5 Best weight loss programs for women

by Hara Hagikalfa · 14 comments

Wondering which are the best weight loss programs for women? Which diets or weight loss solutions can generate the best, the healthiest, the safest and the faster results?  The majority of our readers are women and very often we get comments asking the same questions. For the last couple of weeks we started a research project to find out which are the top 5 ways for women to lose weight. There are a plethora of weight loss programs, diets, supplements and weight loss pills circulating the market and we have selected the top 5 that meet our criteria (see below) and that are best suited for women. We have many times provided weight loss tips for women to help them lose weight without engaging into any weight loss program but in this post we are going to examine in detail the weight loss programs that are worth considering.

Our Criteria for choosing the best weight loss program for women

To compile our criteria for choosing the best program we have considered the following:

The dietary guidelines for Americans – The US government department of health published in 2010 the dietary guidelines for Americans. The guide provides advice on the different aspects of weight loss including diet, recommended calorie intake and exercise. The weight loss programs selected below adhere to these standards.

Healthy and safe weight loss: We have said many times that our goal is to help you lose weight in a healthy and safe way. We do not like crash diets, fad diets, suspicious products or anything that does not promote healthy and permanent weight loss.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:  Many weight loss solutions can generate results but not for the average women. They can work for celebrities or fit women but not for women of all ages and body type. Our goal was to present you with programs that you can follow and above all programs that will generate the results YOU want. Both men and women have weight problems but in general women are more anxious to lose weight. We wanted the programs to be ‘women friendly’ and take into account the different life stages that a woman has to undergo in her life (period, wedding, pregnancy, and menopause).

Recommended calorie intake for women

Before getting into the details of each weight loss program is it worth noting the recommended calorie intake for women as well as the distribution between the 3 main food groups. The recommendations are provided by the dietary guidelines for Americans.

Daily calorie intake

Women between the ages of 21-25: 2,000 calories

Women between the ages of 26-50: 1,800 calories

Women over 50: 1,600 calories

Food group distribution

Fat: 20%-35%

Carbohydrates: 45%-65%

Protein: 10%-35%

5 Top weight loss programs for women

In order of importance, these are the top 5 weight loss programs for women that in our opinion are worth considering.

1. Mediterranean diet

mediterranean dietThe Mediterranean diet is not just another commercial diet but it is a lifestyle that promotes healthy eating and healthy living. It is a natural weight loss program that was nominated by UNESCO as the world’s healthiest diet. The Mediterranean diet is a mixture of the cultures and dietary preferences of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin and hence this is from where it got its name.

Adherence of the Mediterranean diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

The Mediterranean diet is a balanced diet and it is in accordance with the dietary guidelines. In fact most of the guidelines suggested are based on Mediterranean diet principles and the majority of the recommended foods are taken from the Mediterranean diet food pyramid. The endorsed distribution of fat, protein and carbohydrates for a healthy diet is:

Fat: 20 -35 %

Protein: 10- 35 %

Carbohydrates: 50 %

The Mediterranean diet adheres perfectly to these standards and the food components that make up med diet make it a heart friendly diet.

Healthy and safe

The Mediterranean diet is above all a healthy and safe diet. It is a statistical fact that people who live in the Mediterranean basin (Greeks, Italians etc.) live longer and have less incidents of cancer and cardiovascular diseases than Americans. It is not a restrictive diet and can be safely followed by men and women of all ages.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

The vast selection of food choices available in med diet makes it a perfect choice for women. Med diet gives more emphasis to fruits and vegetables, olive oil, legumes, fish, whole grains and less emphasis to red meat, processed food and other fatty and non- natural products. Since our goal is weight loss we should take into account that to lose weight you need to consume fewer calories than what you need. The Mediterranean diet does a good job in this aspect as well since the average calories in each meal are around 1500 (of course this depends on the foods selected but as a rule of thumb the average is around this number) . The recommended daily intake for women between 20-25 years is 2000 calories, for women between 26-50 years is 1800 calories and for women over 50 is 1600 calories. So, a daily intake of around 1500 calories will create a calorie deficit that will gradually lead to weight loss in a natural way.

2. 17 day diet

17 day dietUnlike the Mediterranean diet, the 17 day diet is not a natural diet but a commercial diet. This means that the sole purpose of the 17 day diet is to help you lose weight. It is not a lifestyle but it has a beginning and an end.  This weight loss program consists of 4 phases, with each phase lasting 17 days.

