The Complete Guide to Weight Loss Plans - Learn How To Choose the Right For You

February 12, 2019
The Complete Guide to Weight Loss Plans
Advertiser Disclosure This article/post contains references to products or services from one or more of our advertisers or partners. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products or services.
article by Beverly Walton author

In a world full of dietary plans, it seems to be that a new one springs up every day, some of which are weird and wacky. It is wise to be aware that weird and wacky may give you a quick fix weight loss, but sustainability will be absent, causing you to pile those pounds back on faster than you lost them. These types of diets are certainly not good for your health or long term weight loss, and could, in fact, be detrimental to your body.

Diets should be about balance and the combination of the right macronutrients and essential micronutrients that make your body work like a well-oiled machine. Yes, you will have to cut down on certain for foods and quantity that you may have enjoyed before and your body may well change shape. Take this into consideration when choosing your diet and try not to switch to another halfway through. It simply won’t work.

So, how can I choose the best weight loss plan?

Well, the first thing to acknowledge, when choosing the best weight loss program, is that there is no one single ‘best’ plan for everyone. You must choose one that fits your tastes, your lifestyle (or at least the lifestyle you want for yourself) and your physical capabilities.

  • Above all, avoid gimmicks, fads and miracle diets like the plague they are. Evaluate the claims any weight loss plan makes carefully, do your research, read actual user reviews, and pick one which is not only real, but which you can really keep up with.
  • Talk to your doctor. They should know all about your medical condition, your dietary needs, and your capacity for increased physical activity. They should know what medications you are on (prescription or otherwise), and whether these could interact dangerously with any diet or activity changes. You might even ask for a referral to a dietician or a weight loss support group.
  • If you don’t consult a doctor, at least consider whether any health conditions you might have could make this diet or weight loss plan difficult or even dangerous for you. Diabetes, food allergies, heart disease and a host of other health issues could take certain weight loss plans off the table entirely.
  • Decide on a safe, sustainable rate of weight loss. Of course, your doctor will have something to say about this, but in general, you should shoot for losing no more than ½ pound to 2 pounds each week. Much more can be dangerous and can be very difficult to maintain. ‘Bounceback’ and regaining more weight than you lost is a real danger.
  • Before you choose a weight loss program, consider other diets and weight loss plans you’ve tried before. How did they work? How did they fail you? How did you fail them? How did they make you feel, both on the physical and the emotional levels? How might this weight loss plan be similar? How might it be different?
  • Think about what you need from a weight loss program. Do you want to go it alone, or would you prefer a lot of support? Do you want a diet book, an online system or actual, in-person support and accountability?
  • How much can you afford, and for how long? A diet book is a one-time cost but following that diet could be expensive. Does the plan require you to buy branded meals? What is the cost of attending meetings, and how long are you expected to attend for the best results?

Here, we’ll be looking at four of the most popular diet and weight loss plans in detail, comparing them in terms of what they are, how they work and what they can do for you. We’ll follow that up with a bit of advice on how to choose the best weight loss plan for you and your own needs.

The 4 types of plans chosen are:

  • ‘The Points System’
  • ‘Holistic Approach’
  • ‘Community Driven On-Line Plan’
  • ‘The Healthy Low Carb Lifestyle Plan’

In these four categories, we have chosen consecutively for examples, Weight Watchers, Jillian Michaels, Diet.com and the South Beach Diet.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers logo

Weight Watchers is one of the most popular weight loss plans in the country and around the world. It has also been around for many, many years, so you know it’s not just another ‘passing fad’. It is also fundamentally different from much other popular weight loss and diet plans in that you don’t eat prepared meals or count calories.

How does it work?

There are two main mechanisms to the Weight Watchers weight loss plan. You count SmartPoints and strive to earn FitPoints.

SmartPoints are a value assigned to different types of food, based on the amount of sugar, protein and saturated fat in it. No foods are specifically off limits on Weight Watchers. Rather, you have a budget of SmartPoints to spend on foods every day, and in theory, if you stay within that budget you should lose weight no matter what you eat – though let just says, if you spend all of your SmartPoints on junk food you’ll be hungry for the rest of the day! Still, it’s nice to indulge occasionally without feeling like you’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’.

FitPoints, on the other hand, track your physical activity and exercise and encourages you to move more, do more, and generally be active in the way that doctors tell us we should be doing anyway.

The two systems work together, as well. Your daily SmartPoint budget is, ideally, defined by your weekly SmartPoint score. This is as you’d expect – if you’re substantially more active you can eat more, even more, fats and sugars – and still lose weight.

What can the plan do for you?

The net effect of the SmartPoint mechanic is to guide you towards making healthier food choices by selecting the most satisfying foods with the lowest SmartPoint costs. Most unprocessed fruits and veggies, for example, have a zero SmartPoint cost, so you can eat as much as you want. Lean proteins have a very low cost, so if you’re a fan of chicken without sauce, this might be the plan for you!

