Is the box more nutritious?
August 30, 2006 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm asking for a male friend who has tried Weight Watchers but didn't like going to meetings. So do these cardboard box diets work? You know the ones where they send you the food. Nutra system is one of them.
posted by Gungho to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, you can do Weight Watchers without the meetings...
posted by Lucinda at 12:39 PM on August 30, 2006

Your friend could do either Weight Watchers Online or Weight Watchers @ Home. Either program would likely be better than one that provides a pre-packaged meal.

Weight Watchers teaches you how to eat balanced, well-portioned meals. Once you understand the principals of the diet, you do not need to continue using their point system or buying any of their merchandise to continue losing weight. It seems like Nutrisystems and Jenni Craigs are just a subscription-based model that insures you need to keep buying from them in order to lose any weight. I can't imagine boxed food that isn't high in sodium either.
posted by lynda at 12:48 PM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

weight watchers worked much, much better for me than nutrisystem. of course the strong desire to really do it is the most important thing no matter what diet you do.

i've known people who have had much success doing weight watchers online.
posted by pinky at 12:48 PM on August 30, 2006

Yes, if you stick to the directions they give you as to how much you can/can't eat, barring medical issues.

However, you can do the same thing for free by counting calories. Really.

And calories are the "guaranteed" way you will lose weight. You can't make energy from energy that doesn't exist. You can't make fat without excess energy. Hence... you either don't put it on, or you lose it if you have too little energy coming in for what you expend.

The poor man's version would be to read the hacker's diet. Whenever I feel like losing another 10 lbs it works for me. And, if you are careful (sorta like me...) you will keep that 10 lbs off.

Although, for some, the investment in money keeps them losing weight...
posted by shepd at 12:50 PM on August 30, 2006

No personal experience, but witnessed many friends and relatives.

In the short term, yes, they work. The dieter loses weight.

In the long term (i.e. after the dieter starts to return to 'regular' food, either in part or in whole) no. The weight returns.

The box diets work in the short term because they are all about portion control/calorie count. They don't really teach the user how to control their own caloric intake or what constitutes a well-balanced dietary plan for life.
posted by jamaro at 12:50 PM on August 30, 2006

I don't have firsthand experience with WW, but I think that the less you make decisions about the food you eat -- the worse off you'll be in the long run. Getting into the habit of forming low-calorie meals out of ordinary grocery store food is probably a much better plan for long term success.

Having food scheduled and sent out to you isn't teaching you to eat right, it's teaching you to follow a temporary plan. But if your friend realizes this, and just uses the WW food as training wheels to jump start weight loss, I'm sure the plan can be used positively.

The 300-cal frozen meals are available in the grocery, anyway. I don't know what else the WW plan would fake chocolate shakes? How does a medically-formulated shake teach you not to eat those mallomars? Anyway, I wish him luck.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:55 PM on August 30, 2006

sorry, I should have written "Box diets work in the short term because they are all about *someone else determining* portion control/calorie count.

As an aside, when my SIL was doing Jenny Craig? I walked into her kitchen one time and thought she was microwaving some cat food, the smell was so bad. But, it was her prepackaged JC lunch. D'oh!
posted by jamaro at 1:00 PM on August 30, 2006

I second the Hacker's Diet method.

I also bring up the best method in the world for losing weight: comit to taking in ~0 calories in any beverages. No soda, no juice. Just water (and perhaps something like Crystal Light). OK, and the occassional Starbucks (sugar free, non-fat milk).

The number of "empty" calories people take in with liquids/drinks is amazing. And increasing water consumption on its own will help to lose weight too.
posted by JakeWalker at 1:01 PM on August 30, 2006

Yes, cardboard box diets work. Any diet works if you follow it. But they're diets and for most people will not become permanent lifestyle changes, and, thus, will ultimately fail.

For what it's worth, a man in my office has had huge success with Jenny Craig. He has to go once a week but they give you your food and stuff.
posted by tastybrains at 1:09 PM on August 30, 2006

I lost 30 lbs this year, and my wife 35 lbs. Our secret:

1) Eat/drink less

2) Exercise more

3) Get used to feeling a little hungry

Changing habits is the way to lose weight and keep it off.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2006

the box-food idea sounds attractive because it is organized and managed for you...i would offer some alternative advice based on personal experience (and that of friends who have been successful)...set intensive, managed exercise as the priority over the diet...i'm down 65 pounds this year (and my doctor has told me to stop losing) going to a four-morning-a-week bootcamp program...for me, the managed part (having an instructor pushing you) is effective because left to your own, you are less likely to push yourself to a higher level (and thus you get comfortable at one fitness level, but you don't lose more weight because you plateau)...when i started, i could do only one push-up and i couldn't run a mile, and hated running more than anything; now it's no big deal

...i offer this because the biggest surprise to me was that, starting off, the physical shock was so intense that i pretty much had to make myself eat (and also i think there is a psychological effect in which you don't want to ruin the hard work you've done in the workout by eating too much)...and now that i'm at a good target weight i'm eating pretty much anything i want to without gaining weight back (but again, not resting on the intensity of the exercise)...i'm eating better stuff, sure, but even i'm shocked at how much ice cream, popcorn, and pasta i'm getting away with these days...

i think men generally do better by making exercise the foundation of it all, particularly because the gains tend to be faster than for women...and personally, the times before when i have lost a lot of weight based mainly on diet, i didn't feel half as good as i do now...