The main concept behind this program is calorie cycling. Dr Moreno, the diet author, suggests that with calorie cycling you aid your metabolism and keep away boredom while dieting.

In brief the different phases of the 17 day diet program are:

Phase 1 – “The accelerate cycle”: At the first stage you are allowed to consume protein type foods in unlimited quantities and small amounts of fat provided that you daily calorie intake is around 1200 calories. This is the stage where you will experience fast weight loss.

Phase 2 – “The activate cycle”: You decrease the amount of fat and increase the amount of carbs. Typical calorie intake is 1500 calories per day.

Phase 3- “The achieve cycle”: You are allowed to eat almost any type of food but in moderation

Phase 4-“The arrive cycle”: This is the maintenance part where you are supposed to watch your weight and follow phases 1-3 when in problem.

Adherence of the 17 day diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

The 17 diet is not a bad diet. Phases 1 and 2 are not according to standards but phase 3 is a rather balanced phase. We have selected this diet to be part of our best weight loss programs for women because many women want fast results in a short period of time and phases 1 and 2 can give you the results you want in 34 days. The tricky part is to keep the weight off when you are entering phases 3 and 4 and this is where you need discipline.

The 1200 calorie diet plan introduced in phase 1 is the minimum you can go and since it is only for 2 weeks there are no serious implications. We have also presented our 1200 calorie diet for women in the past.

Healthy and safe

Although going as low as 1200 calories per day may not be suitable for some people we believe that for the average woman it should not create any problems (provided of course that you are not pregnant or suffering from any disease or disorder). Phases 2 and 3 are according to safety guidelines and the overall instructions provided in the 17 day diet book do not engage any health risks. The calorie cycling is indeed a way to kick start your metabolism and since each phase is only 17 days it does not create any other side effects.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

You can get results by following this program provided that you do it correctly and by the book. What many women like about this diet is the fact that is has a clear start and end points. You know from advance that you will enter a diet for 68 days. After that period you evaluate your results and decide the way forward. We did research into various forums and read the experiences of people who followed this diet and most of them did manage to lose weight and most importantly they manage to keep the weight off. Those that failed to do so did not follow the complete set of instructions but they tried a hybrid diet which at the end made them fail.

3. Dukan Diet

dukan dietWe first came across the Dukan Diet right after the media around the world ‘announced’ that this was the diet followed by Kate Middleton before the Royal wedding. This world’s interest drove our curiosity to find out more about the Dukan diet and we decided to include it as one of the top 5 weight loss programs for women.

The Dukan diet is a ‘phase diet’ similar to Atkins and 17 day diet but it’s main idea is to take care of what you eat rather than the quantity of the food you eat.  For this purpose the diet has a long list of foods you are allowed to consume at each stage. It is not an open diet where you choose what to eat (provided that you are within a certain calorie range) but it is a ‘closed diet’ in the sense that you are given a list of the foods to eat. In brief the 4 stages of the Dukan Diet are:

Preparation Phase – get ready by eating only protein type foods.

Weight Loss Phase – eat protein and fiber and lose weight.

Protective Phase – start eating foods from carbs, fats and protein and watch your weight

Maintenance phase – Eat healthy foods from all food groups.

The 2nd phase does not have a specific timeframe but it all depends on the amount of weight you want to lose.

Adherence of the Dukan diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

As with the 17 day diet the first 2 phases of the Dukan Diet do not fully comply with the suggested standards because they restrict certain food items from your daily diet and promote low calorie meals which are sometimes below the average. The 3rd and 4th stage though is according to standards and best practices. The list of healthy foods suggested by the Dukan Diet has the same characteristics as the foods suggested in the dietary guidelines.

Healthy and safe

It can become unhealthy if you over do it. Restricting food groups from your diet for a long time is not healthy or recommended. If on the other hand you follow phase 1 and 2 for a reasonable amount of time (a couple of weeks) then you minimize the possible dangers.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

The Dukan Diet worked for Kate Middleton and many other celebrities and it can work for you as well. It needs some preparation work to ensure that you have in stock the foods items you are allowed to eat but if you are really determined to lose weight using the Dukan diet then certainly you can do it.

