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Diet plans

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What's behind our diet plan Ratings?

The Consumer Reports National Research Center comprises highly trained social scientists, including 9 Ph.D.s, using state-of-the-art techniques to survey more than 1 million consumers each year about products, services, health care and consumer issues.
We look for:
  • Reader Score
    A score of 100 means all respondents were completely satisfied; 80 would mean very satisfied, on average; 60, fairly well satisfied; 40, somewhat dissatisfied.
  • Initial weight loss
    Satisfaction with how quickly after starting the diet respondents began to lose weight
  • Maintenance
    Satisfaction with how well the diet helped respondents maintain weight loss
  • Calorie awareness
    How well diet increased respondents' awareness of the calorie counts of foods they commonly eat
  • Food variety
    Whether plan allowed sufficient variety and included favorite foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
    How well respondents thought diet plan encouraged fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise
    How well respondents thought diet plan encouraged exercise

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To find the diet that's right for you, Consumer Reports surveyed 9,736 people about the diets they tried. That allowed us to rate 13 popular diets. Most of them, like the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet, are do-it-yourself. All you usually need for them are instructions from a book or website. Two of those are free apps for your smart phone. And four of them are commercial plans, including Jenny Craig, Medifast, Nutrisystems, and Weight Watchers. See our expert advice and Ratings to find the one that will help you lose weight, and keep the pounds off.

Diet plan buying guide

When it comes to losing weight it's hard to know where to start. Do you sign up for a program or try to do it on your own? What are you willing to give up, and what's a deal breaker? Sometimes pondering all of your options can keep you from getting started. Well, no more excuses! Consumer Reports has done the legwork for you, asking 9,376 people about diets they've tried. We got the scoop on 13 popular plans. Most of them are free. You'll pay for commercial diets such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, and sometimes you'll pay for special food, too. But for the DIY diets, all you usually need are instructions from a website or a book, or in some cases, an app.

Just be realistic. Your own expectations play a big role in how satisfied you're likely to be with any diet you try. Let's face it: Most people don't have "Biggest Loser"-style outcomes. In our survey, only 14 percent of readers who'd finished their diets came to within 5 pounds of their goal weight. But take comfort in the fact that dropping as little as 5 to 10 percent of your starting weight can make a real difference in your health and well-being. If you have realistic goals, you're likely to feel better with the weight you lose. And don't give up if you don't like the first plan you try. At least some readers found success on all of these diets.

For more, including a table that shows how much weight readers lost, see our article Lose Weight Your Way.

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