by Marianne Plunkert
I had never had a real weight problem until a few years ago when a combination of stressful life events and bodily injuries packed on the pounds. Even as I saw the needle on the scale rise into uncharted territory, I remained in denial—until I saw some pictures of me that my son had taken.
I had halfway convinced myself that my demon clothes dryer had been shrinking my clothes, but the rolls that hung over my waistband told a truer story. I was not in love with my “love handles.” I vowed to lose weight.
That was over 3 years ago, and I hadn’t made much progress in the interim. I hated the way my clothes looked on me—the ones that still fit, that is. I appeared and felt frumpy. Even so, I stubbornly refused to discard even those items that I was no longer able to button.
I finally figured out that simply vowing to fit into my old-but-well-loved clothes wasn’t working. (I’m quick that way.) I decided it was time to invest in myself instead of a new wardrobe. It would probably be cheaper, and losing a few pounds would also be beneficial from a health standpoint.
I had had the opportunity to review 3 days’ worth of the Diet-to-Go (DTG) meal delivery service and 5 days of the BistroMD meal delivery service several months ago. Prior to reviewing these two programs, I had never had any experience with delivered-to-your-doorstep diet meal services, and I didn’t really expect that either would help me drop the pounds any quicker than what I could do left to my own devices if I set my mind to it.
But that was the problem. Now that I had a significant number of pounds to lose, I seemed to lack the willpower that I had had when I needed to drop only a few pounds. I had tried counting calories and fat and carb grams on my own and had employed some popular apps that I had hoped would give me the support I needed to keep me focused, all to no avail.
I found the structure that both the DTG and BistroMD programs provided to be an enormous help to me in my weight loss efforts. I lost 2 pounds during my 3 days on DTG and almost 3 pounds during the 5 days I ate the BistroMD meals. Happily, I gained back only 1 pound of that nearly 5-pound weight loss in the ensuing months, which included the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
My clothes fit more loosely, but I still didn’t care to spend any time in front of a full length mirror. And the needle on the scale wasn’t moving any farther down. I knew I needed more help to reach my ultimate goal.
In the course of doing some background research into the DTG and BistroMD programs, I had learned about eDiets. It had been rated #1 by Redbook and Epicurious on the bases of taste/nutrition and range of choices. Redbook called it, “The best bang for your buck.” On the eDiets website, I read that new 7-day meal delivery service customers who follow the program for 4 consecutive weeks without losing at least 8 pounds would receive a full refund of their purchase price (sans shipping costs). Sign me up!
The eDiets Website
With the exception of the virtual exercise demonstrations and the instructions for taking my body measurements, both of which I will elaborate more on later, I found the eDiets website less than helpful. I had a difficult time finding some of the information I wanted. For one thing, I couldn’t locate the different program prices on the site.
For example, there is a 5-day meal plan available, but I could find neither the price nor a way to register for this plan. I finally resorted to calling the customer service number and learned I would only be able to register for that meal plan via phone. It was a non-issue; I opted for the 7-day program.
The website doesn’t offer you much direction once you do register for a program, either. I saw that there was a weight and fitness check-in, but was clueless regarding when I should do so. Immediately upon registering? On the first day of the diet? A phone call to customer service informed me that I should wait until the day I started the diet.
That same customer service agent told me I would get email reminders for the weekly check-ins that are required to be completed in order to receive your money back if you don’t lose the guaranteed 8 pounds in a month, but I never received any such emails.
It is advisable to read the “terms and conditions” on the website carefully before registering. You may think you’ve only committed to receive a single week of meals, but once you sign up you will receive automatic shipments each week (and be billed for them, of course) unless you call to cancel by the date specified.
The Beginning Canvas—My Vital Statistics
In my never-to-be-humble opinion, a person’s age, height, current weight, and activity level play an important role in how much weight he/she can expect to lose within a given time frame, assuming the same caloric intake. These are some of the data that I look for first whenever I read a weight-loss success story. Therefore, painful as they are to reveal, I would be remiss if I did not myself provide this background information.
