Updated: Mar 14
This post was adapted from episode 25: Weight Watchers (WW®) Dietitian Review of the Nourished & Free podcast.
For more on this Weight Watchers Review, listen to the full episode.
Weight Watchers Review: What's Weight Watchers?
What is the Weight Watchers diet and how does Weight Watchers work? Let's dive into the system of Weight Watchers, as well as a Weight Watchers review from the perspective of a registered dietitian.
The Weight Watchers diet is a restrictive diet aimed to help its customers lose weight. The WW diet uses a point system to attach value to food, which is designed to help the customer with maintaining a deficit in their food intake to achieve weight loss.
(psssst! If you are a WW expert and you're really just here because you're wondering WHY Weight Watchers does not work, click here to jump down on the page and get to the good stuff)
About Weight Watchers
To bring some backstory into this Weight Watchers review, it's important to note the Weight Watchers history. According to WW, the Weight Watchers diet started in the 1960s as a result of a woman who decided she was "tired of fad diets" and wanted to do something that worked & incorporated community. Within 4 years, the first Weight Watchers cookbook launched, and she was starting a diet revolution.
She was not qualified to give diet advice. She was a 60's housewife who was sick of losing and regaining weight, and she knew that the women around her were tired of it, too. She capitalized on this idea. Within 17 years, she made $71 million off of her idea, after selling it to Heinz Co. By 1999, it was sold for $735 million.
Who Owns Weight Watchers Now?
Weight Watchers is now publicly traded on the stock market with many 'owners' capitalizing off of this weight loss program.
Who is WW?
In 2018, Weight Watchers rebranded to WW. For those who are confused by the different titles and wondering "is WW still Weight Watchers?" the answer is yes, it is still Weight Watchers.
They claimed the rebrand was to center on their focus of wellness.
According to WW, the rebrand was to:
"...announce a renewed purpose: We inspire healthy habits for real life. For people, families, communities, the world—for everyone.
The rebrand reflected WW’s commitment to becoming the world’s partner in wellness. While WW remains the global leader in weight loss, it now also welcomes anyone who wants to build healthy habits—whether that means eating better, moving more, developing a positive mindset, focusing on weight…or all of the above"
The rebrand also happened around the same time that movements like body positivity, Health At Every Size, weight inclusivity, and non-diet approaches were becoming more popular and desired. If you ask me, the rebrand was an attempt to stay relevant. As we continue to dive deep into this Weight Watchers review, keep in mind how much the company has been making in terms of $$.
How Weight Watchers Works
About Weight Watchers diet: WW is a weight-loss program that uses a points system to allegedly help individuals make "healthier food choices" and "maintain a healthy lifestyle". So what does the Weight Watchers Diet consist of? Here's how Weight Watchers works:
Points system: Weight Watchers assigns a point value to different foods based on their calorie, fat, and fiber content. Users are given a daily points budget, which they can use to make food choices. The program encourages the consumption of some nutrient-dense foods (such as fruits and vegetables) which have lower point values, while limiting the consumption of high-calorie, high-fat foods which have higher point values (using up the point allowance more quickly).
Tracking: Users track their food intake and points using the Weight Watchers app or website. The program also encourages users to track their physical activity.
Meetings: Weight Watchers offers in-person meetings or virtual meetings where users can connect with other members and receive support and guidance from a trained leader.
Weekly weigh-ins: Users are encouraged to weigh themselves weekly and track their progress.
Rewards: Weight Watchers offers rewards for reaching certain milestones, such as losing a certain amount of weight or tracking food intake consistently.
Weight Watchers also offers personalized coaching services and access to additional resources, such as recipes and workout plans.
The program claims to be sustainable and promote long-term healthy habits rather than quick-fix solutions.
Weight Watchers Points; The Weight Watchers Point System
To give you a full Weight Watchers review, it's important to understand the points system of Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers points are calculated based on the nutritional content of foods including calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. The program assigns a point value to each food item based on its nutritional value with nutrient-dense foods having lower point values and less nutritious foods having higher point values.
Weight Watchers also offers ZeroPoint foods, which are foods that do not need to be tracked or counted towards a user's daily points budget.
How Weight Watchers Points Are Calculated
Here's how Weight Watchers calculates points for foods:
Calories: The higher the calorie content, the higher the point value.
Saturated fat: Foods that are high in saturated fat will have higher point values.
Sugar: Foods that are high in sugar will have higher point values.
Protein: Foods that are high in protein will have lower point values
Weight Watchers Points Calculator
To figure out how many Weight Watchers points a food has, Weight Watchers uses the following formula:
Points = (calories/50) + (saturated fat/12) - (protein/10) + (sugar/10)
If you're like me, you're thinking, "how is this company so profitable if there is so much math involved?" There's not. The app and the website do this calculation automatically. But I wanted to show you how Weight Watchers points are calculated, just in case you're curious.
