any plan depends on matching it to one’s personality and learning style.


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