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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Weight Management arrow Weight Watchers Review: Ready for Change?

Weight Watchers Review: Ready for Change?

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: August 22, 2023
14 min read 531 Views 0 Reviews
clock 14 eye 531 comments 0

Could this program be the key to long-term success?

Weight Watchers Review

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As one of the most popular weight loss programs, Weight Watchers has been successful for millions of people around the world. It uses a point-based tracking system to help users reach their health goals, whether they’re hoping to shift the pounds for good or simply lead a healthier lifestyle.

To help my patients develop healthy habits when it comes to food, cooking, and exercise, I looked at a range of popular diet programs. Weight Watchers stood out as one that struck a good balance between dieting and learning more about what goes into the foods we eat.

After conducting an in-depth analysis of the program, I decided that I wanted to share my thoughts from a medical perspective to help you make a decision on whether this is the weight loss program for you.

What Is the Weight Watchers Program?

Weight Watchers logo
Our rating:
4.3
stars
  • SmartPoints system tailored to your unique needs
  • Food, water, and weight loss trackers
  • In-person and virtual workshops are available
  • 24/7 expert and community support
Learn More
Pros
  • checkmark
    Created and backed by nutrition experts
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    Encourages followers to transform their lifestyle
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    No foods are off-limits
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    Provides dieting motivation from expert coaches and other users
Cons
  • checkmark
    A relatively expensive weight loss program
  • checkmark
    The points system may not be flexible enough for some
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    Must pay extra for in-person meetings
  • checkmark
    Harder to include healthy fats in your diet

Weight Watchers (WW) is a weight loss program that makes good nutrition simple while allowing you to continue eating many of the foods you love. Founded in 1963 as a weekly weight loss group for Jean Nidetch and her friends, the program is based on nutritional and behavioral science, which helps followers develop a better relationship with food. 

It focuses on making long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes, which is something many of my healthcare patients struggle to do on their own. You can access the program through an app, in-person meetings, and a combination of both, which helps you track your food intake and activity levels, find new healthy recipes, and get support from others in the WW community.

Why I’ve Decided to Test Out Weight Watchers

Many of my patients enjoy eating out at restaurants and sitting on the couch with their favorite takeouts, meaning they find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. 

The main issue is that the diets they’ve previously tried have all been too restrictive for their needs, and they, therefore, end up falling at the first hurdle. I also regularly recommend that my patients add a form of exercise into their routine, but most don’t know where to start.

While searching the internet for a program that would allow my patients to continue eating delicious foods, I finally decided on Weight Watchers, which promises to help followers make long-term lifestyle changes. I selected the Core plan and decided to look closely at what it has to offer.

Weight Watchers Programs

While signing up, I was given the opportunity to choose between 2 membership types: Core and Premium. The Core membership provides a complete toolkit in one easy-to-use weight loss app, with features including:

  • Unique science-based nutrition plan
  • Food, activity, and weight trackers
  • Over 13,000 healthy recipes
  • Barcode scanner
  • Restaurant searcher
  • Online members-only community

Premium membership offers all of the same features, plus the opportunity to attend in-person and virtual workshops led by an expert WW coach. You’ll meet weekly to learn healthy lifestyle tips and behavior change techniques and receive support from other community members.

Both diet programs also offer a diabetes-tailored plan to help those with the condition control their blood sugar levels while losing weight. 

How Does the Weight Watchers Program Work?

After clicking the “Join Now” button on the WW website or app, you’ll be asked to choose between a Core and Premium membership. You can select memberships for either 1, 3, or 10 months, with the cost per month getting cheaper the longer the plan you choose.

Next, you will create your account, where you’ll enter personal details such as your current weight, target weight, and your goal, whether you want to lose weight or simply find a way to eat a healthier diet. 

You’ll also be asked to share your dietary restrictions and food preferences, including how often you eat fruits, vegetables, eggs, and dairy, along with your favorite cuisines, which helps the app match you with a specific plan.

