Weight loss programs are used by millions of people to shed unwanted fat and get to a healthy weight. In addition to the scale dropping, weight loss programs have a wide range of other health benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to supporting healthy brain function (1).
Weight loss programs may also be able to treat or prevent some mood disorders, including depression (2).
Nutrisystem provides devious meal plans that are very easy to follow, requiring no calorie counting to lose weight. The meal plan spreads your food throughout the day, ensuring you eat 6 times a day so you never feel hungry and always have the energy you need when it’s needed.
Nutrisystem also offers a 14-day money-back guarantee if you don’t lose a single pound. Thanks to its 150 meal options and strict structure, Nutrisystem is our #1 weight loss program.
2. South Beach Diet
South Beach Diet has also been around for a while and was developed by a cardiologist to help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term. The program focuses on food groups that are healthy for your heart and on teaching you how to maintain healthy eating habits once you finish the program.
It is based largely on frozen meals and is not recommended for vegans, vegetarians, or people on kosher and paleo diets.
Noom will tailor itself to your preferences and use technology to track your progress and keep you motivated. It offers challenges and incentive-based reward programs, personalized coaching, and reasonable pricing.
The program begins with a questionnaire that asks you about your goals, activity, and lifestyle and typical meals. They also ask about your neighborhood, how regularly and what type of food you eat, and any medical issues or allergies. Noom also offers a lot of guidance from certified professionals. Their programs were developed by PhDs and MDs who graduated from Harvard, Yale, and Oxford.
5. Paleo Diet
The paleo diet takes you back to your ancestry, restricting your food to the same food the hunter-gatherers ate before the days of agricultural innovation. The theory behind paleo diets is that modern diseases can be linked to the Western diet and our consumption of excessive grains, dairy, and processed food.
Although this theory is debatable, studies have shown that this diet is effective at reducing cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
The Atkins diet is one of the oldest and most well-known diet programs available when it comes to weight loss through carb restriction.
Low carb diets are effective because they reduce your appetite, which means you won’t feel as deprived and won’t eat as many calories.
6. Jenny Craig
Jenny Craig’s diet program uses a 3-tiered approach to food and diet to help you maintain control over your weight. They offer personal weight loss consultants and in-person sessions once a week and have over 100 professionally created meals.
Out of the leading diet plans, a 2017 study by the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that participants on Jenny Craig lost more weight than the other 3 leading plans.
Formerly known as weight watchers, WW provides users with a full-range of support including tools that can be used throughout the day using a point-based system. This means that no food is off-limits which makes this an easy program to follow if you keep track of the nutritional points you consume throughout the day.
In addition to their point system, they also include snacks that can be eaten in between meals, cookbooks, a journal, and website access to a “support squad” so that you can be connected and remain motivated.
8. The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is another program that limits your carbs, focusing on consuming only low glycemic level food. This diet was initially developed to reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases.
It works by creating balanced meals that have 1/3 protein, 2/3 fruits and vegetables, and just a dash of healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and almonds.
9. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting provides a pattern of eating. Instead of tackling which foods you eat or eliminating any type of food, it simply tells you when to eat.
A lot of people use a 16/8 method, which means that you skip breakfast and restrict your body to a period of 8 hours where you’re allowed to eat. The remaining 16 hours of a day you consume only water and other zero calorie beverages.
10. Vegan Diets
Vegan diets restrict all animal products and by-products. It eliminates meat, dairy, eggs, and any animal by-products like honey, gelatin, whey, casein, and some forms of Vitamin D3.
This diet seems to be very effective at helping people drop weight without having to be a slave to calorie counting because it is naturally low in fat and high in fiber, which helps you feel full for longer periods.
How We Ranked
While many weight loss programs simply characterize their structure as “low-carb”, we wanted to choose programs that went in-depth and provided a structure for its participants. Those that were missing this aspect were eliminated from consideration. Atkins was the exception since it provided an explanation for why it decided to include one low carb foods.
As commercial weight loss programs also have a somewhat unfair reputation for being part of a “fad”, we also wanted to focus on the reputation of companies associated with our ranked products. Longevity in this particular market serves to establish a history of success and trust in the program. Programs, such as Jenny Craig and Noom, were chosen for this specific reason. Each has been around for a significant amount of time and established a track record of effectiveness. New or “fad-like” programs were not considered for our rankings.
Lastly, we looked at the practicality of each weight loss program. We quickly removed programs from consideration that were designed to focus on rapid weight loss rather than a gradual decrease and practical lifestyle management for long-term success. This was a primary reason why both the South Beach Diet as well as the Paleo Diet were ranked highly.
