Being overweight is not just an appearance and self-esteem issue. Many studies have shown that being overweight or obese increases your risk of certain diseases such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
For all these reasons and more, many people are turning to diet aids, and diet meal plans, in order to help them lose weight.
Weight Watchers has been around for many years, and has quite a few success stories to prove that it works for many people who stick to the plan, particularly women. In addition to its meal plans, it also has counseling, meetings and weigh ins, a support network, online tools, and pre-prepared foods which help you stay within their points system, while still getting to eat some of the foods you love, like chocolate cake or a blueberry muffin.
The Jenny Craig program has increased in popularity in recent years thanks to several celebrities crediting it with helping them lose significant amounts of weight. They also have meetings and support, though they are not as strict about weigh ins and have a wider variety of foods.
In addition to these tried and tested diet meal plans, recent newcomers include Nutrisystem and Medifast. They do not hold meetings, but do offer online support and tools. Their major selling point, however, is that they deliver complete pre-measured, calorie counted meals right to your home for a fairly affordable price. Each plan comes in at under $10 a day, and includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. If you plan our your meals carefully online, you will have variety, and can mix and match daily menus and not have to worry about going over your calorie count.
The meals are delivered with a booklet to help you keep track of what you eat each day, and encourages exercise to support your new diet plan.
Like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, neither of these eating plans is complete. Each one suggests you add dairy, salad, and fresh fruits and vegetable to each meal. Which is where the real trouble can start, if people on these diets do not exercise control over their portions. In addition, making bad choices with their salad, for instance, such as a high calorie, high fat dressing, can derail a whole day's worth of weight loss, let alone a month on the plan.
The foods are tasty and convenient, however, if you look at the labels, many of them contain a great deal of sodium (salt), which makes you retain water and can add five to ten pounds of weight and affect your blood pressure. Salt makes food taste yummy, but it can also encourage you to eat more.
Sugar and sugar substitutes can also cause cravings. Some studies also suggest that the body processes them in the same way as it would regular sugar, which might help explain why Type II diabetes has risen to huge proportions in the American population, even amongst children, who normally would only ever have Type I diabetes.
It does not make good dieting sense to get most of your calories from foods that come out of a box. Any packaged food will, by its very nature, be lacking in fresh ingredients, and full of preservatives.
It also does not make sense to let other people cook for you, when you can control your own calories and high-quality ingredients for yourself, often at a fraction of the cost. It is far better to spend the money on fresh fruits and vegetables from your local farmer's market, and lean proteins like turkey, chicken and fish, than the amount you would need to spend on the single portion entrees you get in the mail.
Prepackaged diet foods can seem a great idea if you are a busy person on the go, but it is easy to make your own calorie controlled diet plan dinners yourself for pennies by cooking in large batches and then freezing them in plastic containers that can easily be heated in a microwave whenever you need a wholesome meal.
Diet meal plans can be a great help in assisting you to start thinking more about portion control, and a good option for single people who do not need to worry about what the whole family is going to eat. However, since most of them are incomplete anyway, it is far better to get a few good recipes and keep yourself on track with your own calorie controlled diet plan, and smart choices about avoiding extra calories from cakes, cookies and meal replacement bars.