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Are weight-loss plans worth the cost?

CBS MoneyWatch examined 8 weight-loss programs. Here's what it found.

By Karen Datko Jan 6, 2010 8:06PM

Many of us are obsessed with weight loss right now. But simply eating less and exercising more can be too boring or too difficult, or require more self-control than we possess.


So maybe we'll consider a weight-loss plan. Maybe we’ve seen the celebrity endorsements or drooled over the pictures of food. But, smart spenders have to ask themselves: Do these programs work and are they worth it?

CBS MoneyWatch analyzed eight weight-loss plans in an article called “Diet plan review: Best ways to lose 20 pounds,” considering factors like price, nutrition, results and clinical studies. In each case, they provide the cost for losing 20 pounds and the cost for each pound of weight lost.


Briefly, here’s what they found about the basic plans offered:


Weight Watchers. Group support is the key to Weight Watchers’ effectiveness. The cost is $39.95 a month for unlimited meetings and online support. (You can opt for a cheaper, online-only plan.) You provide your own meals. Cost per pound lost: $6 to $10, not including food.

EDiets. No face-to-face support is available with this plan, but you can reach others via message board or telephone. Cost per pound lost: $2.70, not including food. That balloons to $78 if you sign up for the meal-delivery program. The cost is $65 for three months (one month is the minimum membership) for online support plus recipes and other information about the South Beach diet -- remember the “good carbs/good fats” approach? Cost per pound lost: $3.25, not including food.


All of the rest require that you buy their food:


In the Zone Delivery. Three “gourmet” meals plus snacks delivered to your door make this the Cadillac of weight-loss plans with the Cadillac of prices. Cost per pound lost: $224.


Jenny Craig. At a cost of $20 for a 10-week membership, plus $84 to $126 a week for food, you get three meals a day (you add veggies, fruit and dairy), telephone support, and a weekly weigh-in with a salesperson. Cost per pound lost: $54 to $106.


Bistro M.D. The quality of food and larger portions in this plan -- at about $180 a week plus delivery -- have drawn high praise. Cost per pound lost: $72.


Nutrisystem. We’ve all heard Dan Marino, Don Shula, Marie Osmond and other celebrities lauding this “low glycemic index” plan in ubiquitous TV commercials. The cost is about $333 for four weeks of meals (you add veggies and other fresh foods), plus shipping, and you get phone and online support. Cost per pound lost: $35.

Medifast: About $80 a week will buy meal substitutes (bars, soups and such), and you provide the food for one low-cal meal a day. Cost per pound lost: $24, not including your groceries.


How did the plans fare overall? MoneyWatch said that five of the eight are worth the money and gave special mention to Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem for value.


But don’t expect immediate, I-look-cute-in-a-bikini results. The rate of weight loss was one to two pounds a week for most of these plans. The best results were two to three a week with Nutrisystem and Bistro M.D. Medifast promotes weight loss of up to five pounds a week, but with only 1,000 calories a day, that’s not surprising.


Have you tried any of these plans and will you share the results? Or did you have success the DIY way -- pushing away from the table and taking a walk every day?


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