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October 9th, 2010
11:30 AM ET

Jenny Craig clients in study shed 20 pounds

Women who stick to the Jenny Craig weight-loss program lose between three and four times as much weight as women who diet on their own, according to a new study published Saturday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study was funded by the Jenny Craig company, which provides counseling services and prepackaged low-fat foods to dieters through a nationwide chain of retail centers, or via phone and mail.

Women who ate the prepared foods and checked in weekly with a trained Jenny Craig weight-loss counselor in person or by phone lost about 20 pounds after one year, on average.

A control group of women who ate a generic low-calorie diet and received less frequent advice from a nutritionist lost just 5 pounds. Health.com: 25 diet-busting foods you should never eat

After two years, the women who followed the Jenny Craig program were still about 15 pounds under their initial weight, which averaged about 200 pounds. (Women who received in-person rather than phone counseling lost slightly more weight.) In the control group, the average weight loss at the two-year mark was 4 pounds.

"If someone was motivated, and they adhered [to the program], this is not an unreasonable amount of weight loss to see over this period of time," says the lead author of the study, Cheryl Rock, Ph.D., a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. (Although Rock has no current financial relationship with Jenny Craig, she served on the company’s advisory board from 2003 to 2004 and led a smaller company-funded study that was published in 2007.)

But as Rock and her colleagues acknowledge, the study may warrant the same disclaimer found on the miraculous before-and-after photos that grace Jenny Craig ads: "Results not typical."

The key to any diet program is sticking to it. And many people who try programs such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers ultimately jump ship because they can no longer afford it, lose their motivation, or aren't getting the results they want. Health.com: How to cheat on your diet (and still lose weight)

The design of Rock's study likely defused those common reasons for quitting. The program and all of the prepackaged food were free — the food typically costs about $100 a week, in addition to a $359 enrollment fee — and the study volunteers were almost certainly more motivated than the average dieter.

"People don't sign up for a clinical trial unless they're fairly serious about losing weight," Rock says. Unlike regular Jenny Craig customers, the study participants went through an intake interview at a university medical center, had blood drawn, and agreed to participate in what they knew would be a two-year study.

Moreover, the study included just 442 women in all — a relatively small group from which to draw any definitive conclusions. Health.com: Slim down at any age

Can Jenny Craig dieters in the real world expect to drop 20 pounds in a year? "Most likely, the answer is no," according to Rena Wing, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. Rock's results "probably represent a best-case scenario," Wing writes in an editorial accompanying the study.

Still, Wing suggests the findings shouldn't be discounted entirely. Meal-based weight-loss programs are significantly cheaper than surgical obesity treatments that are often covered by health insurance. If provided for free, structured programs like Jenny Craig may be a cost-effective way of encouraging weight loss and fighting obesity, Wing writes.

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Filed under: Fitness • Nutrition • Weight loss

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Kate

    So people who get professional advice lose more weight? I don't see why they wouldn't. Sorry but you don't need Jenny Craig to lose weight. If you can get the general amount if calories you're consuming and keep track of them you can lose just as much weight. You can't eat Jenny Craig your whole life. To figure out how many calories you need check out http://www.diet-myths.com

    October 9, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jillmarie

      The program works 100% if it is followed properly. Also, Jenny Craig has a comprehensive maintenance program, as well as a weaning off period when one gets halfway to their goal. I lost 10 lbs on the program (I have never been overweight) and have kept it off for over three years following the principles of the Jenny Craig program.
      Making excuses and not following ANY program will result in no weight loss. Jenny Craig is the best program in my opinion, and BTW, the food is delicious.

      October 11, 2010 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
  2. Amy

    I suspect that individuals who are motivated to structure their own weight loss programs (structure is key) may be the most successful at losing weight and maintaining after the loss. I lost 30 lbs in just over 6 months on my own counting calories on my phone and going to the gym 6 days a week. But experiences like mine are by definition impossible to capture in a study.

    October 9, 2010 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Access Diabetic

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    October 10, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. AM

    Please note: This is an expensive program. Not only do you have to buy their prepackaged food (which is not that great), but you also have to add in produce and dairy. Add this up, and you're talking about nearly $200 a week, plus the sign-up fee. You're better off going to the grocery store and buying pre-packaged meals at the right calorie proportions. In the end it's cheaper and you can find a lot more variety. Plus, with Jenny Craig, you never learn to eat and cook correctly. You basically have to stay on their food for life to maintain the results. Also, almost no one loses weight as part of a study (or gets paid a million dollars to be a celebrity spokesperson), so don't expect to do as well as the people in this study.

    October 10, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mark

    Agree this is really expensive – why dont people just eat less
    ?

    October 10, 2010 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Worried Mom

    this study was also paid for by jenny craig – not sure they would ever consider publishing the results if it werent positive

    October 10, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. haha

    20 pounds in a year, I'd be pissed if I dieted for a year and only lost 20 lbs, especially after paying that much money

    October 10, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rachel Grove

      You are right on. the food is not great and very expensive.

