I’m absolutely riveted by weight-loss infomercials. The testimonials, the amazing before and after pictures, the enthused exhortations of “If I can do it, anyone can!” It’s hard not to get caught up in it. The promise of someone finally making it “easy” to lose all that weight is hard to resist, cost be damned.
I had been watching NutriSystem infomercials obsessively for some time when I finally decided to give it a shot. I’ll cut right to the chase: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And that advice definitely applies here.
In a nutshell, NutriSystem supplies you with three entrees (breakfast, lunch and dinner) along with snacks and desserts for a reasonable $10 per day. The entree portion is extremely controlled, smaller than what you get with a Weight Watchers or Lean Cuisine frozen meal. Depending on the meal, you supplement the entree with a variety of fruits, vegetable, and dairy items you purchase separately from the food furnished by NutriSystem.
In theory, NutriSystem makes perfect and obvious sense: a small entree supplemented with healthy sides and snacks, assuming that the entrees are as delicious as is claimed in the infomercials. I was actually impressed with the plan when I first received it because I thought it addressed healthy, well-rounded meals.
Unfortunately, I found very few of the entrees as tasty as advertised. I had about three I actually liked, but quickly tired of them. Needless to say, most of the meals don’t look like they do in the ads, but that wasn’t a surprise as they never do. I could live without the aesthetics if the food was at least appealing, but it wasn’t.
Some of the meals were downright nasty. The Green Pepper Steak with Rice was especially appalling. A boatload of gravy with a few tiny chunks of what I assumed was some sort of beef and about a tablespoon full of gray, pasty matter standing in for rice. It was hideous. I mopped up the bowl-o-gravy with a roll and tossed the rest. I wasn’t about to put the “rice” in my mouth. It was a total waste.
The three (count ‘em, three) entrees I actually liked were the chicken breast (which I usually ate on a burger bun), the hamburger, and hotdogs. Doesn’t really sound like a healthy, well rounded diet, does it? I didn’t think so. The pancakes were generous and good, but there was no guidance as far as how much syrup I could use. The illustration on the mix packet showed a minimal –more decorative than anything — amount of syrup as part of the meal, but pancakes alone are pretty dry and I’m sure the amount of syrup I used probably negated the weight-loss aspect of the meal.
The vaunted chocolates were a huge disappointment. Nothing to rave about like they do in the ads, and this is coming from someone who considers chocolate to be one of the major food groups. I opened up one packet of chocolates meant to be a single snack/dessert and it lasted for days. Not a good sign. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by the cookies. Although it’s only one small, individually wrapped cookie per snack/dessert, they are dense, filling, and most importantly, really good. I loved them.
Another issue is the fact that none of the food items require refrigeration. I eat a lot of crap, obviously, that’s why I was trying out a weight loss plan, but even I couldn’t help wondering and worrying what kind of preservatives and God knows what else the food had to be loaded with to keep it unrefrigerated. This issue quickly became part of why I found so many of the entrees unappealing. For example, the burger was completely dried out and felt like plastic. It was prepared by re-hydrating it in a shallow bowl of hot water. Although it tasted decent, I had a hard time getting past the artificial nature of it.
As well designed as this plan is for weight loss, the food that is so played up on the infomercials just isn’t anywhere near as good as advertised. Major fail. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but I can’t help but wonder if they don’t provide different food for their celebrity endorsers. I just can’t see these privileged people (who can afford personal chefs and the best food money can buy) eating this crap for any length of time, much less enthusiastically going to bat for it.
Another thing to be aware of if you decide to try this plan: The ads — both in print and on television — push a month’s food order as if it’s the only option. That’s one of the reasons I hesitated to try it for so long. The fact is you only need to order a whole month’s worth of food (about $300 worth) if you want to get the free shipping and free extra week or two of meals. They don’t really advertise the fact that you can go to their site and order items a la carte if you want to try out the food before committing to a larger order. Plus, a month’s worth of food is a lot of food to store. I ended up with a big box of meals sitting in my dining room for most of the month.
Another unexpected issue that came up is when I discovered the extra free meals are “Member Favorites.” You don’t choose them yourself like you choose your other items, which is not good for a picky eater like me. I don’t care how well done it is, I don’t eat Macaroni and Cheese under any circumstances. When I’m at work, if someone has heated up Mac and Cheese in the microwave, I can’t even go into the kitchen; the smell repulses me so much. And yet, they sent me Mac and Cheese.
You can return and exchange items, but you pay postage, and it’s a pain to box all that stuff up for shipment. I ended up returning a bunch of stuff at my own expense and dumping some more because it didn’t fit in the sizable box I was sending back to NutriSystem. There was a significant waste of food as a result.
So my take on this plan is that it works in theory, but not in reality. If the food was decent, I’d be their biggest cheerleader, but it’s crap, so I’m not. I don’t understand all these people on NutriSystem ads going on and on about how great the food is, because it’s not. I know, I’ve eaten it – and if I could force myself to live on NutriSystem’s food for any length of time, I would already have better restraint over what I eat and wouldn’t need to pay for a diet plan in the first place.
The main thing I learned from my NutriSystem experience is that there’s still no magic pill for or easy way to weight loss, regardless of the persuasive testimonials. I’m not sure how many people are actually losing weight on NutriSystem and more power to them if they are, but I do know this: the diet industry is a lucrative one, and NutriSystem apparently isn’t losing money on their flawed plan or their infomercials. So buyer beware.
Feel free to learn from my experience and save yourself $300 in the process. There’s no magic bullet. We just have to get off our fat, lazy asses and get some damn exercise and stop eating so much fattening and processed crap – and that includes NutriSystem’s processed crap.