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Can delivery meal services help you lose weight?


Delivery services are convenient -- but are they worth it? See more pictures of diet fads.
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Home meal delivery services take the guesswork out of dieting, but do they really deliver the goods? The short answer is that meal delivery programs are an effective way to get a running start on dieting. They offer low-calorie foods that are made from wholesome, balanced ingredients. The portions are carefully controlled, and many services offer some additional support, like exercise and lifestyle tips.

Although there's an advantage to having everything prepared for you, and sticking to any low-calorie diet will result in weight loss, meal delivery programs can be victims of their own success. They do the hard work, work that most dieters should probably be learning to do on their own, like dealing successfully with temptation and the triggers that cause overeating. It's a bit like learning how to quit smoking. There are lots of aids that will slowly reduce the amount of nicotine delivered to a smoker through gum or a patch, but the day finally comes when the aids are gone and it's cold turkey time.

It's About Behavior Modification

In April of 2007, a study published by Obesity found that programs that incorporate prepackaged meals as part of a larger strategy that includes exercise and behavioral counseling can be successful at getting off as much as 8 percent of body weight and keeping it beyond the magic one year mark.

The problem here is that some delivery meal services don't include the level of intervention and education that's necessary to achieve real behavioral change. A prepackaged low-fat meal, whether it's from a delivery meal service or the frozen food section of your local grocery store, can teach you to recognize what constitutes an individual portion, but what happens when you try to recreate that meal at home? If there's more food available, the triggers that cause you to overeat can rear their ugly heads and undermine a time-consuming and expensive dieting strategy that looked like it was really working [source: Food & Fitness].

The flip side of dealing with transitioning successfully after participating in a weight loss meal delivery program is the dilemma experienced by people who never even made it that far. In 2005, Americans spent more than $48.6 billion on weight loss schemes, and more than half failed to take the weight off and keep it off for a year or more; 21 percent never even made it past the 60-day mark. That's a lot of costly, unsuccessful dieting [source: Furman].

Successful Weight Loss

Consumer Reports periodically rates weight loss programs and has established some general guidelines that will get you started when evaluating a dieting plan:

  • Choose a plan that's safe.
  • Check with your doctor before you begin a weight loss program.
  • Start the day right by eating breakfast.
  • Choose foods that are high in fiber and low in calories.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Monitor portion size.
  • Understand your temperament and find a program that will work with your lifestyle and goals.

[source: Consumer Reports]

Of the assisted, commercial weight loss programs evaluated, Consumer Reports gave Weight Watchers the highest overall rating. Although Weight Watchers has prepared foods available through your local market, it does not have a food delivery service. Jenny Craig was also a close contender.

No one is arguing the fact that losing weight is hard -- really, really hard -- but the hardest part might just be finding a program that speaks to your individual needs in devising a strategy for dealing with food over the long haul.


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