..sorry if it's evangelistic here...just a different perspective to throw out...
posted by troybob at 1:42 PM on August 30, 2006

Many WW locations also hold some men-only meetings if that's why he didn't like it.

Just to be blunt, though, while he didn't like it... did it work? Changing your habits is always uncomfortable.
posted by phearlez at 1:43 PM on August 30, 2006

1) Eat/drink less

Well, that's a diet. Especially something like WW or the Hacker's Diet, which are about calorie reduction. Some people need a better framework than just "eat less" and these programs provide it.
posted by smackfu at 1:44 PM on August 30, 2006

I loathe Weight Watchers meetings. But they help me do what I need to do to lose weight. To quote the lovely Tina Yothers on Celebrity Fit Club 4, "Weight loss sucks." A healthier way to do the same thing as the pre-packaged meal route would be to sit down every Sunday afternoon and specifically plan all meals and snacks for the whole week, then go grocery shopping, purchase only those foods required for the week, and do as much prep work as possible. Bonus is that you're eating real-person food. It takes longer, yes, but it teaches you more about managing food in the real world, which is ultimately what needs to happen for weight loss/maintenance to be successful.
posted by ferociouskitty at 1:48 PM on August 30, 2006

oh yeah...for food advice specifically: though not a vegetarian, i got hooked on 'morningstar farms' vegetarian stuff (fake chicken, burgers, etc)...which is easy enough to just throw with a vegetable, with a minimum of organization (my personal downfall, though ritalin is helping quite a bit)...a good food strategy generally (and i say this because i think your friend's attraction to the box-food idea could be a lot about how overwhelming it can be to organize it all at once) is to create a standard breakfast, a standard lunch, and then three standard easy dinners--that's just five different meals to shop and plan for...and then week to week just add a new easy meal to the mix...
posted by troybob at 1:51 PM on August 30, 2006

i am currently on nutrisystem. I like it because I travel or eat at my desk often so its fairly convient. I don't use it for every meal though. Any thing will work if you have the self control neccessary to make it work.
posted by stormygrey at 1:55 PM on August 30, 2006

If you don't want to pay for anything, and get a grip on just how much crap you stuff into your gaping maw, you may find Calorie-Count to be very useful. You have to register but it's all completely free. I've also used FitDay, but there are a lot more foods in Calorie-Count, and the interface is prettier imho.

They also have toolbars for IE and Firefox that let you search for the foods you're eating (and have lots of stuff in their database), and there's an 'eat meter' that tells you how many calories you've had today compared to your target, so you can see how screwed you are. They also 'grade' foods, which can seem a little arbitrary at times, but it's pretty obvious what sucks and what doesn't.

Humans have a wonderful ability to manage themselves when given conscious feedback stimuli. Seeing a little bar in your browser window that says "getting close there, buddy" is a good stimulus to me.

I had the desire to lose some weight, but without any way of tracking my intake I wasn't doing much about it. Because Calorie-Count isn't telling you what to eat (but giving you suggestions through their grading system), you have to figure it out for yourself. I believe that's a positive thing in the long run.
posted by lowlife at 1:59 PM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

My husband lost a lot of weight not going to Weight Watchers meetings. He made a deal with himself that he'd show up at the place and get weighed once a week. If his weight stayed the same as the week before or went down, he left. If his weight went up, he had to stay for the meeting.

He followed the plan, which is a healthy one.

I know it's not what you asked... but maybe your friend would benefit from the weigh-in.
posted by wryly at 2:13 PM on August 30, 2006

Response by poster: I think the attraction to cardboard diets is that he wouldn't have to cook (per se). I agree he wouldn't learn to shop or eat either. You should see the Fridge...past the beer, meat, cheese, and condiments, there may be some sort of thing that was at one time a vegetable... I should probably throw that out and get him kick started. ferociouskitty I like the pre planned meals idea, but that seems to require you know actual planning. sigh.
posted by Gungho at 2:14 PM on August 30, 2006

Stay away from NutriSystem. I tried it years ago. Lost weight, but developed a kidney stone from the crap I was ingesting. Baaaad tradeoff! (I still remember the pain of passing that beast - felt like a boulder. A very jagged boulder.)

Today I started the Shangri La Diet. You know, sugar water or extra light olive oil. (Yeah, I know. I'll let you know.)
posted by wordwhiz at 2:19 PM on August 30, 2006

I used NutriSystem for one month (their minimum from QVC) and it was seriously disgusting. I couldn't stomach a lot of the meals and the food was atrocious. I suggest WW @ Home or WW Online, both of which I have used with success.
posted by Not in my backyard at 2:40 PM on August 30, 2006

Oops, meant to type more before I hit Post!

