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Do Packaged Diet Foods Really Result in Better Weight Loss?

By , Megan Patrick, SparkPeople Editor

A recent study published in the April 2013 issue of the International Journal of Obesity examined whether people would lose more weight on their own (sticking to a prescribed calorie goal) or by eating pre-packaged diet foods that totaled the same number of daily calories. The story was picked up by news outlets with eye-catching headlines like "Packaged diet foods may spur more weight loss," (Reuters).

Sounds pretty good, right? We thought so, too. So we dug a little deeper to bring out the real truth. 

According to the study, subjects who followed the 1,000-calorie Medifast 5 & 1 plan for 26 weeks (which involves eating 5 packaged diet products per day and 1 self-prepared meal of lean protein and veggies) lost an average of 16.5 pounds, while the control group, advised to simply adhere to a 1,000-calorie "food-based diet," lost about half that with an average loss of 8.4 pounds.

To the untrained eye, it may look like a no-brainer: This pre-packaged diet food plan really works! It must have some kind of special magical nutrition formula or food combination that provides such great results! It's also easy!
Not so fast.
Reuter's lead paragraph is accurate in stating that "In a head-to-head comparison with a traditional diet, people who stuck to a diet of portion-controlled packaged foods lost almost twice as much weight as those who only got advice on how to trim calories." But neither the article, nor the study, explore the reasons why this outcome happened, what may have been flawed about the study, or the fact that the final weight loss of both groups was quite small:  2/3 pound per week for the Medifast group and 1/3 a pound for the control group.

Here are some questions that immediately spring to my mind—and why you should consider these results with a large chunk of salt:
  1. Were the members of the "reduced-energy, food-based" diet group given any information or tools for tracking calories? You don't need to be a weight loss scientist to know that it will be easier to meet a strict 1,000-calorie-a-day limit if you're eating prepackaged meal replacements that take the guesswork out of what to eat. In real life, even using a great calorie calculator, estimating and tracking calories is hard—and making decisions about food meal after meal, snack after snack is challenging.

    But on the flipside, if you are just given food to eat, and you never truly learn how to make those hard decisions and stick to a healthy diet—any weight loss you earned will be short lived. The second the diet is over, you still don't know how to eat in a way that will sustain your weight loss. You revert back to old habits and the weight creeps back on. It sure didn't make the headline, but after an additional 26 weeks had passed, and subjects were no longer following either diet, the Medifast group members had regained an average of 6.5 pounds, while the control group had regained just 4.4. This shows that those who had to learn it on their own actually fared better in the end. Perhaps a better headline for the story may have been, "Regular dieters who keep weight off longer than people who eat pre-packaged diet foods."
  2. Nutrition and weight loss studies are hard because the rarely create real-word scenarios like the ones people face day to day when trying to lose weight. For one, study participants are generally paid for their participation in a weight loss study, which is a major incentive to stick with any plan that people don't have in real life. In this study, all the participants on the Medifast plan were provided food FOR FREE as well. This never happens in real life, and the cost of such a plan (about $300 a month) is a major barrier to people being able to start or stick with a program like that. 
  3. Who funded the study? Turns out Medifast, a company that sells pre-packed diet foods and provided them for participants, funded the whole thing. In science as in life we call this a conflict of interest. When a corporation funds a study and signs the paychecks of the researchers conducting it, it's very difficult for anyone involved to be objective. Not only do the researchers have an incentive to give their "employer" the results they want (to ensure the study continues, along with their pay), but that lack of objectivity often trickles all the way down to how the researchers create the study. This study was designed to make Medifast come out on top, by pitting it against another "diet" that really didn't have a chance at winning: telling people to eat less, but not providing them with much help or resources to do so.

    I would be more interested in seeing a study that compared these packaged diet foods (which, let's face it, are highly processed and lack fresh food ingredients) to other programs that provide all the food in perfectly controlled portions. And, as even this study showed, what tends to happen when any very controlled diet ends is that the dieter regains at least some of the lost weight. It seems like a more sustainable plan would be to learn healthy eating habits and incorporate them into your life over time until they become routine. A big part of the problem with "diets" of any kind is that there is an implied end date.
I've followed similar diet plans in the past, and paid all kinds of money for these pre-packaged diet foods. Was it easier to stick with a plan that took all decision making out of the equation? Yes! Having to plan and think about what to eat, having to make a good decision when faced with a vending machine or restaurant menu is a lot harder. But later I learned that I don't need special, expensive diet foods to reach the same goal. I began creating my own meal plans, with the help of a dietitian, and followed these plans of real, whole foods to a "T." I was able to not only learn more about changing my habits, but still avoid the temptation of other foods by knowing I had "a plan" of what to eat. 