I am a 64-year-old grandmother with 8 grandsons, ranging in age from 2 ½ to 19, and I will be blessed with another grandchild in October. I am 5’9 ½” tall and weighed 172 when I began the eDiets program. Prior to my massive weight gain several years ago, I weighed 152 pounds, but I had weighed as much as 177 before reviewing the DTG and BistroMD programs a few months ago.
I am living proof that exercise alone doesn’t work. Although I am retired, I am not retiring. I play Pickleball, a game similar to Paddle Tennis, a couple of times a week and try to fit in a 1.2- mile, very hilly walk around my neighborhood on 3 other days if I don’t have a hike with friends scheduled on another of the days. I used to do a lot of weight training, but circumstances and/or injuries have limited that activity in recent years.
Despite all of this exercise, the scale wasn’t budging. I do credit my activity level with the fact that I regained only one of the 5 pounds I had lost while doing the reviews of the DTG and BistroMD diet meal delivery services, however.
My Weight Loss Goals
I am weary of shopping for clothes that will camouflage the fat, and frustrated with the fact that even those designed to do so don’t do the job all that well—at least on me. I want to wear my shirts tucked in again. I want to be proud of my appearance and not feel like the “fat friend” in a group of trim women.
I especially want to look and feel fabulous when I attend my next high school reunion. I don’t want to be the subject of whispered conversations—real or imagined: “What happened to her? She used to be thin as a rail!” Aging has produced some effects that I am helpless to remedy, but weight isn’t one of them.
I want to lose 25 pounds.
My First Week’s Meals Arrive
My meals arrived on my front doorstep on a Wednesday afternoon via UPS. The freshly prepared, flash-frozen entrees were thawed and sandwiched between frozen gel packs in a styrofoam cooler, which had been wrapped in cellophane for added protection in transit. The breakfasts, lunches, and dinners were neatly arranged in separate stacks in the cooler, freeing me from having to sort through them when transferring them to my refrigerator. A cardboard box within the cooler held the week’s snack assortment, which I stashed in my pantry.
The first item that I noticed when I opened the cooler was a sheet that contained the meal plan for each day of the week, with instructions regarding additional foods that were to be supplied by the dieter.
I needed to provide a serving of a nonfat dairy product to accompany each breakfast and dinner and a serving of fruit to accompany each lunch and dinner. On the back of the sheet was a list of suggestions.
A serving of nonfat dairy could be filled with 1 ounce of nonfat or low-fat cheese, ½ cup of cottage cheese, 1 cup of nonfat milk, or 6 ounces of nonfat, plain yogurt. There was a short list of serving examples for the fruit supplement, which included items such as ½ cup of mixed fruit, canned in water, 2 tablespoons of raisins, a half a banana, and 1 ¼ cups of strawberries. A general rule of thumb for choosing a fruit was also supplied: a serving should be between 50 and 70 calories and contain 12 to 15 grams of carbohydrates.
A summary of the week’s meals was also provided on the back of the sheet. My menu for Week One was as follows:
- Huevos Rancheros Scramble
- Classic Flapjack with Pineapple-Almond Cream Cheese
- Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Yogurt-Cream Cheese Spread
- Banana-Nut Breakfast Muffin
- Canadian Bacon, Egg, & Cheese and Potatoes with Pumpernickel Bread
- Spoonbread with Turkey Hash
- Garden Vegetable Omelet with Crumbled Feta
- Stuffed Shells, Meat Sauce, Broccoli
- Texas-style Chili Con Carne with Yellow Rice
- Buffalo-style Chicken Breast Pita and Sweet Potato Fries
- Chicken Pesto Pita, Tri-Bean Salad
- Macaroni & Cheese Topped with Ground Beef & Turkey with Broccoli
- Loaded Baked Potato
- Cajun Chicken Pasta Alfredo
- Chicken Carbonara and Seasonal Mixed Vegetables
- Beef Peppersteak on Lo Mein Noodles with Oriental Vegetables
- Spaghetti and Chicken Meatballs, Peas
- Savory Turkey with Harvest Raisin Sauce and Almond Couscous
- Ham and Escarole Bean Soup and a Side of Cornbread
- Kung Pao Chicken, Cashews, Black Rice, Peas
- Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mashed Red Skin Potatoes and Peas and Carrots
- Sweet and Savory Snack Box
There were no instructions regarding beverages, so I consumed only water or black coffee with my meals.
