Thinking About Trying a Weight Loss Program? Here's How to Figure Out Which One Is Right for You

Woman measuring weight loss around stomach

Losing weight isn’t easy and the conflicting advice about the best way to do it certainly doesn’t help. Between the endless list of diet books devoted to shedding pounds, social media influencers sharing what worked for them and the well-meaning yet unsolicited advice from family and friends, there is a lot of confusion about weight management programs.

What weight loss programs are actually legit and which ones are bogus? We asked registered dietitians specializing in weight loss and a bariatric surgeon for their best advice and they didn’t hold back. Here, they reveal the best weight loss programs, including the best weight loss programs for women.

Related: What to Lose Weight? Here Are 16 Actually-Doable Ways To Do It Quickly and Safely 

What’s the Difference Between a Weight Loss Program and a Diet?

When deciding what weight loss program is the best fit for you, it’s important to first understand what a weight loss program is and how it’s different from an eating plan such as the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet or ketogenic diet.

“A weight loss program is a comprehensive approach to weight loss that may involve a structured eating plan, or might tailor the eating plan to you as the consumer,” says Dr. Nikhilesh Sekhar, MD, FACS, FASMBS, a bariatric surgeon at New York Bariatric Group.

Weight loss programs vary greatly in terms of how they are structured. Dr. Sekhar says that, often, a weight loss program involves meeting regularly with a nutritionist or providing support through a group setting, either in-person or virtually. According to Dr. Sekhar, this is different from an eating plan, which is typically something one reads about online or in a book and then tries to follow on their own.

Related: Looking to Lose Weight? Get Started With These 40 Expert- and Science-Backed Foods and Drinks

Lindsay Allen, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian specializing in weight loss, explains that most weight loss programs are based primarily on a “calories in, calories out” principle. She says that, often, weight loss programs use points or color codes to differentiate between high-calorie foods and low-calorie foods. In contrast, she says that eating plans focus more on the quality of food, nutrient density and the macronutrient balance.

What Are the Best Weight Loss Programs?

Not all weight loss programs that are out there are good ones. Sharon George, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian at New York Bariatric Group, says that one red flag to look out for is a program that requires eating pre-packaged food they sell. Instead, she says a good weight loss program will allow for eating foods that can be bought and cooked at home. “A program that requires you to purchase foods from the company and not consume regular food items is not going to work. Diets such as Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and Optavia may be a jump start, but you need more of a plan on how to reintegrate common foods for it to truly work,” she explains. Similarly, George says to be critical of any program that requires buying supplements they sell.

According to George, another red flag is a weight loss program that is not sustainable long-term. It’s important to follow a weight loss program long-term, otherwise the results will not be long-lasting.

Related: 10 Real People Share the One Change They Made That Finally Helped Them Lose Weight

Allen recommends avoiding weight loss programs that advertise quick weight loss. “The biggest red flag is a false promise on how fast a person will lose weight. The rate at which a person loses weight depends on so many variables such as their metabolic starting point, their health, if any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies are present, if they've yo-yo dieted in the past, if they have medical conditions, their lifestyle, sleep patterns and more. Sometimes the body will go through a ‘healing’ phase first before the weight starts to come off. If they've been misled by false promises, they get discouraged and think they're doing it wrong,” she says.

“Weight loss should not be fast; it should be slow and steady. If a weight loss program is suggesting ‘fast’ weight loss, consider something else,” she adds.

Dr. Sekhar agrees, saying, “Weight loss of more than one to two pounds per week may not be safe and should be monitored closely by a medical doctor.”

Now that you know the red flags, what are the signs that a weight loss program is actually a good one? Allen recommends looking for a weight loss program that prioritizes individuality instead of blanket recommendations for everyone. “Credible weight loss programs take into consideration the whole person, because everyone's starting point is different. The program must get a comprehensive intake from the person before giving them a plan to make sure they are solving any metabolic or health issues that could be getting in the way,” she says.

Dr. Sekhar suggests seeking out a weight loss program that incorporates access to qualified nutritional specialists, such as a registered dietitian. “A credible weight loss program will provide a tailored approach to your specific needs. A good weight loss program should provide regular contact with qualified nutrition professionals. Most reputable weight loss programs will have a medical doctor with a specialty in weight loss medicine as the medical director,” he explains.

George adds to this, saying that a credible weight loss program should include not just nutrition, but also behavior therapy and exercise: “It [should] give you an overview of the plan, and a short-term and long-term goal. It [should] also offer you support in your journey."

With all of this in mind, what are the best weight loss programs? Below are three that get Dr. Sekhar’s seal of approval.

Noom Weight

Noom Weight is a weight loss program that focuses on equipping people with the skills needed to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits long-term. Followers set their own individual goals and are given daily lesson plans related to meeting these goals. There is also the ability to track food, exercise and weight loss via an app. One-on-one support is also offered.


  • Is structured to take into account individualized health goals instead of offering the same guidelines to everyone.

  • Focuses on the mental aspects of weight loss, which is more effective for creating long-term healthy habits instead of just counting calories.

  • Offers 1:1 support.


  • The cost ranges from $70 to $209, making it inaccessible to many people who could benefit from it.

  • The support available consists of health coaches but not registered dietitians or doctors, who have more expertise.

  • Tracking food intake and weight loss could lead to disordered eating for some people.

Weight Watchers

U.S. News and World Reports named Weight Watchers the number one diet program of 2024 and it’s one Dr. Sekhar likes it too. With Weight Watchers, not all calories are created equal. Instead, the emphasis is on the nutrient value foods provide. With this program, followers have a personalized “points budget” that they can spend on foods and drinks, which are all assigned points values. This is tracked through the program’s app.


  • It focuses on nutrient density instead of basing the points system on calories alone.

  • There is a robust online community through the app that shares tips and recipes.

  • Many of the foods are "zero points" and don't need to be tracked, which allows for more freedom when eating.


  • It can be hard to follow Weight Watchers without the subscription, which can make someone tied to it for years, if not indefinitely. 

  • Some users say the app is difficult to navigate.

  • The program lacks education about why certain foods are given a specific number of points.


The Reverse weight loss program is designed for menopausal women and includes slowly increasing calorie intake, which is done to boost metabolism and is followed after a calorie-restrictive diet. This is done to prevent gaining weight back, something that happens to most people who diet.


  • The program is geared specifically toward menopausal women, a population that is often overlooked.

  • The app is easy to use.

  • Meal plans, shopping lists and recipes are provided, which all make it easier to follow.


  • The program only works after following a restrictive diet.

  • There are no registered dietitians connected with the program.

  • 1:1 support is not offered, except through a chatbot.

Other weight loss programs to consider

When choosing a weight loss program, Allen emphasizes that the focus should be on health, not just restricting calories. George emphasizes that being able to customize them to fit your individual needs, goals and lifestyle is also key. All three experts recommend working with a doctor and dietitian. Losing weight isn’t easy, but with the right guidance and support, it absolutely can be done.

Next up, learn about the morning habit that can help you lose weight faster.