Exactly how much green will it take to achieve that low body mass index and body fat percentage? And we’re not talking about lettuce here…
When considering a weight loss program, many people factor program cost into their decision. Let’s face it, there is only so much money in the monthly budget, and we’re all trying to stretch that dollar. So what is the best way to determine what is right for you?
Before reviewing the cost estimates of some of the most popular weight loss program categories, let’s be very clear about something upfront. Your primary concern when choosing a weight loss approach should not be ruled by the wallet. You must assess the program’s safety first and foremost. If it passes that test, then take a look at the program’s weight loss results, both in the short term and long term. If you’re satisfied with those, then that’s the best time to add cost to the decision tree.
Now, let’s dive into what you can expect as far as approaches go. For the purposes of emphasizing the safety and results factors, we’re going to rank these in order from least to most personalized and comprehensive approaches.
Category 1: Consumer Weight Loss Over The Counter Self-Help Products
We’re not so sure we’d label these a weight loss “program,” but since these types of products are all over the media they are hard to ignore. They include things like diet cookbooks, supplements that claim to have weight loss properties, low-calorie cereals, and yes, even sugar-free gum. This category is probably overall the cheapest way to go, but don’t expect to see great results since you won’t have the other critical components of effective weight loss to lean on. There’s also a relatively high safety concern with these products since they are for the most part unregulated and you will be “self-medicating.”
Bottom Line: Cheap products will produce cheap results. Don’t expect much!
Category 2: Commercial Weight Loss Plans
Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, etc. These commercial brands are household names, often thanks to big name celebrity endorsements. Each of these weight loss programs has its own twist on calorie-controlled food plans, which may include prepackaged meals as well as some degree of weight loss coaching. Commercial plans usually require monthly membership fees plus the cost of food if part of the plan. Although you may see weight loss early on, many of these plans focus on simple “calories in and calories out,” and fail to address the underlying behavioral causes of weight gain. In most cases, those following commercial weight loss plans regain the weight they lost, and end up back where they started, and sometimes even deeper in the hole.
Bottom Line: You are likely to see initial results, but these types of programs tend to have a high weight regain rate. It might be a reason to keep your monthly subscription going, which can add up in the long-term.
Category 3: Activity Trackers
Activity trackers like FitBit and the Apple Watch are not only fashionable, but can be a useful tool in weight loss. They give you a fair estimate of your physical activity level and can help you maintain the calorie deficit that is so crucial when losing weight. They also offer some ancillary features like sleep tracking and online food diaries. The cost of activity trackers has a wide range, with Apple Watch on the high end. But don’t fall into the temptation of overly relying on fitness trackers. They don’t provide the full spectrum of personalized care that is necessary to treat a chronic disease like obesity.
Bottom Line: Activity trackers are cool and a great complement to a program and probably worth the one-time investment, but we wouldn’t rely on them alone for weight loss. They need to be combined with a more structured program.
Category 4: Medically-Directed Weight Loss
Medical weight loss is a relatively recent entrant in the array of weight loss program offerings. For many years many people considered medical weight loss as only weight loss surgery. But advancements in the clinical understand of obesity, and the declaration of obesity as a chronic disease by the American Medical Association in 2013, has pushed non-surgical medical weight loss into the limelight. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that medical weight loss is associated with long-term success. Since it is borne out of the chronic disease model of care, it offers the most comprehensive set of diagnostics and treatments available to those seeking to lose weight, including meal replacement therapy and weight loss pharmaceuticals. It is also highly personalized to each individual. Due to the wider set of weight loss therapies and high personalization levels, medical weight loss programs tend to run on the higher end of the price spectrum. However, recent expansion of insurance coverage for intensive behavioral counseling (for those with BMI of 30 or higher) as well as free preventive weight screening through the Affordable Care Act has made this weight loss option much more accessible.
Bottom Line: These types of programs might be on the higher end, but insurance coverage for intensive counseling is most likely available since it is a medical approach.
The greatest investment you can ever make is in your health. Rather than focus on price, think about your choices in terms of value. What will bring you the safest, most effective long-term results? Which approach will help you achieve a state of wellness and not just short-term slimness? Yes, weight loss costs something, but good health really is priceless.