I actually spent one year eating almost exactly the same thing every day. It sounds a little crazy, but it removed all sources of temptation by limiting what I shopped for at the grocery store and what came into my house. I didn't have to make any decisions about what to eat, which freed me to focus on improving my workouts (and living my life). If you struggle with making food decisions, this might be a good experiment to try for a few weeks to see if it helps you. I guarantee whatever you eat will taste 1000x better than any pre-packaged or powdered diet plan "food!"
Certainly, different things work for different people and many people—including our readers—have probably used plans like the pre-packaged foods discussed here with success. But no matter what plan you choose to follow to lose weight, one thing is certain: If you can't follow that plan forever, your weight loss will be short lived. That's why it's called a lifestyle change. That's why it can be hard and why so many people struggle with losing weight. But when you truly learn it and live it, you'll be amazed at the results!

What do you think? Have you ever had success with a diet that provided pre-packaged foods? Is it something you would ever try?

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LRCOTE 7/4/2020
I don’t eat pre-packaged stuff, unless it’s an emergency. Most of them have ingredients I can’t pronounce or I’m allergic to. An emergency means I can’t leave the house and there’s one cheese-free burrito. (I’m allergic to mold, not dairy.) Report
NENEBFIT 3/31/2020
Years ago I was on Nutrisystem and successfully lost my weight. However, I learned nothing about cooking good meals on my own. There was no way I would eat that food on maintenance for life. Of course, I gained a good bit back, but not all of it. Report
I can see having some prepared foods as back up, when everything goes upside down for the day, but basically most of these foods are stuffed with chemicals and most importantly tons of sodium. The other factor, and this is just my opinion and tastebuds talking, is that I would rather eat delicious home cooked fresh foods, and don’t find any of the prepared foods meet this need. Food is not just fuel, if it just tastes bad it is unsatisfying. I picked a frozen meal on my way to work one night, after two bites I looked at it and tossed it in the garbage, even though I was working a 12 hour night shift with no where to get any other food, it was that bad. Healthy meal planning and shopping is just as much as a needed skill as cooking. Until I came on Sparkpeople 5 years ago, I never realized how many people are missing all these skills, I was cooking some things at 6 or slightly younger, my mother was not much into teaching anything but as long as we cleaned up after we could cook anything we wanted, so I was making full meals by 10. We always fit in a garden where ever we lived, and had lots of fresh veggies and fruit. Right now I live 40 miles from the nearest grocery store, that is a lot of time to pick up groceries, so I stay well stocked mostly with my home canned and frozen meat , fruit and vegetables, along with cold storage items. It may sound like I have all kinds of time on my hands, but trying to run a 70 acre farm, with all kinds of animals, 13 pastures to fix and take care of, two orchards, many berry patches and going to market with fresh eggs and fruit every week, along with all the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and multiple other things that need attention, I dare say I am busier then most, there is no time for evening sitting around, no TV, late bed and early rising, but I make time to make my own healthy meals. I always feel that for the most part you make time for the things that are important to you, and good tasty food with lots of variety is important to me. Report
wow. reading member responses is a study in itself. Lifestyle changes are needed, but different things help different people. kickstart your health!!!!! Report
I think it works for some in the quest to lose weigght, but IMHO, does NOTHING for teaching a healthy lifestyle. So many quit the meal plan and gain back the weight because they haven't established shopping, prepping, planning and cooking meals as part of their healthy lifestyle.

And just nutrition alone isn't going to help. There has to be exercise included in there.

