Update: We have paused our weight loss insights plan for now. In the meantime, stay healthy and check out our new meal delivery options.
As a journalist, I’ve always been an inquisitive, science-minded person and one who does a mind-bending amount of research, particularly when it comes to health and nutrition topics. I’ve watched weight loss fads come and go, with few standing up to the rigors of scientific research and even fewer that seem sustainable over the long term, a factor that is critical to weight maintenance. And, full disclosure — I’ve tried a few of them myself. Even keto (spoiler alert: It was a miserable 30 days and I hardly lost any weight!).
Not long after I finished my keto test, I recounted the experience to my doctor while wondering aloud why it worked for others but not so much for me. “People’s bodies respond differently to different eating plans,” she said. “What works for your friend may not work for you. And what works for you may not work for someone else.”
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash
That made sense, of course, but her statement left me wondering: What, exactly, is it about people’s own personal makeup that makes them respond differently to various weight loss and exercise plans? Why can some people seem to eat copious amounts of carbs and never have a problem with weight gain, while others (like me) can only tolerate low amounts without seeing the scale creep up?
Soon enough, I got my answer: It may very well lie in our DNA.
That’s right. Groundbreaking research has shown that your own unique genetic makeup can influence a number of factors related to weight loss and weight maintenance, including not only how you process carbohydrates, but also fat and protein.1-2 Your genetics can even influence how well you respond to different types of exercise and how satisfied you’re likely to feel after eating a meal!3-4
Lucky for me, I got to test this science directly through Jenny Craig’s DNA Decoder Plan, which analyzes your specific DNA to provide you with a weight loss plan that works with your body to help optimize your results. Read on to learn about how the DNA weight loss program worked for me!
How the Jenny Craig DNA Testing Program works
Just as your DNA influences your height, the color of your eyes, whether your hair is straight or curly, and numerous other traits specific to you, studies have shown that your genetic makeup can influence factors related both to weight loss and weight maintenance.5-6 Through the Jenny Craig DNA Decoder Plan, your own personal DNA is analyzed according to 15 specific genetic markers that may influence your ability to lose weight — and keep it off.
These genetic markers are broken down into five areas:
1. How your body may process food. Could carbohydrates help or hinder your weight loss? How does your body likely process protein? How does your body likely process fat?
2. Your body’s likely response to exercise. Could cardio or weight training boost your weight loss efforts? How likely are you to be naturally motivated to exercise?
3. Your sleep. Are you likely to get quality sleep?
4. Your eating behaviors and tendencies. Could you have a natural tendency to overeat? Are you likely to crave high-calorie foods? Do you have a higher likelihood to crave sweet foods? Are you likely to feel satisfied after a meal?
5. Your metabolism. Are you likely to have a normal resting metabolic rate? Is your body likely to be more resistant to losing weight? Do you have a tendency to regain weight after you’ve lost it? Do you have a natural likelihood to be overweight as an adult?
Once your DNA is analyzed, you will receive a full report outlining your own personal DNA weight loss profile. This includes not only the results of the 15 different markers that were studied, but also a thorough explanation of how those results can affect your ability to lose weight. Tips related to your results for each specific marker are also included, as are helpful links to more information. Plus, you’ll receive a specific menu plan based on your results designed to help optimize your weight loss efforts — a reduced-fat menu plan, a reduced-carbohydrate menu plan or a balanced menu plan.
Once you’ve received your profile, you’ll set up a meeting with your Jenny Craig weight loss consultant (either by phone or in-person), who will provide you with your recommended meal plan and answer any questions you may have regarding the program. Your consultant will guide you along your weight loss journey with helpful strategies and tips to lead a healthier lifestyle.
My experience with the Jenny Craig DNA Weight Loss Program
To be honest, when I heard about my DNA having the potential to affect, say, the quality of my sleep and whether I have a tendency to crave high-calorie foods — both of which can affect the success of a weight loss program — well, I was a bit skeptical. (Excited at the prospect of what I might discover, yes, but skeptical nonetheless.)
