The true cost of diet plans

If you want to lose weight, you may be tempted by the diet plans on offer from Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley, Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury's. But what do you get for your money?

Many of us will have resolved to lose weight in 2013. One way to do so is to sign up for a specialist weight loss programme. But what do you get for your money?



Weight Watchers

The first name I think of when I think of a diet plan is Weight Watchers. The programme uses a ProPoints plan, where different foods are given a value. You have a ProPoints budget for each day, and so long as you keep within that budget, you should lose weight.

There are two different programmes.

Weight Watchers Meetings

What you get:

  • Guidance from a ‘leader’ who has lost weight thanks to Weight Watchers
  • Weekly meetings
  • Group support
  • A free weekly magazine
  • Access to the online resources, such as tools for tracking ProPoints allowance and recipes.*

*Only available if you sign up for the Monthly Pass

What it costs

There are two payment options. There’s the Pay Weekly programme, which will set you back £6.25 a week. It’s free to join and the first meeting is free. This offer ends on 2nd March.

Then there’s the Monthly Pass, which is currently offering the first month for £10.70 and then subsequent months at £21.45. You’ll need to act quickly to take advantage though as this offer ends on 19th January.

Weight Watchers Online

What you get:

  • Full access to the ProPoints plan
  • Various online weight loss tools to help you track your food and weight
  • Access to the online forums where you can share ideas and give feedback

What it costs

There are two payment plan options. The standard monthly plan costs £11.95 a month, with a £29.95 sign-up fee. It’s then automatically renewed each month unless you cancel. Alternatively, there’s the three-month plan, which still costs £11.95 a month (£35.85 in total) but you don’t have to pay a sign-up fee, plus an additional £2.95 is deducted.

So you’ll pay £41.90 to sign up for a single month or £32.90 to sign up for three months.



Slimming World

Rival Slimming World talks about a “no-hunger eating plan” which will see the pounds fall off (and not just from your bank account).

It’s all about “Food Optimising” apparently. This is based around loading up on low energy dense ‘Free Foods’ which include fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, potatoes, eggs, lean meat and fish.

The site is an extraordinary collection of buzzwords. An example quote: “Instead of forcing you to exercise iron willpower, we offer you choice power!”

Slimming World also offers two different programmes

Group membership

What you get:

  • A trained ‘consultant’ to offer guidance and support
  • ‘Image Therapy’
  • Advice during the week, not just during meetings
  • Free life membership if you hit your ‘personal achievement target’
  • Access to the members-only website, LifelineOnline.

What it costs

There are a number of different pricing plans and offers.

If you sign up for weekly membership before 26th January, you benefit from half-price membership of £4.95 (with an additional £5 joining fee).

There are also Countdown courses, which is basically a way of getting you to commit to going to more meetings. A six-week Countdown means you get six weeks for the price of five, while the 12-week Countdown means you get 12 weeks for the price of ten.

Over-60s only pay £4.65 a week, while there’s free membership for children if they are accompanied by an adult.

Finally, if you fancy losing weight with your friends, you get the first week free if five of you join together.

Online membership

What you get:

  • 1,200 recipes, searchable by ingredient, meal-type and preparation time
  • Online directories and food diary to help you keep track
  • Activity programme, challenges, tracker and awards
  • “Unique motivation and behavioural support” based on your personal progress.

What it costs

There are three payment packages for the online membership, all of which cover an initial three months. Signing up at the moment will get you the first month free.

The bronze package offers all of the and will set you back £59.95.

The silver package offers issues of Slimming World magazine on top, and costs £64.95 for three months, while the Gold package comes with both the magazines and Slimming World’s Food Optimising and Body Magic books, costing £79.95.

After the first three months, the membership continues on a monthly basis at £20 per month, though you can save by signing up for further three-, six- or 12-month packages.



BootsDiets

Boots offers its own weightloss programme with BootsDiets.com. There are no meetings, instead relying on a food diary system which gives you daily targets for calories, fat and exercise.

What you get:

  • Personal targets
  • Online food diary with calorie directory of over 90,000 foods
  • Exercise diary
  • Awards when you hit milestones
  • Access to members’ forums
  • Recipes and recipe calorie counter.

What it costs

There are three membership options. The three-month plan costs £21.99, the six-month plan costs £36.99 and the 12-month plan costs £51.99. However, the three- and six-month plans currently offer an extra 50% free.

Once the three-month plan finishes, you’ll pay £6.99 a month and when the six-month plan finishes you’ll pay £5.99 a month. With the year plan, you won’t be automatically renewed and will need to resubscribe.



Sainsbury’s Diets

Sainsbury’s Diets come in two forms: meal plans (including things like the Feel Fuller plan, Healthy Heart plan, etc) and the Food Diary, which is basically a calorie counter.

What you get:

  • Over 1,000 recipes
  • Calorie counter
  • Access to forums.

What it costs

An eight-week membership is half price at the moment at £12, as is a 12-week membership at £15. There are also 26-week memberships (£50) and year memberships (£75) available.



Tesco Diets

What you get with TescoDiets:

  • The choice of 16 diet plans
  • Expert mentors and nutritionists
  • Member blogs
  • Your diet delivered to your door (a plug for Tesco’s delivery service, in other words).

What it costs

You can sign up for six weeks for the price of four currently, costing £12.90. Alternatively the three-month plan costs £29.90, while the six-month plan costs £49.90.



Rosemary Conley

Finally, there’s the Rosemary Conley diet programmes, which encompass both classes and online support.

Slim at Class

What you get:

  • A ‘fat attack booster’ diet pack, including a motivational DVD and set of portion pots
  • A personal calorie allowance
  • Awards for the most successful slimmers
  • An optional exercise session.

What it costs

There’s a £10 membership fee, but after that class costs vary regionally. However, there’s currently a free membership voucher on the site.

Slim Online

What you get:

  • A choice of diet plans
  • Support and advice from “caring and qualified experts”
  • Online forums
  • Virtual rosettes and certificates, challenges and progress charts
  • Food and fitness diary
  • More than 1,000 recipes
  • A set of portion pots
  • Free copy of the latest Diet & Fitness magazine.

What it costs

Monthly membership costs £39.99, a three-month membership costs £54.99 (though you can get 50% off if you quote the code RCO503 at the checkout) and a 12-month membership costs £89.99.



Doing it for free

I’m not entirely convinced that you can’t do all of this yourself without having to spend any money. There are plenty of free calorie counting resources on the web and all sorts of healthy recipes and menu ideas on our sister site Lovefood.

As for motivation, I find looking in the mirror gives me a kick up the backside, but that may be a personal thing. And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other forums, which won’t cost you a penny, where you can discuss how your diet is going. I'm trying to lose weight myself this year, but I don't think I'll be signing up for any of these diet plans.

Have you given any of these weight loss programmes a go? Which offers the best value for money, and which is just money for old rope? Let us know your thoughts in the Comment box below.



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