I personally prefer practicing the meal planning, tracking, exercising and developing healthy lifestyles that will las me my lifetime. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
My thoughts on programs is that once the program ends are you taught how to eat by shopping at your local grocery stores? Do they express that fitness is also key to continued success and stress that health is first overall. Those are the most important factors to me as I have been trying to "train my brain" & "undo" all the incorrect ways I view nutrition. When I was young I ate only when I was hungry I didn't venture to find foods filled with calories and I stopped once I was done. I still am not a clean plate or eat all your veggies type of person. So I stay with Sparkpeople because they provide with information that best suits and some times not. You decide. Report
I have been thinking about this service lately, but came to the conclusion it is not for me. I have learned how to read labels, learned how to shop and enjoy talking to the employees at these stores getting tips from them. I have taken a cooking class which helped me tremendously and plan on taking another course this winter. All this has made my life richer. Report
I have lost 61 lbs. so far using Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and my own cooking. It has been a combination of all three method, mostly frozen but cooking about 2-3 times a week. Report
My sister did this and it helped her lose weight WHILE she ate their packaged food. It did NOT help her make GOOD FOOD CHOICES or teach her HOW TO PLAN HEALTHFUL MEALS and guess what?! She stopped eating the foods and gained it all back. Enough said. Report
I think that there are just so many red flags with these studies and advertised diet plans out there. I'll stick with sparks. Report
I think these prepackaged meal plans can be excellent if used along with an educational nutrition program. My doctor put me on the South Beach Diet but I over-ate since there was no calorie counting. I then tried Nutrisystem prepackaged foods and was amazed to see what a portion size really should be. I now am using a modified South Beach plan and the SP Nutrition Tracker. I still go back to a prepackaged meal every now and again to check my portion sizes so there is no distortion!
Don't think this would work for me. If you don't learn how to eat healthy, the weight would return once you stop the diet food Report
I tried Nutrisystem, spent $200 on food, which I didn't like, and still had to supplement with fruits and veggies. I lost 2 lbs in one month, my husband lost 5 lbs. I have lost 30 lbs in 8 months just by calorie reduction and exercise - no Nutrisystem! - just eating whole foods and low carbs. Report
I lost 103lbs on one of those diets. I was unprepared for the reality of regular food. The weight was back in one year. The spark people concept of learning day by day to chose healthy choices is realistic. Much harder perhaps. But definitely more lasting and healthier. Report
My husband tried Nutrisystem for a few months, but because of his erratic (dysfunctional) eating schedule, he would often skip meals then come home and eat three meals at one time for dinner to make up for the lost meals. He still lost some weight because of the calorie restriction/portion control, but he didn't learn a thing about eating healthy. Report
Great information Report
I saw a huge red flag in this study - and that was '1000 calories'. This is already a dangerously low intake for a woman. For a man that is even lower than the restrictive requirements of the Minnesota Starvation experiment from 1944 in which the effects of partial starvation were studied by putting them (only men participated) on a reduced calorie diet of 1,560 calories. Among other psychological abnormalities the men on this experiment developed an obsession for food - thinking about it most of the time, reading mainly cookbooks, talking about it more than most other subjects and so forth. In fact even for the women 1000 could be low enough that it would kick in the body's natural defenses for times of famine or near famine and reduce their energy outputs in an effort to hold onto as much body fat as possible in order to ride out the 'famine'.

Because of this I would ask - where the people on pre-made meals also on a 1000 calorie diet or where they given the healthier portion of at least 1200 for a woman and 2000 for a man while the control group was on a 'starvation diet'? If that is the case then there was nothing scientific about the study and the control groups weight loss would have been hampered by such an unhealthy portion.

Manufactures will do this all the time in order to create a perceived superiority of their product. They set up an 'experiment' where the 'control group' portion of it is designed (or pre-proven) to fail. For example telling one group to cut their calories dangerously low while giving another group a safe level of calories. Of course the group given the safe portion of calories which is neither too little or too much for their gender group would be more successful in their weight loss efforts.

At best I question whether the study was done at all and at worst it makes me concerned about unethical practices in human subject research by the diet industry. Report
My husband and I are currently using NutriSystem and together have lost over 60 pounds. We use it five days a week and on weekends we eat our own healthy meals. We also walk five to six days a week, plus I add additional workouts three to four days a week.

I love the program because it has helped me with portion control, which was a big problem for both of us. We are going to gradually cut back on NutriSystem as we become more adjusted and in control of our portions.

