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” 


6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope

In  previous posts I   defined obesity  and explained how it adversely affects health.

What is obesity and why does it matter? 

Waist size matters

BMI Chart created by Vertex42.com. Used with permission.

BMI Chart created by Vertex42.com. Used with permission.



And acknowledged that losing weight is difficult, often unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, and in need of  new avenues to address the problem.

Obesity revisited



But most people who are overweight just want to lose the excess weight and often are not that concerned about the health risk if they don’t. No wonder the weight loss business is a multi-million (billion?) industry. When patients  ask me for weight loss help, I tell  them if I knew a 100% successful method for losing weight, I would be wealthy, and probably not  working anymore. I have patients who successfully lose weight, with and without my help, and unfortunately just as many who don’t. Most of the ones who lose weight do it simply-

  • They change what, how much, and how they cooked and ate.
  • They start,increase, and continue being physically active.
jogging trail sign

Parks with trails help people stay active.


In the May 2015 issue of American Family Physician, a  doctor shared the story of a woman whose life events made her feel sad and overwhelmed; she turned to food for comfort.  Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, she gained weight. After a health scare, she took her doctor’s advice to see a nutritionist and begin exercising- 10 minutes daily.




For her emotional turmoil she turned to a counsellor, her rabbi and friends. “I saw a counselor every week who let me cry and express my emotions.” As  her sadness lessened, she felt more motivated to take better care of herself. Here is what she did to continue her journey into fitness and weight loss.

  1. Remove junk food from the house; replace with healthier choices.
  2. Keep chopped up fruit and vegetables available in the refrigerator.
  3. Bake, broil, poach, or steam meats and vegetables.
  4. Eat from small plates.
  5. Try different activities- walking, dancing, fitness DVDs,
  6. Find a role model to inspire you.




She also advises- “Do a good deed, no matter how small, every day. Nothing will taste as good as it feels to watch another person appreciate your mitzvah” ( mitzvah- a good deed) 

Close-ups: Losing Weight and Motivating Others – American Family Physician

I would love to hear my readers’  tips for weight management and fitness. Please share by leaving a comment.