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Weight Loss Programmes

Zoe vs Second Nature

Robbie Puddick
Written by

Robbie Puddick

Medically reviewed by

Fiona Moncrieff

13 min read
Last updated February 2024
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Jump to: Which programme should you join? |The three main similarities | The three main differences summary | Sign-up process and cost | Tracking and weighing food | Flexibility with nutrition guidelines | Take home message

The most obvious difference between Zoe and Second Nature in 2024 is whether they offer weight-loss medications. Second Nature has both a Wegovy weight-loss programme and also a Mounjaro weight-loss programme. Zoe does not offer weight-loss medications.

As a company, Second Nature has also been used by the NHS since 2016, which is before Zoe Health started as a company (Zoe started in 2017). Second Nature has built up a track record of trust, patient safety, and data security – whether for its NHS programmes or its private weight-loss programmes.

Aside from offering medications, Zoe and Second Nature are digital lifestyle change programmes that share many similarities but offer very different experiences.

In a nutshell, Zoe provides a set of tests (gut microbiome test, blood sugar test, continuous glucose monitor) to assess your gut health and your individual responses to food.

You can then make changes to your nutrition based on these results, but our experience with most people taking the Zoe tests is that the advice often boils down to a combination of:

  1. Eat more fermented foods (yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, etc)
  2. Eat more vegetables and fibre
  3. Reduce consumption of highly processed carbs

Whilst this is very valid advice, we’d question whether people need to pay a minimum of £360 to reach this conclusion.

There is a much higher cost and risk associated with ‘trying’ Zoe. You must pay for the test kit (£299.99) and at least 1 month of membership (£59.99), meaning your minimum financial commitment is £359.98.

The standard Second Nature weight-loss programme has a 14-day trial for £9.99, where you can try out the programme, speak to your health coach, try the recipes, and see if it works for you. If it does, the on-going programmes start from £38 per month. If not, you can cancel with no questions asked.

It’s worth noting that this £9.99 trial isn’t applicable for Second Nature’s Wegovy programme. Once the medication has been approved and delivered then it can’t be returned.

Finally, it’s also being aware that Zoe has a 1-2 month wait to receive your test kit. With Second Nature you can signup and start on the same day.

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Zoe vs Second Nature: Which programme should you join?

Firstly, it depends if you want to use weight-loss medication. If you’re looking to try Wegovy or Mounjaro, then you can do this with Second Nature but not Zoe.

On the programme itself and the advice given, Zoe is more focused on gut health and optimising the perfect diet to suit your personal preferences based on blood sugar, fat, and gut microbiome responses to different foods.

Whereas Second Nature is more psychology-based and focuses on developing a healthier relationship with food so you can manage your intake sustainably over the long term. Second Nature also focuses more on all aspects of health, including nutrition, sleep, exercise, and stress. You can think of Second Nature more as a psychology-focused programme.

So, let’s suppose you’re an individual who wants to learn about your physiological responses to food and commit time and energy to track and weigh your food to reach a level of dietary ‘perfection’ in tune with your body.

In that case, Zoe could be an option for you.

However, suppose you’ve spent most of your life jumping from one diet to the next, constantly being given strict rules about what you can and can’t eat, counting calories and weighing your food, and you feel you need something different.

In that case, Second Nature might be a better solution.

Weight loss is a complicated puzzle. If you’ve tried every diet under the sun and spent more years calorie counting than you can remember, but you still can’t seem to lose the weight for good, finding a long-term solution can be a daunting challenge.

Fortunately, more weight loss programmes than ever are available to suit your personal preferences and personality type. Two of those programmes are Second Nature and Zoe.

These programmes have a lot in common, but they also have a lot of differences too – and understanding these can help you make an informed decision about which programme to try.

So, below, we’ve outlined the three main similarities between the programmes and provided a summary and a more in-depth overview of the crucial differences, as these will likely significantly influence your decision.