The nutritional information and cooking instructions were on the individual entrées, which, with the exception of the muffin, were securely packaged in microwavable plastic trays. The banana-nut muffin was encased in cellophane and packaged in its own small cardboard box. This ensured it arrived in perfect shape, but there were no heating instructions or nutritional information provided for it.
A couple of the eDiets meals I received during the 4 weeks I was on the program needed no cooking, but most required no more than 2 minutes in the microwave, according to the heating instructions on the package. I have a lower-wattage microwave oven, so I generally had to add some additional time to this, and in a few instances I thought the heating time provided was inadequate. I have noted this in my individual meal reviews.
I didn’t like the chewy texture of the bagel that was on my breakfast menu in Week 1, which I felt was a direct result of following the microwave directions on the packaging. I toasted the bagels that I received in subsequent weeks—which is how I normally prepare bagels—and was much happier with the outcome.
Some of the directions indicated to remove one of the meal components, e.g., bread, tortilla, cream cheese, and I simply adhered to the instructions in those cases, with satisfactory results.
Some Meals Require No Preparation
I particularly appreciated the meals that required no preparation since I am often on the go. I liked being able to substitute one of them for a scheduled luncheon entrée when I knew I would be away from home without access to a microwave. I simply threw a couple of ice packs in my little insulated “lunch box,” laid the entrée exactly as it had come packaged on top of the packs, and added a fruit selection from my fruit bowl, a fork and a napkin. Presto! I had a healthy lunch to eat in the car or on a park bench if one was nearby. (My favorite was the Chicken Pesto Pita that came with a 3-bean salad.)
Chicken Pesto Pita
I ate all the other meals at home. After heating them in the plastic tray in which they arrived, I always transferred them to a pretty plate and arranged any additional items I was required to supply alongside. I don’t know about you, but visual appeal is important to me.
I have a friend who makes leftovers seem like an elegant meal by serving them on good china with cloth napkins. Following her example, I made certain that the presentation of the entrées was as enticing as possible: Attractive placemat, cloth napkin, nice silverware. As a result, I never felt like I was eating diet food. The fact that most of the eDiets offerings were delicious didn’t hurt, either.
My Road to Weight Loss
I was surprised to discover how easily the pounds came off as I followed the eDiets program. The breakfasts and lunches were often more than I normally consume for those two meals of the day, and I never really felt hungry, even when the entrées appeared a bit on the meager side. (That’s not to say I wasn’t ready to dive into the next meal when the time arrived in such instances.)
I like to cook, but it was nice taking a vacation from kitchen duties. (I am fortunate in that my husband is quite capable in the kitchen and prepared his own meals while I was on the plan, so all I had to do was pop mine in the microwave.) What I appreciated most, however, was not having to plan meals, which is my least favorite task.
I simply followed the menu provided and enjoyed an exceptional variety of delicious entrées, which included American, Italian, Caribbean, Mexican, and Asian cuisines. The website boasts 150 different meals. I have reviewed 68 of them (not including the snacks, for which I have provided an overall assessment). Some of the duplications I received during my 4-week trial were due to the fact that I made luncheon substitutions to fit my schedule.
That’s not to say I didn’t hit some road blocks along the way. St. Patrick’s Day and Easter both occurred while I was on the program. In fact, we would be attending a St. Patty’s Day party on Day 3 of my diet. I knew this ahead of time and was tempted to delay starting the program for another week, but we can always find a reason to procrastinate when it comes to dieting, can’t we? (Or, at least I can; I don’t know about everyone else.)
I decided to bite the bullet. And I have to say I didn’t feel the least bit deprived at the party, even though I had to avoid the table that was groaning under the weight of all sorts of delicious-looking food and spent the evening sipping from my water bottle instead of toasting the occasion with green beer. I immersed myself in conversations with my friends instead and departed the party feeling quite virtuous.
I wasn’t so scrupulous when it came to celebrating Easter—although I wasn’t totally bad, either. I stuck to my eDiets meals, but I did allow myself a couple of glasses of wine to mark the occasion. Lest anyone declare me a saint, I hasten to add that I doubt I would have been so compliant to the dietary restrictions had we been celebrating with friends and/or family. Fortunately for me, such was not the case this year.
