smart spending

The cost of losing weight

Weight loss
Highlights
  • Weight Watchers is the least expensive, but the price doesn't include groceries.
  • Critics say costly weight-loss programs don't have lasting effects.
  • The self-disciplined can lose 25 pounds without having to pay much cash at all.

After a run of food-focused holiday get-togethers, many people vow to sign up for a weight-loss program during the early part of the year.

How much do weight-loss programs cost? Price quotes from three diet programs, based on a goal of losing 25 pounds, run the gamut from $65 to more than $700, though the price tag on the low end of the spectrum doesn't include the cost of groceries.

Before you sign up, consider how much you are willing to spend.

The Weight Watchers program

Weight Watchers' three-month online-only subscription -- with access to community forums, interactive tools and 2,500 recipes -- costs $65. No prepackaged food is available. Relying on a point system, the goal is to train yourself to eat a balanced diet each day based on foods you already stock in your fridge.

Weight Watchers estimates that up to 2 pounds can be lost per week. Following the program, it would take between 13 and 25 weeks to lose 25 pounds. That will cost between $65 and $440 total, depending on how actively you wish to participate in the program. In addition to the online-only subscription, you can attend weekly meetings at a cost of between $10 and $15.

"Members are taught to manage food choices through the point system," says Liz Josefsberg, director of brand advocacy for Weight Watchers. "Maybe an apple is zero points, but a candy bar is 10 points. This helps you understand the choice. It's all about managing the food choices. We encourage real food in the real world. We want you to be able to manage food in any situation."

Last fall, the PointsPlus system debuted as a tweak on the decades-old point system.

The Nutrisystem diet

Those strapped for time who desire convenient meals requiring little preparation might consider such programs as Nutrisystem or Medifast.

For $259 per month, plus an extra $100 for add-in items such as dairy and fresh vegetables, Nutrisystem delivers all meals -- a mix of frozen and pantry-ready foods -- to your front door.

"On Nutrisystem, you can expect to lose at least 12 pounds a month, so losing 25 pounds in two months is feasible," says Meredith Bandy, coordinator of Nutrisystem's public relations and marketing.

To lose those extra 25 pounds would cost about $718.

"You can throw the food in your bag when you go to work -- or in your suitcase when you go on vacation," says Susan McGowan, senior director of public relations.

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Nutrisystem gives dieters a choice of around 150 entrees. The program endorses eating three small meals and one serving each of a dessert and a snack daily so that blood sugar levels don't vary much. Items range from crispy rice cereal for breakfast to a variety of sweets for after dinner.

In lieu of meetings, members have 24-hour phone access to a team of registered dieticians as well as an online community on Nutrisystem.com.

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