Jenny Craig is a calorie-based, three-stage, lifestyle weight loss program that incorporates prepackaged food, a transition to regular food, and long-term weight maintenance. The company runs about 700 weight loss centers in several countries and also has a sizable online presence.
Jenny Craig and her husband Sid Craig founded the Jenny Craig Weight Management Program in Australia in 1983. The program has since expanded to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico, and offers both a center-based program and an at-home program. Craig, who has no training as a nutritionist, based her program on her own successful experience with personalized weight loss. The program has a medical advisory board consisting of at least one physician, nutritionist, and behaviorist. Prepackaged meals are planned by a registered dietitian.
The Jenny Craig program is based on the principle that reducing calories will lead to weight loss and that eating six times a day is key to maintaining energy levels and metabolism. It provides guidance through one-on-one consultations between customers and consultants. It is a three-stage program, starting with a strict diet for initial weight loss, followed by a transitional phase in which customers learn to produce their own healthy meals. The final stage is maintenance.
In the first stage, dieters eat only Jenny Craig prepackaged foods that are supplemented with approved fruits, vegetables, and nonfat dairy products. These meals contain 50%–60% carbohydrates, 20%–25% protein, and 20%–25% fats, and between 1,200 and 2,500 calories daily. Vegetarian options are available. No other food is permitted during the first stage of the program, which can make eating away from home difficult. The prepackaged meals are intended to model healthy eating and portion control. A personalized exercise program supplemented by optional workout videos and workout equipment encourage the dieter to become more active.
Once dieters have used the prepackaged meals to become familiar with healthier foods and correct portion sizes, they move to the second stage of the program, in which written materials, supported by consultants, teach techniques for healthy meal planning, cooking, and eating out. This stage of the program is designed to develop lifelong habits of moderation and good food choices. The consultant also addresses behavioral issues, such as handling stress and emotional triggers for eating.
The final stage of the Jenny Craig program is a maintenance stage. Dieters move into this stage when they meet their weight-loss goals. This final stage is designed to keep weight off for life.
Jenny Craig has offered different dietary plans over the years. The Jenny Craig for Type 2 plan for people with type 2 diabetes offers a lower carbohydrate menu and provides support for monitoring of diabetes symptoms. The Rapid Results program, introduced in 2017, claims to use nutritional science about circadian rhythms to help customers lose weight rapidly, up to 16 pounds (7.3 kg) in four weeks. Customer eat all their daily food during the hours when the body's fat-burning is allegedly at its highest. Then they spend many hours not eating.
The Jenny Craig Anywhere program is a complete at-home weight-loss program. In the Jenny Direct program, prepackaged meals and weight-loss literature are delivered to the dieter's home. The dieter is supported by online tools accessed through the Jenny Craig website and a required private 15-minute telephone or video chat consultation with a Jenny Craig consultant once a week. Consultants do not have formal training in nutrition.
The Jenny Craig program is fairly expensive. Customers must pay a monthly membership fee and also buy Jenny Craig–branded food products. The website claims that the food costs about $20 a day per person.
The stated goals of the Jenny Craig program are to help dieters:
Dieters are supported in reaching these goals by a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, customer-care telephone line, personalized meals and activity plans, one-on-one consultant support, online community and e-tools, and weight loss manuals. Dieters learn to eat healthy foods in appropriate portions, incorporate exercise into their daily routine, and nurture their mental and physical well-being.
Jenny Craig promises dieters that if they follow her program, they will lose 1–2 pounds or 1% of their body weight weekly. Once the weight loss goal is met, a maintenance program is designed to solidify lifestyle changes and keep the weight off. Jenny Craig does not make any claims about the percentage of people who successfully keep weight off for an extended period.
The Jenny Craig program appeals to dieters who want low-calorie meals without having to weigh and measure their food or dieters who do not want to attend group weight loss programs. This program may also be a good solution for single people who do not want to cook; however, dieters with families may find that the prepackaged approach is less convenient if they still have to cook for family members.
Jenny Craig is a diet and exercise program that meets the basic nutritional needs of most people. Some individuals object to the food additives and the processed meals. As with all diet and exercise programs, individuals should check with their healthcare provider to make sure the program is suitable for them.
The greatest risk to this diet program is that people do not learn how to shop and prepare healthy meals on their own. They lose weight eating the prepackaged meals, but when they transition to the next stage of the diet some go back to their old eating habits and gain the weight back. This type of weight cycling, or yoyo dieting, can cause potential health problems.
The main client complaint about the Jenny Craig program is cost. Prepackaged food can cost around $500 per month in addition to steep enrollment fees and optional extras such as exercise videos and equipment. Some clients complain that the Jenny Craig personal consultants do not have any formal training in nutrition and are more like sales people than counselors. Clients also criticize the taste and selection of meals. There is no way try Jenny Craig meals before committing to the program.
Generally, registered dietitians agree that the dietitian-planned prepackaged meals provide adequate nutrition for a low-calorie diet, but they question whether clients will become bored with prepackaged foods. They praise the level of support the program offers through their online site and telephone contacts but question whether the program prepares dieters to go back to cooking regular food once the first stage of the program is completed.
The Jenny Craig website offers many testimonials and inspiring success stories but has few results from independently conducted research studies. One preliminary study that looked at weight loss, triglyceride levels (an indication of the amount of fats in the blood), and carotenoid levels (an indication of vegetable intake) was paid for by Jenny Craig and performed by a former Jenny Craig advisory board member.
Jenny Craig is a reduced-calorie diet that instructs customers to eat six times a day. Some current research suggests that low-calorie diets are not effective in the long term and that carbohydrate reduction combined with intermittent fasting is more effective, especially for people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
See also Calories ; Nutrisystem ; Weight cycling ; Weight Watchers .
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2190, Chicago, IL, United States, 60606-6995, (312) 899-0040, (800) 877-1600, http://www.eatright.org/ .
Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, 6100 Executive Blvd., Rm. 3B01, MSC 7517, Bethesda, MD, 20892-7517, (301) 435-2920, Fax: (301) 480-1845, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://ods.od.nih.gov .
Tish Davidson, AM
Revised by Amy Hackney Blackwell, PhD