It also works to tie your activity directly to your eating habits, making sure the two are in healthy balance. The system uses number values to ‘keep you honest’, as we all have a tendency towards self-delusion. “It’s OK to eat an entire pizza because I worked out this morning.” Well, according to Weight Watchers, an entire pizza is equivalent to quite a few morning workouts.

How can you make it work for you?

If you choose Weight Watchers as your weight loss method, there are a few ways you can take extra effort to make sure this plan works for you.

  • The first is to track your SmartPoints and Fit points religiously, almost obsessively. ‘Just guessing’, ‘estimating’ or ‘fudging a little’ is simply sabotaging your efforts.
  • Second, make yourself truly accountable to someone for your performance. Make a commitment to someone you know, trust and respect to keep to the plan, and look them in the eye at least once a week to tell them how you did. We’ll cheat ourselves in a second. We seem to actively enjoy lying to computers or faceless authorities. We feel bad lying to or disappointing actual people, and this plan relies on that.
  • Third, drink water. Drink so much water.
  • Fourth, make sure you get fiber. Especially if you’ll be eating substantially less than usual, it absolutely must include a lot of fiber. Trust me.

Weight Watchers

The Jillian Michaels Weight Loss Plan

Jullian Michaels LogoJillian Michaels came to fame as a trainer on The Biggest Loser, and now has an online weight loss plan that combines both dieting and fitness training into a kind of holistic weight loss system.

There are three parts to the Jillian Michaels plan – Diet, Exercise and Behavior. The thinking is that all three act as legs on a stool, and no weight loss attempt can stand up without all three legs. Each is said to be equally important, though each of us will probably struggle with one or two.

How does it work?

Each of the three elements does something different:

Diet – this part is familiar to all of us. Eat less, eat right, and you’re 1/3 of the way there. This plan comes with a range of recipes and ways to calculate your ‘daily caloric number’ – your dietary target. However, it isn’t as extensive as plans like Slimming World or Weight Watchers, so you might be left guessing, especially if you don’t often cook for yourself.

Exercise – the flip side of diet, this is about training, getting exercise, and making long term changes to your metabolism. The first two elements work together as most weight loss plans do. The point is to burn more energy than you take in, and you must lose weight.

Behavior – The third leg of the stool is where this plan stands out. It goes beyond Weight Watcher’s Accountability system and into efforts to change your lifestyle to be healthier. This makes sense, as Jillian Michaels’ background is that of a personal trainer.

The plan encourages many health-positive behaviors, such as limiting ‘screen time’, making fitness activities a high priority (just as important as work or school – that might be difficult for some), and healthier sleep schedules.

What can the plan do for you?

This is a good choice if you’ve tried other plans and faltered at the motivational level in the past. Its stronger emphasis on the psychology of long-term weight loss and actual changes of lifestyle can help you start doing things fundamentally differently.

Interestingly, you won’t need to join a gym – you can do the entire ‘exercise’ portion in your home.

How can you make it work for you?

This is an entirely online plan, so there is no ‘accountability’ system as in Weight Watchers. That means success depends on your own commitment to the program. You must be psychologically prepared to stick with the program for a minimum of 5 weeks before seeing meaningful results, and you must engage in levels of physical activity which might be a shock to the system at first.

There is a great deal of online support, and a huge community of other Jillian Michaels weight loss plan users out there. Learn to lean on that, and to offer support to other users in the same way. That sense of community is a huge part of why this plan can work and leaving that part on the table would be like tying one hand behind your back. The support is there. Use it.

The Jillian Michaels Weight Loss Plan

diet.com

diet.Com logo

As you may have guessed from the name, diet.com is a website. At the free level, it is a community of blogs, diet and nutrition tips, and other weight loss and nutrition resources with a large online community. It also offers a ‘premium membership’ level which offers highly tailored meal plans, exercise plans, recipes and a range of ‘diet tools’ to help you hit your weight loss goals.

How does it work?

Each section of the premium membership works differently:

  • Meal Plans – These come in 8 different ‘lifestyle choices’, Gluten Free, Lactose-Free, Nut Free, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Low Calorie, Low Carb and even ‘College’. Each is available at two different caloric intake levels, typically 1200 and 1500 calories. Like most diets, the idea is that you eat less, eat better, and lose weight, especially when combined with the other sections. The meals presented change every week for each of the 16 plans.
  • Exercise Plans – The premium service gives you access to three levels of exercise plans, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Again, these change weekly to keep a bit of variety. This includes many online videos which help you do more technical exercises correctly.
  • Premium Recipes – Premium users also gain access to a range of ‘premium’ recipes which can be used to supplement or replace parts of the standard meal plans. This includes a range of ‘Holiday weight Loss’ recipes which change seasonally.
  • Diet Tools – This section includes a range of online tools which can help you estimate your caloric intake, the negative caloric value of different types of workouts, weight loss planners and other similar resources. Oddly, none of these are part of a mobile app.