The eDiets Meals
I rated each meal as I ate it, according to the following scale:
- (5) Excellent; fantastic
- (4) Good
- (3) Fair (edible, but not particularly tasty)
- (2) Unpleasant (barely tolerable)
- (1) Awful (not able to finish it)
I found most of the food to be very, very good. My average rating for the 68 meals I consumed turned out to be 3.9, but I had downgraded some because of a side dish accompaniment, even when I had enjoyed the main course.
This is a lower average rating than I gave both the Diet-to-Go (DTG) and BistroMD meals I reviewed; they each received a 4.1. But this really isn’t a fair comparison since I reviewed only 3 days’ worth of the DTG meals and 5 days’ of the BistroMD meals. My average meal rating for my first 3 days on the eDiets program was 4.4; the average for the first 5 days’ worth of meals was 4.2.
In general, I found the eDiets entrées significantly better than the BistroMD offerings. The latter lacked seasoning and were bland. The DTG meals were on the spicier side, which appeals to my taste buds, but I’m sure there are those who would not care for them because of that. The eDiets entrées are a good compromise from that standpoint.
Some of the eDiets meals, like the Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry and the Chicken Cordon Bleu dinner entrées, were every bit as good as I’ve had in restaurants. Most were far better than what I have found in the diet frozen food section of my grocery store.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Others weren’t so hot. The Penne Pasta with Beef Sauce and Mozzarella Cheese with Green Peas dinner entrée was barely edible the first time I had it. In fact, I left half of it on my plate and gave it a rating of 1.5.
Which brings me to another point: the quality of some of the eDiets meals was inconsistent. I happened to miss the fact that the Penne Pasta was on the menu again in Week 4 and failed to order a substitution meal in its stead. Fortunately for me, the dish was considerably better than it had been the first time.
The same thing was true of the Hickory Barbecued Chicken, Baked Beans, and Corn. It earned a rating of only 3.5 from me when I first had it in Week 2. It was on the menu again in Week 3, and it would have scored 4.5 from me that time. (I based all my individual meal reviews and ratings on the first time I had them.)
Such was not always the case, though. The Egg Frittata breakfast entrée was even worse in Week 4 than it had been when I reviewed it in Week 2 and gave it a “2” rating. (This was another meal that had slipped through the cracks, which is why I had neglected to order a substitute breakfast in its place.)
Fruit and Dairy Supplements
I plead guilty: I don’t normally consume the recommended quantities of fruit and dairy products. Thus, the eDiets meal plan forced me to eat healthier from that standpoint alone. (I didn’t feel I got enough fruit or dairy with either the Diet-to-Go or BistroMD meals. But again, I tried those two programs for only 3 and 5 days, respectively.)
Of course, I had to supply my own fruit and dairy with the eDiets program. My biggest problem was with the dairy requirement. I don’t like nonfat milk, and I don’t even like the full-flavored cottage cheese, let alone the nonfat variety. That left plain, nonfat yogurt and nonfat or low-fat cheese, which got a bit monotonous, even though I mixed my fruit into the yogurt every now and then.
I am no stranger to exercise. I’m one of those weirdoes who enjoy it, and I do it as much for my mental health as I do for physical fitness. But I prefer engaging in a team sport, hiking or walking with friends, or taking an aerobics or yoga class to working out alone. Still, I was gung ho to follow the eDiets exercise regime during my month’s preview of the program.
I noted that the website had videos that illustrated the proper form to use for the recommended exercises, and, although I found I was familiar with a lot of the movements, there were some that I needed to review, so these virtual trainers were quite helpful. That being said, I ended up abandoning this part of the eDiets program.
For one thing, the calisthenics part of the program was less rigorous than I would have expected, especially given that I had indicated I was an “intermediate-level” exerciser in the online questionnaire I completed.
Okay, so that’s the excuse I gave myself, lame as it is. More truthfully, I didn’t engage in any activities of this nature, rigorous or no, while I was on the program, so doing the eDiets routine would have been better than nothing. I simply “didn’t have the time,” which I must admit really means, “I didn’t want to find the time.” (I’ll wager I’m not the only one guilty of this, right?)