But just for fun, let's see how a glass of wine would fare on this diet.
How Many Weight Watchers Points in a Glass of Wine? 🍷
Glass of red wine:
Carbohydrates: 4 grams
Protein: 0 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Sugar: 1 grams
Now using the WW formula: (125/50) + (0/12) - (0/10) + (1/10).
Reduced, 2.5 + .1 = 2.6 points, 3 points if you round.
Therefore, a 5 oz glass of red wine has 3 Weight Watchers points.
To put this into perspective, the average WW customer has a budget of 23 points a day. So 1 glass of red wine is using over 10% of the budget towards food for the day.
I'm not sure if the WW app does say a glass of red wine is 3 WW points, I'm purely doing the calculation manually. I suspect they would add more points to this based on the fact that it is alcohol and they likely want to discourage users from alcohol consumption, but I am not certain of this.
Weight Watchers Zero Point Foods
Before we jump more into the Weight Watchers review, let's talk about Weight Watchers 0 point foods. There are zero point foods on WW that are essentially "free" to eat. In an attempt to eat more food but still stay within the allowance, the Weight Watchers 0 point foods are often times what people bulk up on and are generally low in calories and high in nutrients.
The Weight Watchers 0 Point Food List is:
Fat-free yogurt and cottage cheese
Fish and shellfish
Tofu and tempeh
Corn and popcorn
Beans, peas, and lentils
Some other things on The Weight Watchers zero point food list:
Weight Watchers Zero Point Snacks
Many people try to find WW zero point snacks to curb their appetite. What starts out as an innocent attempt to stay within a points allowance can easily trickle into a disordered eating habit of having foods that only provide volume and do not provide nutrition to satisfy the body.
Weight Watchers Plans
The latest Weight Watchers program is called myWW and it assigns points to foods based on a more individualized approach. Users can choose from three plans: Green, Blue, and Purple. Each plan has a different number of ZeroPoint foods, which are foods that do not need to be tracked or counted towards a user's daily points budget. The plans also differ in terms of the daily points budget, with the Green plan having the fewest points and the Purple plan having the most.
Which WW Plan is Best for Me?
There are a few different Weight Watchers diet plans to choose from that are designed to help the dieter either lose weight or maintain their weight.
Weight Watchers Green Plan - Most flexible
Zero Point foods: around 100
Points Budget: high
Emphasis: Tracking all foods and portion control with flexibility to indulge.
Weight Watchers Blue Plan - Moderately flexible
Zero Point foods: around 200
Points Budget: moderate
Emphasis: Eating more lean protein and less saturated fat. Structured plan but moderate points budget.
Weight Watchers Purple Plan - Least flexible
Zero Point foods: around 300
Points Budget: low
Emphasis: Whole foods and minimally processed foods; encourages building meals around WW Zero Point foods to help with satiety and weight loss.
Weight Watchers Food
For users looking to make Weight Watchers meals, they can purchase Weight Watchers frozen meals as well as look up many Weight Watchers recipes, Weight Watchers dinner recipes, and look up ideas for Weight Watchers snacks... all through the WW app, website, and magazine, of course.
How Much Does Weight Watchers Cost Per Month?
According to their website, Weight Watchers cost starts at $42.50/month and goes up to $109.50/month. Don't be surprised if you get hit with an advertisement for Weight Watchers free trial, though.
Weight Watchers Meetings
There are physical Weight Watchers locations all across the world for Weight Watchers meetings to take place.
Typically, meetings are led by a trained WW coach who facilitates discussions, provides information on eating habits, and offers support. Members are also encouraged to participate in group activities, such as group weigh-ins and group exercise classes. The meetings usually last about 30 to 45 minutes and take place once a week.
Weight Watchers Careers
Who Are Weight Watchers Coaches, and are Weight Watchers Coaches Certified?
Weight Watchers coaches do not have to be qualified healthcare professionals. They are certified through WW's own certification aka employee training program. Many are past and present WW users. And just so you get an idea of how much money is in this industry (which should be a red flag, btw), according to Glassdoor, the average Weight Watchers coach salary is over $93,000/year.
In my work, the biggest harm that Weight Watchers has ever done to women is their coaches saying stupid sh*t they shouldn't say. This wouldn't be an issue if they were qualified healthcare professionals (which means they wouldn't be working for WW in the first place).
Why Weight Watchers is Bad
*cracks knuckles* Okay. Let's dig in to the meat of this Weight Watchers review.
