Which Weight Loss Diet Works Best? A New Study Ranks the Evidence

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Weight Watchers FitPoints (Activity Points): Exactly How Do They Work?
About a year ago I told my doctor that I was tired of counting points. If you are in the market for a commercial weight-loss program, you will find that you are faced with hundreds of choices, many with claims sounding too good to be true. At least this food is formulated by doctors to be nutritionally balanced and healthy for you. I did no other research. Typically, studies follow dieters for about three months, during which most people are likely to lose the most weight because they are more motivated and simply because they in a study and feel obligated to follow the diet. The three levels are ultimately aimed at delivering weight loss by teaching the dieter to eat what they like — but in smaller portions.

Jenny Craig – Food, Body and Mind

Why I Switched from Weight Watchers to Medifast

As with any weight-loss program, a one to two pound per week weight-loss is recommended for safety and health. Thus, it is not uncommon to see ads for dietary supplements claiming that you can lose weight rapidly without changing the way you eat, or without lifestyle changes. The influence of celebrity promoters can contribute to the perception that a product may offer a miracle cure for obesity.

In fact, good scientific evidence that they work is generally lacking. There are many different devices available and all come with a host of options, such as online tools, smartphone apps and more.

This in turn allows them to make adjustments accordingly. Body monitors are significantly more accurate than pedometers, which only measure steps taken and not the intensity of activities. Body monitoring devices alone will not result in weight-loss. These devices are meant to be used along with a weight-loss option.

The benefit of using a body monitor is that a wearer will get a good understanding of which of their activities burn calories best. The downside is that food logging can become tiring, and the ability of a body monitor to accurately calculate calories depends entirely on how well the wearer tracks their food consumption. In addition, not everyone wants to wear an armband or carry a device at all times.

How does it work? It is the only FDA-approved weight-loss medication that is available OTC and available at a higher dose with a prescription. It is a capsule that is usually taken three times per day before a meal that contains dietary fat. It works by decreasing the amount of fat your body absorbs. The average weight-loss is about 5 percent of your weight after one-year. In a person who weighs pounds, this would mean 10 pounds of weight-loss. It does not work well for people who are already on a low-fat diet since their calories from fat are already low.

Common side effects are cramps, gas, stool leakage, oily spotting and gas with discharge that improve with a lower fat diet. Utilizing a commercial weight-loss center or program is one of the most popular options for someone affected by obesity.

Commercial weight-loss programs often provide various resources such as pre-packaged meals, support and more. Programs usually offer a 1, to 1, calorie-per-day diet plan which produces weight-loss of about pounds per week. The slow-down of weight-loss is not unique to these approaches. It is true of any weight-loss program because as you begin to weight less, you burn fewer calories. Because commercial plans vary greatly, the FTC recommends asking the following questions before engaging in a program:.

In this section, we will examine some of the most popular commercial weight-loss programs by separating them into two different categories: Meal Replacements Meal replacement through pre-packaged meals can be appealing because of the convenience and ease of choices they offer. However, when meals are pre-packaged, participants may not learn the basics of nutrition and healthy eating. Pre-packaged meals may also be expensive this claim is dependent on the normal weekly food cost an individual could incur.

Liquid meal replacement plans, if used for too long, may be harmful because they can cause nutritional deficiencies. Unfortunately, when participants have not learned the principles of healthy eating and portion control, they often resume prior eating patterns. Non-meal Replacements Some programs do not require meal replacement as part of their program. Their main goal is to teach you about healthy eating patterns, behavior modification and incorporating physical activity.

While it is helpful long-term, behavior change does not happen overnight and can be a challenging adjustment at first. Overall, a safe and effective commercial program will offer educational materials that have been reviewed by a licensed healthcare professional. These materials will include information on healthy eating plans, exercise and behavior therapy.

Nutrisystem features portion-controlled foods and structured meal plans that are both high in protein and low in glycemic index GI. Low-GI means means that the foods do not cause your blood sugar to rise sharply.