1. Weight loss programs may help individuals with diabetes. The paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, consists of foods that were available to humans before the development of agriculture.
There is evidence that a paleo diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular episodes in people with diabetes.
There is also evidence that the paleo diet can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. People with diabetes have problems with insulin regulation, which affects blood sugar levels. By switching to a keto diet, people with diabetes were able to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels (3).
The exact mechanism for how the Paleo diet benefits people with diabetes is still unknown. Researchers have suggested that the paleo diet is more satiating, so people tend to eat fewer calories. This lower-calorie diet may be better for those with diabetes.
2. Weight loss programs can reduce body fat. Intermittent fasting is a type of diet where you don’t change what you eat. Instead, you change when you eat, restricting food consumption to a short period (usually 4-8 hours) per day.
A 2017 study showed that intermittent fasting could help reduce fat in normal, overweight, and obese people (4).
This can reduce the risk of some health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and strokes (5).
3. Weight loss programs can reduce appetite. Food cravings are one of the most difficult parts of any diet. Low carb diets may help with food cravings by reducing appetite. This leads to less overeating and lower risk of weight gain (6).
Healthy fats are filling and can help you feel satisfied for longer after meals. By switching to a low carb diet, you can cut food cravings and prevent snacking. This leads to more weight loss and an improvement in general health (7).
Several different low carb diets may reduce appetite, including the Atkins diet and the Dr. Bernstein diet. Although these diets all have unique approaches, their main focus is on reducing carb intake.
4. Weight loss programs can lower triglycerides in the body. Triglycerides are fat molecules that circulate in the blood, and they may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. There are many different causes for high triglycerides with high carb intake being one of the most common.
Diets that are low in carbs can significantly reduce triglyceride levels in the blood and lower the risk for heart disease (8).
It also significantly lowers the risk for atherosclerosis, a disease where fatty conditions are deposited in the arteries, increasing the change of a stroke (9).
5. Some weight loss programs may help improve cognitive function. Intermittent fasting has been the subject of an increasing number of studies. A 2013 study showed that intermittent fasting may improve cognitive function and brain structure in mice (10).
Intermittent fasting may also protect the brain from dementia by regulating the nerve cell cycle. When food is consumed, the body produces more proteins in nerve cells. However, when the body enters a fasting state, the body focuses on repairing existing nerve cells. This balance may decrease the risk for a variety of neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (11).
6. Weight loss programs may help you live longer. The Mediterranean diet has long been studied for its role in increased longevity. The diet focuses on whole grains and legumes, as well as fish, olive oil, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Research has shown that this diet may increase lifespan, reducing the risk of a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, dementia, and diabetes (12).
Researchers still do not know exactly how the Mediterranean diet could increase lifespan. Some argue that the Mediterranean diet protects cells from oxidative stress, reduces inflammation, and prevents cancer (13).
7. Weight loss programs can keep energy levels steady. Most people’s bodies will use carbs as the primary source of energy. When the body runs through all available carbs, energy levels can drop, leading to fatigue and a crash. With a keto diet, the body transitions to using fats as the main energy source.
Since the body is not dependent on carb intake, energy levels are more consistent throughout the day (14).
This leads to fewer crashes and increased energy in the period between meals, as the body has a higher resting metabolic rate (15).
8. Weight loss programs can decrease the likelihood of depression. In addition to the many benefits that the Mediterranean diet may have for longevity, it may also reduce the risk of depression and boost mood and energy levels.
More research is needed to see if the diet itself is causing the lower levels of depression seen in studies. However, this early research shows that the Mediterranean diet is a promising preventative treatment for depression.
9. Weight loss programs may help individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of related conditions where the body cannot properly break down nutrients and convert them into energy. This can lead to obesity, as well as heart disease, diabetes, and a variety of other health conditions.
Research indicates that the paleo diet may be effective in improving energy conversion in those with metabolic disorders. This led to reduced fat deposits as well as improved energy levels (18).
Other low carb diets, such as the keto diet, may be able to produce a similar effect, as they also change how the body breaks down food for energy (19).
Some studies have shown that the keto diet has the potential to reverse metabolic syndrome and return insulin levels to a healthy range (20).
10. Weight loss programs can improve epilepsy symptoms in patients. The keto diet has long been used as a treatment for children with epilepsy. The mechanism for how the diet treats epilepsy is still unclear, but it remains a common treatment option.
Recent research studies have shown that the diet is effective for treatment-resistant cases of epilepsy, leading to a lower frequency of seizures (21). These studies have been conducted in children with epilepsy, and it’s still unknown if the treatment is effective in adults.
Researchers have also suggested that the keto diet could be effective in treating or preventing other neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease (22).