Each tailored plan provides you with a daily points budget to stick to, along with trackers on the app for your food intake, exercise, and weight loss progress. What I liked about this especially is that followers can monitor their SmartPoints budget throughout the day and easily input the foods they eat with WW’s barcode scanner and extensive food library. 

Weight Watchers SmartPoints review 

One thing that stood out to me about this app is that it provides you with a unique set of  SmartPoints. Every food item has a certain number of points, which are calculated using advanced nutrition science based on the sugars, fiber, fats, protein, carbohydrates, and calories that they contain. 

Those with high levels of saturated fat and sugar have higher point values, whereas those foods that are low fat, high in proteins, and fiber-rich have lower values.

The plan also offers over 200 ZeroPoint foods, such as chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, beans, and more. From a medical perspective, I wasn’t originally sure about this option, as losing weight requires being in a calorie deficit, and you’re allowed to eat as many free foods as you like in a day.

However, as long as you are careful with portion sizes, you should be able to lose weight while following the points plan. You can use your daily points budget however you like, which means that I don’t have to advise my patients to avoid those Sunday brunches or birthday celebrations with friends.

What Are the Main Features of the Weight Watchers Program?

From tools to keep you on track to community support, I explored all of the features that WW has to offer to give you an overview of the things that you could experience as a member. My thoughts on the main features of the program are summarized below:

#1 Tracking tools

The WW app offers a range of tracking tools to make your weight loss journey easier. For instance, you’ll be able to track the food you eat to ensure that you’re staying within your daily points budget.

It also allows you to keep track of how much water you’re drinking, as staying hydrated is essential for fat loss. Sleep tracking is another essential tool that keeps you on the right path, providing you with simple sleep-better strategies and techniques. I liked that you can also sync the app with your fitness watch to count your daily steps, workouts, and activity levels.

#2 Healthy recipes

With over 13,000 SmartPoint-friendly recipes on offer, you won’t struggle to find a delicious meal to enjoy no matter the amount of cooking experience you’ve got. The app has a database of recipes that is constantly updated with new ideas, along with a recipe builder to easily add your own favorite meals.

#3 Mindfulness tools

One feature I particularly loved about the Weight Watchers program is that they’ve partnered with Breethe, a mindfulness app that allows users to improve their overall wellness as well as their physical health. It offers exclusive meditations and sleep sounds that keep you calm, focused, and in the right mindset to embark on your health journey.

#4 Expert support

Having access to 24/7 coaching through the app allows you to connect with Weight Watchers coaches who can answer any question you have at any time. This is particularly useful for my patients who don’t have time to schedule regular appointments at the surgery.

The Connect portal, managed by behavior change expert Dr. Allison Grupski, is also a hidden gem, providing that extra boost of motivation needed to get through the day.

4 Benefits of Weight Watchers

Here are 4 elements of the WW program that I feel will make your journey to sustainable weight loss much easier:

#1 Allows me to enjoy a wide variety of food

Something that’s great about Weight Watchers is that it offers a huge variety of recipes for users to choose from, which means that you’ll never get bored eating the same old meals. 

After browsing the library,  it became clear that my patients would be able to enjoy some of their old favorite meals with just a few tweaks, as they could be easily tracked to suit their unique SmartPoints budget.  As long as they are relatively low in points, you can eat virtually any food that you pick up in the grocery store and can even occasionally join in with a healthy dessert.

#2 Offers a ton of information about healthy living

The app provides a whole host of coaching, workshops, and meal ideas that offer guidance on how to make better food choices, integrate exercise into your week, and keep the right mindset toward healthy living. 

I also found myself looking forward to the app’s educational Weekly Topic. Each week, the WW team chooses a theme that will help members follow the program more effectively, which could include anything from taking control of your actions to the best cardio for weight loss.

#3 Has an evidence-based approach to dieting

If you’re looking for a quick-fix, crash diet to help you quickly lose weight, then WW isn’t the program for you. It instead uses nutritional and behavioral science to create a weight loss plan that allows you to slowly and sustainably lose weight while allowing you to make long-lasting, healthier lifestyle changes.