I continue to use Sparkpeople because I like to track my food and exercise plus I like reading the articles and other member's comments. Trying prepackaged foods might not be for everyone, but my husband and I have found great success with Nutrisystem and have adapted to a much healthier lifestyle. Report
I have been following Exante, a pre packaged food diet, for nearly 3 weeks now with good results so far. It takes all the decision making out of the equation. Once I am near target, I can use the same foods to go back to 5:2 for my transition to maintenance and then 6:1 for staying at the same weight.
I know how to cook healthily but I need a kick start and my pre packaged food is helping with that at the moment. Report
I am using Nutrisystem right now. As a teacher, mother of a two year, and proud army wife to a deployed soldier, I'd fallen into severe laziness. I was eating out at fast food restaurants or ordering pizza and take out regularly. The rest of the time I was feeling guilty for eating so horribly. Nutrisystem has been a savior for me. It's quick and easy yet allows me to eat my comfort food. In the last three weeks I have dropped 8 pounds, have much more energy, and am feeling much less guilty about my food choices. I used the Slim Fast program right out of college and dropped 40 pounds over the course of a year. Honestly, everyone is different. For me, right now in this moment, Nutrisystem works. I know how to eat well and use portion control but had fallen into seriously bad habits and this has allowed me to regain control and utitlize food as energy for my body....not just my emotions. Report
I did Medifast in 2008 at the recommendation of my doctor and I lost about 25-30 lbs, but I couldn't continue because I am an endurance athlete and I wasn't taking in enough calories to sustain my athletic activities. I decided I'd rather sacrifice a "normal" BMI for a strong athlete's muscles. I've learned much more about food and how to eat using real whole foods rather than diet foods and I'm better able to set an example for my child as well. I'm now (4.5 years later) at a normal BMI and it's almost all from changing the way I eat. I also changed doctors to someone who focuses less on my BMI number and more on my overall health. Report
Two thoughts: ALWAYS check to see who funds research when considering what it means! And, since I've found keeping weight off is harder than losing it to begin with, I think shopping for and preparing our own food is and integral part of a successful weight loss program, right up there with learning to incorporate exercise on a regular basis. Report
I was on Nutrisystem for a while I did lose about 50 lbs or so but failed to change my lifestyle. I did not add exercise to the equation. Well, then I did go with a local company that gave you a choice of meals that you wanted including low sodium etc. I loved that one. however I failed to exercise to the equation! I failed to change my lifestyle. Then I found Sparkpeople.com. I changed what I was doing and what I was eating! I added exercise to the equation! Success at last! Report
After years of struggle, I came to realize I could not do this weight loss journey alone. I have other health issues that affect my energy levels, and there are days I just cannot cook. I would grab whatever was easiest and put it in my mouth. It's not a lack of willpower. It's a lack of energy.

With my doctor's blessing, I have started Nutrisystem, and I actually like it. However, I have stayed on SP because I have enjoyed the community, and I have felt supported. I'm not going to let this article get in my way because my SP friends are behind me and supporting me all the way, and they will help me make the transition when I'm ready. Report
I rarely ever post or respond to blogs and usually rely upon them for information. Reading this blog makes it clear that maybe I should not always do so. First of all, the Medifast program is usually associated with a broader program called Take Shape For Life. It is not simply a diet or weight loss program. Rather, it is a balanced program that is designed to be a whole life approach not to weight loss but health. Health is NOT defined as being a particular weight. Instead, it is a state of being. How do you feel, what are our blood work up numbers, what is the role of medication in your life, how well do you sleep, what is your energy level like, and most importantly, are you able to get to a "good place" in these categories and stay there? The TSFL program addresses all of these. Once the person is done with the meal supplements and has achieved their target weight goal, they spend several weeks in a transition period adapting to the changes their body has experienced and reintroducing more conventional types of foods. Then, the program moves to a maintenance stage. These latter stages address many issues including healthy nutrition, balanced exercise, and overall health. Finally, the goal is to achieve AND maintain optimal health.