The three main similarities:

  1. Second Nature and the Zoe diet plan don’t recommend calorie counting.
  2. Second Nature and the Zoe diet plan are digital programmes on your smartphone or tablet.
  3. Second Nature and the Zoe diet plan use registered nutritionists as health coaches to support people in their programmes. (Second Nature also uses dietitians, it’s unclear whether Zoe does the same.)

The three main differences summary:

1) Sign-up process and cost

  • You can signup and join Second Nature on the same day, whereas you currently need to join a 1-2 month waiting list for Zoe.
  • Second Nature’s medication programme starts from £229 per month, and the non-medication programme starts from £38 per month.
  • Zoe has a minimum financial commitment of just under £360: £299.99 for the original test kit and a minimum of 1 month’s membership (£59.99).
  • Second Nature’s non-medication programme has a minimum financial commitment of £9.99 for its 14-day trial.

2) Tracking and weighing food

  • On Second Nature, you don’t track or weigh any food. If you choose to, you can use our food diary and food and mood journal features to better understand how you physically and emotionally respond to the foods you eat.
  • On Zoe, it’s a requirement to track and weigh everything you eat and log it into the app. This is so the app can provide you with a daily score on the quality of your food choices depending on its evaluation of how you respond to different foods.
  • Every food in your Zoe app is rated on a score of 0-100 and colour coded from red to green to help you choose which foods it feels you’d respond best to.
  • Research suggests extreme attention to food and disordered patterns of eating can lead to weight gain and poorer dietary quality.
  • Individuals susceptible to disordered eating and who have a poor relationship with food might not respond well to a traffic light system.

3) Flexibility with nutrition guidelines

  • The Second Nature nutrition guidelines are based on extensive scientific research to provide everyone with a good foundation of health. You can tailor the guidelines to suit your preferences, culture, and goals with the support of a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
  • The Second Nature approach considers your psychological relationship with food and doesn’t label or colour any foods as good or bad. We want to encourage a balanced diet where everything can be included.
  • The Zoe nutrition recommendations are solely based on your physiological responses to different foods. The technology doesn’t consider your personal preferences, culture, or current relationship with food. Although, you can discuss these with your health coach.
  • However, research has shown that when foods are made unavailable to us – perhaps by labelling them as bad – it leads us to crave them more, and we become more likely to overindulge in those foods.
  • On average, members of Second Nature lose 5.67kg/12.5lbs after three months, whereas Zoe members lose 4kg/9lbs. Although, members of Zoe aren’t necessarily signing up to lose weight.

1) Sign-up process and cost

Second Nature

You can start the Second Nature programme the day you sign up. All you’d need to do is take our health quiz so we can understand you better and your motivations for signing up; then, you’re set to start.

You download the app, meet your health coach online, and say hello to your group.

Second Nature has a £9.99 trial period for 14 days, where you can try the programme and see if it works for you. If not, you can cancel the programme at any time in these 14 days.

Afterwards, there are three subscription plan lengths for the non-medication programme:

  • 3 months: from £38 per month
  • 6 months: from £33 per month
  • 12 months: from £28 per month 45/m

For Second Nature’s Wegovy and Mounjaro weight-loss programmes, these start at £229 per month and are a monthly subscription.

Zoe

When you sign up for Zoe, you join a waiting list (typically around 1-2 months wait), and when you do start, you spend six weeks tracking and weighing your food.

At the same time, you send Zoe a sample of your faeces, so they can measure the bacteria in your gut microbiome.

You also wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which measures your physiological responses to food to produce a personalised report on what foods you should eat or limit.

After this initial 6-week period, you officially start the Zoe programme, where you can access your health coach and the educational materials to support your health journey.

This initial 6-weeks of tracking, weighing, and data collection also comes at a cost.

The ongoing Zoe subscription is £59.99 a month, but you get a discount if you pay for four or twelve months upfront. You also need to pay £299.99 for the test kits in the first 6-weeks.