After I received my DNA Collection Kit in the mail, I started following the instructions outlined on the kit: I made sure to avoid eating, drinking anything or chewing gum 30 minutes prior to taking the test. I wiped the inside of my cheek with the supplied swabs, returned the swabs in the enclosed postage-paid envelope and then waited about five days for an email announcing that my results were available through a secure portal that I accessed from my Jenny Craig account. (Actual results can take up to 10 days.)
Before I looked at my results, I contemplated what they might show. I already knew that unhealthy carbs are a problem for me and I need to limit my intake of them or risk weight gain. I also knew that I’ve got a weakness for homemade chocolate chip cookies and often have cravings for sweets of other varieties as well, but I really didn’t expect the results to confirm either of these. (I mean, how could they?!) I adopted a wait-and-see approach for the 13 other factors I knew had been analyzed.
Well, was this an eye-opening experience for me! Not only did my genetic profile show that I do indeed have a low utilization of carbs and an above-average tendency to crave sweet foods, but it also highlighted other areas I hadn’t considered that could play into my weight loss success — or failure. For instance, I have a low utilization of fat (which makes sense considering my experience with keto), an enhanced response to strength-training exercise (which could be helpful since I primarily do cardio workouts now), and a below-average tendency to get high-quality sleep (as my many restless nights could attest).
While members can ask questions about their results on a private DNA community monitored by a registered dietitian and Jenny Craig’s customer care team, I was fortunate enough to be able to discuss my profile with Jenny Craig’s own Briana Rodriquez, R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer. She said that since my profile indicated that I have a below-average utilization of carbohydrates, she would be putting me on Jenny Craig’s reduced-carbohydrate plan, which is lower in carbs than other Jenny Craig plans.
With that in mind, Briana and I agreed that I would test Jenny Craig’s 1,200-calorie reduced-carb plan for two weeks (1,500- and 1,700-calorie plans are also available).
While Briana and I discussed all elements of my profile, these are what I found to be the most interesting takeaways from our conversation:
The markers are indicative, not definitive. While the DNA analysis looks at 15 different genetic markers related to weight loss, those markers do not necessarily mean that those genes have been expressed. “These markers indicate tendencies,” Briana told me. “They give us insight into your genetic makeup and what might work best for you when it comes to a weight loss plan.”
Just because a specific marker might indicate that you are, for instance, less likely to feel satisfied after a meal, that doesn’t mean that gene has actually been “turned on” — although if you find that indicator to be accurate, then it very well may have been activated by your lifestyle such as dietary, exercise or sleep habits, what Briana calls your environment. But, she added, that doesn’t mean that if that gene has been expressed, that you can’t reverse it.
“Sometimes people get a marker that they’re not happy about, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to live with that tendency forever,” Briana explained. “If it has been activated, you may have a tougher time, but there are still things you can do to achieve your goals, such as modifying your exercise routine and using a weight loss plan that is more tailored to your genetic profile.”
And, she added, expression can be turned on or off depending on environmental factors such as diet and exercise.
“Your DNA can’t change,” Briana told me. “But your expression can change. And your environment — what you eat, how much you exercise, your sleep habits and more — plays a huge role in whether those genes are turned ‘on’ or ‘off’.”
Your DNA markers provide insight into what, specifically, you can do to maximize your weight loss. For me, that means adding resistance training 2-3 days per week in addition to continuing with my regular cardio work; reducing my carb and fat intake; maintaining a moderate protein intake; and doing everything I can to maximize my sleep, as poor sleep quality has been linked to weight gain.7
How Jenny Craig’s reduced-carb menu worked for me
The first thing I have to say about Jenny Craig’s reduced-carb menu is that the meals are absolutely delicious. The flavors are complex, the textures are interesting, and there’s a huge array of different foods to enjoy: everything from a Garden Vegetable Frittata or Cranberry Almond Barscotti for breakfast, to Chicken Margherita or Homestyle Meatloaf and Vegetables for lunch, to a Chicken Fajita Skillet or Rotini Pasta & Meat Sauce for dinner. Many items also include “simple inspirations” you can add to the meal for more variety, such as topping your Cheesy Egg & Steak Quesadilla with diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, serrano peppers, and lime juice. And there are several different tasty items for dessert!
