Jenny Craig is definitely one of America’s household names, right up there with Oprah and Martha Stewart. This diet started in the 1980s, and focuses on teaching people how to eat sensible foods and control portion sizes. Doctors agree. In order to lose weight, we must take in fewer calories than we actually use. Therefore a reduction in the amount of food eaten will, in most cases, lead to weight loss.
In recent decades, portion sizes have gotten bigger and bigger, and so have our stomachs and appetites. Jenny Craig aims to get people into the habit of eating less and uses a unique approach in order to do so.
Clients work with a counselor to determine caloric needs. Then the program begins. Dieters purchase all their meals and snacks from Jenny Craig. Usually, all that is required is some heating or very simple preparation. Then bon apptit! The meals themselves tend to follow the USDAs food pyramid requirements, including 50-60% carbohydrates, 20-25% protein and 20-25% fat. Therefore all is right with the world, right?
Wrong. There are a number of drawbacks to the Jenny Craig program. The first, and most important, is cost. Celebrity spokespeople such as Kirstie Alley and Valerie Bertinelli have made Jenny Craig as popular as it is, but just because they can afford it does not mean ordinary people can. In addition to an exorbitant signup fee, the meals can cost up to a hundred dollars a week for a single person. This is a huge increase over an average-sized grocery bill for one person, especially considering that you will be eating far less on the program.
Furthermore, the meals are meant to be supplemented by fresh vegetables and low-fat dairy products. In other words, you still have to go to the supermarket! Many people are forced to drop the program altogether midway through, simply because they can no longer afford it.
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Given its one-size fits all approach, Jenny Craig is also not suitable for people with allergies, celiac disease or other kinds of special dietary requirements. Everyone eats the same pre-packaged food, which more often than not contains common allergens. People also complain about the quality and preparation of the food, given that it is frozen or dried and packed with preservatives to ensure it makes it to your door in a relatively acceptable state.
Dieters also report horror stories of having lost quite a bit of weight on the program, then having gained it back twofold after coming off the packaged foods. The reason is that the program literally spoon feeds dieters in order to get them to lose weight.
Many of these people had problems with cooking and preparing healthy meals in the first place, leading them to pursue such a costly diet option. Having been handed their meals for a long period of time, they do not actually learn how to buy and cook foods that will enable them to maintain an ideal weight.
Once they are weaned off the packaged foods, many people have a tendency to go back to their old styles of eating, and gain the weight right back. Though the aim of ongoing counseling during the program is to help dieters learn about the dos and don’ts of their own meal preparation, quite a few Jenny Craig alumni report that they went back to their old habits after the program.
One reason for this may be laziness, and the fact that if they want to continue eating convenient, five minute meals, they will usually have to settle for the unhealthy options generally offered in stores. Despite being a huge expense, the Jenny Craig program often turns out to be a failure.