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NutriSystem

Weight Loss Made Simple

NutriSystem is a commercial weight loss program based in the Philadelphia area that delivers heat-and-eat foods directly to the customer's home in 28-day packages. Its products have been described as ''fast food for weight loss.'' Customers select one of six specialized subprograms, each of which offers a prepackaged assortment of food items called ''Favorites Package'' or a completely customized selection. As of 2007 NutriSystem has about 800,000 customers in the United States and Canada. In addition to its meal delivery programs, the company offers dietary supplements, including a multivitamin called Nutrihance. It has also recently formed a business partnership with a network of franchised fitness centers called Slim and Tone.

NutriSystem began in 1972 as a producer of a liquid protein diet, which it abandoned in 1978 as a result of competition from Slim-Fast, Carnation weight loss products, and other over-the-counter liquid diet drinks. NutriSystem then started a chain of 1,200 bricks-and-mortar weight loss centers roughly similar to Weight Watchers; dieters came to the centers in person to weigh in and then purchased prepackaged portion-controlled meals to take home. The company went bankrupt in the early 1990s but reinvented itself in 1999 as an online meal delivery service. As of the early 2000s, customers may order their monthly food assortments by telephone as well as online.

NutriSystem does not ask customers to sign a contract. To begin the program, the client either chooses one of the six programs online and continues to fill out the order form for their 28-day supply of prepackaged foods, or calls the company's toll-free number to order over the phone.

To complete the first order, the dieter selects one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner item, and one dessert (dessert choices include non-sweet snacks like pretzels or nacho chips) for each day of the 28-day package. The total meal plan is designed around eating five times a day—three meals and two snacks. The NutriSystem foods do not require refrigeration; they are prepared by a ''soft canning'' process and can be stored at room temperature.

The dieter's first order arrives with a ''Welcome Kit'' containing a meal planner, which outlines the meals and snacks and includes a daily food diary for keeping track of the dieter's consumption of fresh foods as well as the prepackaged items. The Welcome Kit also explains the support services available, including online chat groups, classes, newsletters, and the ''Daily Dose Motivational Message'' as well as the option of one-on-one telephone contact with a counselor.

NutriSystem is intended as a moderately paced weight reduction program for people who prefer the convenience of prepackaged portion-controlled entrees, whose schedules do not fit well with weigh-ins or group meetings, who do not have time to cook or plan diet menus, or who simply prefer to diet at home. It is not a rapid weight loss program, detoxification diet, or total lifestyle regimen.

Some people who have tried NutriSystem are pleased with the range of food choices available as well as liking the taste of the foods. One customer said on a general diet weblog (not one sponsored by NutriSystem), ''I find the food very good and actually good value considering all—I am never hungry and enjoy this diet very much.'' Another benefit mentioned by some customers is that the food choices are well within mainstream tastes.

Please consult a physician before starting any diet program.

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