What can the plan do for you?

Diet.com aims to be an all-around diet, exercise and weight loss community, and many users find that the combination can help them make meaningful changes to their lifestyles, which is the key to not just losing weight but keeping it off. It can help you manage your diet, your exercise regime, and track not just your actual weight but your nutritional intake and your calorie expenditures.

One of the strongest aspects of this weight loss method is the detail and flexibility in the exercise plan. It features a ‘workout builder’ which can help you achieve specific weight loss goals but more importantly can help you target different muscle groups to work on and to achieve specific fitness goals. It all ties together, and it is difficult to find an excuse to skip the exercise portion when the system is so flexible and responsive.

How can you make it work for you?

The number one tip to using the diet.com premium membership as a weight loss plan is to stick with it. This is an online-only plan, with no meetings and no personal oversight. That means there is no one to know if you cheat, no one to raise an eyebrow if you skip the exercise portion for a day, a week or a month, and no one to encourage you to get back on the horse when you fall off.

If you’re committed to making diet.com work, you must be committed to doing all of the work, yourself. There is a massive online community, but how accountable can you really be to people you never see, and who will never see you? You need to be able to rely on you.

dietdotcom

The South Beach Diet

South Beach Logo

The South Beach Diet is more than 15 years old and remains popular in many countries all around the world. It was created by a cardiologist, and there is a lot of science behind the system. It is like many ‘low carb’ diets in many ways, though not all. Importantly, you do not actually ‘count carbs’ but rather try to shift your diet away from carbohydrates and towards more proteins and ‘healthy fats’.

How does it work?

The South Beach Diet primarily works to change the way you eat overall, making it a permanent ‘lifestyle’ rather than a short-term weight loss diet. It is intended to be more of a ‘healthy way of eating’ which should indeed result in weight loss for dieters who start off overweight.

It works by identifying the difference between what it calls ‘good carbs’ and ‘bad carbs’, primarily based on the food’s glycemic index and your glycemic load. The theory is that foods (especially carbs) which increase your blood sugar quickly actually boost your appetite and encourage overeating, as well as contributing to cardiovascular disease. It has similar systems of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ fats and encourages increased fiber intake.

There are a range of products associated with the South Beach Diet, but it is not a membership, a subscription or an ongoing expense in and of itself. In theory, all you’d need is a copy of the book (The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss) or to seek out the information contained in it online.

What can the plan do for you?

In theory, you can expect to lose anywhere from 8 to 13 pounds in the first 2 weeks of the diet, with the rate of weight loss slowing in the second ‘long term’ phase where you begin to add more ‘healthy carbs’ which were restricted in phase one. Once you reach a target weight, you are advised to shift to a third phase of the diet, intended to help you maintain that weight for the long term.

Doctors say the weight loss plan is generally safe, though rapid loss of fat in the first 2 weeks can lead to ‘ketosis’, which can have unpleasant effects like a headache and fatigue in the short term.

How can you make it work for you?

First, you must understand what the South Beach diet is designed to accomplish, so you have reasonable expectations. It is very strict for the first 2-week‘ phase’, and if you follow it strictly you should see some very rapid weight loss – it is right on the edge of being a ‘crash’ diet, with all the dangers inherent in that. After that, it is designed to allow you to eat more carbs and fats, and to establish a much more sustainable diet and lifestyle. Your weight loss will slow dramatically in phase 2, and this means the diet is working. You can’t lose 5 pounds a week for long. That could ravage your body and your metabolism. Please don’t try unless you have the support of a medical doctor.

Second, you’ll have to do your research. The diet is 15 years old, and much of the science behind it has advanced substantially since 2003. There are websites aplenty offering South Beach Diet-related resources, modifications, tips, and tricks, and you’ll have to decide for yourself which are best for you. Don’t just commit to the first site you find.

Third, you’ll have to start planning meals a week or more in advance. The reasoning is simple. You’re going to be losing weight, and you’ll be hungry! Especially during phase 1! We make very poor food choices when we’re hungry, so you should never be asking yourself “What should I have for lunch?”. You’ll be disappointed in what you chose later. Know what you’ll be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner at least a week in advance, and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand at least a day before you need them. Give yourself no room for ‘emergencies’, ‘stopgaps’ or excuses to ‘just get a burger’.

The south beach diet

In general, a ‘good’ weight loss plan should:

  • Include or encourage physical activity as a part of an overall weight loss effort, not dieting alone.
  • Include foods that you like, or at least can tolerate. If you hate what you have to eat, you’re more likely to falter.
  • Include a good, sustainable balance of different food types. ‘All grapefruit’, ‘all meat’ or ‘no carbs’ are all warning signs of a gimmicky, short term ‘diet’ rather than a sustainable lifestyle.
  • Be flexible enough to allow for an indulgence here or there without falling apart. We aren’t perfect, and not planning for the odd slice of pie or glass of wine is planning to fail