Which weight loss programme should you join?
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 lasting solution to achieving a healthy weight and lifestyle can be a daunting challenge.
Fortunately, more programs than ever are available to suit your personal preferences and personality type. Two of those programs are Second Nature and Zoe. These programs 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 program to try.
So, below we’ve outlined the three main similarities between the programs and provided a summary and a more in-depth overview of the crucial differences, as these will likely have the most significant influence on your decision.
The three main similarities:
- Second Nature and Zoe don’t recommend calorie counting.
- Second Nature and Zoe are digital programs available through your smartphone or tablet.
- Second Nature and Zoe use qualified coaches to support people in their programs.
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The three main differences summary:
1) Joining process and cost
- You can start the Second Nature program immediately, and an ongoing subscription costs $75/month if you pay monthly, $59/month quarterly, and $49.91/month annually.
- You spend the first six weeks tracking and weighing your food before officially starting the program. An ongoing subscription costs $49/month without a coach or $149/month with a coach.
- On Zoe, you also need to pay an extra $234 on top of your subscription for the equipment you use in the first six weeks. You can add this to your monthly payments if you want to.
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 this traffic light system.
3) Flexibility with nutrition guidelines
- The Second Nature nutrition guidelines are based on extensive scientific research to provide a good foundation of health for everyone. 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 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) Joining process and cost
You can start the Second Nature program 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 qualified coach online, and say hello to your group.
The Second Nature program starts from $75 a month, but you can also get discounts if you pay for multiple months upfront. Each option includes daily (Monday – Friday) support from a qualified coach.
- Annual fee of $599: $49.91/m
- Quarterly fee of $177: $59/m
- Monthly subscription: $75/m
This cost might sound like a lot, but what is your health worth?
Let’s say you’re enjoying a takeaway latte at $4 a pop five times a week. That’s $20 a week or $80 a month.
Sure, you’re getting a morning boost from a delicious coffee, but you could swap that takeaway coffee for one you make yourself at home or in the office, and you’ve spared the available cash for Second Nature and still got your caffeine hit – sorted.
When you join Zoe, you spend the first six weeks tracking and weighing your food and eating muffins sent from Zoe to track your blood sugar and fat responses to those foods using a continuous glucose monitor.
At the same time, you send Zoe a sample of your faeces, so they can measure the bacteria in your gut microbiome.
At the end of the initial six-week period, you’re sent an in-depth report based on your blood sugar, fat, and gut microbiome health with a list of foods to add to your diet or avoid.
You then officially start the Zoe program, where you can access your coach (only on the Premium package) and the educational materials to support your health journey.
This initial six weeks of tracking, weighing, and data collection also comes at a cost. The ongoing Zoe Plus subscription is $49/month, or for Zoe Premium, it’s $149/month with the addition of a coach for support. You must also pay $234 for the test kits in the first six weeks.
- Monthly Zoe Plus fee (without coach): $49/m
- Monthly Zoe Premium fee (with coach): $149/m
- Test kit: $234
So, an ongoing subscription with Second Nature would cost you $850 for 12 months. If you paid the annual fees upfront, it’s $599 for 12 months. All of Second Nature’s subscriptions include qualified coaching support.
In contrast, an ongoing subscription with Zoe Plus would cost $514.5 for 12 months plus $234 for the test kits, totalling $748.50. Zoe Plus doesn’t include coaching support.
An ongoing subscription with Zoe Premium would cost $1554 for 12 months plus $234 for the test kits, totalling $1788. Zoe Premium includes coaching.
- Once you’ve completed the Second Nature health quiz, you can sign up immediately, download the app, and meet your qualified coach.
- The Second Nature program costs $75 a month, but you can get discounts if you pay for multiple months upfront.
- When you join Zoe, you spend six weeks tracking, weighing and wearing a CGM while Zoe develops a personalized plan based on your responses.
- Zoe costs $234 for the first six weeks, then $49 a month for Zoe Plus, or $149 for Zoe Premium.
- At most, a year with Second Nature will cost $850, whereas a year with Zoe will cost $748.50 for Zoe Plus or $1788 for Zoe Premium.
2) Tracking and weighing food
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.
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 analyzed 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 disordered eating patterns – 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 program doesn’t specifically identify these foods as good or bad. But given that our society has shaped us to identify green as ‘good’ and red as ‘bad’, it could translate to this system.
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.
- 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 program, 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 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 programs 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 British Medical Journal (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 program. 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 personalized using the support of your qualified 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 program 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 program learn to understand the balance of how different foods impact them and make them feel.
On the Zoe program, you effectively have the freedom to eat how you like. However, the program’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 program. If you want to achieve high scores on your daily meals, you might be 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 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 program has given them a low score and colour-coded them red, you might consume them more.
- 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 program 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 currently 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 the treatment of obesity and chronic disease, but we do know that 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’re someone who’s 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.