Started in 1989, L A Weight Loss centers can be found in 49 states, Canada, and Europe. With more than 700 stores, theyre fast becoming one of the biggest players on the diet scene. In fact, the CEO has aspirations to “become the largest weight management company in the world.” What distinguishes L A Weight Loss from other similar programs is that it revolves around regular supermarket foods. In addition, the company sells its own brand of nutritional supplements and snack bars.

While it bills itself as “a unique combination of regular foods” and “personalized one-on-one counseling,” this program is not all that different from many others. In fact, its the same strategy registered dietitians employ when they work with weight-loss clients. Trouble is, dietitians arent the ones giving the expensive advice, but counselors who are compensated based on the revenue of the sales of supplements and snack bars at their center. You cant help but wonder about the quality of their advice.

Basic principles:

Its all about sensible portions. Diet counselors gather height, weight, age, activity level, and a medical history in order to figure out a specific program for each dieter. Plans are based on a specific calorie level, but you dont actually crunch calories. Instead, you count portions from different food categories: proteins, fruits and vegetables, fat, starch, and dairy. Dieters follow prescribed food plans and learn how to prepare foods healthfully. Counseling sessions and weigh-ins take place privately.

How the diet works:

There are three distinct phases. The first is for weight loss. Dieters are assigned somewhere between 1,100 and 1,800 calories a day. After reaching their goal weight, they transition into a 6-week stabilization phase. The third and final phase is a maintenance program that uses counseling to help maintain weight loss. Candy, doughnuts, and other indulgences are reserved for this phase. The diet works out to approximately 45% carbohydrates, 35% to 40% protein, and 15% to 20% fat.

What you can eat:

Mac and cheese, steak and potatoes. You can pretty much eat your fill of meats, starches, fruits, and vegetables; fats are limited. The company encourages you to buy L A Weight Loss supplements and L A Lites, protein bars in flavors like chocolate-peanut butter and chocolate-mint crunch.

Does the diet take and keep weight off?

There are no independent scientific studies. The company reports that dieters can expect to lose up to 2 pounds per week based on internal audits it has conducted for the last 5 years.

Is the diet healthy?

Probably. A registered dietitian directs nutrition services for the company, and the balance of protein, fat, and carbs is within recommended ranges. One problem: The 1,100-calorie plan barely meets nutritionally adequate levels. Most health professionals recommend at least 1,200 calories or more per day, preferably 1,500 calories.

What do the experts say?

“Dieters do have success if they follow the program to the letter,” says registered dietitian Edee Hogan, a Washington, D.C., nutrition and culinary consultant whose clients have tried the program. “They lose weight. But they dont have much wiggle room.” In fact, the program is so strict that dieters become lost when it comes to handling special-occasion meals and events not on the plan, Hogan says. Registered dietitian Shannon Crosby finds the diet is essentially “a safe and sound plan,” but she takes issue with the fact that counselors make commission on sales of the L A Lites bars and supplements.

Who should consider the diet?

Dieters with deep pocketbooks.

Bottom line:

Probably OK, but itll cost ya. Watch out for hidden expenses, such as supplements and snack bars, that can raise fees much higher than advertised.
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