What this blog never addresses is the fact that as a person begins this program, included at no extra cost is a health coach that interacts with the person routinely through ALL stages to help them over the hurdles, tough spots, and certain plateaus that one usually experiences. The success of the person and the program typically hangs on two factors. First, the desire and dedication of the person in the first place. Regardless of the "program" we all look to, there are no "silver bullets" even though many of us look for them. It seems most of us who are overweight have experienced weight loss success at some point, often many times, only to regain all or even more of the weight. We have to look to ourselves. Is this the result of a inadequate program or our own devotion? The second variable in the TSFL program is the health coach. Just as in the world of trainers, teachers, police officers, or any other area, there are good, mediocre, and bad examples. However, not until recently have many of the programs I know of for weight loss offered health coach assistance. This is a major factor in the many success stories in this program that this blog also fails to search out or report on.

I have to say that today, I lost a tremendous amount of respect for Sparkpeople as a site and tool. For there to be a featured blog such as this with such poor true research or background study or fair representation of all the facts included is poor stewardship of their professed mission. Report
I think all diet foods are worthless. I have learned that eating clean and healthy is the best way to lose and KEEP off the weight. I've never been a big fan of pre-packaged, processed foods and avoid them most of the time. Instead I eat foods the way they come naturally, including full fat milk, yogurt, cheese, chicken with the skin on, etc. I find that I feel full much faster and with smaller portions when I avoid altering my food to make "healthier". I stick to lots of fruits and veggies with small portions of flavorful, whole higher fat/calorie foods (ie chicken with the skin on). Not only is the food much more delicious than the diet versions, but I have lost a lot more weight. And I don't even count calories. I think our food was created naturally to work together to keep our bodies healthy. Once we start altering our foods, that's when things go out of whack anhd health problems arise. I get all my numbers checked by my doctor and I'm doing great and I'm healthier than I was 5 years ago. I say stick to eating whole foods and listen to your body. And of course get some type of exercise in, whether it's 10 minutes a day or a full hour. Something is always better than nothing. Report
Yes I have, Jenny Craig being at least one. The only programs I, personally, believe are tried and true, because you are working with everyday real food, that you are responsible for learning to measure and eat with mindful control, Weight Watchers and SparkPeople. Both programs allow me to have a sweet because I am making a conscience choice, and I have learned those sweets aren't worth much in my life any longer. Both offer support but with SparkPeople I have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week access too, although I understand WW also has an online program. SparkPeiople is the first program I feel I am finally in control. I am in no big rush to lose my last 20/25 pounds. I am doing it my way; with SparkPeople books, cookbook, blogs, and the other wealth of information literally at my finger tips! And I have found new and fun ways to exercise and at almost 67 years of age, I like getting up in the morning and doing exercises and feeling good about myself! Report
I used Medifast in 07-08 and lost 65 lbs. I have kept it off for the most part (have gained about 20 lbs. back this past year, lots of stress) but the way I've kept it off was to keep going back on Medifast. I was shocked to see how many orders of Medifast I've bought, and to see that I'd been on Medifast about half the time for the past three years! Bottom line, I feel that Medifast could be a good tool IF you're going to do it ONCE and make d@m# sure that you keep it off with REAL FOOD & proper portion control. I slid into using it as a fall back way too often and realized that if I was eating it *half the time* just to keep the weight off, something was REALLY WRONG with that. In fact I have half an order left in my cupboard right now; I will finish it up and never buy it again. Report
Yes, I once was on Optifast which did NOT work for me! I am a "dieter" of 65 years, never once lost weight and kept it off until 5 years ago when I joined Spark People. For the first time in all these years I found success.
To me, "dieting" was living on 600 to 800 calories a day and then not losing. Once SP convinced me I should have 1200 calories daily, the weight started to come off. 14 months later I was down 50 lbs. Yay for exercise and healthy eating!!! Report
I've signed up for Spark People over 8 months ago and this is the first comment that I felt compelled to write. I'm currently on Medifast and have lost 90 pounds to date. There is no program out there that is a magic pill. It is more about the journey you take and the lessons that you learn along the way. I've been morbidly obese for all my life and have tried many diet programs. Each time I was desperate to make a change so I had some success but I didn't face my demons (emotional eating and other issues holding me back), I didn't learn how to eat healthily and I didn't embrace exercise as a way of life so the weight came back on. I am doing all those things this time and I've never felt better. I use a lot of Spark People recipes to expand my horizons. I grew up in a family where fried food was king and veggies were drowned in butter. I now love to exercise and challenge my body to do things that I didn't think was possible. Lastly I battle every day the fat mentality that I nurtured all these years. I lost a significant amount of weight but still sometimes see myself in the same way. Medifast wasn't my means to an end but my means to a beginning. I think Spark People should continue to focus on uplifting and empowering its members rather than discouraging the path they may have chosen. And I'm sorry Megan Patrick because I disagree with your conclusion that I will certainly gain all of my weight back. However I also don't feel the need to prove you wrong because I'm not doing this for you. I only have one person to answer to and you are not the one. Report
I have never tried a pre-packaged diet plan and don't plan to. I have thought of those shakes for one meal, but stay hungry on things like that (like the protein shakes), so they don't do me a bit of good. I also don't think the pre-packaged plans are worth it because people gain the weight back if they quit buying the pre-packaged diet food because they don't know how to make food that is healthy and will maintain their weight loss.

