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Which weight loss program is best for you? Dietitians and doctors share guidance

There are many weight loss programs to choose from. Dietitians and doctors share which options may be most effective.
/ Source: TODAY

About 70% of adults in the United States are overweight or have obesity, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, but losing weight is a personal journey. Weight loss programs are one way that can help, but with so many to choose from, where do you start? Here’s a review on some of the best weight loss programs to consider and how to select the best one for you.

Weight loss programs versus diets

“I would separate a ‘diet’ from a program, which basically helps you stick to that ‘diet,’” Evan M. Forman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Weight, Eating and Lifestyle Science (WELL Center) at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, tells

“The dietary prescriptions that have been evaluated and compared are reduced calorie, or balanced calorie deficit, low fat, low carb, plant based and Mediterranean,” adds Forman, who is also a professor of psychology and brain sciences.

Studies show these approaches are all effective — and equally effective when compared with one another — but he cautions individual results can vary widely.

“The main factor seems to be which dietary pattern allows a given person to feel satisfied and is sustainable over the very long term,” Forman advises.

What makes a good weight loss program?

 Ask yourself these four questions:

Which program will work best for you?

“Avoid quick fixes,” Satya Jonnalagadda, a registered dietitian nutritionist, tells “Instead, focus on nutrition and lifestyle changes — one healthy habit at a time.”

Look for plans that include food you enjoy, but make sure the plans are balanced with enough nutrients and include food from all major good groups, according to Mayo Clinic.

Does the program set goals and track what you are eating?

“Effective programs provide nutrition skills, and help you set weight, activity and energy intake, aka calorie, goals, and make it reasonably easy to track your behavior against your goals, including tracking everything you eat,” Forman says.

A reasonable weight loss goal is typically one to two pounds per week, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Is counseling part of the program?

Forman recommends a program that has lifestyle counseling to teach skills on how to develop and sustain healthier eating and physical activity habits.

“A large number of studies show that people tend to succeed only if they enroll in a structured, intensive program with expert coaches who meet regularly over a long period of times, such as 25 times in one year, in order to provide skills training, problem solving and accountability,” he notes. 

Is physical activity included?

Programs should also include physical activity because exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight and counters the loss in muscle mass that accompanies weight loss, according to Mayo Clinic.

Which are the best weight loss programs?

Ultimately, the best weight loss program for you will be one you enjoy and therefore can stick with, experts say.

“We need to personalize programs to fit individual needs," Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells, adding that she doesn't believe one is better than another.

Based on interviews with nutritionists, and existing research and rankings, like U.S. News and World Report's, here are some top weight loss programs (though this list in not all-inclusive): 

  • WeightWatchers Points Program
  • Mayo Clinic Diet
  • Noom Weight
  • WeightWatchers Clinic
  • Optavia
  • TOPS Club
  • National Diabetes Prevention Plan
  • Nutrisystem
  • Keyto
  • Jenny Craig

Our list also includes pros and cons for each program based on interviews with nutritionists, existing research and rankings, and information from the program's websites and spokespeople.

As trying any new weight loss program may affect your digestion, blood sugar and overall health, consult your health care provider before doing so.

WeightWatchers Points Program 

“With WeightWatchers programming, not all calories are equal,” Gary Foster, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of WeightWatchers in New York, New York, tells

Rated the No. 1 diet program in the U.S. News and World Report in 2023, the WeightWatchers Points Program assigns every food a single number "points value" based on its calories and nutritional factors, like added sugars, fiber, protein and the amount of saturated or unsaturated fats, Foster explains.

Participants get a personalized "points budget" to spend on any foods they want to eat, and they track what they are eating in an app. They need to stay in their budget of points to lose weight, according to the company’s website.

“Our Points Program is backed by decades of research, demonstrating efficacy for both short- and long-term weight loss and maintenance without medication,” Foster says. 