  • Annual fee of £299.88: £24.99/m
  • 4-month fee of £159.96: £39.99/m
  • Monthly subscription: £59.99/m
  • Additional test kit: £299.99

You must pay for at least 1 month of membership, so the minimum commitment is £299.99 + £59.99 = £359.98

Key points:

  • Once you’ve completed the Second Nature health quiz, you can sign up immediately, download the app, and meet your health coach.
  • The Second Nature programme costs £38 a month, but you can get discounts if you pay for multiple months upfront.
  • If you sign up for Zoe, you’re placed on a waiting list for 1-2 months.
  • You then spend six weeks tracking, weighing, and wearing a CGM while Zoe develops a personalised plan based on your responses.
  • Zoe costs £299.99 for the test kit and first six weeks, then £59.99 a month after that. Zoe offers discounts if you pay for four or twelve months upfront.

2) Tracking and weighing food

Second Nature

On Second Nature, you don’t track, weigh, or have a traffic light system to guide your food choices.

However, you can opt to use our food diary and journaling tool. This feature has been designed to teach you how to respond to different meals and foods.

From this information, you can learn what drives you to eat; how different foods make you feel in body and mind to inform future habits.

Research investigating the factors that determine weight loss maintenance has shown that tracking dietary intake, to some extent, can positively impact our ability to maintain weight loss in the long term.

On Second Nature, this doesn’t mean tracking calories or weighing your food.

You can enter your meal, take a picture, and then log how you feel alongside this meal to learn about your responses to the different foods, which can inform you about future decisions.

However, this isn’t a requirement. Some people will find it helpful, others won’t – and that’s entirely up to you.

Zoe

On Zoe, you need to weigh and track everything you eat, and this isn’t only during the first six weeks; it’s a requirement for the entire time you’re a member of Zoe.

Your meals are then analysed against your responses to those foods, and you receive a score at the end of the day on how well you did from 0-100.

This score is based on the foods Zoe’s determined to be good or bad for you based on your blood sugar, blood fat, and gut microbiome response to those foods.

These foods are colour coded from red (bad) to green (good). So, you’ll score highly if your meals are full of green foods. You’ll receive a low score if they’re full of red foods.

Does the use of a traffic light system pose a risk?

Overly obsessing over food and extreme attention to detail with dieting have been linked to the development of disordered eating patterns.

Interestingly, disordered eating patterns have also been linked to poorer diet quality (increased intake of ultra-processed foods) and weight gain.

Individuals susceptible to developing or having pre-existing patterns of disordered eating – or may have spent their entire lives yo-yo dieting where these behaviours are encouraged – may not respond positively to a traffic light system identifying foods as good or bad.

While the Zoe programme doesn’t specifically identify these foods as good or bad, given that our society has shaped us to identify green as ‘good’ and red as ‘bad’, it’s not a big jump to suggest some people may view it this way.

When we associate foods as good or bad, that often triggers an emotional response to consuming the food; when we eat foods that are ‘good’, we feel we’ve behaved well; when we eat foods we’ve identified as ‘bad’, we feel that we are a failure and become guilty and ashamed of our choices.

Key points:

  • You don’t need to track or weigh any food with Second Nature.
  • If you choose to, you can use our food diary and journal tool to learn how you feel and respond to different meals.
  • Research has shown that tracking dietary habits in some shape or form can support weight loss maintenance in the long term.
  • On the Zoe programme, you must weigh and track every food and meal.
  • The Zoe app then produces a daily score based on your choices from 0-100. This score is based on your list of foods Zoe thinks you should eat or avoid.
  • The app uses a traffic light system assigned to these foods to highlight what’s good or bad for you.
  • Research has shown that extreme attention to detail with food and dieting can lead to disordered patterns of eating, which are linked to weight gain and lower dietary quality.