Re: the corporation funding the studies, I am listed with a group that does things where groups get together and talk. Those groups are funded by the corporations and they will only take people who use their product (their brand) so that everyone says that it is great and they have the 100% satisfaction result. Not very representative of the public (or in this case the groups that have lost the weight). Report
Anyone here tried the 5:2 diet? That's two days of 500 calories a week (600 for men) and 5 days of simply healthy eating with no limits of what foods you eat. Apparently in the UK they are having great success with it. Those who reach their goal are cutting back to one fast day just to stay healthy. There's lots of info on the internet about it. I haven't tried it yet but would love to hear if anyone else has. Report
I've never been a big believer in prepackaged diet plan foods . . . . . unless you are planning to order and eat that food for the rest of your life! Everyone needs to learn how to eat healthy on their own and eating pre packaged pre measured and pre cooked diet food won't teach you that. I would think that anyone who lost weight that way would gain it back very quickly once they were left to eating on their own. Report
JERF (just eat real food) I think all that highly processed junk is so full of chemicals and preservatives and just not good for you.
I tried many of those things in the past, thank goodness I have learned so much from my years here on Spark. Now I eat clean and maintain a healthy weight. Report
I would try a prepackaged diet plan to start to loose the weight and then follow the healthy lifestyle but I cannot afford the prepackaged diet plans. I am struggling to loose weight, but I will get better about what to eat when as I work on managing my meals and trying to follow the weekly diet plans that spark people puts out with some small changes when I cannot find the food listed (especially hummus) in the stores as we live in a smaller town and are not close to a large city and the stores in these areas do not always have the options that stores in larger cities have. Report
I'm actually in week 16 of the KP MWM program using Optifast and have lost 45 lbs so far. Yes the program uses pre-measured product but we also attend weekly classes teaching about lifestyle changes, tracking your food and exercise and arranging your world. You're told up front that you need to be mindful for the rest of your life and there is no guarantee about keeping the weight off. I'm using the program as a kick start to reach my goal weight which in turn allows me to exercise with less aches and pains.
Next week we will begin the transition phase by dropping 1 product and adding 1 meal/day each week using strict caloric/nutritional guidelines.
Plus I plan to continue using SparkPeople. The effort you put into it determines what you get out of life.
I wish there were an affordable gluten-free/dairy-free/grain-free option (I'm Celiac with extra issues digesting foods). Having to cook EVERYTHING you eat is a hassle, especially since I'm not at home a minimum of 55 hours a week (working, commuting). I would LOVE something to do for those times when I'm overwhelmed (time-wise). Salads are quick but try eating 2 a day for months. It gets old when you don't have any OPTION! I mean, I guess I could eat processed deli meats (hard to find w/o gluten but they exist)... I found a food service but it was about $10 per MEAL. Yikes. Report
I used nutrisystem for about 1 year & lost my first 100 lbs with them..i followed the (food) program religiously..my BP went down, my diuretic dosage was cut in half & most importantly, I learned portion-control & what a proper serving size looked like!..if you are truly honest with yourself, the cost isn't as high as it first appears to be..the food is shelf stable, taste's OK, and is nutritional. Report
I am no math expert but packaged food group on average regained 39 % back (remember they loss more weight), and the regular dieters (loss less) regained an average 52 % back.

Anyway, I agree with IAMTOLOSE, prepackaged food is good to start to learn portion control (I did this) and then go to a healthier lifestyle journey as SparkPeople promotes.

