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The best weight loss program depends on a person’s particular needs. There is no such thing as one ideal program for everyone.

A person following a weight loss program for women about to prepare and cook a meal with onions, bell peppers, avocados, and eggplants.Share on Pinterest
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A quick look at 5 of the best weight loss programs for women

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), factors that affect weight loss include:

  • age
  • ethnicity
  • cultural background and social circles
  • family history and genes
  • sleep habits
  • underlying medical conditions

All people have different factors that affect their weight. Though the weight loss programs within this article can be useful for females, anyone can follow and benefit from them.

Diet and weight loss programs may help with short-term weight loss. People may find certain programs offer more success than others.

Learn more about how to lose weight fast here.

When attempting long-term weight loss, it is important to bear in mind that many diet programs are typically unsustainable and often eventually lead to weight regain after the diet ends.

A weight loss program should not replace a healthy diet and regular exercise, which are important for maintaining a healthy weight in the long term.

Learn more about successful weight loss.

Medical News Today chooses diets that fit the following criteria:

  • Weight loss: MNT only chooses weight loss diets that have support from scientific evidence.
  • Healthy eating habits: MNT only chooses diets that promote healthy eating habits and do not ask people to restrict their calories severely or promote disordered eating.
  • Sustainability: MNT only chooses diets that are sustainable to follow for the time it takes for a person to reach their weight goal.
  • Nutritional quality: MNT only chooses diets that meet the average person’s nutritional needs.
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The NIDDK recommends people should discuss their weight loss plans with a healthcare professional. They may be able to help people choose a weight loss plan that fits their lifestyle and any health conditions they may have.

The NIDDK also states a person should choose a weight loss program that includes:

  • lifestyle counseling
  • guidance about sleep, stress, and the pros and cons of weight loss medication
  • feedback and monitoring through the weight loss program
  • realistic weight loss goals and plans

People should avoid diets that severely restrict calories unless they are under the supervision and recommendation of a doctor. People should also avoid diets that promise fast, unsustainable results within a time and ones that do not offer a mix of all the macro- and micronutrients they need.

People can choose from a variety of low carb diet plans. Each diet has its rules for how many carbs a person can consume daily. There are two main levels of low carb diet:

  • Very low carb diets: A person consumes 20–50 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day or carbs that make up less than 10% of total daily calories.
  • Low carb diets: A person consumes fewer than 130 g of carbohydrates per day or carbs that make up less than 26% of total daily calories.

How it works

A low carb diet reportedly works by reducing the body’s dependence on carbs for energy. The low carb model can help rapidly reduce weight for the first 6–12 months. Most people replace calories from carbs with calories from fat or protein.

The downside

There are potential downsides to eating a low carb diet. According to researchers, these diets can increase low-density lipoproteins, which carry “bad” cholesterol. They can also potentially increase mortality and cardiovascular problems. However, the research regarding cardiovascular outcomes and mortality is inconclusive.

Point-based dietary programs offer a simple points system for keeping track of food intake.

How it works

Point-based dietary programs assign a simple numerical value to each food. In most programs, a person can eat or drink a certain number of points per day.

A 2022 clinical trial investigating the efficacy of commercial weight management programs found that WW (formerly Weight Watchers) was an effective program for helping people with overweight or obesity.

Learn more about WW (formerly Weight Watchers).

However, a person should follow a points-based system consistently to get the best results.

The downside

A points-based diet can be overwhelming for some people. A person needs to keep track of all the foods they eat and determine how many points remain after each day. Additionally, not all programs are the same, as some may be more effective than others.

Meal replacement diets come in different varieties. Some, such as the Health Management Resources Program, provide premade meal replacements and shakes. Others may only replace a single meal with a shake or other food replacement.

How it works

The goal of meal replacement diets is to create a calorie deficit to promote weight loss. Meals come in the form of frozen or prepackaged and measured meals or shakes.

According to researchers at the University of New Mexico, meal replacement diets can be an effective weight loss strategy. Their study suggests that even replacing one high calorie meal with a reduced-calorie meal per day can help promote weight loss.

Another review from 2019 supports the idea that meal replacement diets can help with weight loss. They found that participants achieved an average of 3 pounds more weight loss than those using other weight loss programs.

The downside

Prepackaged meals and programs can be expensive for some people. Others might find it hard to maintain eating only premade meals or shakes.

Another downside is that many of these meals have low quality ingredients and preservatives and generally lack balance. Some diet plans may require the addition of fruits and vegetables.

People may also find it challenging to transition back to a regular diet, and the program should try to address this transition.

Dietitian Marla Heller originally developed the DASH diet to support people living with diabetes and blood pressure conditions.

This diet focuses on vegetables, fruits, and nutrients. The DASH diet is not only an effective method for weight loss, but it also lowers blood glucose levels, triglycerides, LDL-C, and insulin resistance.

How it works

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people who follow the DASH diet focus on:

  • eating fish, poultry, nuts, vegetable oils, beans, and low fat dairy
  • eating vegetables, whole grains, and fruits
  • limiting sugary drinks and foods
  • avoiding foods high in saturated fats

The program also offers specialized instructions for those seeking to lose weight.

The downside

According to Harvard Health Publishing, some potential issues with the DASH diet include:

  • People living with food allergies may need to make modifications to their diets.
  • People are responsible for creating and regulating their food and meals.
  • A person could develop gas and bloating due to the high fiber content.
  • The DASH diet food lists are not comprehensive.

A person can choose from many home-based exercise programs. Many focus on different areas, and each may be more effective for some people.

How it works

Home-based exercise programs provide guided exercise through videos. Some come in physical media formats, while others are available through streaming services.

According to a 2022 review, home-based exercise programs were effective for the first 6 months. After this time, participants in the studies were less likely to continue following these programs and were more likely to have a slight increase in their BMI.

