Does the weight loss program from Jenny Craig Inc. work in helping people lose weight and keep it off?

Borrowing the same criteria as in Does the Atkins diet work?:

My question is, does this diet lead to substantial weight loss, say a 25% reduction for an obese male, without any serious adverse side affects. By serious, I mean things that would kill you. For instance a statistically significant increased risk of heart attack or cancer is a serious side affect. Also, for the purposes of this question, for a diet to "work" the weight has to stay down and not come back in 12-36 months.

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    Yes. I think she works at a diet company or something :) – Monkey Tuesday Apr 22 '11 at 23:16
  • Cheeky monkey. ;) – Brian M. Hunt Apr 22 '11 at 23:51
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    But does she do honest work? :-P – Lagerbaer Apr 23 '11 at 0:07
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    From a first glance at their homepage, what they claim is not outrageous, to say the least. Transition to a healthy diet with the long-term goal of changing your nutrition habits. That sounds reasonable to me, and they don't make outlandish claims (you know, 100 pounds in 6 days without sacrificing dessert). Let's see if there's more scholarly work behind it. – Lagerbaer Apr 23 '11 at 0:10
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    Very good edit, it makes the question much clearer, but man, it takes all the zing out of my joke :) – Monkey Tuesday Apr 23 '11 at 14:17

You can lose weight on their system, because it is simply introducing a calorie deficet. For example, from the sample kit you could have the following during a day (all calorie figures from Jenny Craig's):

  • Breakfast - Cinnamon French Toast - 240 calories
  • Snack - Yogurt Bar - 130 calories
  • Lunch - Turkey Burger - 280 calories
  • Snack - Cinnamon Twists - 120 calories
  • Dinner - Macaroni & Cheese - 230 calories
  • Dessert - Walnut Brownies - 180 calories

The total daily calories is 1180. That might be a little more if you have a little fruit or a side salad with one or two of the meals. It might also be less because you only receive one dessert for every three days of meals. Anyone who is accustomed to 2000 calories or more a day (average being estimated to 2600 a day in the United States (livestrong)) will definitely be running a calorie deficet, and therefore will begin to lose weight.

Actual Experience:

Last year I personally purchased two 3-day trial kits from Jenny Craig's website and proceeded to follow the diet for six days (as part of my 52 diets over the course of a year goal). In addition to eating the low calorie meals I also jogged 4 days that week.

I ended up losing 3 pounds overall, although at one point I was as much as 5 pounds down from the previous week. The diet is very calorie restrictive and I was extremely hungry the entire week. The food is tastes good, but the portions are quite small.

The diet is also quite expensive. On the normal plan I believe you pay between $80-$100 for the prepackaged meals. This is in addition to the cost of one of their programs.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    I think this is an interesting anecdote and thank you for posting it. I would like to see the statistics for people maintaining/losing/gaining weight immediately after they start the program and in subsequent years (whether they continue with the program or not - sustainability of the program being a key factor to eventual success). – Brian M. Hunt Sep 24 '12 at 19:56
  • I'd like to see some more references to back up certain points. E.g. that 1180 calories is low enough to lead to a reduction in weight. Your very last sentence is also not backed up, but more speculation, I'd recommend to remove it. – Mad Scientist Sep 26 '12 at 6:22

Jenny Craig's program does not provide you with a special diet, a-la Atkins. It's a simple calorie restriction diet, joined with a support group, physical exercise, etc.. All of these tools are very effective when used appropriately.


What are the goals of the Jenny Craig Program?

Weight is often related to lifestyle. That's why the goal of the Jenny Craig Program is to help clients acquire:

  • A Healthy Relationship with Food
    Along with balanced, low-calorie density food choices and portion control, the program emphasizes the importance of tuning into physical/emotional eating cues and the pleasure of eating via our menus and online journal. Teaching clients to be mindful about what they eat, is the first step in making healthier, more satisfying choices.
  • An Active Lifestyle
    The activity component of the program was developed in consultation with the world-renowned Cooper Institute and encourages clients to gradually increase activity through a combination of natural, planned and "playful" physical activities. Jenny Craig offers a walking audiocassettes, and fitness video series, and other tools that encourage clients to engage in a variety of cardiorespiratory, resistance and stretching activities. Maintenance materials also address important variables such as lack of time, ongoing motivation and changing body image.
  • A Balanced Approach to Living
    As weight issues are, in part, a reflection of thoughts and emotions clients bring to their weight loss efforts, the program emphasizes cognitive strategies to help clients develop a more balanced, positive mindset.
  • Wikipedia and the programs own page are poor references, and you haven't established that the calorie restriction diet, support group or exercise are effective. – Kit Sunde Sep 24 '12 at 7:52
  • I thought that it was obvious enough that eating less makes you slimmer, and that Wikipedia would suffice, but fair enough I'll look it up. The program's own page is clearly reputable as to what the program consists of. – Sklivvz Sep 24 '12 at 9:33

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