Weight Loss Programs Galore…Oh My!
Let’s face it, everywhere you turn there is a new product, program, or advertisement about ways to lose weight. From supplement programs to personalized programs, there are many weight loss programs to choose from, sometimes too many! According to ABC News, there are 108 MILLION people on a diet in the United States. That’s an astounding number! If you’re watching your weight or have specific weight loss goals, you can increase your success rate (and reduce 108 million) simply by doing a little research about what weight loss program and/or approach to take. Everyone’s needs are different as far as what may be the best choice for them not just for the long haul, but for the current phase of change they are in. Weight loss is a journey, it will take time, and you learn a lot as you go. You will learn so much about yourself in the process I cannot even begin to describe. As you begin, you may not actually know what you truly need to be successful, what will work for you, that’s part of the uphill battle and the risk you take. I wanted to disclose non-biased information about popular weight loss programs and provide you a glimpse into types of programs available, as well as some additional points to consider when in the midst of your decision making process. In doing so it will also help educate you on how TNT Nutrition differs from other weight loss programs described in this article (it’s a common question!).
#1 Food Logging Applications
Logging your food can help build awareness about your physical intake which can direct a user further to make changes in such areas. This is a great first step for many when it comes to figuring out what approach to take when trying to lose weight, it allows someone to immediately take action with their eating. Users receive calorie goals, tools to track their daily calories and exercise, and ability to monitor their own progress. Being proactive to any extent can help kickstart momentum and confidence while perhaps the user is still in a decision phase regarding other programs or approaches. Sometimes the process of logging one’s food is the only step one needs to get their eating on track due to it’s perks of creating mindfulness.
Using a phone or online logging application involves less user risk and is lower in fees. Users must be cautious to not make a food logging system their life support, meaning, if something isn’t logged, life as we know it is over, and you have zero control of the foods that happen to “fall” into your mouth shortly after. These applications are a tool to teach you more about your eating, so even if you’re not logging, you should still be trying to apply what you have learned from the online application.
With food logging (only) applications you hold yourself accountable. There is no assigned resource or coach outside of perhaps an online community forum. This element of online food logging gives the user then opportunity to see if they themselves can manage their own weight loss without anyone else assisting them, or acknowledge that they do in fact struggle in other areas of their eating that the food logging applications cannot address that other weight loss programs can.
#2 Supplement Programs
It’s all about simplicity and convenience. Pre-packaged shakes, bars, meals and snacks give the consumer the freedom to not have to think too much about what the day’s menu will entail. They simply follow the recommendations of their specific plans, whether that be 2 shakes and 3 meals a day, or pre-portioned meal replacements throughout the entire day. Some programs have other restrictions regarding specific whole foods permitted so you want to make sure you are fully aware of the guidelines of the plan you are following. Supplement programs usually provide great results in the short-term due to one’s ability to consistently follow a routine well keeping the difficulty level relatively low. Investigate what the long-term goal is in the program, thinking “where will I be in 3 months from now? Will I still be consuming supplements or is there a general exit strategy?” Fees associated in supplement programs can get costly depending on the amount of supplements you are willing to invest into and incorporate. Supplement weight loss programs can give the consumer the opportunity to get a grasp on portion and or calorie control which can transition into long-term healthy eating habits. Support systems vary, from community forums to in-person support.
#3 Meal Delivery or Preparation Programs
These programs involve the consumer buying a certain amount of meals per week that are calorie based for weight loss. Great for those that do not cook, do not feel comfortable cooking, have a heavy travel schedule, or for those that just don’t want to count calories or deal with measuring food. Meals can be shipped right to your front door or be picked up at a designated location. Usually there are different calorie plans to choose from, based on the user’s needs, and meals are therefore purchased and consumed to guarantee at the end of the day you have consumed your appropriate caloric intake. Some programs you can select the quantity of meals to purchase, giving one the opportunity to pick and choose how many meals a week they would like to take advantage of having a pre-cooked ready-to-eat meal. The relative overall taste and sodium content of prepared meals varies. Cost is on the higher side due to the fees associated with preparing and packaging the meals. Low risk getting involved in meal delivery or meal preparation programs due to the convenience factor. Support systems vary outside of a sales associate, some programs such as Jenny Craig will have a consultant that is typically a former Jenny Craig member to help add an extra branch of support.