4. Slim-fast weight loss program

weight loss programThe slim-fast diet is something like an ‘out of the box’ weight loss solution in the sense that it comes with ready made products (snack bars, shakes, meal bars) that can be used to replace 2 of your main meals (breakfast-lunch) and snacks. This gives you the opportunity to consume up to 500 calories in a meal of your choice for dinner. It is based on a 1200 calorie diet and is best suited for people who need to lose more than 20 pounds.

Adherence of the slim-fast diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

Since most of the meals and snacks are ready made products by slim-fast, they ensured that the daily intake of fats, protein and carbs is in accordance to the dietary guidelines. In numbers the distribution of fats, protein and carbs from slim-fast products is 20%, 30%, 50%. Their products also provide satisfactory doses of minerals and vitamins.

Healthy and safe

It is a healthy and safe diet to follow. Their products are not considered as supplements but as balanced food items which are both healthy and safe to consume. There are also associated with positive effects on insulin and blood sugar levels.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

If you follow the slim-fast program by the book it will work. There is no way out since the major meals are composed of slim-fast products that guarantee the amount of calories you consume. Now, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach. First it is costly because you will have to order all those slim-fast products and second there is a chance that you will get bored quickly and quit. On the other hand it is a perfect solution for the working woman who does not have the time to cook or organize her meals in advance. If you want a quick solution that is healthy and can generate good results then the slim-fast solution is for you.

5. DASH Diet

dash dietLast but certainly not least we have the DASH Diet. The DASH diet is a balanced diet similar to the Mediterranean diet. It is the result of research carried out in 4 medical centers and sponsored by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The main purpose of this diet is to help you lower your high blood pressure through healthy eating practices and lifestyle changes. By eating healthy food and following an active lifestyle you also promote weight loss. It is a diet that can be really helpful especially for women over 40 and 50. The basic principle of the DASH diet for losing weight is the following:  first you need to calculate how many calories you need per day and then you must adjust the calories you consume and the calories you burn so that you constantly create a calorie deficit or ensure that you are not creating a calorie surplus. In other words you need to consume fewer calories than what you burn.

Adherence of the DASH diet to the dietary guidelines for Americans

The DASH diet adheres perfectly to the dietary guidelines.  It is a balanced diet which gives more emphasis on fruits and vegetables and less to fats (saturated), sugars and salt. It is a heart-friendly diet which is proven to lower blood sugar levels and bad cholesterol.

Healthy and safe

Together with the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet is probably among the safest and healthiest diets in the World. People suffering from heart related diseases or hypertension are ‘forced’ to follow the DASH diet for health and weight loss.

A program that works and can be followed by the majority of women:

We already mentioned above that this diet is perfect for women over 40 and it is a very good choice for women of all ages. It is not very difficult to follow as it does not restrict any food groups from your daily meals. All it takes it to be selective on what you eat and in what quantities. You do not need any special preparations on food other than remembering to minimize the consumption of red meat, fats, sugars and salt.

Conclusion

At the time of publishing this post, these are the 5 weight loss programs we believe are more suited to women. For sure there are many other diets and programs that are suitable for women but based on our experience, research and criteria these can produce immediate results. You can also read a previous post on the most popular weight loss diets to get a better view on what is available in the market. What is important is to select a program or diet and stick to it for a number of weeks and then evaluate the results and consider if the particular program can work for you or not. Do not let the fancy marketing advertisements of weight loss products take you over but base your decision on healthy standards and practices.

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Hara Hagikalfa
About the author

Hara Hagikalfa completed her BSc(Hons) in Health and Exercise Science, Sports Science and Medicine. She is a certified Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor. You can learn more about Hara and connect with her on Facebook

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Ionut Popa September 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I’ve always said that the most important thing with weight loss is to start doing something, work out, run, eat less fats, but having a good methodology behind your efforts is key too.

Jobo September 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

My wife is always desperate to control her weight. She has tried healthy diets similar to what you have listed above, and she has tried all the crash diets and diet pills and diet fads you can think of. She is still struggling, and she is only 25. Currently she has been told that part of her problem might be digestive issues (along the lines of Irritable Bowel Syndrome) PLUS the fact that she has needed to get 2 cortizone steroid shots in the past 2 years, which is said to encourage weight retention, PLUS AGAIN using an IUD contraceptive that messes with her natural hormone balance. The poor girl needs MORE than just a normal diet-routine and a little extra exercise. Do you have any safe advice for those, like my wife, with unusual and extra-ordinary conditions?