      October 11, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse |
    • Rae

      I used Jenny's program for about five months. Didn't lose anything and really didn't like the food.

      October 11, 2010 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
  8. hsr0601

    1. As is clear from the latest finding that Fruits, Veggies Help Ward Off Lung Cancer, I still think Fruits are instrumental to stem even a broader spectrum of cancers when vitamins and the other ingredients in them Are Mixed with Other Nutrition, if quite a few media cover it up in favor of livestock businesses, noticeably in the U.S.

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    October 10, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paige

      Did we read the same article?

      October 11, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
  9. Really?

    Yep – paid for by Jenny Craig!!! Never, ever, ever believe a study paid for by the people who it is endorsing!! Besides, 20lbs? – that is NOTHING. I have lost 135lbs on Medifast – BEST thing EVER invented.. poo poo Jenny Craig!!

    October 11, 2010 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dolores

      guarantee you'll gain it all back. diets don't work. proper exercise and food choice will lead you to a body you like. gimmicks are just that, gimmicks, except when it comes to diets the people who invent them profit.

      October 11, 2010 at 10:06 | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      Dolores – Sorry that you aren't familiar with Medifast. It is a diet designed to educate you about proper eating. It isn't like these other diets where it is all their food. I am eating healthier meals now and I KNOW and FOLLOW proper nutrition. Another interesting fact – Medifast is endorsed by Johns Hopkins. Trust me after loosing over 100lbs – I am NOT going back. I educated myself on many diet programs and Medifast works – look for me on TV in their ads after I get to my goal weight. Maybe you should look into it.

      October 11, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      A valid study is a valid study, regardless of the source of the funding. In fact, many valid and helpful studies are funded by those that have a special interest. As long as it's reviewed, it's good. The ONLY negative about having interest-funding is that they may not publish the results if it's not to their liking. The data may not be good for them, but it would be good in the interest of scientific/public knowledge.

      As for Medifast, there's nothing special about it. A low-cal diet is a low-cal diet. (Just like how there isn't anything special about Jenny Craig.) I would criticize Medifast for having an extremely low daily calorie intake, at just about/under 1k. Going that low is dangerous and I seriously doubt the average person will keep it that low. (The same can be said about JC.)

      October 11, 2010 at 12:56 | Report abuse |
  10. Yahweh

    Tapeworms

    October 11, 2010 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rob

    It's a bit worrisome when an unrealistic, company-sponsored study produces only mediocre results. Eating prepared foods from a specific source is not the way to maintain a healthy lifestyle long-term. It's important to learn how to "fend for yourself" and make decisions using the nutritional tools of the real world. I can't agree with a program that puts such limitations on its members. A better solution – http://www.NutritionPerfected.com

    October 11, 2010 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Erin

      I have lost 83 lbs on jenny craig in 9 1/2 months .... I have to say its the best thing I've done. I Know what I need to do portion and exercise but sometimes its easier said then done. Jenny craig is a LIFESTYLE change and its helped thousands of people. It teaches you portion control and helps u identify whether or not your eating in respons to feelings. And YOU DONT EAT THE FOOD FOREVER.... after you lose half your weight you start to eat more meals and days on your own.. of course you cant eat pre-packaged forever its not realistic. Also Jenny Craig Has a wonderful maintance program to help u maintaine your weight loss while eating your own food. The money is money You'll never make a better investment when its you life and health. So in saying all of this Dont knock something unless youve tried it and sometimes people just need help with their weight loss journey and theres nothing wrong with that 🙂

      October 14, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
  12. Jesus

    The study was funded by Jenny Craig. That says it all! No objectivity or credibility whatsoever!

    October 11, 2010 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. John

    Wow, this "article" doesn't read like a full-page advertisement at all.

    October 11, 2010 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dolores

    I'm a broken record here, the study is FUNDED by Jenny Craig! What a crock!

    October 11, 2010 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. butlerbulldawg74

    "The study was funded by the Jenny Craig company"...are you kidding me, cnn.
    FAIL! mASSive FAIL!

    October 11, 2010 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Grace

    Both my husband and I are "doing" the Jenny Craig program . We are highly successful and very happy. The program costs are actually less than our typical grocery week shopping prior to joining. What we needed to jumpstart our loss was portion control and accountabilty. The plan is very healthy and is highly encouraged by our physcian. Like all weight loss programs-one that you do on your own, a group or through a program what you put in is what you get out of it...We continue to loose (our first 6 weeks we both lost 20 lbs. and 4.25") at about 2 lbs. per week. If it works and adds to our life ...we are for it!!

    October 11, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Paige

    I lost 30 pounds in 5 months on Jenny Craig. I've kept it all off for 13 years. The program may not work for everyone, but it worked for me when other methods had failed.

    October 11, 2010 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Lisa

    @Really?

    You are correct about the Medifast. My husband has been on it for 2 weeks and has already lost 22 lbs. He starts working out next week and is so excited about what more he could lose. It has been so easy for him.