Secondly, I found the aerobics schedule too rigid for my lifestyle. My preferred team sport, Pickleball, wasn’t on the list of aerobic exercise options, so I checked “Tennis” instead since Pickleball is much like tennis. I also selected “Walking” and “Hiking.”
The personal fitness plan I was provided based on these choices indicated the specific days of the week on which I should play tennis, take a walk, and hike, and these weren’t consistent with the days on which I normally engage in these activities. Furthermore, I typically play, hike, and walk for much longer periods of time than the program suggests.
Another problem with the aerobics part of fitness plan was that it specified that the dieter should exercise to maintain a heart rate that was 70 to 75% of his/her maximal heart rate for a certain amount of time while engaging in the exercise du jour, but it never gave any explanation of how to determine one’s maximal heart rate. Although I am aware of mine and own a heart rate monitor that indicates how long I have remained in a certain heart rate zone, I’m probably in the minority.
Of course, the dieter could always call or email to obtain answers to any questions regarding this. Good luck with that. I didn’t even try, given how long it took me to get answers to some of the nutrition questions I had, as I will discuss later.
Bottom line: I mostly followed my normal exercise regime. I played about 2 hours of Pickleball twice a week and fit in a 30-minute, moderately-rigorous walk on 3 of the other days during my first 3 weeks on the program. I also enjoyed a 6-mile hike with some friends during that time.
My exercise program went completely down the tubes during the last week, however, when I had house guests. Such is life.
Getting Support From eDiets
I had a few questions about some of the facets of the diet that I didn’t find any answers to in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the eDiets website and was pleased when I saw that I could contact an eDiets nutritionist who could answer them—until I actually tried to do so.
I first tried emailing in a question. When I pressed “submit,” I received a message that I would receive a response via email within 48 hours. Nada. Next, I called the customer service number. After pressing the requisite amount of numbers on my telephone pad, I was finally connected to a person who informed me that although customer service hours were 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. EST, Monday through Friday, the nutritionists were only on duty from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. those same days and that someone would contact me within 24 hours. Nada again.
I tried another email with no results. So, I called again and was told again that someone on the nutritional support staff would call me. I explained that I had yet to receive a return phone call or email in my prior attempts.
In this case, it was this 4th time that was the charm. I received a call back within 24 hours. For the record, here were my questions and the responses I received:
- Can I switch the order of my fruit and dairy supplements and have a fruit with my breakfast and a dairy with my lunch instead of vice versa? Yes
- Can I switch the order of my daily meals? In other words, can I eat my dinner entrée for lunch and my luncheon entrée for dinner without affecting my weight loss? Yes
- I have play rehearsals and arrive home very late and a bit hungry. Can I save my snack to eat then? It’s best to eat no later than 1 ½ to 2 hours before you go to bed.
The nutritionist, who was very kind and patient, went on to explain that I could even switch one day’s meals for another day’s meals when it would suit my schedule better. He said that the most important thing was to eat regularly throughout the day. I wish I had known that from Day One. I would have switched things around to fit my schedule better.
My Weekly Ups and Downs
The majority of the entrées on my first week’s meal plan were exceptionally good. The average rating for the entire week was 4.2—better than just “good.” Given this, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I discovered that I had lost 4 pounds in just 4 days on the plan. And then you can imagine how disheartening it was when I stepped on the scale after a full week on the plan and saw that my weight loss for the entire week had only been 2.8 pounds!
I hadn’t deviated from the plan one iota, either, so I had no explanation for how I had gained back 1.2 pounds of the initial 4-pound loss. And this after I had eschewed the green beer and all the wonderful looking food at that St. Patty’s Day party!
I was only slightly mollified when I lost another 2.8 pounds during Week 2. I mentioned my disappointment in an email to a friend. She encouraged me by reminding me what a 5-pound bag of potatoes looks like. I was now carrying around even less than that with my 5.6-pound loss.
That vision was particularly helpful when, at the end of Week 3, I recorded only an additional 1.6-pound loss. I blamed it on those glasses of wine I had allowed myself in celebration of Easter and tried to imagine what a 7.2-pound bag of potatoes looked like.
