The Jenny Craig Weight Loss Program

What It Is

Jenny Craig isn't a Janie-come-lately to the diet field. The program began in 1983 in Australia and started U.S. operations in 1985.

The Jenny Craig method is a three-level food-mind-body plan to help people lose weight and keep it off.

At the first level, the program teaches clients how to eat the foods they want -- in small, frequent portions.

At the second level, the program teaches clients how to increase their energy levels via simple activity.

At the third level, the program teaches clients how to build more balance into their lives in order to maintain weight loss and healthy diet.

The program offers several levels of support. Perhaps the most impressive of these is its 24/7 telephone line, allowing clients to get information and support when they need it. The program also offers online support, including peer-support discussion groups. A wide variety of written materials are also for sale.

There are two Jenny Craig programs. One is built around physical Jenny Craig centers. The company counts over 650 centers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico. For those who find it hard to get to a center, the at-home Jenny Direct program offers information by telephone and mail.

Advising Jenny Craig is a medical advisory board with certified professionals in medicine, psychology, and nutrition.

What You Can Eat on the Jenny Craig Diet

The keystone to the Jenny Craig diet is its prepackaged meals. For the most part, these are frozen breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even desserts. Nutritionally, they contain 50% to 60% carbohydrate, 20% to 25% protein, and 20% to 25% fat.

Clients supplement these meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and reduced-fat dairy products. In general, non-starchy vegetables are unlimited.

While these meals are what come to mind when most people think of Jenny Craig, they are not the be-all and end-all of the program. In fact, says Lisa Waltman, call center manager for Jenny Direct, the goal is eventually to wean clients from the prepared meals.

"For a certain period of time we support people with this prepackaged menu that serves as a model of healthy eating," Waltman tells WebMD. "As clients become more familiar with recognizing correct portion sizes, the counselors teach them how to cook at home and to eat out."

No food is taboo. The focus is on moderation, a balanced diet, and getting enough exercise. But built into the program are occasional splurges that allow dieters to indulge themselves a little.

"There is nothing you cannot have," Waltman says. "We educate what foods are high in fat and calories and should be used in moderation vs. foods that can be eaten more freely like non-starchy vegetables such as salad. And we teach about other foods, that of course you need to take in moderation when trying to lose weight and beyond. If you want cake, we want you to understand what you are doing if you have a piece -- not to deny you what you want."

That being said, the Jenny Craig method is calorie based. The menus a client develops with his or her counselor are based on an individual's weight, height, and goals.

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