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In 2017, weight loss companies will (literally) be chasing you

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In 2017, weight loss companies will (literally) be chasing you

Move over, Seamless. Weight management companies are ramping up their delivery diet plans.

The weight watching industry is receiving renewed interest, thanks to success stories like Oprah Winfrey this year. When Winfrey said earlier this month she lost more than 40 pounds while still enjoying life with an appetite because of weight management company Weight Watchers WTW, -0.95% , the New York-based weight management company’s stock (which she owns 10% of, and was tumbling prior), rose nearly 10% since Dec. 22. Experts say this is leading to an energized weight management industry — particularly among Weight Watcher’s competition.

Many companies are expanding their meal delivery programs in 2017, as people become busier and work from home. Nutrisystem NTRI, -2.39% the Fort Washington, Pa.-based Weight Watchers rival, is unveiling more home delivery products, including the South Beach Diet (after Nutrisystem bought the brand in 2015). And Diet-to-Go, another diet meal delivery service with fully prepared food based in Lorton, Va., said it expanded on delivery options and started offering a diabetic delivery plan this year. Last year, Weight Watchers, which traditionally provides coaching, partnered with a company to have its own diet meal plan delivery program.

Many companies are expanding their meal delivery programs in 2017, especially as people become busier and some even work from home. Diet meal delivery services are intent on competing with Seamless and Blue Apron.

While food deliveries obviously aren’t new, they’re becoming increasingly popular with smartphone apps, as seen from Seamless, which works with local restaurants, and Blue Apron, which delivers ingredients to make recipes at home, and the rise in subscription boxes, which contain surprises for consumers. So why shouldn’t low-calorie meal plans compete? But consumers pay more for less calories: Diet meal delivery services can cost from $100 to $300 a month. “There will be more diets out there to entice people,” said Jim White, spokesman of the Chicago-based nutrition advocacy group Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Weight-loss companies, such as Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers, which also provides coaching, as well as meal plans, totaled $6.3 billion in revenue last year, according to research agency IBISWorld. Nutrisystem customers also receive a list of approved foods to pair alongside the company’s food or to eat as snacks or at restaurants. Nutrisystem is launching several new products and services at the beginning of the year, including new snack bars and the Lean13 plan intended to help dieters lose 13 pounds and seven inches in the first month.

See:10 things the weight-loss industry won’t tell you

But aspiring dieters should avoid the extreme diets you might see on TV shows, where contestants compete to lose the most weight, or in commercials, experts say, even though that could be difficult advice for someone who is crash dieting for, say, a wedding. It’s about striking a delicate balance between calories, nutrition, taste and, increasingly, convenience, said Dawn Zier, president and chief executive officer of Nutrisystem. “Losing weight is not about depriving oneself,” she said. “If you make a strict program where everything is taboo you won’t have much success.”

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Dieting is hard, so weight management companies are trying to make it as convenient as possible. In 2012, 62% of Americans stuck to their diets for at least six months, a drop from 66% in 2004, according to NPD Group. It’s also one activity that sees a myriad of trends: currently, more people are focused on a sustainable lifestyle of wellness, as opposed to simply shedding pounds, but eating habits have altered dramatically since the Great Depression. Diet fads have come and gone, such as juicing, gluten-free and celebrity diets; the Paleo diet, which discourages dairy, starch and processed foods; and one trendy superfood after another such as cauliflower and kale.

See:There’s more to nutrition than reading the labels

People tend to look at health all wrong when it comes to dieting, or lack thereof, believing a few extra minutes of exercising overcompensates for the number of donuts consumed. To stick with it, White suggests creating a few realistic goals as opposed to a long list of things you would like to fix about yourself. Don’t jump to an extreme program or plan because you can get discouraged more easily. “It’s great to have goals, but set realistic expectations,” he said. “If you make them too extreme, you’re more likely not to accomplish them.”