What's out: The Atkins diet. What's in: The Cookie Diet?

Our fiscal belt-tightening may well cause turmoil in the ., weight loss, business. As America struggles with a 25% obesity rate, our waistline will continue to be a concern, but tempered by our newly-trim wallet.

Diet regimes that depend on pre-packaged meals, such as Jenny Craig, will be the first to feel the pinch (an inch). A 2005 Forbes study of the costs of well-known weight-loss plans pegged Jenny Craig at $137.65 per week. Other overweight progams were NutriSystem at $113.52 and the Atkins (low carb) Diet at $100.52. Weight Watchers, the program that, in my opinion, offers the best combination of a healthy diet and support, comes in fourth at $100.52.

So where can a well-rounded person turn for dieting on a budget? The cheapest program, according to Forbes, is the Subway Sandwich, aka Jared, Diet, at $68.60, Sugar Busters, $69.62, and Slim-Fast, $77.73.

A recent Consumer Reports study labeled the Atkins diet as worse that average for weight loss, while Jenny, WW, and Slim-Fast were better than average.

Among the whacky diets, one that stands out is Dr. Siegel's Cookie Diet. Dr. Siegel sells kits of cookies that supposedly suppress the eater's appetite, kind of a methadone for food junkies. Certainly the consumer loses some weight, from his wallet. A week's worth of the Doctor's cookies and vitamins will set you back around $60, plus shipping. That's a lot of double-stuff Oreos!

The budget-busting part of the most rounded diets, such as Weight Watchers, is fresh fruits and vegetables, and I expect to see many dieters turn to canned or frozen alternatives. For low-carb diets, as meat costs climb in step with grain prices, I expect fewer people will adopt this program, and those that do will be eating a lot more cheap cuts. If I could find an exchange-traded fund in goats, I might put some money there.

Or not. I have this sudden urge for some chips and instant-cheese-like-substance dip. Maybe I'll have a cookie instead.

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