  • Over 200 low-calorie but filling foods that don’t have to be tracked
  • No food or beverages off limits
  • Exclusive in-app social network
  • 24/7 virtual chat to share tips, recipes and solutions for common challenges 


  • Food-tracking and counting points can feel time-consuming
  • Weekly recommended weight checks may feel stressful
  • Too lenient for some battling self-control and may lead too poor nutritional choices

Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet is not just a diet. It is a lifestyle change program,” Dr. Donald Hensrud, editor of the ‘Mayo Clinic Diet’ based in Rochester, Minnesota, tells

Rated among the top five diet programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2023, it focuses on eating healthy foods by teaching how to estimate portion sizes and plan meals while increasing physical activity.

“By consuming generous amounts of foods that are high in bulk but low in calories, such as vegetables and fruits, people can feel satisfied yet consume less calories” adds Hensrud, an internal medicine physician specializing in nutrition and weight management.

The diet is divided into two phases: The first is called "Lose It!" and second is called "Live It!" 

“In the two-week 'Lose It!' phase, people make changes in 15 habits related to weight management, (while) in the 'Live It!' phase, people take these habits and turn them into a lifestyle change program,” Hensrud explains.

“The only necessary cost is 'The Mayo Clinic Diet' book and, if desired, ‘The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal,'” he said. 

There's also a digital component, which includes a food tracker, group coaching, meal plans and recipes, and other educational resources and features, Hensrud adds.


  • Not focused on counting calories
  • Easy to follow
  • Manages weight for the long term
  • Different menus and recipes for a Mediterranean, higher protein, healthy keto and vegetarian eating preferences


Noom Weight

Rated best weight loss app with coaching by Healthline in 2023, Noom Weight is a virtual weight management program that helps lose weight by focusing on the mental aspects of weight loss. 

After taking an online quiz, the app provides a plan (often for 16 weeks) with suggested caloric intake, complete with daily lessons to help change the way you think and feel about eating, according to the company website. The user tracks everything they eat, which is categorized into green, yellow or orange foods, with the goal to eat a balanced amount of all the colors, according to its website.

“We help our users better understand their relationship with food, how to be more mindful of their habits, and give them the knowledge and support they need for positive health outcomes — including guiding them through lessons and habit-forming exercises to enhance understanding and integration of our ‘four pillars of health' (sleep, exercise, nutrition, and stress management),” a Noom spokesperson tells

While Forman doesn't endorse any specific weight loss programs, he says that Noom is "one of the only programs" that helps teach "cognitive behavior skills," like how to manage cravings and create an environment with food that reduces temptation.


  • Daily lessons to help change habits and behaviors
  • Coaching support via chat inside app
  • Tracking tools for food and exercise to hit goals at a personalized pace
  • No food off limits 


  • No in-person coaching
  • Some may find it time-consuming to log everything they eat on a daily basis
  • Because self-help is a big focus, it may not work for everyone


The program is rated among the top five diet programs in 2023 by U.S. News and World Report.

Optavia provides personalized, holistic support to help transform your lifestyle — with everything in one place: one-on-one coaching, active community, healthy habit creation, the right easy-to-adhere-to nutrition and activity guidance,” Jonnalagadda, Ph.D., who is also vice president of scientific and clinical affairs at Medifast, the parent company of Optavia, tells

The goal is to eat six small meals a day with a combination of prepackaged Optavia branded products called “fuelings” and homemade meals prepared on your own called “lean and green” meals. Clients eat five "fuelings" every two to three hours, then make one home-cooked "lean and green" meal.

Optavia 'fuelings' are pre-portioned, nutrient-dense, calorie and carbohydrate controlled, made with high-quality protein, fortified with vitamins and minerals, fiber and probiotics, and contain no colors, flavors or sweeteners from artificial sources — making it simple and convenient to follow,” a company rep tells

“At the foundation of the program is the Habits of Health Transformational System, which focuses on six key healthy habits, including weight management, eating and hydration, motion, sleep, mind and surroundings,” Jonnalagadda adds.


  • One-on-one coaching
  • 90% of Optavia coaches were clients first


  • Some may not like the emphasis on prepackaged meals
  • Potential weight rebound after stopping products


TOPS Club, which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly, has been around since 1948 and now has about 6,000 chapters across the U.S. and Canada.

