Does Jenny Craig Live Up To Her Word?
In the early 1970’s in New Orleans, Genevieve Guidroz Bourcq was working at Body Contour, a weight-loss salon where women strapped themselves into vibrating machines believing it they would help them lose weight, when she met Sidney Craig. They bonded over their common love for the weight-loss industry and quickly became a couple. In 1979, the pair moved to Melbourne, Australia, where they launched Jenny Craig, a powerhouse international weight-loss company that has garnered millions of subscribers over the last 37 years. However, despite its household name status, Jenny Craig is a very expensive program with wavering results.
Although Jenny Craig is a name brand that many have known since childhood, its reputation goes beyond a diet — it’s an entire lifestyle. The three-pronged program goes as follows: attend weekly meetings with a Jenny Craig coach, eat from the official Jenny Craig frozen food menu, and complete 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. With 600 centers worldwide, participants must pick up or subscribe to a delivery system to receive their weekly food rations for a hefty price tag of $560 a month.
Despite boasting more than 70 meals, the Jenny Craig menu is meat-heavy, with very few vegetarian options. Vegans and the lactose-intolerant should forget about it, as all vegetarian dishes are made with dairy.* Clients are required to adhere to a strict food regiment: three prepackaged meals, with options such as Cheesy Chicken Enchilada and Florentine Breakfast Pizza; stick to two snacks or desserts a day, like Cheese Curls and Key Lime Pie; five servings of fruit and vegetables; and at least two non-fat dairy foods. All these items may sound quick and tasty, however only eating prepackaged foods for an indefinite amount of time has its eventual consequences. According to a 2010 study from the University of Melbourne, those who only consume processed foods are much more likely to suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, and general emotional distress.*
By the same token, 10 servings of food a day is more than what a person consumes when they’re not a diet, but Jenny Craig insists that all three meals only encompass around 1,200 total calories. A slightly dangerous calorie count, considering that a healthy adult should consume between 2,200 and 2,600 calories a day, according to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Eating a mere 1,200 calories a day also takes a toll on your cortisol levels, say researchers from the University of California system. Cortisol is a hormone responsible for the “flight-or-flight” response. When your body produces a high amount of cortisol, your blood sugar spikes and your anxiety levels jump. Those with high cortisol typically suffer from an array of problems, such as insomnia, headaches, and depression. Moreover, alcohol consumption triggers a release of cortisol. This is a warning sign for Jenny Craig participants, as the diet permits alcohol but only when you substitute drinks for food servings.*
“The coaches help you find solutions,” says Mary, a representative for Jenny Craig. “They’ll teach you the skill set to maintain your weight. They’re going to hold you accountable, and they’re going to motivate you the right away.” Jenny Craig coaches are the company’s main strength. Many of them are former subscribers of the diet themselves, and all have gone through comprehensive training. Weight-loss coaching is considered one of the best ways to shed the pounds. According to a 2011 study from Rio de Janiero University, those who receive weight loss coaching are 17 percent more likely to lose weight than those who fly solo.* In addition to the weekly coaching, Jenny Craig offers chat rooms, forums, and Skype sessions with your coach when you’re traveling.
Representatives are encouraged to mention the popular 2015 John Hopkins University study when pitching the diet to potential subscribers. “In the study, over the course of a year, people in Jenny Craig lost the most weight out of all the diets,” says Mary. This is only partially true. According to the study, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are the two most successful diet programs, and both are more effective in maintaining weight loss than any other plan. However, the researchers determined that no plan has proven to sustain weight loss over 12 months.*
Unlike other diet programs, Jenny Craig tries to go by the federal regulations as much as possible. Dieters are told they should be losing no more than two pounds a week because that’s what the National Institute for Health recommends. Yet, at $560 a week, depending on your weight-loss goal, this could be a very slow and expensive path to losing weight.
The second you hop on the phone with a representative, Jenny Craig has a surreal way of making you feel like it’s the only solution to your weight loss struggle. Representatives sweet-talk potential clients with promises of permanent results all while eating delicious meals with minimal calories. Their pitches are peppered with mentions of studies and awards.* It’s hard not to be swayed by Jenny Craig’s allure. Although it’s a female-centered brand, Jenny Craig claims that 10 to 15 percent of their clientele are males. The glowing, partisan-sounding reviews on WedMD and U.S. News make the diet sound foolproof and easy. However, eating prepackaged meals is damaging to your nervous system and overall mental and physical health. The exceedingly low calorie count is bound to cause an uptick in stress and other emotional challenges. Yet, the most concerning aspect of Jenny Craig is there’s no telling if the regiment will help you permanently keep off the weight.
*Please keep in mind that with any diet or weight loss program, individual results will vary.
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*Individual results will vary.
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