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Find the Right Diet Plan: Mail-Order Diet Plans

What's Your Dieting Personality?

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Updated March 11, 2014

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Many mail-order diet plans require users to purchase additional foods. Be sure to factor this expense into your total costs when choosing a plan.

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If you are ready to start losing weight, you need to find a weight-loss method that you will easily be able to adapt to. There are many options -- from simply using a book, such as hugely popular South Beach Diet, to dieting with Web-based programs, or attending in-person support/education groups, such as the Weight Watchers meetings-based program.

This article series will help you understand your "dieting personality" and ultimately decide which dieting method fits it. Let's take a look at one weight-loss option, mail-order diet plans, to find out if it suits your dieting personality:

Mail-Order Diet Plans: Convenience at a Price

If you don't like to prepare meals or are short on time, a mail-order diet plan might be ideal for you. Mail-order diet plans deliver portion-controlled, balanced meals and snacks to your home or office; they may be shelf-stable or delivered frozen. You may have the option to pick up meals if an office is located near you. Many plans require you to purchase additional, specified foods at the grocery store to supplement the pre-packaged meals, such as low-fat dairy products or fresh produce.

In addition to the convenience of not having the cook or plan meals, many people on mail-order diet plans find that having diet-friendly foods at-hand that are either ready-to-eat or require a few minutes' microwave-heating prevents them from reaching for less-healthful foods when an out-of-control appetite or a tendency toward emotional eating strikes. However, this convenience-factor can backfire: For instance, Jenny Craig teaches you how to segue back into eating "regular" foods while on their program, but NutriSystem requires you to use their pre-packaged meals during the duration of your time on the plan. Unless you learn healthy eating and cooking skills that you can adapt to when the diet is over, you will be very likely to regain the weight you lose.

Some mail-order diet plans (including Jenny Craig and NutriSystem) provide counseling in the form of a consultant with whom dieters are able to discuss their weight-loss struggles or questions about the plan. Other mail-order plans provide meal-delivery only and simply provide the foods you request ... the rest is up to. It is important that you decide if you need this additional help before choosing and paying for a particular plan. If the plan that offers food-only is a more cost-effective choice and you feel you don't need support, choose it; if you feel like you'll be less likely to adhere to the plan without "checking in" with someone, a consultant may be worth a premium price.

Despite the ease-of-use and benefits, many people find the cost of these types of diet plans to be prohibitive; depending on the plan and the options you choose, you can expect to spend at least two- to three-hundred dollars a month on meals. While some plans advertise their fees to be as low or lower than many people's average grocery bill, the cost can still be daunting:

From my own personal experience during a trial of NutriSystem, I can say that my grocery bill remained surprisingly-close to my normal expenses while I continued to purchase low-fat dairy products, whole-grain foods, lean protein sources and fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement my meals. The several-hundreds of dollars I spent per month (in addition to groceries) on NutriSystem meals meant I was spending much more that I was accustomed to and made the plan impossible to follow on a long-term basis.

Is a Mail-Order Diet Right for You?

To find out if a mail-order diet is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have trouble controlling portions on your own?
  • Do you want to avoid cooking or planning meals?
  • Do you want to avoid counting calories?
  • Are you willing to completely give up certain foods (NutriSystem forbids all "white" carbs, for example)?
  • Would you like one-on-one support (not all plans offer this)?
  • Can you cope with preparing meals for your family while eating your mail-order foods?
  • Are you willing to track and measure portions of added foods or beverages?
  • Will you be able to adjust to eating normal food again without gaining weight?
  • Will you be able to prevent boredom while selecting meals from a limited number of options?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, a mail-order diet plan may be right for you. If you prefer to lose weight by eating foods of your own choosing, an online weight loss program may be a better option for you.

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