The journey to lose weight and get yourself into a healthy weight range is a long and arduous task, and millions of people struggle with it every day. Some people go at it with nutritional advice, some with exercise plans, some with hodge-podge lists of supplements, and some with all three.
Of course, you're never alone in this kind of journey. For as many people as there are trying to lose weight, there are just as many who had lost weight and have now turned towards helping others do the same. Some are small-time trainers building local connections, while others have formed into near-global companies offering kits and programs to help.
The thing about the weight loss journey is that it's an intensely personal experience.
The tactics, advice, and techniques that help one person lose weight might not help you. The mental conditioning, the roadblocks, the cravings; they're all different for each person. You might not have trouble with the dieting part but fight any sort of exercise. You might love exercise, but also love to eat. You might think you're doing perfectly fine, and don't know why you aren't losing weight.
It's no wonder, then, that many people turn to weight loss kits instead of individual techniques. Trying to put together a holistic, full-spectrum approach is going to be more broadly successful for more people than any individual strategy will be. It's perfectly fine to go for a starter kit.
The question is, what is even in a starter kit, to begin with? The answer is as wildly varied as the number of kits on the market.
Types of Starter Kits
There are, the way we see it, three kinds of starter kits on the market. Almost every kit out there can be put into one of these three categories.
Category one: The narrow, single-focus kit. These are things like the "couch to 5K" exercise plan, which is great for weight loss in one specific way, which is jogging. It's an exercise plan and doesn't say anything about diet, supplements, or anything else. Or you have something like Nutrisystem, which is a meal kit that gives you frozen meals to last for a week at a time but doesn't do anything for exercise.
There's nothing wrong with these kits, but they're narrow. If your problem is a lack of exercise and you're eating a perfectly reasonable, healthy diet, buying into Nutrisystem won't do anything for you. If you're eating terribly but you exercise regularly, starting an exercise program won't do a lot. In order to make the best use of a narrow kit, you need to identify what is holding you back and focus on that, which requires more introspection than many people give it.
Category two: The partial-coverage kit. This second kind of kit is a little more comprehensive and will typically combine two or more of the categories below, but won't cover everything. The most common of these is the diet kit that includes meals, meal plans, and supplements, but doesn't touch exercise. You also will often see workout plans that include exercise routines and suggested diets to follow, but don't give you actual meals or anything like that.
This kind of kit is great because they cover the major bases, but gives you flexibility and information instead of trying to give you everything. They tend to be focused either on consumable products or on information, but not both. A kit that gives meals and supplements won't bother with information to go along with it, because that information might add too much flexibility and stymie the results. An informational kit won't package products with it because of the overhead involved making it less profitable or more complicated as a business model.
Category three: The total journey kit. The third kind of kit is basically a complete lifestyle package. They give you everything from information and books to exercise plans and meal prep calendars to devices that help track everything to prepared meals in advance. They're typically the most expensive and the most difficult to follow, but they're by far the most comprehensive and typically the most effective if you use them fully.
So what kinds of things can you expect to find in any given kit? It varies wildly, but here are the main categories of products and what you might find in each.
Meal Plans and Recipes
A lot of kits will include meal planning information. This might be broad-level information about macronutrients, calorie counting, and other such overviews. Conversely, it might include specific meal plans for each week, designed to give you a level of variance and flexibility that keeps you feeling in control over your meals, while still restricting you to something healthy and low calorie. They might also include specific recipes for meals that are healthy, balanced, and low calorie.
What falls into this category?
- Meal plans that guide specifically what you're eating, but require you to go out and buy the ingredients to make the meals they recommend.
- Recipes for specific dishes that are healthy and low calorie, and fit within a diet plan like Keto, Primal, Vegan, or Low-Carb.
- Fasting guides, which tell you about intermittent fasting and how to lose weight by skipping meals.
There's a lot of flexibility here, and you rarely find these on their own without an accompanying kit with items from other categories. When you do find them alone, they're typically the foundation of a blog or a free book, not a kit you pay for. Diet advice is freely available just about everywhere, after all.
Another component of many weight loss program kits is some kind of exercise program. There are about as many of these as there are possible motions the human body can make, and then some. There are individual, narrow plans like the aforementioned couch to 5K plan that focuses solely on jogging and nothing else. There more comprehensive exercise plans that give you a series of bodyweight exercises to do, but leave it to you to decide which ones from each category to do.
There are also more comprehensive, total exercise plans out there. Bodybuilding plans in particular are often a combination of meal plans and exercise plans, how to lift, how to squat, how to combine exercise, and eating to get the best muscle gains while losing fat.