These studies are still preliminary, so more research is needed to see how effective the keto diet is at protecting brain health.
11. Weight loss programs can lower bad cholesterol levels. Nearly 1 out of every 3 people in America have elevated cholesterol levels (23). This can lead to increased risk for many cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks.
Research has shown that the keto diet and other low carb diets may be able to lower levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol molecule that can cause heart problems. A low carb diet alters how the body processes LDL, reducing the total number of LDL molecules found in the blood (24).
12. Weight loss programs can help burn belly fat directly. The two main types are subcutaneous fat, which is under your skin, and visceral fat, which accumulates in your abdominal cavity and is typical for most overweight men.
Visceral fat tends to lodge around your organs. Excess visceral fat is associated with inflammation and insulin resistance — and may drive the metabolic dysfunction common in the West today (25).
Low-carb diets are very effective at reducing harmful abdominal fat. In fact, a greater proportion of the fat people lose on low-carb diets seems to come from the abdominal cavity (26).
14. Weight loss programs can help reduce liver fat. The fat content of your liver is a big risk factor for metabolic disease. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine showed that the paleo diet was effective for losing liver fat.
In this study, 10 healthy women with a BMI of over 27 consumed a modified paleo diet for 5 weeks. At the end of the study, the women had an average reduction in liver fat of 49%. The women also lost an average of 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs) and had an 8 cm (3.1 inches) reduction in waist circumference (29).
15. Weight loss programs can reduce the risk of stroke. A 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined 7447 individuals at high cardiovascular risk. They were randomized to a Mediterranean diet with added olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with added nuts, and a low-fat control group. The study went on for 4.8 years.
In this paper, researchers primarily looked at the pooled risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes. The risk of combined heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease was reduced by 30% in the Med + Olive Oil group, and 28% in the Med + Nuts group.
There was no statistically significant effect on women and no reduction in mortality (30).
16. Weight loss programs can help prevent secondary heart attacks. A big fear of many heart attack survivors is the possibility of a second one occurring. A 1999 study showed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with Omega-3s might be effective at preventing heart attacks in people who have already had heart attacks (31).
This study enrolled 605 middle-aged men and women who had suffered a heart attack.
They were split into two groups, a Mediterranean-type diet, and a standard Western-type diet, which was followed for 4 years. The researchers concluded that after 4 years, the group eating the Mediterranean diet was 72% less likely to have gotten a heart attack, or died from heart disease.
1. Weight loss diets may cause fatigue. Diets often cause noticeable changes in energy levels, especially as your body adjusts to new food types and eating schedules. In many people, diets can cause fatigue and tiredness. This is common in low carb diets that put the body into a state of ketosis, where it uses fats as its main energy source (32).
Diets such as the keto diet may also cause what is known as “keto flu.” This is a short period where your body adjusts to having low levels of carbohydrates. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, and lethargy (33).
2. Weight loss diets may cause sleeping issues. Some diets can also cause issues with sleep. These problems tend to appear in the early stages of the diet when the body is adjusting and craving certain foods.
3. Weight loss diets may cause headaches. Some diets may also cause headaches. This is a common side effect in diets where carbohydrates are eliminated, such as the keto diet, leading to sudden decreases in blood sugar levels (34).
Headaches will go away in most cases as the body adapts to the new diet. However, if headaches remain after multiple weeks of dieting, consult a doctor.
4. Weight loss diets may cause muscle weakness. The body relies on carbohydrates to provide energy during exercise. When you switch to a diet low in carbs, it takes your body time to adjust to using fat as its main energy source. During this period, you may experience muscle weakness and fatigue during exercise.
5. Weight loss diets may cause constipation. Sudden changes in diet may also lead to digestive problems, such as constipation. This could be due to the new diet having lower levels of fiber, which aids in digestion (35).
Try to find foods that are allowed in your diet that have fiber if you are suffering from constipation.
The length of a diet will vary depending on the specifics of the plan, as well as your weight loss goals. That means that no timeline will apply to all diets.
Diets such as the Atkins diet are designed for fairly quick weight loss. It is recommended that you stay on Atkins for no longer than 6 months.
Other diets, such as Paleo or keto, are designed so that you can stay on them indefinitely. If you are using Paleo or keto for weight loss and have reached your weight loss target, you can stay on the diet but add more calories to maintain weight.
Although many diets are safe, there is little research on the effects of long-term dieting. If you plan on changing your diet for a prolonged period, you should consult with your doctor or a dietitian.
Which diet is most effective for weight loss? There are many different diets to choose from. However, research still has not shown which diet is the most effective for weight loss. Which diet is most effective may depend on pre-existing medical conditions, as well as sex, age, and genetic factors.
