Which Online Weight-Loss Program Sucks The Least?

A new investigation into online weight-loss programs by CHOICE has found some alarmingly questionable advice on major dieting websites. In addition to containing nutritional inaccuracies, some of the programs were also guilty of unrealistic exercise regimes. A few, however, offered flexible plans to suit various lifestyles.

Weight loss picture from Shutterstock

To assess the effectiveness and accuracy of online weight-loss programs, CHOICE enrolled a "shadow shopper" into five major Australian online diet programs, including Ashy Bines, SureSlim, Weight Watchers and Michelle Bridges. The results were then analysed by an accredited dietician and accredited exercise physiologist.

CHOICE found that many of the plans involved restrictive diets with low calorie intake, intensive exercise and excessive payments which ultimately set the customer up to fail. The aforementioned Ashy Bines and SureSlim also went against the fundamental principles of eating a healthy, balanced diet according to CHOICE's researchers.

Some of the advice lacked scientific evidence and there were also a number of inaccuracies when it came to eating advice. A couple of the dubious claims uncovered include: "An apple a day blasts the fat away" and "start meals by eating a mouth of protein first".

The shadow shopper also felt that many of the food and exercise programs were needlessly overcomplicated, which would it difficult to maintain over an extended period of time.

"For the amount of money you’re spending on these programs, you'd be better off seeing your GP or an accredited dietician who can take into consideration your health, goals and personal needs," the consumer watchdog concluded.

"If you are adamant about using an online weight-loss program, do your research and keep in mind they can be overly restrictive."

In some good news, Michelle Bridges was found to offer a highly flexible program to suit various lifestyles, although the amount of exercise required would likely be considered unrealistic by some.

Weight Watchers also fared well. CHOICE's shadow shopper found the site's message boards, forums and weekly weigh-ins helpful and was also impressed by the ability to choose and track what she ate online. However, she noted that various phone apps enable dieters to track a similar point system for a much lower cost.

The CHOICE report concludes that while many of these programs can achieve crash-weightloss, the intensive amount of exercise and restrictive eating plans are not sustainable in the long term. Consequently, after completing the program many clients end up piling the weight back on.

"It’s more valuable to educate yourself about food and exercise and maintain a healthy diet and a manageable exercise regime," CHOICE warns.

If you're still keen to sign up for an online weight-loss program, there are several things CHOICE recommends you should look out for. This includes checking if the diets are based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG), whether the program promotes all food groups/balanced eating and the amount of physical activity required (none is a bad sign, but so is too much).

Finally, you should also talk to your GP before embarking on an online program who may suggest more effective solutions such as face-to-face programs or an accredited practising dietician.

See also: How To Create A Diet Plan That Doesn't Suck And Actually Stick To It | Juicehacker Day 1: Why I Am Going On A Juice Fast


Comments

    My girlfriend has been using weight watchers. She has lost about 25kg. It's interesting because now she can hardly eat junk food, it's completely changed her taste and tolerance. She is kicking my ass at the gym too. Honestly if a free app helps then use it. But weight watchers is helping her. I recommend it.

    This is like debating who the worlds tallest midget is. Pointless.

    I use CalorieKing (http://www.calorieking.com.au), and have for many years. They do provide customised meal plans but they try and get you off them and planning your own healthy meals as soon as you can. Great daily calorie tracker with a database full of Australian brands, friendly forums-based community, and an extensive education program. Plus it's completely free. Really can't recommend it enough.

    I think they like to be called ' little people' .

      I actually think they prefer to be called by their real name, and not "Hey little person"..

    I'd like to see Choice do a piece on the mail order food weight loss programs eg: Lite n Easy. vs the actual cost of shopping for/cooking your own portion controlled meals.

      Yeah that would be a good one. My wife and I are currently using something similar to Light n Easy but catered to the bodybuilding/fitness community. There are a number of companies serving that niche.

      It's quite convenient for us but I think individuals need to do their own calculations based on their personal goals and subjective preferences.

    After recently losing 17kg from a lifetime of being overweight i can't recommend enough the "Stop eating crap" diet.
    You dont have to pay anyone or really do anything, exercise is optional, just stop eating crap and the kilos melt away.

    Stop eating crap.. you know you want to.

      Michael Pollan - "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

      I think this is under the "common sense" philosophy, isn't it? I believe applying rudimentary logic and reasoning skills to your everyday life can have phenomenal outcomes.

    With the internet and the free flow of information these days there's really no excuse for not being able to have a good diet. Some of these programs are good but will never compare to freshly cooked nutritious food that you do yourself. Google some of the amazing and quick healthy recipes. YouTube is an amazing resource for this type of thing!

    Anyone tried any of the weight loss/slimming teas??

    This one's my fave so far because it's loose leaf, organic, and has a great fresh ginger & cinnamon taste: http://nudetea.com.au/product/weight-loss-tea/

    Some of the slimming teas I've tried taste great too, but I've found the bagged types aren't as gutsy as the loose leaf. Any suggestions/links??

    Hi, can anyone tell me what is HCG drops and if it is effective? i really need to lose some weight badly.. i tried different kinds of diet supplements but it did not work for me. thank you.

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