Joanne September 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Thanks for doing such an in depth review of these programs. I’ve gained some weight over the last 5-6 years and I’ve just started taking getting if off, more seriously.

Faith September 14, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I really don’t follow diet trends much so the Dukan diet was fairly new….have always wanted to try more Mediterranean diet recipes, looks like something I can actually do & enjoy!

Vic September 15, 2011 at 6:07 am

I worry about people depending too much on diets. Trying to trick the body never works, which is why so many people have yo-yo weight loss. But I guess as long as our society says that being skinny is the highest form of beauty, people will feel they need to lose weight.

Beth Parker September 15, 2011 at 10:17 am

You did a good job of evaluating the programs and explaining how they were chosen, but I think the government guidelines are just wrong. Having half of our calories come from carbs doesn’t seem right to me. The only diets I’ve had any luck with are low-carb. In fact, if I consume more than about 130g of carbs per day, my blood sugar goes into the pre-diabetes range.

J.D. Smith September 23, 2011 at 5:31 am

The danger with the diet trend is that you dont know if its gonna work for you and you may be upsetting your bodies balance in the attempt. A diet is not the a way to lose weight, your diet is the way you eat and the types of foods you consume all the time! How can you expect permanent results while only investing 17 days of discipline?

Being healthy and eating right is a lifestyle, not a fad. Take it seriously and measure the results in someway other than if you can fit into those old jeans, or how you look in the mirror today.

Ladies, if you are eating the right foods and living the life you are here to live, you will feel amazing everyday….inside and out. And that is the first step to health and happiness, which should be the goal.

Education is the key, tune into your body….dont let the mainstream trick you out of your hard earned dollars and god given right to true health!!!

Start with “The metabolic typing diet” by William Wolcott and “How to eat, move, and be healthy” by Paul Chek.

Give it a shot, good luck.

Rasa October 10, 2011 at 2:53 am

When I eat every hour small (about 40 calorie) meals consisting of protein, vegetables, and fruits – and sometimes including flax seeds and coconut – I do lose weight and feel full most of the time. Try it! Drink lots of water and tea!

Jeanie Brassfield November 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I definitely enjoy reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the aarticles coming. I loved it!

Alyssa January 18, 2012 at 8:22 am

I’m just wondering, how can you say these are the best approaches when they’re fad diets? Slim fast may work for someone looking to lose a few pounds, but if you’re looking to lose 50-100+ lbs., no one is going to be able to survive on substituting a meal for a shake. A good “diet” should put a large focus on learning how to eat properly, which includes ALL food groups, and exercising regularly.

The credibility of your articles has really just changed dramatically for me. None of the aforementioned “diet plans” listed in this article have any type of longevity or sustenance to them, which means they’ll last you a week or two at the most. Which then brings me to your article about fat loss vs water weight vs muscle loss. High protein, low carbohydrate diets are NOTORIOUS for causing a nice muscle burn over a fat burn.

It should be every woman’s goal to lose weight because they’re getting healthy, and getting healthy means changing your lifestyle and adapting to healthy means. You can’t live your life eating protein and no carbohydrates for the rest of your life, and you’re losing essential nutrients by omitting these foods. The best weight loss and the healthiest eating comes from a nice balance of EVERY food group. They all have a vital place in the well-being of our lives.

I constantly retweet your articles on my twitter page and that will all be carefully reconsidered from here on out. I cannot believe these “diets” were listed here as the top 5 for weight loss. It’s incredibly disappointing.

Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 9:39 am

@Alyssa:
First of all thank you very much for your valuable comment. I am sure you do agree that the Mediterranean diet and Dash diet are not considered as ‘fad diets’ but they are among the healthiest diets to follow with many benefits besides weight loss. As far as the other 3 diets is concerned (17 day diet, slim-fast and dukan diet), they are included in the list because they are better than other commercial diets in many aspects and if followed for a SHORT period of time can generate results.
I do agree with you 100% that the best way to lose weight is to learn how to eat healthy without excluding any food group from your meals and in essence to follow a balanced diet, but not all people have the patience and willingness to do that. From the hundreds of commercial diets in the market today we consider these 5 to be among the healthiest and most effective for people who want to go for a commercial solutions. Having said that, for those who want to avoid commercial programs they can start by reading: http://www.weightlosshelpandtips.net/2011/04/healthy-weight-loss/

Thanks a lot again
Alex.