    October 11, 2010 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rachel Grove

    I have never heard of Medifast. I have lost 58 lbs by eating small portions and eating nothing white.

    October 11, 2010 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Toni

    I highly recommend weight watchers. I lost 30 pounds in 6 months (5 pounds a month) and have kept it off almost 2 years. Weight watchers teaches portion control and you can eat what you want (no depravation). If you eat healthy you can have a lot of food but if you chose pizza or other take out you can have it but smaller portions. It's pretty simple. Also excercise, excersice and more exercise (you can't stop – it's a life time commitment).

    October 11, 2010 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Lea

    You don't need expensive weight loss programs to lose weight! sparkpeople.com!!! is a FREE website that teaches you how to track your calories and control your portions and how eat a balance meal with out buying prepacked over salted read: NOT FRESH foods. I used the site for almost two years. It taught me everything I needed to know about living healthy. Now I know how to eat properly it's become second nature... I've lost 98lbs pushing for that extra 2 more WITH OUT paying for diet advice. and p.s. I do not work for their site or represent them in anyway other than someone who has used the site and knows it works. I hate seeing people have to think they need to pay exorbitant prices for a weight loss program in order to lose weight. Basic nutrition should be as heavily taught in schools as sex ed! just my opinion.

    October 11, 2010 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cole

      Congrats.

      The thing is, different things work for different people. The results of the study aren't shocking, since it boils down to strict calorie control and providing support – It's common sense, no? The issue with other diets is that a lot of people just don't have the discipline to follow the programs and/or often mistake the portion size. For some, having a structured program makes it a lot easier to stay on track.

      Do I support JC? Not really. I don't like any diet program, since people will eventually stop the program. A healthy diet/lifestyle is, has, and always will come down to eating in moderation/balance and exercising. Course, this is something that everyone already knows...

      October 11, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
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    October 11, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. jacquie

    People, this is nothing but a break the bank scheme. After a year at 100 bucks plus a week and 20 pounts ah...that's what like $280 bucks a pound!!!! You could hire a personal trainer for that or better yet...go buy yourself a good blender but expenisve like a Vitamix or a Blendtec, and eat fresh fruits and veggies and soups made from fresh veggies and protein shakes and then go to the personal trainer a couple times a week because if you are essentially going to spend $4k for a year of Jenny Craig you ought to get results better than 20 pounds in a year. If you have more than 20 pounds to lose which most people do...well there is a reason for the drop out rate for these programs...they work up to a point then you get sick of them or see that you aren't getting the results and you have wasted your money.

    October 12, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Nicole

    Fail. For the investment that JC requires, 20 lbs. is not really that much of a loss. What do you do if your faced with a layoff and can't afford their food anymore. It all comes down to behavior modification.
    Weight Watchers is the only medically approved weight management program out there. As someone who lost 40 lbs and reached Lifetime. I can testify that the skills I learned will last a long time, unlike some fad diet.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. glenda

    I recently lost 40 pounds, in less than 4 months, and it wasn't on Jenny Craig. I have 5 more pounds to go and I'm through. I didn't buy prepackaged food, I ate my own. There was no exercise involved, and I was never hungry. And no, it wasn't weight watchers. It cost me less than two hundred dollars, 20 dollars to join, and 10 dollars a week for group meetings. There are other ways to loose weight without spending money on surgery, and expensive pre-packaged foods. Every time I see Marie Osmond, brag about loosing 50 pounds, I noticed she never talks about the cost, of Jenny Craig food.

    October 20, 2010 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Jenny Craig es un gran programa que funcione. Sin embargo el programa es un poco inflexibles porque hay que seguir estrictamente el menú. Hay muchas otras maneras de perder peso y mantenerse en forma. Se requiere determinación y disciplina para seguir con un programa que eligió para ayudarle a perder peso.

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    October 22, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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  30. Sherry

    It seems most of the people commenting on here don't actually know anything about jenny Craig's program.
    Cost-I pay 126 a week 10-15 in produce ( I don't find that outrageous)
    The cost does vary depending on what you order, breakfast has some huge differences in prices. (1.99-7$) and I don't like that
    Also on cost the near $400 for a year has incentives, once you hit. 1/4 of your weight loss you get 10% off food, 15 at 1/2 way and after you hit your goal if you maintain for a year you get half of your $400 back! It's designed to motivate you to lose
    Having to eat JC food forever- not true 1/2 way to your goal they guide you off of their food, and once you hit your goal you are completely off JC food.

    I won't deny that jenny food isn't the healthiest, it's high in sodium and carbs-however it's simple you can follow their meal plans or create your own and lose with foods you like. That was important to me.
    As for medifast- that's a horribly low calorie diet with disgusting "food" I tried it for one month- but needed up being charged for FOUR months @ 275$ a month.... 2 years later still no refund.... This was a common complaint that I read on reviews and ignored before I tried it

    October 28, 2012 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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