There are also exercise plans that rely on visiting a gym of some sort, or buying gym-scale equipment for a home gym, though these are less popular at the moment simply because gyms are not available to most people right now. They'll probably be more popular once the pandemic crisis has passed and gyms are able to open back up, combined with people who gained weight during the current stay at home orders and who want to now lose that weight.
One of the most common bases for weight loss starter kits is the meal package. Most of the big names – Nutrisystem, Atkins, and so on – are meal kits. These provide you with frozen meals, formulated to give you a decent balance of macronutrients while limiting the number of calories you get from your meals. Some of these, like Nutrisystem, are the core of a meal but expect you to supplement them with fruit and vegetables while avoiding other foods that would ruin the diet.
There are also meal packages that require you to skip meals and replace them. These typically focus on meal replacement shakes like Slim Fast or total meal replacements like Huel.
With modern shipping techniques, some of these meal packages have changed to ship weekly packages of fresh ingredients along with meal recipes for those ingredients. Companies like Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and Every Plate offer these kinds of services, though they're typically nothing more than the meals, and don't include other things like plans, supplements, or gear.
Weight Loss Supplements
Not everyone believes that supplements can help with weight loss, but those who believe will often include them in their starter kits.
There are a variety of different supplements you might find in starter kits, but they tend to range in three groups.
- Vitamins and minerals. Some of these might include multivitamins, while others will focus on more narrow single vitamins or mineral supplements that are needed to balance out narrow meals that are included in part of a kit.
- Herbal remedies. Supplements like Ashwagandha, moringa, spirulina, and other individual herbal remedies have questionable benefits, in that science hasn't fully proven that they work or don't work, but they can be included in various weight loss starter kits by anyone who thinks they work. Whether or not they work for you requires you to try them out.
- Weight loss supplements. Weight loss and fat burner supplements are typically stimulants of some kind, most often caffeine, but occasionally another energy-boosting or metabolism-enhancing ingredient. Some of them are also packed with fiber to slow down digestion and discourage cravings. There are dozens of these things, so they can vary quite a bit.
The amount of any given supplement included in any given starter kit will vary, so be sure to investigate if you're going to need to top up on any of them throughout your weight loss journey, or if they've included enough of them to last.
Books and Guides
In a lot of cases, the core of a weight loss starter kit is knowledge. Whether it's a guidebook, an ebook, a full book, or just access to a private blog and community, varies a lot. Everyone who wants to be an authority when it comes to weight loss will, sooner or later, put their thoughts into a book form and will promote that book through their weight loss system.
These typically come in a few distinct forms, but really it can vary as much as the plans do. We've seen private blogs, private courses, and private Facebook groups. We've seen ebooks, short pamphlets, and long traditionally published books. We've even seen multimedia combinations of all of the above. The sky really is the limit when it comes to presenting information, after all.
Calendars for Planning
Calendars and planners are both good options, and other such media can go a long way towards progressing a weight loss journey.
Here are some things we've seen packaged as part of a kit:
- Meal plans and recipes in a calendar. You can mark off which meal you eat when and make sure you have all of your meals planned in advance.
- Weight logs. It can often be difficult to tell when you're actually losing weight, so keeping a log can help you determine when a kit is working for you.
- Exercise logs. Like weight loss, exercise can be difficult to notice improvements for, so keeping a log of what you can do when you push yourself helps you notice tangible improvements.
- Calorie counters. These can range from notebooks where you record everything you eat to tally up the calories, to charts that give you the calories of various common foods.
There's a huge array of tools and planners out there, from digital tools and apps to notebooks and calendars. Finding the ones that work for you is a key part of picking a good starter kit for your journey.
Gear and Technology
Gear kind of overlaps with the paperwork stuff above, but we tend to think of it as items that assist with your weight loss in some way. These can range from blender bottles and Nalgenes to Fitbits and other fitness trackers. There are tons of different kinds of tools you might find available to use.
You might also find things like t-shirts that proclaim your weight loss journey affiliation, blenders to help you mix up smoothies and shakes, and any kind of branded stuff a company wants to send you.
The downside to any starter kit with gear is typically the expense. A starter kit that sends you a Fitbit is going to be more expensive than one that just gives you meal plans and some supplements, after all. The technology is expensive.
Starter kits, in general, can include any or all of the above and can be as narrow as frozen meal packages or as broad as "one of everything" kits that give you a ton of flexibility and tools. It's up to you to find the one that works best for you, which unfortunately means a lot of trial and error.
Still, don't be afraid to try; with so much available, you're bound to find something that works for you.