Seattle Sutton is a good, fresh meal option with just a few crappy meals. Overall, their plan is very good and quite natural. Yum.
posted by Not in my backyard at 2:41 PM on August 30, 2006

I've never been able to stay on a diet. What is working for me is getting a lot of exersize and not snacking on tons of crap. But I eat good meals. When you exersize a lot it pumps up your metabolism. You have to feed your muscles. I used to just take long walks and now I'm going to a gym too.

Losing fat and gaining muscles feels really good.

I have gone from size 22 to 16 and I'm getting close to 14.
posted by Melsky at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2006

Well, since everybody else is NOT answering the question, I'll throw in my two cents as well. Has he tried finding a different WW meeting? Depending where you live, there might be more than one happening. (In the Sydney CBD, for instance, there are about a dozen a week.) I wasn't loving my first meeting group, mostly because it was right after work and everybody was tired and depressed. When a meeting got cancelled for a holiday, I ended up going to a different group across town. It was amazing! They were all really friendly and had lots of energy and fun. I switched to that group and it's made all the difference. (I've lost nearly 50 pounds.)
posted by web-goddess at 2:54 PM on August 30, 2006

If his weight stayed the same as the week before or went down, he left. If his weight went up, he had to stay for the meeting.

Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one who did this! My wrinkle was if I lost less than 1 pound but didn't gain, I had to stay for half the meeting. It worked for me too. But then life happened and I stopped and now I'm back where I was. Maybe I should start this plan again!

I did do Nutrisystem, sort of, for two months. The appeal is the idea that you don't have to do any of the work, just heat and eat. Unfortunately, this isn't true, as you have to supplement each of their tiny "meals" with other foods (fruits, vegetables, another protein serving), so it's more costly than it looks at first glance, and more cooking, too. The meals themselves are, well, eh. Most of them were not truly disgusting (well, some of the breakfast stuff and so-called desserts are) but nothing to get excited over; not necessarily a bad thing. I just didn't want to do it, so I quit.

I had a fair amount of success with eDiets (I haven't belonged for over a year so my experience may not be typical now), mainly because of the community support there. I joined a challenge and was surprised at how much I accomplished. At that time they had what they called a "Jenny Craig alternative" plan, which consisted of convenience foods from the grocery store (like Lean Cuisine and such). I didn't follow that plan (they have tons of them), but your friend might be interested in that; they have men-only groups, as well as mixed-gender groups. The diet plans will plan your menu for you if you want, including recipes, so you don't have to think about it much if you don't want to. It's pretty economical if you get a yearly plan (I think I was paying $70 a year, it may well be more now).
posted by redheadeb at 3:10 PM on August 30, 2006

Well, since everybody else is NOT answering the question...

umm...well there is quite a bit of alternative advice here, mine particularly (which is a response in the sense that it proposes another, more practically efficient question to ask), but it sits admidst some very direct, good answers to the question at i don't get the point of saying this, outside perhaps the general trend here that WW is not the holy grail of dieting...
posted by troybob at 3:31 PM on August 30, 2006

(my apologies to post was was uncharitable)
posted by troybob at 4:15 PM on August 30, 2006

I had a great experience with WW, but I also went to meetings with a really great leader, who focused on eating whole foods and portion control, not how to construct a 1-point dessert out of nasty processed crap.

Recently, though, I've had great results using the food and excercise trackers on Sparkpeople.
posted by antimony at 4:20 PM on August 30, 2006

Yeah, I'll chime in again with the fact that the leader makes a lot of difference. I started in one group with a leader who had zero personality. It was painful to go to meetings. Then I switched to another group with a fantastic leader, and I actually look forward to the meetings.
posted by Lucinda at 5:23 PM on August 30, 2006

Sorry to have offended, troybob. It's just that convention and etiquette in AskMeFi dictates that if somebody asks "Does X work?", you don't post an answer simply advocating Y. (See: Just about every Mac/PC thread ever.) Since I've done WW and I haven't done the box diets, I normally would've passed on answering. But since a lot of the other people in the thread took the question as an invitation to trumpet their own alternative weight loss plans rather than answering the question asked, I threw my 2 cents in. (And now I'm further polluting Ask with this clarification. Sorry jessamyn! Feel free to delete if necessary...)
posted by web-goddess at 8:51 PM on August 30, 2006

I was given a couple books (and food counter and a dining out guide) and looked on the internet for how many points I could have by weight.

Then I found a really big help...the formula by which the points are calculated: (calories/50)+(fat grams/12)-(fiber grams/5), where the maximum fiber grams is 5. This comes from Weight Watchers' published patent. With this, any food counter book becomes useful for WW.

As well, activity points are earned with a simpler formula: (calories burned in a specific exercise/100).

Anyway, the point is that I've lost > 20 lbs this month without paying WW anything or attending any meetings.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:39 PM on August 30, 2006 [3 favorites]

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