3) Flexibility with nutritional guidelines

Second Nature

Second Nature provides extensive nutritional guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence to support weight loss, manage blood sugar levels, and improve overall health and well-being.

The NHS has commissioned Second Nature since 2017, delivering programmes in weight management and type 2 diabetes.

Members of Second Nature lose on average 5.67kg/12.5lbs after three months. A recent paper published in the BMJ showed that people lost 6.2kg/13.6lbs on average after 12 months.

Members of Zoe lose an average of 4kg/9lbs after three months. Long-term data is yet to be published as it’s still a new programme.

This is lower than the average weight loss observed with Second Nature, but not all individuals joining Zoe are necessarily motivated by weight loss.

Depending on their preferences, cultural background, and goals, our nutritional guidelines are personalised using the support of the health coach and our nutrition toolbox.

The guidelines have flexibility; they merely act as a foundation for the individual to adapt to suit them with the support of a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

No foods are banned, and we don’t label foods as good or bad. Everything can be included as part of a healthy diet.

The most important part of the Second Nature programme is that people choose to eat a diet based on whole foods because they learn how it nourishes their body and mind.

But they can also indulge in desserts and sweets now and again if they want to.

Let’s say a birthday comes along, and you want to enjoy a piece of cake; go for it. There’s no judgement from us, and there’s no ranking system to tell you whether that was a good or bad choice.

If that’s what you’ve chosen to do, then it’s the right thing. People on the Second Nature programme learn to understand the balance of how different foods impact them and make them feel.

Zoe

On the Zoe programme, you effectively have the freedom to eat how you like. However, the programme’s goal is to score highly on your daily meals – so if you eat foods outside of what Zoe thinks you should be eating, your scores will decrease.

So, it depends on how you want to approach the Zoe programme. If you want to achieve high scores on your daily meals, you might feel relatively restricted in what you can eat.

If you’re happy having lower scores and higher flexibility, you might find it’s the right approach.

The Zoe nutritional recommendations are based almost entirely on your physiological responses to individual foods and meals.

It doesn’t consider your internal values, culture, preferences, or psychological relationship with food. Although, you can discuss these with your health coach.

Being told that those foods are bad or potentially unavailable to you could play into the ‘forbidden fruit’ effect.

Research has shown that when something is forbidden or unavailable, we crave it more.

The mechanisms of this are still being discovered, but it’s suggested that things made unavailable to us become entrenched in our memory more than what is available.

There’s also a theory known as the ‘white bear effect’, which suggests that the attempted suppression of thoughts (i.e., this food is bad, don’t think about that food) increases the accessibility of those thoughts in our mind. This effect sounds counterintuitive, but human psychology is complex.

So, if you actively try to avoid specific foods because the Zoe programme has given them a low score and colour-coded them red, you might consume them more.

Key points:

  • Second Nature provides extensively-researched nutritional guidelines that have the flexibility to ensure the individual is eating in a way that aligns to their culture, values, and preferences.
  • The Zoe programme recommends a diet based purely on your physiological responses to food without considering other elements, such as your values and psychology.
  • The labelling of foods with high and low scores on Zoe might play into the forbidden fruit effect and lead to increased cravings for the foods the app recommends you avoid.

Take home message

We live in a paradoxical time where we have more options than ever to help us lose weight and achieve a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, obesity and chronic disease rates across the Western world continue to rise.

There’s a lot we don’t know about treating obesity and chronic disease, but we do know there’s not going to be a global solution for everyone.

Suppose you’re an individual who wants to learn about your physiological responses to food and commit time and energy to track and weigh your food to reach a level of dietary ‘perfection’ in tune with your body.

In that case, Zoe could be an option for you.

However, suppose you’ve spent most of your life jumping from one diet to the next, constantly being given strict rules about what you can and can’t eat, counting calories and weighing your food, and you feel you need something different.

In that case, Second Nature might be a better solution.

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