As for my favorites? Well, it’s hard to choose, but the Crustless Chicken Pot Pie and the Roasted Turkey with Gravy & Cauliflower Mash were definitely at the top of my list. (Yeah, I’m a comfort-food type of gal.) For dessert, the Peanut Butter Cookies take the cake!
Along with the four to five Jenny Craig meals/snacks I ate each day, I also added one or two of my own snacks daily, such as a small serving of almonds or light string cheese, as well as a small amount of healthy fat such as avocado, hummus or nut butter. And, of course, extra non-starchy vegetables and salads that I supplied were also on my daily menu.
I found the weekly menus super simple to follow, with all meals and snacks specified for all seven days. They also feature areas where I recorded my daily exercise, my daily weight (Jenny Craig suggests weighing yourself every day) and the times when I started and stopped eating for the day — so all information for the week was self-contained in one place.
Why is it important to keep track of the number of hours when you eat? Well, the reduced-carb menu, like most Jenny Craig menus, incorporates the Rapid Results program, which uses scientific findings8 to help fuel weight loss. In a nutshell, Rapid Results employs a daylight nutrition strategy (also known as time-restricted eating) to take advantage of your natural circadian rhythms; this means that you eat more calories earlier in the day, when you’re most active, and fewer calories later in the day, when you begin to wind down in preparation for sleep. It also means that you eat during a 12-hour nourishment period and take a break from eating during the 12-hour rejuvenation period to work naturally with your metabolism.
Other perks of the Jenny Craig Program
In addition to the meals being delicious and nutritionally balanced, there were several other features I liked about the program.
Photo by Brandless on Unsplash
1. It includes plenty of fiber. I’ve always been a fan of fiber, not only for my gastrointestinal health but because it helps me feel satiated. Getting adequate amounts of fiber also has been shown to have a number of health benefits, from reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and stroke; to helping lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels; to improving insulin sensitivity and controlling blood sugar levels.9
Unfortunately, not all diet plans popular today include enough fiber. But I’m happy to report that Jenny Craig’s plans do. For instance, most of my meals contained at least 4 grams of fiber per serving — with some boasting as many as 6 grams. Add in your additional servings of vegetables and salad and you’re well within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s minimum recommendation of 25 grams per day.10
2. I wasn’t hungry. I did expect to be hungry on the plan, but as long as I stayed on top of my meals and snacks, I really wasn’t. If I started feeling like I needed to nosh on something, I’d have a few celery, carrot or jicama sticks or a snappy dill pickle. (I found I was craving some crunch, and they helped satisfy that.)
3. It helped me watch my snacking. I’ve always been a grazer rather than a three-square-meals type of eater, but one thing I realized is I had been doing a fair amount of grabbing and eating, almost without realizing it. Before starting the plan, if I found myself hungry (or, I’ll admit it, bored), I would often pick up a few nuts, a spoonful of peanut butter or a few whole grain crackers, even if I’d just eaten a little while before. Now that I think about it, even though those snacks were healthy, they were adding extra calories to my day that I wasn’t even considering! The plan definitely helped me pay attention to my drive-by grazing.
4. It helped me with portion control. I realized that even though I’m a pretty healthy eater, my portions were often too big. Now I definitely have a better idea of proper portion control.
5. I loved the simplicity of it. Everything is properly portioned and calorie-balanced and has the proper amount of various nutrients. This takes the guesswork out of what you should eat — as well as how much and when.
6. Yes, it worked! After two weeks, I lost six pounds — twice the amount of weight I lost on four weeks of keto. Even better, I felt good, I had energy, and I was never bored.
I hope reading about my experience with Jenny Craig’s DNA Weight Loss Program has been instructive for you, and perhaps even helped you decide whether you’d like to try it yourself. I found it fascinating, accurate and enlightening, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to test it firsthand.
We have paused our DNA weight loss insights plan for now. In the meantime, stay healthy and check out our new meal delivery options.
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig