Take off pounds sensibly

TOPS: Take Off Pounds Sensibly

Wholesale Point is proud to be the only approved supplier of weight scales to TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). Since 2001, we have had the pleasure of serving many satisfied TOPS customers with a convenient place to purchase their new scales.

Please feel welcome to browse our website and explore the diverse selection of scales we carry. Below we have included the best-selling models, models recommended by TOPS and a link to download the order form if you would prefer to mail in your order.

Recommended Balance Beam Scales:

  • HealthOMeter 400KL – 390 lb. capacity (RECOMMENDED)

Recommended Transportable Digital Scales:

  • HealthOMeter 752KL – 600 lb. capacity ( (RECOMMENDED)
  • HealthOMeter 498KL – 500 lb. capacity
  • HealthOMeter 349KLX – 400 lb. capacity

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for a high-quality medical grade digital scale, we recommend the HealthOMeter 752KL. This scale has a large sturdy platform, a 600 lb. capacity, comes with an A/C adapter and fits nicely in the TOPS Soft-Sided Carrying Case for easy transportation.

The 498KL was recently introduced as an excellent option between the 752KL and the more economical 349KLX. These two models operate on batteries and can be plugged into the wall by using the optional A/C adapter.

Recommended Post or Column Scales:

PLEASE NOTE: If you want a digital scale that has the look of a traditional medical scale, then the post or column scales are a great choice. Keep in mind that the HealthOMeter 597KL and 599KL have identical features and construction to the 752KL, except they are each mounted on a pole.

TOPS Carrying Case for Transportable Scales:

  • Soft-Sided Carrying Case for HealthOMeter 752KL, 498KL and 349KLX Scales

Download the TOPS Scale Order Form:

Click here to download the most current TOPS Order Form

Food Exchange Lists

You can use the American Dietetic Association food exchange lists to check out serving sizes for each group of foods and to see what other food choices are available for each group of foods.

Fat-Free and Very Low-Fat Milk
Very Lean Protein
Lean Protein
Medium-Fat Proteins

Vegetables contain 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
½ C Cooked vegetables (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, cabbage, etc.)
1 C Raw vegetables or salad greens
½ C Vegetable juice

If you’re hungry, eat more fresh or steamed vegetables.

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Fat-Free and Very Low-Fat Milk contain 90 calories per serving. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
1 C Milk, fat-free or 1% fat
¾ C Yogurt, plain nonfat or low-fat
1 C Yogurt, artificially sweetened

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Very Lean Protein choices have 35 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
1 oz Turkey breast or chicken breast, skin removed
1 oz Fish fillet (flounder, sole, scrod, cod, etc.)
1 oz Canned tuna in water
1 oz Shellfish (clams, lobster, scallop, shrimp)
¾ C Cottage cheese, nonfat or low-fat
2 Egg whites
¼ C Egg substitute
1 oz Fat-free cheese
½ C Beans, cooked (black beans, kidney, chick peas or lentils): count as 1 starch/bread and 1 very lean protein

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Fruits contain 15 grams of carbohydrate and 60 calories. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
1 small Apple, banana, orange, nectarine
1 med. Fresh peach
1 Kiwi
½ Grapefruit
½ Mango
1 C Fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries)
1 C Fresh melon cubes
1⁄8th Honeydew melon
4 oz Unsweetened juice
4 tsp Jelly or jam

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Lean Protein choices have 55 calories and 2–3 grams of fat per serving. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
1 oz Chicken—dark meat, skin removed
1 oz Turkey—dark meat, skin removed
1 oz Salmon, swordfish, herring
1 oz Lean beef (flank steak, London broil, tenderloin, roast beef)*
1 oz Veal, roast or lean chop*
1 oz Lamb, roast or lean chop*
1 oz Pork, tenderloin or fresh ham*
1 oz Low-fat cheese (with 3 g or less of fat per ounce)
1 oz Low-fat luncheon meats (with 3 g or less of fat per ounce)
¼ C 4.5% cottage cheese
2 med. Sardines

* Limit to 1–2 times per week

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Medium-Fat Proteins have 75 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
1 oz Beef (any prime cut), corned beef, ground beef**
1 oz Pork chop
1 Whole egg (medium)**
1 oz Mozzarella cheese
¼ C Ricotta cheese
4 oz Tofu (note this is a heart healthy choice)

** Choose these very infrequently

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Starches contain 15 grams of carbohydrate and 80 calories per serving. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
1 slice Bread (white, pumpernickel, whole wheat, rye)
2 slices Reduced-calorie or “lite” bread
¼ (1 oz) Bagel (varies)
½ English muffin
½ Hamburger bun
¾ C Cold cereal
1⁄3 C Rice, brown or white, cooked
1⁄3 C Barley or couscous, cooked
1⁄3 C Legumes (dried beans, peas or lentils), cooked
½ C Pasta, cooked
½ C Bulgar, cooked
½ C Corn, sweet potato, or green peas
3 oz Baked sweet or white potato
¾ oz Pretzels
3 C Popcorn, hot air popped or microwave (80% light)

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Fats contain 45 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving. One serving equals:

Measurement Ingredient
1 tsp Oil (vegetable, corn, canola, olive, etc.)
1 tsp Butter
1 tsp Stick margarine
1 tsp Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Reduced-fat margarine or mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Salad dressing
1 Tbsp Cream cheese
2 Tbsp Lite cream cheese
1/8th Avocado
8 large Black olives
10 large Stuffed green olives
1 slice Bacon

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Source: Based on American Dietetic Association Exchange Lists

Best Weight Loss Programs

Types of Weight Loss Programs

Commercial Diet Programs

You have to sign up, and they come at a cost — some higher than others depending upon the program — but commercial diet programs offer a lot of tools for the dieter. These may include in-person and online support, smartphone and tablet apps, journaling and record-keeping programs specific to the diet, pre-calculated calorie counts, guides for eating out and plenty of proven recipes for any cooking skill level. They also provide the most support, both in person and online.

Diet Books

Books to help you lose weight or change your eating habits are a dime a dozen — and that’s a very good thing. A good diet book can be an affordable approach to starting and maintaining a healthy eating plan. Many even have free online support forums or extensive websites that can be accessed for free or a small fee. The best diet books not only give you an overview of how their program works, but also offer menu plans, recipes and exercise guidance. Best of all, you can usually try before you buy by checking out the book at your local library.

Prepackaged Food Plans

These are very convenient if you don’t have the time, energy or ability to plan for and prepare meals. A prepackaged food program gives you a no-hassle, no-brainer approach to dieting, but the best come at a cost. Even the least expensive prepackaged plans cost more than just buying your own food, and it can be difficult to find out the true cost until you actually commit. Still, if you can afford it, you get a nutritionally balanced, calorie-controlled eating plan with lots of support and no additional tools needed — except a microwave oven, which are covered in a separate report.

The best weight loss program is the one you can stick to

Practically everyone decides at some point in time that they want or need to lose weight. For some, it may be a few pounds they’ve put on over the holidays, for others it’s a serious issue and their weight may be leading to obesity-related health problems.

The good news is that if you’re struggling with your size, reducing your calorie intake and increasing your activity level have been clinically shown to help you lose weight. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts and no short-term fixes. Fad diets, herbal supplements, “fat-burning” pills, and highly restrictive diets don’t work for long, if at all, and some may cause more harm than good.

The most important consideration of any diet is finding one that you can stick with for the long haul. While many diets promise that you’ll quickly shed pounds in the beginning, the truth is that reining in your eating will almost always result in quick, initial weight loss regardless of what program you decide to try. The trick is to find a program that — after that first couple of weeks — you can adhere to as your weight loss slows to more realistic levels. Experts say that people who make diets a lifestyle rather than just a “diet,” while setting a goal of losing a pound or so a week, are more apt to keep the weight off over the long term.

Move it to lose it

Don’t forget exercise. The best diets incorporate or encourage exercise and allow you to ingest more calories as your reward. Some programs have even more specific exercise guidelines, suggesting the best foods to eat both before and after you exercise for maximum energy and recovery.

If you don’t know what’s the best exercise for you, head on over to our reports on treadmills, elliptical trainers, exercise bikes and stair climbers for some ideas to help in your efforts to improve your fitness. A fitness tracker can also give you the motivation to get up and get moving.

Phone a friend

Support, either in-person or online, is another key to successful dieting. The best diets offer support from both trained counselors and fellow dieters. In addition, studies show that those who keep track of their food and activity are ultimately more successful at losing weight. This personal accountability can help you shed pounds whether you follow a commercial diet program or choose a self-directed diet.

Many of our best-rated weight loss programs have tracking software available online, as well as mobile apps, or even paper-tracking programs for those who prefer hard-copy journaling. Other programs or diets may not have dedicated websites, but there are a wealth of free calorie and activity tracking websites that offer community support, recipes and even free exercise videos.

Finding The Best Weight Loss Programs Our Sources “Best Diets” 2. WebMD “Weight Loss & Diet Plans A-Z” 3. The Atlantic “Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner Is Real Food”

There is always a lot of controversy when it comes to evaluating diets. Many people are firmly in one camp or another over the “right” way to eat. Studies are often contradictory in their findings, and many critics charge that government recommendations are influenced by the food industry. We present the controversies and cross-opinions, when relevant, but we do not take sides; in our opinion the best diet is the one you feel best on and can stick with.

Instead, we’ve evaluated expert reviews, most notably those published annually at U.S. News and World Report. That publication consults medical professionals who, in turn, consult clinical studies as well as utilizing their own experience and expertise to make their recommendations. We then work our way down to dieter opinions posted on survey sites — to identify the most nutritionally sound and sustainable weight loss programs. That includes diets, meal-delivery plans, diet books and free, online resources that will help you lose weight and keep it off over the long-term.

The best commercial diet programs

No weight loss program rivals Weight Watchers’ (Est. $20 and up per month) record of scientifically proven efficacy and enthusiastic expert and dieter endorsements. Its combination of in-person and/or online support and motivation, flexible points-based meal planning, and physical activity are hard to beat. There are no off-limit foods, and the program can be customized for any dietary need, making it a good choice for vegetarians, vegans and anyone who has a specific food allergy or intolerance. It emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables by making them “free” foods — in other words, foods that don’t have to be portioned or tracked.

Weight Watchers has been around for more than 50 years, and has always been a point-based system — currently known as SmartPoints. Those points are calculated from a formula that takes into account the food’s fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrate count. You’re given a specific number of points each day that you track and log, as well as weekly bonus points for snacks or additional food items. Fitness is also a bigger component, and you’re encouraged to set fitness goals when you set up your profile, then track them and, if you wish, exchange FitPoints for food.

For 2018, “WW Freestyle” is the new buzz phrase, denoting an expanded list of “free” foods — more than 200 — that don’t have to be tracked or logged. The program also allows you to rollover up to 4 points per day to add to your weekly total to build a points bank — perhaps for a special weekend dinner.

We see very few downsides to Weight Watchers. Even though it’s fee-based, the fees are pretty reasonable. Everyone pays a $20 registration fee (although that’s often waived as an incentive to sign up, especially December through March). Then, membership fees are as low as $20 a month for online only. You can even pay-as-you-go if you want to attend meetings just occasionally; it costs about $15 per meeting. There are also pricier plans available that provide you with individual coaching sessions. Regardless of the plan you choose, experts say you get a lot for your money, especially in online tools and support. However, if you’re on a tight budget, these fees may still be a bit too steep. The only other complaint we noted is that some people say they feel hungry all the time or often in spite of the plethora of food choices, but we see that with virtually all diets as calorie restriction tends to have that result.

Experts say that Weight Watchers is one of the easiest programs to follow. There are hundreds of Weight Watchers recipes available, both in cookbook form and online, with pre-calculated points values for each recipe. Weight Watchers has its own line of frozen entrees, and Weight Watchers points values are often pre-calculated on other brands of frozen entrees. There are many other Weight Watchers-branded prepared foods available as well. Food preparation-wise, the program can be as easy or as difficult as your skill level in the kitchen.

You do have to track everything you eat, which is easy if you’re following a Weight Watchers’ recipe or eating a prepackaged food with the points pre-calculated. It gets a bit trickier when you prepare your own recipes as you have to break down the ingredients and do the math — although that’s certainly simpler if all you’re doing is, for example, grilling a chicken breast and making a salad. And, under the new “Freestyle” program, that’s a meal that could be points-free under the current guidelines, depending upon whether or not the salad is dressed.

A similar program, TOPS (Est. $32 per year, plus $5 chapter dues), pairs a wealth of educational material with group meetings in your community, also called “chapters.” TOPS, which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly, uses The Food Exchange System, which users say is easy to understand and follow. It has categories of foods with similar serving sizes and caloric loads, and it’s easy to swap one food for another. You can even purchase exchange cards that give you food options within categories at a glance, as well as a variety of other accessories, such as food prep tools scaled to accurate portion sizes.

TOPS also recommends that you get a diet recommendation from your doctor or follow the USDA’s MyPlate tool, which focuses on filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with lean meats and whole grains. TOPS is low-cost, nutritionally sound, provides plenty of support and is very affordable. However, it’s not as structured as some other commercial weight loss programs, so those who prefer a diet that offers more specific meal guidelines may find it more difficult to follow.

There are plenty of low- or no-cost diet resources

If your budget — or your preferences — don’t make either Weight Watchers or TOPS appealing to you, there are some popular diet programs that are less-structured, but no less effective if you stick to the program.

The Volumetrics Diet (Est. $10), based upon the well-regarded book “The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off” is a sensible, sustainable approach that draws rave reviews from experts and dieters. You swap high-density foods, which tend to have more calories, for lower-density foods like fruits, vegetables, soups and stews. This swap of foods with more bulk but fewer calories helps fill you up, thus eliminating one big problem with dieting: hunger. It’s a top pick in most of our expert roundups, and its author, Barbara Rolls, is a leading researcher in the field of nutrition. Many other diets, most notably Jenny Craig (Est. $20 and up per month, plus food) (covered in our discussion of the best prepackaged diet plans) and Weight Watchers, have adopted, at least in part, the Volumetrics approach to meal planning to help keep hunger at bay.

The Volumetrics plan does not have a website, therefore there is no formal support, but it can be paired with any free online support program, such as SparkPeople or MyFitnessPal, both free, highly rated diet and fitness-support websites. For some people the big drawback to the Volumetrics approach is that food preparation, both shopping and cooking, is not optional — you will need to have some level of comfort in the kitchen. However, the book features meal plans, and the recipes are reported as easy to follow by consumer reviewers. At least one expert says this particular approach is probably best for people who have hunger or portion-control issues rather than emotional eaters who often eat for reasons other than hunger. Also, if you’re more a meat-and-potatoes kind of eater, you may get weary of a diet that’s heavy on vegetables, fruits and soups.

The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, most commonly called the TLC Diet (Free), has a name that’s about as interesting as cold broth, but experts say it’s a top choice to lower cholesterol and that you will lose weight if you follow the eating and activity guidelines. The downside to this diet is that you have to figure out which foods to eat and there is no support. Guidelines are available online on the U.S. National Institutes of Health website, but they’re not as specific as with fee-based weight loss programs. However, while there are no “official” community websites that accompany the TLC diet, there is plenty of information available online from dieters who have successfully followed the programs and offer their suggestions, recipes and tips.

Another diet that’s highly ranked by experts is the Mediterranean Diet (Free). Experts say that eating the Mediterranean way is the healthiest dietary choice you can make. The difficulty for most people is figuring out exactly what that means since there is no formal “Mediterranean Diet;” rather, it’s a way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats in moderation, whole grains, legumes, seeds and healthy fats. However, there are some guidelines on the Oldways website that may be helpful, and there are a wealth of other online resources from those who have adopted the Mediterranean diet lifestyle, as well as plenty of cookbooks.

Cutting carbs is the key to weight loss for many

Low carb diets, which eliminate basically all non-vegetable carbs, even most fruits, used to be considered “fad” or “fringe” diets. However, they’re becoming more mainstream as more studies show that this approach is effective for both short and long term weight loss, as well as lowering overall cholesterol and increasing “good” cholesterol.

Basically every diet that we cover in this report is low carb to some extent in that they discourage processed foods and foods made from white flour, and most assign higher caloric/points values even to foods that contain whole grains than to other types of food. However, many experts are leery of any diet that eliminates entire food groups — in this case grains and many starches. However, plenty of others point out that vegetarians and vegans do not receive this type of criticism even though those diets also eliminate several food groups.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, if you do decide to try out a low carb diet, the Atkins Diet is the gold standard. Atkins has been proven effective for both short- and long-term weight loss, and studies show it is just as effective in lowering cholesterol levels over the long term as low fat diets for many people. As with any diet program, it may not be effective for everyone. While Atkins does initially restrict carbs to very low levels, the plan adds in more carbohydrates as you lose weight. It’s also easy to follow, say users, and it’s restaurant friendly — hold the bread and order an extra vegetable instead of a potato.

There are a plethora of resources for getting started on, or maintaining, the Atkins Diet. In addition to the official Atkins website, with recipes, many free downloads, and a support community, there are thousands of websites built by low carb devotees with additional tips, recipes and encouragement. The book, New Atkins for a New You (Est. $12), is also a good place to start the low carb journey. It’s highly rated by users, who say it’s a great guide for making a dietary lifestyle change. Some like that the science of low carb eating is well presented, others say they would prefer a more casual approach and more recipes. Others point out that all of the information in the book is available on the Atkins website, free of charge.

The South Beach Diet is also considered low-carb, but it’s not as restrictive as Atkins in its later phases. In fact, even in the early phases of the South Beach Diet, small servings of complex, non-vegetable carbs are allowed. South Beach earns high praise for weight loss and as an overall healthy way of eating, but gets panned for its complicated meal plans and time-consuming recipes by both users and experts. The ingredients in its recipes can jack up your grocery bill as well. Still, it’s popular for those who love to cook, or prefer meals that aren’t just a hunk of meat and a vegetable (or two).

The South Beach Diet started as a book that was originally published in 2003, The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss (Est. $9). The book is still considered to be the best way to get information on the basic diet, but there are also many follow up books and cookbooks to supplement the original, as well as South Beach compliant recipes available around the Internet. The official South Beach Diet website is mostly fee-based.

Paleo focuses on different types of carbs

Even its adherents quibble over whether the Paleo Diet is low carb or not. Technically, it is not in that it allows some starch-based carbs such as sweet potatoes, yams, and squash. It also allows some fruits. Some Paleo programs allow white potatoes and certain kinds of rice as well. Most Paleo programs don’t allow dairy, others do.

The Paleo Diet (Free) is not intended to be a weight loss diet, per se, but rather a way of eating that is meant to be permanent. In many Paleo protocols, there is a strong emphasis on grass-fed or organic foods, which can be pricey and may not be readily available to some, but other programs recommend that you just purchase the highest quality of food you can afford. Exercise is strongly encouraged. You don’t count calories; you just eat until you’re satiated.

Proponents of the Paleo diet say it’s a much healthier way to eat than the standard American diet, which is often heavy on added sugars and processed foods. Critics say it’s too restrictive, banning dairy, wheat and legumes — food groups that many nutritionists feel should be part of a healthy diet. However, as we noted earlier in this section, veganism and vegetarianism also ban entire food groups and do not come under the same cloud of criticism.

Regardless of where you stand, the fact is that the Paleo way of eating is becoming increasingly popular, as are “nutritional reset” programs based upon Paleo, such as the Primal Blueprint 21-day Challenge hosted by Marks Daily Apple, or the Whole30 program, popularized by the New York Times bestseller, It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways (Est. $15).

Anecdotally, many people say they feel great on the Paleo diet — losing weight and lowering health markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol. However, like most programs, many simply don’t stick with this way of eating over the long term — they keep lapsing and going back — the same issue we see with all eating plans. Again, there is no formal “Paleo” diet, but there are plenty of books and online resources for anyone interested in exploring the idea.

Regardless of which of these diets appeals to you, the biggest challenge for any of them is that you have to have at least some ability in the kitchen — and for some you have to be pretty competent — because all of them are based, at least in part, upon purchasing and preparing your own, whole foods. That may be a challenge if food prep is not your thing or you’re often pressed for time. In that case, Weight Watchers is probably the easiest program for the non-cook to follow. They not only have a complete line of prepared foods, they also have tools to give you the points values for the menus of many popular restaurants. If you really want to make dieting as simple as possible, skip on over to our discussion of the Best Prepackaged Diet Plans for some really convenient weight loss plans.

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The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off

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New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great.

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The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss

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It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways

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Weight Watchers Tops in Efficacy Vs. Cost

This article is a collaboration between MedPage Today and:

Among the most popular diet programs and drugs, Weight Watchers trims the most bulge for the buck, according to a new cost-effectiveness analysis.

The incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) was $34,630 for Weight Watchers, well under the commonly accepted threshold of $50,000, Eric Finkelstein, PhD, of Duke University, and colleagues reported in the journal Obesity.

“Looking at cost per weight lost or QALY saved, Weight Watchers looked best because it’s the least expensive,” Finkelstein said in a statement. “Qsymia also showed good value for the money because the additional weight loss came at a fairly low cost.”

He and colleagues conducted the analysis because more insurers have been considering coverage of weight-loss drugs and diets given the increasing health and cost burden of obesity. Yet little information exists as to how pricey the incremental health benefits of the various strategies are.

In their review of 27 studies, the researchers looked at three diets and three drugs: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and VTrim, and Qsymia, Belviq (lorcaserin), and orlistat (Xenical, Alli).

Annual costs of the diet programs ranged from $377 per year with Weight Watchers to $682 with VTrim and $2,512 with Jenny Craig (which was the priciest because of the cost of meals). Among the medications, Qsymia was the cheapest at $1,336 per year, followed by orlistat at $1,518 and Belviq at $1,743.

Among the diets, patients lost the most weight with Jenny Craig (16 pounds/year), followed by 7 pounds with Vtrim and 5 pounds with Weight Watchers. Qsymia offered the greatest weight loss among the diet drugs, at 15 pounds per year, followed by Belviq at 7 pounds and orlistat at 6 pounds.

The researchers then calculated the cost per kilogram of weight lost for each intervention, finding a range of $155 for Weight Watchers to $546 for orlistat. And in terms of QALYs, Weight Watchers and Qsymia offered the best value for the money, they concluded.

Incremental cost per QALY was $34,630 for Weight Watchers and $54,130 for Qsymia — the latter is slightly above the usual threshold for cost-effectiveness, which is $50,000.

They noted that the Jenny Craig diet generates additional QALYs at an incremental cost of more than $350,000 per QALY in the most optimistic scenario.

“Although containing rising rates of obesity is a public health imperative, employers and third-party payers remain hesitant to sink big money into commercial weight-loss strategies,” Finkelstein said in the statement. “To remain competitive, the other programs will either need to up the benefits and/or reduce costs, perhaps through cost-sharing or via other incentive strategies.”

The study was limited because the comparisons aren’t based on a single randomized trial that includes all interventions. Nor did the analysis include other weight-loss options, notably weight-loss surgery.

Still, they said future trials “should look at the weight loss and cost consequences of offering these programs as part of larger health promotion efforts within employer/insurer groups.”


Finkelstein reported financial relationships with Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Takeda, Orexigen, and Vivus.

Primary Source



Rating Alternative Diets for Seniors

TOPS, which stands for “Take Off Pounds Sensibly,” is a no-frills, low-cost diet plan. Actually, it’s not a diet at all but rather a loosely knit support system for people trying to lose weight.

Quick Take

  • Offers a loosely knit support system of TOPS chapters
  • Meetings vary from chapter to chapter throughout the country
  • Provides no official diet plan
  • Lets dieters develop the approach that works best for them

This Diet Is Best For

People who prefer to go solo while still having a support group to fall back on


Who Should Not Try This Diet

Dieters who know from experience that they need more clear-cut menus and day-to-day guidance on what they should eat and how they should change their eating behaviors

The Premise

Founded in Milwaukee more than 55 years ago, the nonprofit organization has none of the traditional diet plan offerings: There’s no official diet, no prepackaged foods, no supplements, and no counseling.

But for $24 a year plus local chapter dues, members can attend weekly support meetings at one of about 10,000 local TOPS chapters, where they will weigh themselves, discuss problems, and even exchange recipes. Chapter leaders are volunteers from the TOPS membership. In addition to weekly support meetings, the national organization offers incentives for weight loss.

Once you become a member, you’ll receive TOPS News, a monthly magazine that offers contests, weight-loss incentive plans, self-help articles, and recipes. TOPS members who reach their goal weight, which is supposed to be set with the help of a health care professional when you join, are eligible for maintenance membership in KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly).

Though TOPS membership is generally comprised of older adults, kids and teens are welcome, too. TOPS now has online help, too, at www.tops.org. The cost of joining TOPS online is $25.50 a year, and you will also receive TOPS News.

The Rationale

For people who feel more comfortable figuring out their own path to weight loss, TOPS offers a loose system of support but little more. Exactly what kind of support you’ll get from your local chapter is impossible to predict, since chapters vary quite a bit from one to another. In fact, the organization prides itself on the individuality of its chapters.

TOPS weekly meetings always begin with a confidential weigh-in, which is followed by a program that sometimes includes presentations by health professionals who volunteer their time to speak. Through group support and some weight-loss competitions, TOPS provides incentives for weight loss. There are national contests as well as local chapter contests. Participants compete only within their own age category and weight class.

Eating on the TOPS Diet

Because there is no official diet plan or even preset calorie intakes, there are no typical meals. TOPS recommends that its members go to a health care professional for personalized diet and physical activity plans.

In addition, the organization does offer an optional diet planning book called The Choice Is Yours, which contains simple guidelines for planning diets of 1,200, 1,500, and 1,800 calories a day, based on the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and the diabetic exchange list, and it offers a sample 28-day menu and exercise guide.

What the Experts Say

Because there is no single TOPS program or diet plan, experts say it’s hard to make any kind of judgment as to its safety or effectiveness. However, there’s nothing to indicate that the program is unsafe, and for some people, it could be helpful. Just keep in mind that there is no counseling offered and group leaders are untrained volunteers who are also TOPS members.

With no set TOPS diet and everyone pretty much on their own in planning their diets, it’s hard to say how much you might lose or how quickly you can expect to lose it. Neither the TOPS organization nor the individual chapters make any claims about an expected rate of weight loss. The organization leaves this up to the discretion of each dieter and his or her physician.

While this freedom may work well for some people, it carries some risks as well. It could lead some ill-informed dieters to unwittingly cut back too far on calories or to follow an unbalanced diet. However, if you stick with the sample plan provided in TOPS’s The Choice Is Yours booklet, you should meet most of your nutrient needs while lowering blood cholesterol and controlling blood sugar.

It’s still a good idea, however, to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement, since it’s tough to include enough calcium-rich dairy foods in a 1,200- or 1,500-calorie diet. Though physical activity is recommended and some local chapters incorporate group walks into their weekly meetings, exercise could be emphasized more.

Calorie quota: There is no calorie quota provided, though the optional booklet TOPS offers gives guidance for 1,200-, 1,500-, and 1,800-calorie-a-day diets, using standard food exchange lists.

Yes: Attendance at meetings

No: None, since no uniform guidance is provided

Other similar diets: Overeaters Anonymous

On the next and final page of this article, read about Volumetrics for Seniors and learn how it works.

To learn more about senior health, see:

EatingWell 28 Day Meal Plan Help

How to choose the right calorie level for your daily meal plans. How to lose weight with a meal plan

Our menus are simple to follow and designed by EatingWell’s nutrition staff with a variety of healthy, delicious recipes, an abundance of whole grains to help you feel full, and healthy amounts of fresh fruits and low-fat dairy foods to make sure you are meeting your basic needs for calcium, protein and other essential nutrients while you are dieting. Our menus come in three calorie levels: 1,200, 1,500 and 1,800, and are rounded out with healthy snacks to keep your diet interesting and help you to feel satisfied.

You’re likely to lose weight on any of these plans since shedding pounds is a matter of consuming fewer calories than you expend and most adults eat more than 1800 calories a day. So, how to choose what level is best for you?

One option is to take a simple approach: If you’re a relatively small person or someone who doesn’t have much weight to lose, shoot for a lower-calorie goal. (The lower you go, the faster you lose-but there’s no point in setting up unrealistic expectations if you can’t meet them.) If you’re a tall person or someone who is carrying quite a few extra pounds, you’ll probably do quite well on the higher-calorie plan. If you’re not sure, start in the middle, with 1,500 calories, and adjust up or down based on how satisfied you’re feeling-physically and about how quickly you’re losing weight.

If you want to calculate your goal more precisely, use the following equation: Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 12 and subtract 1,000. Then select the calorie level that’s closest to your answer. This will help you to lose about two pounds per week. (Note: If you calculate a number that’s less than 1,200 calories, follow the 1,200 calorie plan. Eating less than that, it’s hard to meet your daily nutrition requirements.)

Editor’s Note

For questions about the daily calorie calculation: This formula is used in many clinical weight loss trials-and, it’s true-it assumes that the person using the equation is sedentary. If you’re an active person and you’re finding that your result (say 1200 calories) is too low, bump it up gradually to one that feels satisfying to you. The point is NOT to starve yourself. Most people will lose weight on a 1500 calorie diet, some on an even higher caloric level. The best gauge for whether you’re at the right level is how satisfied you feel (you shouldn’t be hungry all day!) and whether you’re losing weight. If you’re losing weight on 1800 a day and you feel great, stick with that. The calculation is just a suggested starting point.

Not sure if this is the right calorie level? Find the right diet meal plan for you “

DASH Diet Secrets Revealed, Pt 1 (5:41)

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The overall goal of the DASH Diet — short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — is to lower your consumption of sodium, which aids in lowering your blood pressure. Since the diet focuses on eating the right foods with the right portions, it’s also effective for short- and long-term weight loss. Find out more about the DASH Diet and if it’s right for you.

From This Episode:

Secrets of the #1 Diet Revealed

Dietician Marla Heller’s version of the DASH Diet, from her book The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution, is divided into two phases:

Phase 1: Two Weeks to Shrink Your Waistline

During the 14 days of Phase 1, you will learn how to satisfy your hunger and, as a result, feel fuller longer. To regulate your blood sugar and help curb your cravings, avoid fruit and whole grains, which have a lot of natural sugar, and alcohol, which also contain sugars. That said, you can enjoy 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy per day. This would include 1 cup of skim milk or low-fat yogurt. Avoid regular or even fat-free cheese because they are often high in sodium.

By avoiding starchy foods with sugar, you’re helping to regulate your blood sugar and diminish cravings. Try leafy greens like lettuce and spinach or cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage. You can also eat cucumbers, squash, peppers, and tomatoes.

More: Dr. Oz’s Favorite Salad Recipes

You can also enjoy up to 6 ounces of lean meats, fish, and poultry a day. Aim for 4 to 5 servings of beans or lentils a week.
Opt for protein-rich foods that have healthy fats, like fresh nuts and seeds, or fatty fish like salmon or mackerel. Avocados are loaded with monounsaturated fats as well as antioxidants lutein, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Toss them in a salad along with vegetable oils, especially olive, canola and nut oils, which you can use as salad dressing.

More: The Healthy Fats Grocery Shopping List

Phase 2: Kick It Up a Notch!

After the first 14 days, you will continue to eat the foods from Phase 1 but re-introduce some other healthy foods that will help you continue your weight loss. How long does Phase 2 last? It’s your life plan, so it should last forever so you can keep your blood pressure low and keep weight off.

Whole Grains: Choose from cereals, breads, and pasta. Aim for 6 to 8 servings a day.

Fruit: Make fruit (fresh or frozen) a part of your diet every day. Aim for 4 to 5 servings a day. Try making these low-sugar fruits part of your diet.

Low-Fat Milk or Yogurt: Stick to 2 to 3 servings a day as in Phase 1.

Sugar: You can have 3 to 4 servings of sugary foods each week.

Alcohol: You can have a small glass of red wine occasionally, which represents one fruit serving.

The next page has a week’s worth of meals! Phase 1 has 3 sample days, and Phase 2 has 4 sample days.

Day 1


  • Hard-boiled egg. (Hint: Make several hard-boiled eggs, and peel. Store in a zipper bag in the refrigerator. Then you will have them when you need them for super-quick breakfasts. You can also find prepackaged, peeled hard-boiled eggs in some stores).
  • 1 or 2 slices Canadian bacon
  • 6 ounces tomato juice, low-sodium

Midmorning Snack

  • 1 stick light cheese
  • Baby carrots

More: Grasp the DASH Diet in 5 Clicks


  • Quinoa Meatless Balls
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Small side salad: dressed with Italian or oil and vinegar dressing
  • Strawberry Jell‑O cup, sugar-free

Midafternoon Snack

  • 4 ounces lemon light yogurt, fat-free, artificially sweetened
  • 18 cashews (1 ounce by weight, 1/4 cup by volume, or small handful)

Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)

  • Pepper strips. (Hint: To make the strips quickly, cut off the tops and bottoms of some red, yellow, or orange bell peppers. Remove seeds and cut in half. Flatten each half and take a very sharp knife and cut along the surface, removing the membranes. Then cut into 1‑inch strips. These are great to dip into guacamole, as a chip substitute).
  • 2 ounces guacamole, which is about 1/4 cup


  • Mediterranean-Style Chicken Kabobs
  • 1 cup (or more) mixed carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower blend: steamed or microwaved
  • Salad: Romaine blend with Italian dressing
  • Raspberry Jell‑O cup, sugar-free

More: The DASH Diet Tracking Chart

Day 2


  • Mini-Egg Beaters Southwestern Style omelet. Spray microwave-safe dish or cup with cooking spray. Add 1/4-1/2 cup Egg Beaters Southwestern Style. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, and cook an additional 15 seconds.
  • 4-6 ounces tomato juice, low-sodium

Midmorning Snack

  • 1 light cheese wedge
  • 6 grape tomatoes


  • 2-3 Turkey-Swiss roll-ups. Cheese on the outside, as the wrap. Deli turkey slices for the meat. Add whatever condiments you like, such as mustard. You could also add lettuce as the outermost layer of the wrap.
  • 1/2-1 cup coleslaw
  • Raw snow peas or sugar snap pea pods (as much as you like)
  • Orange Jell‑O cup, sugar-free

Midafternoon Snack

  • 1 stick light cheese
  • Baby carrots

Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)

  • 10 peanuts in the shell (20 individual peanuts) (Hint: Shelling nuts slows you down, so you are less likely to overeat them.)


  • Roasted sliced turkey
  • Sautéed carrots and onions. Sauté 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, in 1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil. Add about 8 ounces sliced carrots, and continue to sauté until the carrots are soft. Add 1 thin pat of butter at the end. (Hints: Top the turkey with the sautéed carrots for extra flavor. If you like very soft carrots, microwave first before sautéing.)
  • Side salad topped with Italian dressing
  • Lime Jell‑O cup, sugar-free

More: Dr. Oz Explains the DASH Diet

Day 3


  • Scrambled eggs
  • 1-2 slices Canadian bacon
  • 4-6 ounces diet cranberry juice

Midmorning Snack

  • 4 ounces raspberry light yogurt, nonfat, artificially sweetened
  • 23 almonds (1 ounce by weight, 1/4 cup by volume)


  • Cold fried chicken breast (don’t eat the skin or coating). Hint: The chicken doesn’t have to be cold. This could be a fast-food lunch but only if you can choose whole chicken parts. (Definitely do not choose chicken tenders, patties, crispy chicken, or nuggets. They have too much breading for the amount of meat.) Most fried chicken places have coleslaw as a side. When you get back to your office, you can have the carrots and Jell‑O.
  • Coleslaw
  • Baby carrots
  • Lemon Jell‑O cup, sugar-free

Midafternoon Snack

  • 1-2 light cheese wedges
  • 6 grape tomatoes

Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)

  • Pepper strips
  • Guacamole


  • Turkey Burger
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • Side salad with balsamic dressing
  • 1-2 strawberry Jell‑O cups, sugar-free

Day 1


  • 3/4 cup Wheaties (1 ounce by weight)
  • 8 ounces skim milk
  • 4-6 ounces strawberries or raspberries

Midmorning Snack (Optional)

  • 1-2 light cheese wedges
  • Grape tomatoes


  • 2-3 turkey and Swiss roll-ups
  • Baby carrots
  • Small plum

Midafternoon Snack

  • 6 ounces blueberry light yogurt
  • 10 cashews

Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)

  • 10 peanuts in the shell (20 individual peanuts)


  • Pan-seared tilapia. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook about 4 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Before finishing, place about 1 pat of butter or margarine in the pan, and allow the melted butter to coat all the pieces. (To serve four, choose four 4‑ounce tilapia filets.)
  • Mango-Melon Salsa
  • Fresh asparagus
  • Strawberry Jello‑O cup, sugar-free

More: The Complete DASH Diet Guide


  • Hot chocolate. To 8 ounces skim milk, add 1 heaping teaspoon unsweetened cocoa and 2 packets Splenda or Truvia.
  • 1-2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 6-8 ounces light cranberry juice. Hint: Light cranberry juice has more calories than the diet version, but you may prefer it.
  • 4-6 ounces strawberries

Midmorning Snack (Optional)

  • 6 ounces key lime light yogurt, nonfat, artificially sweetened
  • 10 ounces almonds


  • Turkey and Swiss sandwich. Put 2-4 ounces turkey and a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese on two pieces light whole wheat bread; add lettuce, tomato, and any other veggies or condiments that you choose.
  • Pepper strips
  • Coleslaw or side salad
  • Raspberry Jell‑O cup, artificially sweetened

Midafternoon Snack

  • 1 clementine orange
  • 1-2 light cheese wedges

Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)

  • Pepper strips
  • 1/4-1/2 cup hummus


  • Vegetable Stir Fry with Quinoa
  • Side salad, with Italian, oil and vinegar, or vinaigrette dressing
  • Fudge bar


  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, cooked: topped with cinnamon, Splenda Brown Sugar Blend, or Truvia, and 1 tablespoon chopped almonds (optional)
  • 1/2 banana, medium or large
  • 4-6 ounces tomato juice, low-sodium
  • Latte: 8 ounces skim milk, 2 ounces espresso

Midmorning Snack (Optional)

  • 1 stick light cheese
  • Baby carrots


  • Three-Bean Kale Saute with Brown Rice
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Orange Jello‑O cup, artificially sweetened

Midafternoon Snack

  • 4-6 ounces strawberries
  • 10 cashews

Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)

  • 10 peanuts in the shell (20 individual peanuts)


  • White Bean and Cabbage Soup
  • Green beans
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Side salad, with Italian dressing
  • 4-6 ounces raspberries on 1/2-1 cup frozen yogurt, nonfat, artificially sweetened

Day 4


  • 1-3 scrambled eggs
  • 1 slice whole-wheat toast (light, if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon jelly or jam
  • 4-6 ounces orange juice
  • Latte or 8 ounces skim milk

Midmorning Snack (Optional)

  • 4-6 ounces blueberries
  • 10 almonds


  • 2-3 Muenster cheese and roast beef roll-ups. (Hint: Accessorize per your taste. You could add lettuce for the wrap and stuff with grated carrots or red cabbage in the center.)
  • Italian coleslaw (Hint: This is regular coleslaw with thin pepper strips, grated carrots, and an oil and vinegar dressing.)
  • Small peach

Midafternoon Snack

  • 6 ounces strawberry light yogurt, nonfat, artificially sweetened

Before-Dinner Snack (Optional)

  • Baby carrots dipped in 2 tablespoons peanut butter


  • Salmon Stuffed Avocado
  • Side salad: Lettuce, grape tomatoes, red cabbage and blue cheese crumbles or small slice of goat cheese, with oil and vinegar or vinaigrette dressing.
  • Fudge bar or other low-calorie, low-sugar, low-fat ice cream bar


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