Are weight loss plans safe? Weight loss plans are safe in most cases, provided they are done with proper precautions. If you are taking any medication, you should speak to your doctor about your diet plan.
More extreme diets, such as multi-day fasts, should only be done in consultation with a doctor as they can cause severe health complications.
How does the paleo weight loss program work? The paleo diet works by placing a focus on whole foods, lean proteins, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit while eliminating processed food, sugar, dairy, and grains. Flexible versions of the paleo diet allow cheese and butter, or potatoes and sweet potatoes.
What’s the difference between the weight loss programs keto and paleo? These two diets have become increasingly popular in recent years. Although they do have some similarities, they are very different diets.
The keto diet emphasizes healthy fats as the main source, as well as a large amount of protein. Carb intake is kept to a minimum, with some keto followers avoiding them altogether. This leads to the body entering ketosis and relying on fats for energy.
Like the keto diet, the Paleo diet emphasizes fat and protein. However, the Paleo diet allows any food that would have been eaten before agriculture. This includes fruits, nuts, and seeds, which have carbohydrates. That means that most Paleo followers end up eating more carbs than what would be allowed on a keto diet and may not achieve ketosis.
Can pregnant women follow a weight loss program? If you are pregnant and considering going on a diet, you should speak to your doctor. Several healthy diet plans are appropriate for pregnant women, and that may improve the health of both the mother and the baby.
However, most weight-loss diets are not recommended for pregnant women, especially those that significantly reduce calorie intake. Always consult your doctor.
Do you have to stay on a weight loss program to keep the weight off? Many people who have lost weight on a diet wonder if they will gain all of the weight back if they go off the diet. The answer depends on the person and the type of diet.
If you switched to a keto diet and lost a significant amount of weight, there is a chance that some of this weight will come back if you increase the number of carbs in your diet. However, in most cases, you can switch from a weight loss diet to a regular, healthy diet and keep the weight off, provided you also get enough exercise and don’t overeat.
Are branded weight loss programs more effective? There are many branded diet plans offering quick weight loss. Although some of these plans are effective, there is little research showing that they are more effective than generic diets.
Will eating the wrong food once ruin a weight loss program? When dieting, you’ll probably have days where you eat foods that are not allowed. There’s nothing wrong with eating the wrong foods every now and again, as long as you spend most days following the diet.
How does the south beach diet weight loss program work? This program has 3 phases for weight loss. First, it will kick start your weight loss by eliminating starch, sugar, and gluten from your diet. Next, it will slowly reintroduce healthy carbs into your diet so you get steady weight loss. When you successfully reach your goal weight, you will receive recipes and helpful advice.
Can weight loss programs make you live longer? There is some evidence that certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, may increase longevity. However, more research is needed to determine if these diets actually lead to prolonged lifespan.
What is the snake weight loss program? The Snake Diet is basically eating a low carb diet while doing extended periods of fasting that allow you to burn the fat off your body. The periods can last anywhere from 24 hours to weeks or even months of no food consumption.
How does the Atkins weight loss program work? The Atkins diet works through 4 different phases. The induction phase requires taking in fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day. This phase lasts 2 weeks. The other 3 phases focus on reintroducing carbs to your diet slowly as you near your goal weight. This prevents you from regaining all that weight the second you touch a carb and teaches you the healthy types of carbs you should eat rather than the unhealthy variety.
Is the snake weight loss program dangerous? Since you are not consuming any food for extended periods, the diet can be dangerous as it can lead to loss of nutrients and can adversely affect your metabolism.
What is the snake weight loss program drink? The snake diet drink is simply water mixed with a variety of electrolytes including, sodium chloride and potassium chloride.
What are the benefits of low carb diets? Many low carb diets have also been shown to improve energy levels and reduce fatigue. They may also help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels in patients with diabetes.
Can weight loss diets improve longevity? Some weight loss programs may also increase longevity and improve the quality of life in old age. The most studied long-life diet, the Mediterranean diet, has been associated with longer life and reduced risk for some major health conditions, such as heart disease and dementia.
Weight loss programs are an effective way of shedding weight and reducing body fat composition. They are generally well-tolerated and safe if guidelines are followed. Low carb diets, such as the Atkins, South Beach, and Dr. Bernstein diets, may be able to help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Some weight loss programs, such as the Mediterranean diet, may also be able to increase longevity.
Although weight loss programs are generally safe, there can be some side effects, especially in the days or weeks after beginning the weight loss program. These symptoms can include fatigue, problems sleeping, headaches, and weakness. In most cases, these symptoms pass as the body adjusts to the program.
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