Researchers also noted a link between home-exercise programs and a reduction in hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and blood cholesterol levels.

The downside

Not all programs will work for everyone. A person should research programs that fit their goals and needs.

One downside of home exercise is that some people may find it hard to maintain their motivation to follow the program’s activities and recommended diet regimen.

The following table compares the weight loss programs in this article.

Low carb diet plansPoint-based dietary programsMeal replacement dietsDASH dietHome-based exercise programs
How it worksrestricts carb intakeuses a point system that replaces calorie countingshakes, bars, or premade meals replace at least 1 meal per daypromotes food high in fruit, vegetable, and nutrient contentuses exercise rather than diet changes to lose weight
Prosmay help rapidly reduce weight in the first 6–12 monthsoffers a simple and effective way to lose weighteven 1 meal replacement a day can aid in weight losssuitable for individuals with diabetes or blood pressure conditionsmost noticeable effects take place in the first 6 months
Consmay lead to an increase in low-density lipoproteinsa person must follow this diet consistently for the best resultsmay be expensive and may not contain all the nutrients a person needsthis diet may not be food-allergy friendlya person may need to try various programs before finding one that works for them

Meal planning can be a useful tool when trying to lose weight. By planning meals in advance, people may be more likely to follow diets.

Food groups

A suitable weight loss meal plan should include the following food groups:

  • Protein and fiber: A 2021 review recommends an adult protein intake of 46–56 g or 0.8 g per 1 kilogram of ideal body weight daily.
  • Fruits and vegetables: United States guidelines recommend people stay within their calorie limits, consume vegetables of all types, and eat whole fruits.
  • Dairy: U.S. guidelines recommend fat free or low fat milk, yogurt, and cheese form part of a person’s diet. For people who are lactose-intolerant, lactose-free versions, fortified soy beverages, and yogurt are suitable alternatives.
  • Grains: People should focus on whole grains as these may support weight loss.

People should limit the following foods and drinks:

  • added sugar should form less than 10% of a person’s daily calories
  • saturated fat should form less than 10% of someone’s daily calories
  • sodium intake should be under 2,300 milligrams per day
  • males should limit their alcohol intake to two or fewer drinks per day
  • females should limit their alcohol intake to one or fewer drinks per day

Stick to a routine

A person can set aside specific times during the week to plan meals, grocery shop, and cook. This will make it easier to decide what meals to have and when.

Depending on the amount of time a person has to prepare meals, it may be quicker and easier for some to batch cook over a weekend. Others may find it better to cook meals daily, opting to prep all of the ingredients ahead of time.

Grocery shopping

Organizing shopping lists by departments and sticking to specific items can help speed up the process of grocery shopping. Having a list may make it less likely a person will impulse buy or purchase items not on their shopping list.

A variety of dishes may lead to more successful dieting, so people can ensure that their recipes are varied and nutritiously balanced.

Organize cooking times and compatible recipes

People need to always read through recipes to determine when they should start cooking and preparing the ingredients. Some may find that preparing all ingredients into bowls or containers before starting the recipe is a better option than chopping vegetables while another part of a dish cooks.

Kitchen tools, such as slow cookers, may be more suitable options for those with tight schedules. Throwing a few ingredients into a pot and leaving it for several hours may make a person short on time more likely to stick with a weight loss plan.


A variety of nutritious recipes can keep people on track with their weight loss. Having recipes that break down cooking instructions into easy step-by-step points may encourage those newer to cooking.

While people can purchase diet-specific cookbooks, there is a wealth of free recipes online. Other options include weight loss apps that offer recipes or checking out recipe books from the local library.

Below, we answer some common questions about weight loss programs.

What is the most effective type of weight loss program?

There is no weight loss program that is best for everyone. People should consider the type of diet the program offers, the amount of support and guidance available, and whether they can easily find the food the diet tells them to eat.

A person may wish to discuss with a healthcare professional to find out which is the best weight loss program for them. Alternatively, people may wish to try several different programs.

Can a woman lose 20 pounds in a month?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that quick weight loss is not sustainable, and people are more likely to gain back the weight they lose if they follow a diet that severely restricts calories to gain quick results.

The CDC says that individuals who lose a maximum of 1–2 pounds per week are more likely to maintain their weight loss.

What is the fastest way for a woman to lose weight?

The CDC does not recommend fast weight loss. Losing weight fast is more likely to be unsustainable, leading to people gaining back the weight they lose once they no longer restrict their calories.

According to the CDC, the maximum weight a person should lose per week is 1–2 pounds. Therefore, depending on how much weight a person wants to lose, it may take several weeks to months to reach their goal.

Find out more about losing weight quickly.

Where can I find free meal plans?

People can find free meal plans on websites such as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This meal planner has menus for different calorie needs, national cuisines, and dietary requirements, including those following a lacto-ovo diet.

MyPlate is another option. People enter in their age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity. The website creates a meal plan based on this data.

Do I need to calorie count to lose weight?

People gain weight by eating more calories than their bodies use. They lose weight by eating the number of calories their goal body weight needs.

Calorie counting may be a more suitable option than following a strict meal plan, as no food is off-limits so long as it is within a person’s calorie budget. However, people who prefer eating off a strict menu may find the amount of choice overwhelming.

A person’s age, gender, race, starting weight, and other factors can influence how effective a weight loss program will be. The weight loss programs in this article are suitable for females, but not specifically for females only. Anyone can follow and benefit from them.

A person should not expect immediate results from starting a program. It can take several weeks or months to see weight loss results. People should also note that a weight loss program is not a long-term solution or replacement for a nutritious diet and regular exercise.

Before starting any weight loss program, a person needs to talk with their healthcare professional.