smart spending

How much does it cost to lose 30 pounds?

A large $ sign vault in the sky
Highlights
  • The business of losing weight has ballooned into a $30-billion-a-year industry.
  • Before committing to any system, talk to your doctor and ask questions.
  • Ask yourself if you can afford the program and if it fits your lifestyle.

It could be a wedding, a high school reunion, a New Year's resolution or a tropical vacation. We've all had that moment where an upcoming event makes us wish we could instantly drop 10, 20 or 30 pounds. As panic sets in, ads featuring before and after shots of weight-loss success stories capture the imagination and we muse: "If Mike Bullard lost 30 pounds in seven weeks, why can't I?"

Despite studies saying Americans are getting fatter every year, people are obsessed with weight loss, and the business of losing weight has ballooned into a $30-billion-a-year industry. How much would you be willing to spend to lose 30 pounds?

There's no shortage of options when it comes to weight-loss programs. The key is finding a program that fits your lifestyle and budget. Of course, you could always go the old-fashioned route, reducing calories and increasing exercise, but many dieters benefit from added structure and support, not to mention the accountability (there's nothing like a little public humiliation to keep you motivated) that accompanies an organized program.

But paying someone to keep you on the straight and narrow isn't cheap. Remember, the phrase "caveat emptor" (let the buyer beware) was practically coined for the diet industry. Case in point: LA Weight Loss, the well-known program, shut its doors in January 2008. Customers had to apply to get refunds for services not rendered. Do your homework and remember that there are no shortcuts or magic shakes or bars that will to be your ticket to Slimville.

Jenny Craig

The weight loss brand recently marketed by spokeswoman Queen Latifah boasts a sensible approach to weight loss, advocating an average drop in body mass of about 1 percent, or one to two pounds per week. The program addresses mind-body aspects of weight loss by helping clients adopt healthy eating and exercise habits, as well as encouraging them to examine the underlying causes of their weight problem.

Clients can choose from two membership levels. Jenny Rewards, priced at $399 or $359, is a 12-month program that rewards dieters' efforts and weight loss with discounts on food. There's also an at-home option which is similar to the in-store choices except you also pay for shipping and have consultations over the phone.

Sign-up costs include weekly one-on-one counseling, personalized menus, motivational plans and assorted manuals and guides, depending on your membership level. Then, there's the cost of food. The prepackaged foods generally cost $12 to $18 per day, or $84 to $126 per week.

Total cost: $399 with a payment plan or $359 upfront, not including food.

Nutrisystem

This at-home system (no office visits or weigh-ins) will appeal to those who don't like to cook. It involves exclusively eating the company's prepackaged meals. The 28-day program includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (you can add fresh vegetables, fruit and dairy). Support is offered through a free Web site.

 

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"Some people lose one pound a week, some people lose three pounds a week," says a Nutrisystem sales representative. If, on average, you lose two pounds a week, the diet will take about four months. It's cheaper to sign up for the Auto-Delivery Savings program (the food keeps coming until you cancel it), which costs $293.72, including shipping, per month.

Total cost: $1,174.88, including all food, except fresh greens and dairy.

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