For people with diabetes, a low-GI diet can help keep blood glucose in control. Nutrisystem plans, tailored for men and women, encourage you to consume three meals and two or three snacks per day.

The plans offer about different pre-packaged to choose from. Foods are home-delivered, typically in shipments every four weeks, after you place an order online or over-the-phone. You have to purchase additional fruits, vegetables and dairy products on your own. These are grouped into three categories: Smartcarbs nutrient-rich, high-fiber carbohydrates , PowerFuels lean proteins and healthy fats and vegetables non-starchy ones which can be eaten freely.

A meal planner explains how and when to add these foods into your diet. The program has an active online community, including discussion boards and dietitian-led chats. Counseling, for those who want it, is available and included with most Nutrisystem programs. With the recommended fruits, vegetables and dairy products, this diet plan can be considered well-balanced.

Research on Nutrisystem customers showed an average weight-loss of 18 pounds at three months and 27 pounds at six months. Some research finds a small weight-loss advantage for low-GI diets over high-GI ones, but other studies find no difference. So, this should be a healthy way to lose weight. Another concern is that participants using pre-packaged meals do not necessarily learn good nutrition, which makes maintaining weight-loss difficult once they return to buying food on their own.

Counselors are also available throughout the program and during transition and maintenance to educate about good eating habits. The final concern is the cost of the food. This does not include the additional fruits, vegetables and other foods that you must purchase on your own.

Although Nutrisystem claims that the full cost of eating while on the program is about 15 to 40 percent less than what the average American spends on food, some consumers would rather buy food week-to-week. Some employers and health plans subsidize or reimburse program costs. The program is developed by registered dietitians in consultation with an expert Science Advisory Board. The program is delivered by trained personal consultants in weekly motivational one-on-one consultations, in center, over the phone or via Skype.

Consultants partner with members to identify personal motivators, set weekly menu and activity plans, monitor progress, overcome obstacles and positively reinforce success.

A typical menu day on Jenny Craig consists of three meals and three snacks per day, which, in combination with the added grocery items, adds up to an individualized menu calorie level that is based on your gender, age, height, weight and level of physical activity. The standard menu caloric distribution is percent carbohydrate, percent fat and percent protein. For the Jenny Craig for type 2 diabetes menu, the caloric distribution is 45 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent fat and 25 percent protein.

For the first half of your program, you primarily follow menus that include Jenny Craig foods for seven days a week. For special events or other times when you need an alternate option, your consultants will offer guidance for meals on your own.

When you have lost half of your total weight-loss goal, you make the transition to five to six days of menus that include Jenny Craig foods and one to two days of your own foods. Throughout your program, you work with your consultant to utilize behavioral strategies to address challenges like emotional, social and unconscious eating and dining out, as well as to build an enjoyable, active lifestyle.

Jenny Craig is a well-balanced, scientifically proven program on which you can expect to lose pounds per week on average. A clinical trial of people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated a 9 percent weight-loss at one year with greater improvements in diabetes control and heart risk factors as compared to usual care.

For both programs, Jenny Craig participants achieved three times greater weight-loss when compared to usual care. The daily menu is a model for learning nutritional balance, variety and moderation in food choices. Counselors are not dietitians. However, they have been trained to deliver an evidence-based program that is developed by registered dietitians and recommended by the Obesity Guidelines. SLIM-FAST Available in supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies Slim-Fast has been around for more than 25 years and offers relatively quick weight-loss by substituting a calorie-controlled, sweet-tasting fortified meal replacement shake or bar for some of your regular meals.

The program offers online support that includes weight, diet and exercise charting, chat rooms with online buddies, chat sessions with registered dietitians, a weekly newsletter, exercise programs and meal planning. The diet plan is centered around two Slim-Fast meal replacements. A snack of calories is also offered during the day. You're breathing more rapidly than normal, but not out of breath not winded. You are able to converse but not able to sing while performing the activity.