#4 Systematic Programs
These programs involve their own creative “systems” to help give guidelines for consumers to follow in their efforts to lose weight. These systems adjust depending on the phase of the program or amount of weight loss achieved. Atkins and Weight Watchers are far different from one another in their philosophies, however they each have their own unique “system” they use. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 40 years, Weight Watchers has created their own systematic calorie counting “points” systems to allow the consumers to hit their target caloric intake eating the foods they want to eat while striving towards improving their intake of fruits, vegetables, and fiber. In addition, they provide weight loss education to help create healthier eating habits and also provide in-person and (now) online support communities delegated by Weight Watchers coaches whom are usually former Weight Watcher participants. Atkins focuses on the reduction of carbohydrates while emphasizing the intake of carbohydrates and fats. Atkins takes you through different phases of carbohydrate allowances: Induction, Balancing, Pre-maintenance, and Lifetime maintenance phase. IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) provides users with macro goals vs just calorie goals, which allows users to have greater flexibility in what they eat. Both IIFYM and Aktins are a more self-reliant programs, far different from that of Weight Watchers. IIFYM is heavy on the tracking of your intake, however it is more than just a calorie counting program which is why I have it in this category. Costs vary depending on level of investment into the service and/or associated products. Risk is greater as one enter’s the attempt to make lifestyle and eating habit changes.
#5 Professionally Driven
We put these popular weight loss programs (and services) under “Professionally Driven” as there is a true professional behind the scenes to help you in your weight loss journey, not a sales associate or customer support specialist, friend, or former participant, but someone whom has specific training in fields vital to your success whether that be specific dietary needs, coaching/counseling, or psychology. Professional Driven programs are 99% of the time extremely personalized. Meal plans, goals, level of coaching and support, user tools, and overall approach will therefore be more tailored to the individual versus the masses of the general public. You would need to really compare each Professionally Driven program independently from one another to determine which would be the best fit for you. Costs will therefore differ depending on plans offered and plans selected. Risk level to the consumer is usually high, due to level of commitment and one’s attempts to make lifestyle and eating habit changes.
Now that you have a better idea of what kinds of weight loss programs are available and perhaps which direction you want to take, here a few more things to think about or propose questions regarding during your decision-making process:
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? If it does, am I realistically able to stick with this plan for the rest of my life?
Exercise and other lifestyle factors for fat loss
Some weight loss programs 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 lifestyle factors that contribute to fat loss?
- Personal preferences: Am I able to enjoy this diet or will it feel cumbersome and miserable?
Community or Individual Interaction
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, group support, individual support, or none at all? (Some people prefer to go it alone or involve their friends or family rather than a forum)
- Type of support: How much accountability do you need, and does that program fulfill that need?
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. Ask questions before you commit to a plan.
- Level: Do I need the basics or a more comprehensive plan?
- Monthly costs: What is the overall cost I will be spending a month for this program? In 6 months? 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.
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 cooking your own meals, you’ll probably want a program that has the most support available to you to help assist you.
- 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?
- Caloric intake: Will the meal plan keep me full considering my metabolic requirements? Can this program ensure it will fulfill what MY needs are as an athlete, diabetic, etc?
Individual Foods Allowed on Program
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, do you have the flexibility you need in what you eat?
- 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?
- Food allergies: Is this a potentially allergenic or reactive food, particularly if I eat it frequently? (e.g. Soy, Dairy, Eggs, Gluten)
Your Personal History
- If you’ve tried one of these types of weight loss programs before without success, treat it as a learning experience. Perhaps you’ve learned a few things about yourself in the absence of the program and want to return to the program and give it another go. Great! But if you’ve tried it more than once and still have not had sustainable results, it’s time to move on to something new.
Keep in mind that every experience you have throughout your weight loss journey, consider it a learning experience. You’ll discover what works for you, and just importantly, what doesn’t. The key in the end is to not find a short-term diet, but a long-term solution to your weight loss goals. Always begin with the end in mind!
You Got This!