Okay, I am one who tried the prepackaged meals and lost 4lbs in a week. It was a last resort though as I have gone to a fitness/health specialist and accomplished the wellness plan. I planned out my meals and logged my calories daily, however I was not able to lose a pound. So, I tried the nurtisystem, more to see if it really worked and then to see HOW it worked as I am not one for prepackaged meals. I followed it but not as tight as I should have and lost 4lbs. During the period I looked at the meal plan to see how I could incorporate it into my daily living (without the prepackaged.) It is more one the structure of when to eat what, portion control and motivation. I learned a lot so lets see how this week goes with me creating my own meals. Wish me luck. Report
Packaged foods may work for the short term but unless you're going to eat them forever you need to learn what/when/how to eat real food. Thank you for this blog. Report
I had great success with eating prepackaged foods with a service. I went in an bought my food for the week. Most of it was quite good and just having to pick out a box each meal was mindless. I lost more than 20 pounds. Of course as soon as I stopped eating out of the boxes I gained all of the weight back plus! It felt like a diet which is what it was. It was easy but not sustainable. Now eating my own prepared food. Still easy because I prepare my meals for the week. Just grab a couple of containers and go. 15 pounds gone doing something that doesn't feel like a diet. Report
One of my friends did Medifast and lost way more in 26 weeks than these folks did in the study. I think she lost about 60 pounds in 6 months. She even became a counselor, but discovered pretty quick that it was sort of like Amway (or whatever they call themselves now) where she recruited people to sell the stuff to and got a percentage. She said the food for the most part was pretty bad, but she thought it was worth it to jump-start her weight loss and she hates to cook. However, it was expensive and she stopped doing it a while ago. I think she has gained a lot of the weight back, so I don't think Medifast or anything is a magic pill. Whatever we do, it is not going to be easy and we shouldn't try to fool ourselves into thinking that it is otherwise.
I am disgusted by studies like this with a clear conflict of interest that get published in peer-reviewed journals. It discredits not just the study, but the integrity of the entire journal. Shame on them! Report
Reading the UN-natural ingredients is enough to turn me off. Report
I will NEVER use a pre-packaged meal service!!! I could however BE a pre-packaged meal service!!! I LOVE TO COOK. Many, many years ago when my mom was over 200 lbs we joined weight watchers together. I cooked and packaged her meals for a month following their plan, until she got the hang of it herself. I LOVE to cook!!! Report
Oh well. sure. I've sometimes wished I had a cook in the kitchen doling out delicious (important adjective, here) calorie and portion controlled dishes. But if I tried to serve my husband a pre=packaged meal he'd refuse it. So even if I were paying $300 a month (really not that much if you figure you aren't buying any groceries) for me - I'd still be buying and cooking his food. stoopid.

I did have a girlfriend who tried one of the programs where food was shipped to her weekly - she said it was pretty tasteless. Not bad. Just ...eh. uninteresting. She only did it for a month.

Me? I would rather eat my own choices most of the time, and just eat less of them. Report
I've never tried any of the commerical meal-plan prepackaged foods, but I will say I've been tempted at times. One of the most difficult temptations for me is being in the kitchen. I prepare food from scratch virtually every day - and struggling not to nosh as I go is always hard, even with things like sugarfree mint chewing gum. People will say "Well, there aren't many calories in fresh carrots," and that's true, up to a point. But all foods have calories, and once you've nibbled a little of everything, plus taste-testing as you cook - well, it adds up, absolutely! At least pre-packaged limits what you have access to, as well as providing the built-in portion control. Might be a useful preliminary tool for weightloss... Report
Years ago, I tried Jenny Craig, but didn't last too long. The portions were extremely small, high in sodium, and tasted awful. They were also full of preservatives, which I try to avoid. A friend of mine tried NutriSystem around the same time, and as soon as she stopped, she gained back all her weight plus more because she never learned portion control, or how to plan her own meals. Report
I'm a foodie. I cook almost everything I eat and enjoy fresh ingredients. Prepackaged food wouldn't work for me at all.
I'm mindful of food groups, eat salads, and limit my intake of fats, but I cook and eat what I love.
I lose weight slowly, but my love affair with food is satisfied in a healthy way and that's a sustainable lifestyle. Report
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