“In a nutshell, TOPS connects people of all backgrounds, many of whom cannot afford expensive commercial programs, through our network of weight‐loss support groups,” Michelle Ganley, director of communications of TOPS Club, tells

“When you become a member of a chapter, you’re joining a group of people with similar healthy living goals. It’s that accountability that our members swear by — showing up for one another week in and week out, at regularly scheduled meetings.”

The program does not have any formal counseling as it’s centered on peer-to-peer support. Members have access to a variety of meal plans on the website, with a 28-day meal plan that’s recommend for new members when they first join. There’s no official diet to follow, but many follow the Food Exchange System, created by the American Diabetic Association, Ganley notes.

Dr. Nia Schwann Mitchell, weight management specialist at Duke University, tells a "unique" aspect of TOPS Club is that "people are expected to continue in the program and participate weekly, even after they reach their goal weight."

Her research shows people who participate in the TOPS program for at least one year can lose up to 5-7% of their initial weight and maintain the weight loss for up to seven years.  

“As with other weight loss strategies, when people stop doing the things that helped them lose weight, they gain it back,” she adds. 


  • Online and virtual options
  • Strong support among people who are going through similar experience


  • No official diet to follow·     
  • No formal counseling
  • Support varies by local chapter  

National Diabetes Prevention Program

“The National Diabetes Prevention Program’s lifestyle change program helps people who are at high risk for Type 2 diabetes to make healthy changes — including losing a modest amount of body weight — that can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes,” Christopher Holliday, Ph.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Division of Diabetes Translation, tells 

“The lifestyle change program helps participants eat healthier, get more physical activity, manage stress, and cope with life’s challenges that can make it difficult to stay on track.” 

Participants have access to CDC-approved resources, support groups, and a lifestyle coach to help them build healthy habits that last a lifetime, he adds.

“Research shows that people who participate can cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by more than half,” Holliday says. “The year-long program is offered in-person, as well as ... virtually, and it is covered by many employers and insurance providers, including several state Medicaid programs."



  • Cost varies
  • Primary goal to prevent diabetes
  • Need to meet eligibility criteria to participate
  • People with Type 1 or 2 diabetes not eligible


Rated among the top five diet programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2023, the program centers on balanced, premade meals and controls calories and hunger by eating frequently throughout the day, according to its website. 

You first select a plan based on your age and sex. Then Nutrisystem delivers meals and snacks to your home. You then follow their app to know exactly what to eat and when (usually six times a day) while having daily access to coaches as needed. The premade meals focus on lean proteins, healthy fats, and certain carbohydrates combined with fiber and vegetables, according to the company’s website. 


  • No counting calories
  • Customized plans and modifiable meals
  • App provides support and resources


  • Limited options for eating out
  •  Hard to sustain weight loss over long term
  • Not suitable for people with soy or peanut allergies 

Keyto Diet

Rated among the top 10 diet programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2023, the Keyto diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that emphasizes Mediterranean diet foods and fats that helps people “lose weight with no hunger,” according to its website.

First you create your personalized plan with a short questionnaire, and then you get the Keyto app. It includes a 16-week course, a customized lesson plan, a searchable food database, meal plans, recipes and a podcast for members. All members get coaching from a goal specialist, dietitian and personal trainer, per its website.


  • Recipes can be easily adjusted to dietary preferences
  • No counting calories or points
  • Diet rich in high-fiber foods
  • Mediterranean-style diet may lend to long term weight loss 


  • May not work for people with gallbladder issues or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diabetics should talk to their doctor first before starting program

Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig is an entirely virtual program of prepackaged meal plans that incorporate the principles behind intermittent fasting to achieve weight loss.

It is rated the second-best diet program by U.S. News and World Report in 2023, but the company has now shifted into a virtual model after it was bought by the owner of Nutrisystem earlier this year.

People first choose among several meal plans, and then the food is delivered to their door in two-week shipments. They eat during a 10-hour “nourishment period” window, then take a break for a 14-hour “rejuvenation period," which includes sleep. Members also get "recharge bars" that they can eat in the last two hours of the fasting period to curb hunger. Weekly coaching is also available.


  • Defined meal plans
  • Coaching available
  • Structure approach to eating


  • No app
  • No in person coaching
  • Long periods without eating

Before starting any new weight loss programs, consult your doctor.