Review of Sensei.com

by Ali on January 16, 2009

I’ve been checking out the site Sensei – aimed at Americans who want a healthy-eating plan customised to suit them. It costs $15/month for Web-only access, and $20/month for mobile and Web access.

At first, the site reminded me a bit of the UK-based www.weightlossresources.co.uk (which I’ve already reviewed), but there are some big differences.

The key element of Sensei is your diet plan. You need to fill in a 12-stage profile when joining the site so that meals can be customised to suit you. Most of this was perfectly straightforward and sensible – but at times, I found it a little annoying to have to keep on filling in details when I wanted to get to the food plan! (As the longsuffering Boyfriend can tell you, though, I tend to be a tad impatient with all things internetty when they don’t go fast enough for me…)

Food plans

Sensei lets you select from three basic options: the “Mediterranean plan”, the “Sensible carb plan” (if you want a low-carb diet) and the “Sensible plan”.

There’s an option to eliminate certain foods from your plan, if you don’t like them or don’t eat them (for example, if you’re vegetarian):

The plans are based around three meals and a snack, and you’re supposed to specify the time which you eat these on weekdays and at the weekend. I can see that this would help people who struggle to lose weight because they don’t eat at regular intervals, but I felt it was a rather unnecessary step. My mealtimes tend to vary from day to day, and I usually grab a healthy snack when I’m hungry, not at a specific time in the day!

You also choose what type of meal you’d like in each slot (breakfast/lunch/dinner, weekday/weekend):

The diet plan which I received offered a range of interesting and yummy-sounding meals, each one listing exactly what I should use to prepare them. Here’s a sample day:

Like most people, though, I tend to eat pretty similar breakfasts and lunches most days of the week (cereal and milk, or ryvitas with cottage cheese for breakfast; and ham sandwiches for lunch feature strongly on the menu!) Although I like variety, I wondered how much time and effort I’d end up spending on food shopping and preparation if I followed the given menu exactly.

Handily, I was also emailed a shopping list that would enable me to prepare the meals for the week.

On the site, you can “shuffle meals” (replace your whole week), and you can also select alternative meals for a particular slot.

Sensei’s Advice – how good is it?

On the whole, I thought the general advice offered by Sensei was good. For example, in the “Welcome” email I received after signing up, I was told:

It’s best to weigh yourself once a week, on the same day and at the same time. We recommend weighing yourself every Sunday morning, first thing when you wake up. Feel free to weigh yourself more frequently if you wish. Your weight graph will track the most recent weight entered (up to once a day), but be aware that weight can fluctuate quite a bit throughout the week.

I thought the profile step of entering my biggest challenges in healthy eating/living was interesting, but I found this a bit clunky and cheesy in the suggestions it offers. If you have deep-rooted emotional eating problems, or long-formed habits, a single line tip along the lines of “take a healthy lunch to work so you don’t snack on unhealthy foods” is probably not going to have a big impact.

Verdict

Sensei seems to advocate a sensible and very workable approach to weight-loss. I’ve been interested in healthy eating for years, and I’m confident about creating my own meals and snacks to fit with health and with what I enjoy – but if you’re someone who likes to have a “diet plan” to follow, this one’s much more likely to be to your tastes than one from a book.

One small thing which gave me pause was that when setting my weight-loss goal, I was given the option of choosing between 0.5 and 3lbs per week. Most dieticians recommend not aiming to lose more than 2lbs per week. I can see 3lbs per week being reasonable for someone with a lot of weight to lose, but for me (I’m a healthy weight, with a BMI of 22), a 3lb loss would require a starvation diet!

The site charges for monthly membership ($15/month online membership, $20/month “anywhere” membership), but you can get a seven day trial for free to see if it’s for you, and you don’t need to enter your credit card details for this.

Best of luck with your dieting, healthy eating and exercising – and check back on Monday for the next post in the Good Habits series.

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