Diet Plans & Programs: The "Skinny" on Popular Diet Plans

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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Weight Watchers

The Diet Plan Theory

Weight Watchers has been around for many years. There have been changes to the program, but weekly meetings have remained a part of the plan. You can attend meetings in person and/or use online support when you are a Weight Watchers member.

The two diet options that are currently available are the Flex Plan and the Core Plan. The Flex Plan is an updated version of the POINTS Food System in which the goal is to stay within your recommended amount of points each day. The POINTS value for foods is calculated based on the food's calories, fat, and fiber. Along with your weekly POINTS target you are also given a "Weekly Allowance" to use for indulging or special occasions.

The Core Plan is based on the science of energy density. Energy density refers to the amount of calories in a given weight of food. Foods that are considered low energy dense foods have a small amount of calories for a large volume of food (for example, vegetable soups, vegetables, and fruit). High energy dense foods provide a lot of calories for a small amount of food (for example, oils, butter, cream sauce). The Core Plan provides a "balanced diet by centering on a list of healthy foods that keep you full longer."

Advantages

The support and information provided online and in-person sets Weight Watchers apart from most diets out there. There are numerous meetings across the country to choose from. For many people, having a place to weigh-in each week is a key to success.

The focus on a balanced diet, exercise, and behavior changes is another advantage to this diet. The goal is to educate people on all three components and assist with both weight loss and maintenance. The two plans give people an option to find what works best for their own success.

Disadvantages

Many people have a "been there, done that" attitude when it comes to Weight Watchers. They have tried it, may have had some success, may have even gone back a couple of times, but end up feeling that it can't help them any longer. The group leaders at the meetings are not trained experts; they are former members who have had success with Weight Watchers. When someone is not having success the options for what to do can be greatly limited by the lack of experience and knowledge of the leader. There is a strong emphasis on weighing in each week. Many people have a difficult time attending a meeting when they are not having success. However, most people will not lose weight every single week, so expecting to do so is a recipe for failure. The time when people need the support the most is when they are not losing, but most meetings are not set to address this.

While there are two diet options, this still may not be enough for everyone. If counting points and following a low-energy dense diet do not work for you, there is no other option left. The best weight loss diet is one that fits your lifestyle and needs, and you can't always get that with this plan.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015

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