For instance, depending on your starting weight, chosen plan, and other lifestyle factors, WW experts suggest that members should expect to lose 0.5–2lbs per week, which was consistent with my experience.

The SmartPoints system takes into account not only calories but also all the other nutrients in the foods we eat to ensure that the tracking feature is as accurate as possible and that we get all the essential vitamins and minerals during our weight loss journey.

#4 I was impressed by the WW community

Along with the expert support features, you are also able to connect with others on similar journeys through the members-only social community. This is a positive space created to share inspiration, tips, and tricks for making the program work. 

As many of my patients are busy parents, I particularly liked the Working Parents and Early Birds groups.

4 Downsides of the Weight Watchers Diet

Although I think that Weight Watchers can aid in weight loss, I don’t think that the program is suitable for everyone. There are some aspects of the program that could be improved, which I’ve explored in more detail below:

#1 You have to track every meal and snack

As a doctor and someone who is always busy, one element of the diet that I’m not keen on is having to track everything you eat into the app each day.

Even when using the barcode scanner, this may start to get tedious, particularly on those days when you’re busy working or looking after your children.

#2 Might lead to a fixation on points

With the unique SmartPoints system, the WW program encourages followers to eat mainly nutrient-dense foods and does take calories into account. However, you can still eat an unlimited amount of ZeroPoint foods, which may confuse some people as they do still contain calories.

This may lead to you piling these foods onto your plate at each meal, actually causing you to go over your daily calorie budget without even realizing it. If you decide to leave the WW Weight Watchers program, you may not properly understand how to stay within your calories, making weight management much more difficult.

#3 It’s not flexible enough

I also found the points system quite restrictive in terms of the foods you can eat, especially those that I would usually recommend to enjoy as part of a healthy diet.

For example, I often suggest eating avocados for breakfast, which keeps you full and boosts your digestive health due to their high fiber and omega-3 fatty acid content. However, they have a high point value, meaning that it can be difficult to include them in your diet without restricting them for the rest of the day.

#4 Requires huge financial investment

WW does offer two subscription packages at different prices, depending on if you’d like to attend workshops or not. However, both options are expensive at more than $40 per month, which may be out of budget for many.

What Foods Can You Eat on Weight Watchers?

Something that impressed me about Weight Watchers was the variety of foods you can eat – not many items are strictly off-limits as long as it fits within your daily SmartPoints budget.

However, the system does encourage followers to eat mainly whole, unprocessed foods for weight loss that are high in lean protein and fiber to keep you fuller for longer and stop hunger pangs while dieting. Some of the best foods to eat while following this diet program include:

  • Chicken breast
  • Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils
  • Fish, including cod, salmon, sardines, and haddock
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Leafy green vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus
  • Eggs
  • Oatmeal

What Food to Avoid on Weight Watchers?

Despite being able to fit any food of your choice into the SmartPoint budget, I found that followers are discouraged from eating foods containing large amounts of saturated fats, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. 

The program also advises you to steer clear of highly processed and convenience foods, as they are usually packed with additives like salt that raise your blood pressure and contribute to obesity. Where possible, you should therefore try to avoid:

  • Processed meats, like hot dogs and bacon
  • Candy
  • Baked goods
  • Ready meals
  • Sugary drinks
  • Chips

Does Weight Watchers Work?

If followed properly, the Weight Watchers team suggests that you should lose between 0.5 and 2lbs per week. After conducting some further research, I found this claim to be true, as the diet has already helped thousands of people lose weight.

A 2020 study found that those on Weight Watchers were able to lose an average of 8% of their body weight after 6 months. Interestingly, one-third of participants lost an impressive 10% or more of their body weight too. 

However, it is common to hit a weight loss plateau after following the diet for a few months, meaning that you may struggle to keep dropping the pounds at the same rate. You may also find it hard to track every bite of food that you eat day after day, which can lead to you falling off track.

Weight Watchers Real User Reviews

When considering starting a new weight loss program, it’s important to look at reviews from a range of customers with different goals, lifestyles, and food preferences. This will help you get a fully-rounded view of the program, helping you make a judgment on whether it is right for you.

