Pros: Convenient ordering, no meetings to attend.
Cons: Expensive, bland food; tiny portions.
I was a little skeptical about ordering from NutriSystem after having gained 40 pounds from various medications. Many years ago, I had lost 55 pounds in about 7 months with Weight Watchers and kept it off for years. But, like many other people, I wanted a quick fix - something that would be the magic pill to shed the pounds. The commercials are slick - they promise good-tasting food with generous portions and even snacks and desserts for chocoholics. So, I guess I would have to say I was completely sucked into their marketing ploy.
Their website shows plates laden with attractive foods. The photography is so good that you actually want to reach into the computer and grab a portion. Of course, I didn't realize that the plates they used were probably no larger than a standard dessert plate so the miniscule portions would appear to be larger than life.
All of this aside, I was excited about ordering and I used the a-la-carte method of choosing individual items that appealed to me rather than a popular selection grouping. I ordered a month supply which came to around $300. Expensive? Sure, but I thought that $10/day was reasonable for replacing my grocery bill and not having to buy anything more than my usual coffee and cleaning products.
When the doorbell rang with the delivery box I almost went into cardiac failure. My 30 days of meals was in this box that was smaller than a toaster oven! Maybe the shipment was in more than one box. I looked at the shipping label and was disappointed to see that this was the only box.
After accepting delivery, I opened the box to find an assortment of freeze-dried meals with packages smaller than Lean Cuisine frozen meals. There was also a variety of snack packages and some canned stuff that was smaller than any canned product that I could find on a supermarket shelf.
All of this aside, I decided to still give it the old college try. Here are some of my impressions:
Most of the meals were bland and tasteless. There is a conspicuous absence of sodium. That in itself is not bad, but any good chef will tell you that when you remove something from a food, you must replace it with an alternative ingredient - a spice, herb or other ingredient that will make up for that missing flavor. This was not so with the NutriSystem foods. Even the snacks and desserts lacked any appeal - the packaging probably would have tasted better than the food it contained.
I understand that the main thrust of any diet is portion control. The bottom line is you don't lose weight unless the calories consumed are less than the calories burned through activity. However, I found the portions from NutriSystem to be painfully small. Now, in all fairness, I tried this before they started having special programs for men. I am assuming that the men's program has larger portions, so I can't really comment on any difference if any.
The snack packages were also tiny - I hardly found them worth the effort of opening them because there was so little contained inside. For me, the purpose of a snack is to tide me over until the next meal and stave off those hunger pangs. These snacks hardly did the trick.
THE FINE PRINT
When I purchased my supply, there was no mention (unless I completely missed it on the website) about supplementing the food with additional veggies and fruits from the grocery store. I assumed that what I purchased had everything that I would need for a complete month.
I was surprised to find that I was required to supplement these meals with additional servings of salad, vegetables, and fruits.
I finally gave up on NutriSystem in about 3 days. I didn't even bother to try and return the stuff because I figured it was an expensive lesson learned and it would be more hassle to try to return what was left. I used the remaining food for snacks and quick meals when I didn't feel like cooking (of course, they had to be doctored to add a little flavor).
In all fairness, I would say that this type of plan (and others like Jenny Craig) may be fine for someone who needs absolute portion control. There are those of us who cannot deal with certain freedoms when it comes to choosing how much is put on our plate. I'm not one of them - I was battling medication-related weight gain AND started making poor choices at mealtime.
With that said, I think that, by far, the most sensible plan for the majority of people is Weight Watchers. They don't require you to buy their products - the frozen meals and other WW products are offered in the grocery store as a convenience. They are clearly marked as to how many points they will cost you. And, Weight Watchers clearly is more flexible - even when it comes to the occasional dinner out. They have always given a guide so that we don't feel deprived.
DIET is a 4-letter word in many senses. Successful diets are more a way of life alteration. In order to lose weight and keep it off, we must make a commitment to ourselves that we have to learn portion control and make life-long better choices as to what we put into our stomachs. I can't see NutriSystem products as a life-long commitment. My guess is that the majority of people who use NutriSystem will lose the weight, but gain it all back (and then some) when and if they stop buying the products. It is so easy to fall back into old habits.
I was never satisfied with NutriSystem portions and felt hungry most of the day. This is something I never experienced on Weight Watchers - to the contrary, I found myself full and satisfied and truly amazed in the beginning - I looked at all that I would have to eat in a day and doubt that I could ever lose an ounce.
The bottom line is that NutriSystem products are very expensive. The folks who are supposed to counsel you are more salespeople than counselors - they are there to sell a product. I don't think that it promotes a life-long change of eating habits. As I said before, it MAY work for some people, but I don't think that the majority of us will see a continuing benefit from NutriSystem.
In the end: find a Weight Watchers close to your home and faithfully attend the meetings.