Diet programs tend to target women. Some marketing campaigns enlist celebrity spokeswomen who project solidarity and understanding. Others are based on books written in a cheery-chatty women's-magazine style. And some plans are built around a support system, which experts say is huge for women. "Women are more inclined to go to group meetings, while men would rather download an app that provides all the instruction they need," says David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.
But how about the diets themselves? U.S. News, which publishes an annual ranking of Best Diets, took a closer look at 7 plans pitched to women. They're listed below by how they rank in U.S. News's Best Weight-Loss Diets. One just might work for you. If you want additional options, check out the full range of diets. Pitching to women is more about marketing than about science or nutrition.
Weight Watchers. While the company promotes a plan for men, this points-counting program is a favorite among women. Support is the biggie. Dieters can attend weekly meetings to swap weight-loss tips and recipes with other members, and women appreciate that kind of motivation and feedback, says the company. Plus, they're likelier to have success than when they're on their own. The women's plan isn't markedly different from the men's version, though: Men typically just have more points to spend on food each day, since points are allotted based on height and weight.
Jenny Craig. Prepackaged, home-delivered meals make the program easy to follow—often a selling point for working moms. And as with Weight Watchers, support is key. Dieters are paired with a Jenny consultant who provides weekly one-on-one counseling sessions. (Men who sign up for the program are matched with a consultant trained to address male dietary issues.)
Flat Belly Diet. Women will likely favor the style of the Flat Belly Diet ($15.99, Rodale, 2008), which calls for lots of "Sassy Water," infused with ginger, cucumber, and mint leaves. The featured exercise routines are designed for women, with female models demonstrating each move. (There is, however, a separate book for men that calls for "Fire Water" and outlines male-oriented exercises with male models. Men get more daily calories, too.)
Nutrisystem. The heat-and-eat diet eliminates guesswork with portion-controlled, home-delivered meals. Women get about 1,250 to 1,500 daily calories, along with three 10-minute activity sessions per day. Support factors in, too: A counselor advises on how to get back in the kitchen without sabotaging weight loss. (Nutrisystem's women's and men's plans are virtually the same other than different calorie caps.)
Abs Diet For Women. The plan, outlined in The New Abs Diet for Women ($25.99, Rodale, 2011), claims to deliver a flat stomach in six weeks. It's packed with gym-free workouts, including exercises that target the legs and butt, as well as moves that incorporate yoga and Pilates. There are also interval workouts purported to burn off pregnancy weight. One of the most obvious differences between the book and its male counterpart, The New Abs Diet ($25.99, Rodale, 2010), is that testimonials and exercises feature women, not men.
The Petite Advantage Diet. Jim Karas's The Petite Advantage Diet ($25.99, HarperOne, 2011) specifically targets women under 5 feet, 4 inches. Karas's premise is that shorter women must work harder than their taller counterparts to lose weight. He argues that cutting out just 40 calories a day—which he says equates to about 4 pounds of fat in a year—is a meaningful goal. The plan emphasizes portion control and women are encouraged to avoid high-calorie ingredients like olive oil and avocado, opting instead for small servings of whole grains.
The Fertility Diet. This plan was born from the Harvard Nurses' Health Study suggesting that diet plays a role in women's efforts to conceive. The Fertility Diet ($11.99, McGraw-Hill, 2007) identifies particular nutrients women should be getting, such as iron, and avoiding, such as trans fats, to improve their chances of getting pregnant. One big caveat: The 10-step plan wasn't tested on infertile women; it's based on the dietary habits of study participants who were trying to get pregnant. Whether the plan actually helps women conceive is unclear.