You can't converse normally while performing this activity, but can only utter short phrases. Weight Watchers Research Dept. You can either enter it manually in the activity section of your account, or you can use a tracking device or app, such as Fitbit, which connects directly to your Weight Watchers account.

The revamp took effect in December , when Weight Watchers introduced their holistic Beyond the Scale approach sounds like a sci-fi sequel: Star Wars Episode 14, Beyond the Scale. For one, Weight Watchers says that your weekly FitPoints goal is fully personalized for you by WW, taking into account your age, gender, height, weight, and current activity level. Previously, with Activity Points, you would just calculate the points to earn using a more generalized, clumsier online tool.

The actual FitPoints you earn that are exchangeable for SmartPoints doesn't really vary much based on your weight and gender. The number of points you earn is overwhelmingly based on the time and intensity of the activity. FitPoints are easier to earn as well. Plain and simple, you get points as soon as you start moving. With the old Activity Points, you had to reach a baseline before you could score — for example, you might have had to walk 3, steps to get points.

Now, you could walk just a third of that and already earn as many as 2 FitPoints. What is FitBreak from Weight Watchers? FitBreak is an app that shows you very brief videos a few seconds long , and encourages you to then mimic that activity for exactly one minute. If you do this 20 times over the course of the day a total of 20 minutes , you will receive 2 FitPoints. You must be logged into your regular Weight Watchers mobile app while using FitBreak, in order to automatically receive the points.

When you start on Weight Watchers, you take an assessment where WW looks at your lifestyle and determines your first FitPoints goal. As mentioned, this goal is based on your personal factors.

For instance, if you currently spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, WW will start you off with a fairly low points goal. One is by wearing an activity tracker, such as the highly popular Fitbit, which integrates with your Weight Watchers account. The advantage of wearing an activity tracker is that you'll earn the most FitPoints this way.

Just make sure that your tracking app is synced to your Weight Watchers account so that your tracked activities are automatically converted and credited as FitPoints. Just log in to your My Day online dashboard, go to "Activity," and there you'll see where to input your activity. Even if you don't want to shell out for an expensive tracker, you can download a free pedometer app on your phone to count your steps for you.

Once you get the hang of reaching your weekly FitPoints goals and for some people, WW is right in saying that this can be addictive , your goal will likely be changed to match your new lifestyle. If you reach your goal for two weeks straight, Weight Watchers will automatically recommend a higher goal for you. And if you keep racking up those points, you get more bragging rights — and other perks, like say, a leaner, healthier body.

Plus, you can exchange those FitPoints for more SmartPoints, which means that you can eat a little more if you want to. FitPoints is a goal system, so you want to earn more points here to achieve your target. In fact, 1 FitPoint is equal to 1 SmartPoint. The question now is, should you eat your FitPoints? In a way, this makes sense. And, as we all know, getting a treat every now and then makes dieting a little more enjoyable.

A similar thing may happen with tracking apps, especially if more than one app is synced to your WW account. Overestimated FitPoints means that you could then be swapping for more food than you worked for, and that completely throws the diet. The equivalent FitPoints for each activity depends a lot on its intensity and duration, and your weight also factors into it. A basic "average" approximation would be 1, walking steps equals 1 FitPoint, but this could increase or decrease for you, depending on your weight, etc.

It does take a bit of meticulous fine-tuning to figure out FitPoints for your particular weight. The Weight Watchers Pocket Guide provides a comparison:.

A pound person earns 1 FitPoint after 10 minutes of low- to moderate intensity movements. Meanwhile, a pound person earns 1 FitPoint after 10 minutes of low-intensity, but 2 FitPoints after 10 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. The pound person would get 6 FitPoints while her pound friend would get And since FitPoints are meant to encourage us to move, maybe Weight Watchers wants to give more encouraging pats on the back i.

But will the FitPoints system really help you on your weight loss? We think it can, as long as you track diligently, swap wisely, and eat accordingly.

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