Here are some reviews from customers that you may find useful before starting your WW journey:

Weight Watchers Cost

Although the price to become a member may seem expensive, studies have shown that it is a cost-effective program overall. This is because it helped followers save significant amounts of money on the future healthcare costs that they would need to pay if they remained at a higher weight.

Here is a cost breakdown of the two WW membership options.

CorePremium
Price per month$43$65
Food and activity trackingYesYes
Weekly workshopsNoYes
Weekly behavior change techniquesNoYes

FAQs

Is Weight Watchers worth it?

Research shows that Weight Watchers is an effective program for boosting weight loss as it provides advice about diet and physical activity, motivation, and group support. However, it is an expensive program, so it may not be worth the cost for those on tighter budgets.

Is the Weight Watchers program free?

There are sometimes promotions or discounts on offer from Weight Watchers, but you do have to pay for both the Core and Premium memberships, which cost $43 and $65, respectively.

How do I join Weight Watchers?

You can sign up for Weight Watchers through their official website. Here, you’ll be able to choose between a Core and Premium membership, with Premium offering in-person and virtual workshops along with all of the Core weight loss features.

Comparison Table

Comparison Winner: Tuby
4.6
stars
4.3
stars
4.1
stars
Brand
Tuby
Weight Watchers
Noom
Pros

Accessible for all abilities

Routines can be completed anywhere, at any time

No equipment needed

Can compete against friends for extra motivation

Created and backed by nutrition experts

No foods are off-limits

Encourages followers to transform their lifestyle

Provides dieting motivation from expert coaches and other users

No restrictions on food groups

Focuses on sustainable weight loss rather than a quick crash diet

You can adjust your goals and food preferences

Cons

Premium features cost more

A relatively expensive weight loss program

Points system may not be flexible enough for some

Must pay extra for in-person meetings

Harder to include healthy fats in your diet

Daily food logging can be time-consuming

Recommends weighing yourself daily

Relatively expensive

How I Tested Weight Watchers

While reviewing Weight Watchers, I tested it against 4 distinct factors to provide you with an honest look at the program as a whole. See how it scored in each category below:

Quality 8/10

The Weight Watchers program is based on thorough research into nutrition and behavior science, which makes it a high-quality program for those looking to lose weight sustainably.

However, it can be slightly too restrictive at times, which is why I knocked 2 points off.

Effectiveness 9/10

When followed as suggested, Weight Watchers is an effective program for helping you to lose weight and build a healthier relationship with food in general. It helps followers reach their goals by making long-lasting lifestyle changes, which is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight in the long term.

Price 7/10

At $43 per month, the Core WW plan is pretty expensive compared to other weight loss programs. However, this includes not only evidence-based food recommendations but also educates users on how to change their lives for the better. The Premium program with face-to-face workshops only costs an extra $22, which is great value, in my opinion.

Brand reputation 9/10

Brand reputation is important to consider when it comes to managing your health and wellness, as reputable companies tend to offer trustworthy services that can help you meet your goals. Weight Watchers mostly have a positive reputation with their customers, who enjoy the way that the program provides them with the guidance to integrate healthy eating into their lifestyle.

A Word From a Nutritionist

There are a variety of commercial weight loss programs that take different approaches to weight loss, but they all help you to maintain a caloric deficit. This is where you burn more calories than you consume.

To lower your calorie intake and prevent overeating, try to consume foods that are high in protein and fiber, two nutrients that increase satiety and keep you fuller for longer.

If you find yourself experiencing feelings of guilt around food, frequently restrict your food intake, or are preoccupied with your weight, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare professional as soon as possible. These behaviors may be indicative of eating disorders or a disordered relationship with food.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d recommend Weight Watchers to anyone wanting to develop a healthier mindset towards food and exercise while also losing weight. It’s important to keep in mind that the program involves tracking everything you eat, so it may not work if you don’t stick to this properly.

Both membership programs are also quite pricey, but from a healthcare perspective, I think that this is worth the investment for the support and guidance that you receive throughout.

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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: August 22, 2023
14 min read 531 Views 0 Reviews
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