Week 4 was the most challenging for me. Although I was still enjoying the food, I was getting tired of never eating out or having friends over for dinner. And house guests arrived before the week had ended, so I was cooking for them and sitting down to a different meal myself. Nevertheless, I steadfastly stuck to the diet.
My Weight Loss Triumph
I got my reward when I stepped on the scale at the end of the 28-day program. I had lost another 2 pounds during the week, for a total loss of 9.2 pounds. I was thrilled! And I was even more thrilled when I got out my tape measure.
I measured my new, improved waistline three times before I convinced myself that it really was 3 inches smaller. I shouldn’t have doubted it since the fit of my pants certainly confirmed it. I also lost 1 ¼ inches off my chest, 1 ¼ inches off my hips, 1 ½ inches off each of my thighs, and ¾ inch off each of my calves. The only part of my body that didn’t lose any inches was my biceps.
By the way, the eDiets website provides the clearest instructions that I have ever seen regarding how to take your various body measurements. I found them very helpful, and because they were so explicit, I could be confident that my before and after measurements were taken in a consistent manner.
Before and After Photos
I couldn’t be happier with my results. (Well, okay. . .maybe if I had lost 12 or 15 pounds, I would be.) My wardrobe is now larger—in quantity, not size; I’m fitting into clothes that haven’t fit me in the past few years—and looking good in them. And I love the fact that some of my pants are actually too loose now.
Now that I’ve discovered that I can drop the pounds—something that I was beginning to doubt after all my past, short-lived efforts had failed—I’m hyped to continue to strive for that 25-pound goal I mentioned earlier. I’m thinking my husband is liking the new “me,” too. He has even suggested that I should consider signing up for another month or two of eDiets to help me in my efforts.
eDiets Long Term
I have to admit that not having to plan meals and cook for 4 weeks spoiled me, and the idea of being free of these two tasks for one or two more months is attractive. Because there is no long-term contract, I can actually go week-to-week if I wish. Moreover, since I won’t be reviewing the program as I was during these past 4 weeks, I will be able to suspend the service when I’m expecting house guests and restart it after they leave, so I won’t have that frustration.
The fact that most of the eDiets entrées are exceptionally good and don’t taste at all like diet food is also appealing. And I especially appreciate the variety of foods—including the assortment of snacks from which I can choose. When I try dieting on my own, I always seem to rely on a few tried-and-true low-cal/low-fat recipes and end up too quickly bored with eating the same thing all the time. That’s a real diet-buster for me.
With eDiets, all I have to do is pop the meals in the microwave, eat, and lose weight. It’s about as easy as it can be.
I think I can reasonably expect to lose 6 to 8 pounds a month if I sign up with eDiets again. That would enable me to reach my ultimate goal of 25 pounds after 2 or 3 more months on the program—probably 3 months since the last pounds seem to be the hardest to shed. Too, I already know of 3 more sets of house guests who have firm plans to come for a visit, so that will interrupt my progress.
If I do sign up again—and I’m leaning strongly in that direction—I will review each of my weekly meal plans carefully and make substitutions for meals I already know I don’t like. The egg frittata and all the oatmeal breakfast entrées are definitely on my no-go list. I’ll also be sure that a couple of the luncheon entrées that require no cooking are included with each set of meals.
That may be the biggest issue I will face. Thus far, I’ve found only 2 lunches that fit the bill—the tuna salad wrap that came with a soggy tortilla shell and the chicken pesto pita, which I enjoyed. That could get boring. I’ll hope to find some other options available.
I think the fact that I will probably be re-upping with eDiets speaks for itself.
Although I was less than pleased with the eDiets website and with the effort it took to get a response from an eDiets nutritionist, my experience with the eDiets program was mostly positive. The vast majority of the meals are nicely seasoned, sufficiently satisfying, and generally well-balanced when the dieter-supplied fruit and dairy accompaniments are included in the assessment. Some are as good as you’ll find in a restaurant, even those that are relatively low-cal and low-fat.
But most positive of all were my results: a 9.2-pound weight loss and a waistline that is 3 inches slimmer—as well as all the other lost inches.