One thing is sure about the folks at Jenny Craig; they know how to keep their company name in front of the public. Their nearly ubiquitous TV ads featuring celebrities like actresses Valerie Burtinelli and Phylicia Rashad, and basketball star Baron Davis are a constant reminder that all you have to do to attain your fat loss goals is to "Call Jenny!" If you are anything like me, however, you are probably suspicious of such claims and wonder if the program could really work for regular people. Just what is in the food that Jenny wants you to eat? Is the diet safe? Is it expensive? After investigating the claims that the company makes, talking to users, and reading unbiased blogs written by people with no axe to grind, I'm prepared to give you the facts about one of the largest fat loss companies in the world.
The Basic Premise
The Jenny Craig Company operates a chain of weight loss centers around the country. If you are a typical customer interested in the plan, you would normally call Jenny to set up an appointment and then make a trip to visit with a counselor (a.k.a. salesperson?) at the center. The counselor will usually set you up with some kind of introductory offer, which will vary according to the time you visit. For example, one common plan is to charge $20 (plus the cost of the food you eat) for the privilege of losing 20 pounds.
During this initial phase, you will visit the diet center every week to be weighed, and pick up more food for the next week. You can also consult with your counselor on your visits, ask questions, and receive a pep talk if needed. All these sessions are held one-on-one, and many dieters feel that their motivation to follow the plan is improved because of the relationship they build with their consultant.
In recent years, the company has added a new feature to its plan called Jenny Direct. It works the same way as the original, but all of the counseling is done over the phone. It is ideal for folks who don't live near a JC center or are too busy to fit an extra stop each week into an already full schedule. Of course, this option costs more because the user will have to pay for shipping the food on top of the other costs.
As a Jenny Craig follower, you will be expected to eat three meals and one snack everyday made up mostly of the company's pre-packaged foods. You will supplement with fresh produce, dairy products, and some whole grain foods that you purchase yourself. You'll also be encouraged to get some moderate physical exercise to build a healthy lifestyle and assist your fat loss.
The Jenny Craig plan is certainly convenient. There is very little cooking involved because your entrees are prepared for you. There is no need to count calories, carbs, or fat grams, and you don't need to worry about planning meals or learning new recipes. Your trips to the grocery store will be shortened, too, and a shopping list is provided by JC so that you will get everything you need in one trip.
The meals seem quite well balanced on the Jenny Craig plan. You will be eating foods from all the groups in the dietary pyramid and are not asked to completely cut out any food or food group. When you order your prepared food, you can choose from 18 different breakfast foods, and 26 lunches, 26 dinners, and 26 snacks.
The Jenny Craig plan provides quite a bit of nutritional information along with your counseling sessions. There are tapes and videos with some good facts about vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients, and there is some helpful material about how to stay motivated, limit portion size, and include exercise in your day. It's all pretty basic, but it's presented well, and will be especially valuable to anyone who it trying to eat healthier for the first time.
The biggest downside with the Jenny Craig plan has got to be cost. Even though you get a free initial consultation and will probably be started on a reasonably priced introductory plan that will last a couple of months, when the trial period is over you'll need to pay the full membership price or drop out. The price to belong varies according to the plan you choose, but the most extensive one, with plenty of motivational support costs more than $300/month. When you add that to the cost of the pre-packaged meals, you can see that JC is not very budget friendly.
Another drawback of the "Jenny Way" is that consuming so many processed foods on a daily basis for months at a time is probably not very healthy. True, you are expected to add your own fresh produce to the meals, but much of the nutritional value of the main dishes is most likely lost through heavy processing. The food also gets boring after a while, and many users complain that everything tastes the same after a month or so on the diet.
Since hardly anyone can expect to subsist on precooked meals forever, you'll have to be weaned off of the JC food at some point. Several users comment that it's very hard to learn how to cook for themselves after becoming so dependent on Jenny Craig.
The Bottom Line
Jenny Craig is obviously a big business, and has been operating for years. If some people had not found success with it, the doors would have been closed before now. People who really value the personal touch of a counselor, or who feel they just don't have any time to cook for themselves might find some benefit from calling Jenny.
In my opinion, however, you'd do much better following the Fat Loss 4 Idiots plan. It is found online and allows you to choose your favorite foods from a list. Then, your meal plans for 11 days are generated for you. The meals are made up of simple, real foods, and are easy to prepare. After following the diet for 11 days, you are allowed to have three free days when you can eat anything you want. That solves the problem of monotony and boredom that so many diets cause. The FL4I plan is reasonably priced, easy to access, and best of all, it has been very effective for me and many other folks. Check it out here.