P.S Congradulations for your new blog.

Alyssa January 18, 2012 at 11:07 am

@Admin,

Thank you for your response. I do agree the Mediterranean diet & Dash are healthy & sound, but I also think it’s important for people to change their habits, vs. “going on a diet” — whether you eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, with a small amount of healthy fat, plenty of protein and good, whole grains, OR you eat McDonald’s value meals four times a day, they are both considered someone’s “diet.”

I think dieting has a negative connotation to it, because the first thing people think of is restriction, when the truth is you can eat healthily & enjoy otherwise “off-limits” food. It’s just a matter of learning what moderation means — I like to remind myself I can have the items I really “want”, but I can’t have them all at once.

Anyway, back on track: If your goal was to describe 5 of the healthiest weight loss strategies for women in the short term, maybe you could have adjusted the title to mention these are not meant for long-term use? It’s difficult to see the Dukan Diet listed as an option for the HEALTHIEST weight loss for women when you also state that it’s only designed for short term use or it can be detrimental.

I love following you guys on Twitter, which is how I came across all of these articles, and they’re normally right on the money, but this one really struck a chord with me because there are plenty of weight loss plans that don’t have warnings for short term use. And coming from a woman who has tried them all, sometimes experience speaks volumes. I once used a personal trainer who was convinced I needed to see a nutritionist, and when I finally scheduled my appointment with her, she sent me home with a note to my personal trainer essentially telling him he was crazy for thinking I didn’t have a handle on healthy eating.

Gold Mint February 8, 2012 at 3:46 am

The blog is really good and is informative. But it’s not possible for everyone to follow Dukan Diet? Can you suggest any other alternative?

Hara February 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm

@ Alyssa
Dear Alyssa I read your comments and there are a couple of points I would like to bring up. First I will agree with you that following a healthy balanced diet is the best way forward for both weight and health benefits.
However, what constitutes a healthy balanced diet is a little bit of a controversial matter and often misunderstood. There is disagreement amongst scientist and different professionals for that matter. Now you say about high protein – low carbohydrate diets cause muscle burn. May ask how that happens as I have never come across a scientific study which suggests so. To the contrary some studies which have looked at high protein diets suggest that lean mass may increase, although the matter needs more research so a statement cannot be made. Scientist have looked a lot in high protein diets and they do show some evidence that they may have benefits for health and weight and in some results are better than high carbohydrate – low fat diets (which are the most commonly promoted). Overall, there is no evidence to show that high protein diets are harmful to health. There is need for more research, but I would say that more and more studies look into the benefits of consuming a higher in protein diet.
Second, you mention about ‘diets’ versus healthy eating. First the ‘Mediterranean’ diet is not a diet as such but a dietary pattern. Which means that is a way of eating and actually according to research is considered the best in terms of health outcomes and weight management. There are weight loss diets which have been based on the Mediterranean dietary pattern. The quality of each one of them depends on its individual characteristics.
3rd For some cases of obesity the body’s processes seem to go out of tune (to put it simply) and losing weight with just a healthy balance diet does not happen. In those cases a very low calorie diet may be suggested as the best option. A diet like the slim fast may be fit that category of people and it is actually a lot more than you think. Also for some people to actually change their habits it may come down to following a strict diet first and then working on adding other foods slowly. A lot of the diets mentioned (i.e the dukan diet and the 17 day diet) do have chapters on how to make these changes to follow a healthy lifestyle. Part of the diet plans having the different stages is so that people work through the different eating patterns and helping your body to adjust and adapt to the changes. I am not saying that these diets are the best. I don’t believe that there is such a thing. However, there are the best recommended based on health and safety. And yes they can be followed for long term. The slim fast can’t but it could be the best for those who need to follow a very low calorie diet to kick start their body and weight loss.
Finally, we should keep in mind that not one diet or a solution, or a plan or anything is ‘best’ for everybody. Yes indeed there is an optimum nutrition but personal circumstances can make it different for each one of us.

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