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The New Direction Weight Loss Program: What is it and is it safe?

Author: Amanda Cofer, MPH

Medical weight loss programs have grown in popularity over the last several years. Doctor’s use them to help patients lose weight before surgery or help patients who may have met a true dead end in terms of improving their numbers on the scale. The New Direction Weight Loss Program is a clinically supervised program by a physician, registered dietitian, and nursing staff to help patients lose weight by using a very low calorie diet (VLCD) or low calorie diet (LCD) approach. Similarly to other plans like this, they use meal replacement products to aid in cutting calories and cutting pounds. But would this method be right for you?

The New Direction Weight Loss Program Set Up vs. Noom

According to New Direction’s website, the program is a multi-phased system that begins with a screening involving lab tests and a physical exam to make sure eligibility criteria are met. Generally for a supervised program such as this the criteria include a BMI of greater than 30, or a BMI of 27 with weight-related conditions. There is more to it though. They need to make sure your heart is healthy and that your medications are recorded. Once admitted into the program, there are 3 stages. First is the Reduce phase, or active weight loss phase. In this phase, you may be on up to 4 meal replacement products per day with little grocery items thrown into the mix. Second, is an Adapt phase, or what is also called a re-eating phase, where grocery foods are reintroduced and weight loss is slowed to a more sustainable pace. Last, is the Sustain phase where maintaining your newly achieved weight loss happens. Along with meal replacements, patients have required classes they must attend to add a lifestyle component to the program. On this program you’ll have monthly check-ins with the doctor as well as weekly weigh-ins with the nurses as well as access to behavior specialists.

This sounds pretty nice, right? So where’s the catch? First, most required classes are only offered one day each week. While there are a few different times you can pick from, if that day doesn’t work well for you, you’re out of luck. Second, the cost. Your insurance may cover some of the tests and exams but most plans will not reimburse for weight loss programming, no matter how preventative it may be. The Reduce phase of the New Direction Weight loss program is estimated to last between 22-24 weeks with about $72-$96 being spent on product each week. Then there are those classes…which are an addition $20 each week. Say you’re in the Reduce phase for 23 weeks and are in the middle of costs at spending $80 per week on you meal replacements and going to every class. That adds up to $2,300 (plus your area’s sales tax) for less than 6 months of programming! Not only that, that’s a long time to be drinking your meals. If you enjoy chewing your food, this program probably isn’t for you.

Noom takes a truly different and new direction (see what we did there?) when it comes to losing weight. With Noom, no shakes or bars are required to be successful and no foods are off limits. The idea is to break free of the diet mindset that often leads us to restrict too much and feel deprived. This can also lead to a cycle that is tough to get out of. With the New Direction program you may have access to behavior specialists but behavior change is not at the core of the program. Noom’s take on weight loss is based on behavior modification and lifestyle to drive lasting results. The increased access to support through a mobile platform increases the likelihood of success. While group classes can be helpful, individualized health coaching for lifestyle change has shown to be more clinically effective in some cases. Another glaring difference between the Noom and the New Direction Weight Loss Program is the cost. A full 6 months with Noom is literally a fraction of the cost at only $149 with no additional purchases.

The New Direction Weight Loss Program Safety vs. Noom

While the New Direction Weight Loss Program is supervised by medical professionals, it’s not without safety concerns. The Reduce phase of this program is ketogenic, meaning that it’s very low carb and utilizes a higher protein intake. Nutrient deficiency can be likely on a diet such as this but New Directions has fortified their products to keep this from being an issue. However you still may experience constipation, dizziness or confusion (your brain needs carbs to work optimally), kidney problems, and in more extreme cases liver issues. Then there is the fatigue that comes along with taking in very few calories. Generally, exercise isn’t encouraged (because there’s a chance you could pass out…) while on a VLCD so you’re missing a whole piece of the lifestyle puzzle. It’s also estimated that while you’re in this Reduce phase you’ll drop 3 to 5 pounds each week. You might be thinking “Yes! Sign me up!” but hold your horses. There are some consequences to losing weight too quickly.

Many fad diets promise fat loss but sometimes that’s not always the case. New Direction may not necessarily be classified as a fad but the results may be similar. Dropping weight at a drastic rate can lead to side effects and conditions such as gallstones, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, headaches, irritability, menstrual irregularities, and hair loss. There is also an increased chance that the weight you lost will come back when compared to more conservative and sustainable approaches. With Noom, you choose your own weight loss pace ranging from 0.5 to 2 pounds a week. While you’re losing this weight you’ll be learning more about yourself everyday and not just about what you’re eating but why you’re eating it. A ketogenic approach can feel extremely restricted and come with side effects but with Noom there really isn’t anything scary to be on the lookout for. If you’re feeling hungry your personal coach will help you through it and, if need be, help you make adjustments no problem! More flexibility could mean a much better fit and more maintained weight loss success.

The New Direction Weight Loss Program: The Bottom Line

In the end, it is immensely important to talk with your doctor before starting a weight loss program. The New Direction Weight Loss Program may be physician supervised but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe for everyone. The multi-phase approach makes it a bit more well rounded than some other similar programs, but there are still side effects to consider from not only the ketogenic method but also from the rapid weight loss that you may experience. Noom is truly taking the path less traveled in terms of weight loss programming. The idea behind Noom is that a sustainable weight loss pace combined with real behavior modification through psychology and coaching yield truly lasting results so that you can ditch the diet mindset. You can eat food you love, instead of drink your calories, and still see that number on the scale change for the better. Who wouldn’t want that?