With the myriad of weight loss and exercise programs flooding the marketplace, it can be difficult for people who need to shed a few extra pounds to know what works and what doesn’t.
But now, researchers from Johns Hopkins University who reviewed studies of commercial weight loss programs identified two programs that seem to help people lose weight – and keep it off for at least a year: Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. Their results were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in April.
In a year, Weight Watchers participants lost 2.6 percent more weight than those not on the plan, while Jenny Craig participants lost at least 4.9 percent more weight. In contrast, those following the popular Atkins diet only had 0.1 to 2.9 percent greater weight loss within the same time period than those who weren’t in the program.
Out of the 32 commercial weight loss plans, Weight Watchers was one of the least expensive at $43 a month. However, this doesn’t include the cost of food. Participants can eat conventional food and track their eating habits using a point system. The program also includes physical activity tracking, as well as group sessions, online coaching and an online community forum.
In contrast, Jenny Craig costs the user $570 a month, but this includes the cost of food and 1-on-1 counseling. The program also “encourages increased physical activity,” according to the paper.
“Weight Watchers has consistently come up as a good program,” said Mary Ann Johnson, Bill and June Flatt Professor in Foods and Nutrition in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “There are many studies on it. All those studies showed weight loss, and the cost is very reasonable.”
The researchers also found that a few other programs like Nutrisystem show “promising results,” but more studies are needed to see if the pounds don’t come back in the long run. Nutrisystem participants lost 3.8 percent more weight in three months than those not in the program.
Johnson said people thinking about losing weight should consult their physician before enrolling, and physicians should learn about the pros and cons of different weight loss programs.
Given the results of their study, the researchers recommended that physicians refer their patients to either Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, especially if they don’t have the time, training or staff to deliver other alternative weight loss methods, such as counseling.