Here's why Weight Watchers works: It's all about restriction.
But also, here's why Weight Watchers doesn't work: It's all about restriction.
Hear me out. No matter how hard they try to say they are a lifestyle, they're not. Weight Watchers is a diet through and through and no amount of rebranding and tossing around the words "wellness" and "lifestyle" will ever change that.
Because of the restrictive methods, people will typically lose weight initially. But, the rebound weight gain is not far behind and we know this to be true because in general, diets don't work.
Because the weight was lost in the first place with WW, women (and everyone else) keep coming back to the program. They try and get back to "how it once was" (spoiler alert: that's not going to happen). All this does is frustrate the users and put more money in the pockets of Weight Watchers.
The Dark Side of Weight Watchers
I've got some beef that I want to share in this Weight Watchers review.
While this won't happen to everyone, assigning points values to food creates an all-or-nothing mentality around food. Once the budget is spent, the user is prone to say "what the hell", and go crazy on anything and everything (most likely the foods high in points).
From a dietitian's perspective, I also don't like the fear and avoidance that is being encouraged around the high point foods. If you remember from how they calculate points, foods will have a higher point value if they are high in calories, saturated fat, sugar, and low in protein. While I agree that those are typically not the most nutritious of foods, foods like peanut butter end up being high in points which is very nutritious! Peanut butter provides a ridiculous amount of vitamins and minerals that many people don't get enough of as it is. Additionally, having fear around a food is more unhealthy than just eating the d*mn thing.
Another issue I take with WW is that the coaches cause harm left and right by encouraging dangerous diet tactics in order to help members stay under their points budget. Don't believe? Read these Weight Watchers horror stories.
I've also heard on multiple accounts that members can get a "lifetime membership", meaning they get their membership for free if they can stay within a 2 lb range of their goal weight for 6 weeks.
...I'm sorry, what?
Your body weight can fluctuate up to 5 lbs on any given day, just because. The 2 lb limit within 6 weeks is potentially the biggest scam I've ever heard of and can cause a massive obsession with the scale (which cannot measure a single thing besides your pull on gravity).
Additionally, I would like to address the recent news about Weight Watchers and Ozempric. I think this news is actually really telling that Weight Watchers doesn't work.
Weight Watchers and Ozempric
Weight Watchers has acquired Sequence, a telehealth service that can prescribe drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic. This is a clear sign to me that it's the beginning of the end for WW. If Weight Watcher's branding is all about being a "sustainable lifestyle", then why do they bother with weight loss drugs?
This is a bad move on their part, even though I can appreciate the business-decision making that went behind it in our capitalist system. But this move is showing is that Weight Loss is a weight loss company after all, and they can't help people lose weight without the help of drugs.
Weight Watchers vs Other Diets
Weight Watchers vs Noom
Weight Watchers or Noom? You already know my thoughts on Noom. I think these are both terrible ideas. They are honestly very similar in the whole business model of tracking food, offering coaches, throwing in fancy words like 'mindset', and restricting food intake.
Weight Watchers vs MyFitnessPal
Weight Watchers or MyFitnessPal? MyFitnessPal is a Weight Watchers like app for the calorie counters. Both tend to encourage obsession with tracking food intake. MyFitnessPal is simply an app and does not offer a program like WW does, though MyFitnessPal does attempt to give you recommendations on your calorie limit based on your measurements and goals.
Weight Watchers vs Counting Calories
Weight Watchers or counting calories? Both are unsustainable ways to live the rest of your life. Do you really want to count points or calories forever?
Weight Watchers vs Jenny Craig
Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig? Jenny Craig relies heavily on their own pre-packaged food products, and focuses on foods that are low-fat and low-calorie. Weight Watchers does not rely on pre-packaged foods and focuses on a variety of nutrients to calculate a point value for each food. Jenny Craig users typically eat around 1200 calories. WW users are focused on points rather than calories. Jenny Craig can cost upwards of $400/month.
Weight Watchers vs keto
Weight Watchers or keto? Both keto and WW are restrictive lifestyles that are unrealistic for most individuals. The Keto diet does not shy away from high fat foods, while WW does. However, both keto and WW restrict carbohydrates.
Weight Watchers vs low carb
Weight Watchers or low carb? Weight Watchers is more than just a low carb diet, though it does generally penalize you for having a high carbohydrate intake. In either case, an individual will need to consider if they can sustain either a) counting points the rest of their life, or b) avoiding carbs the rest of their life.
Weight Watchers vs Nutrisystem
Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem? Nutrisystem is a diet that relies on prepackaged meals and snacks. The difference between Weight Watchers versus Nutrisystem is that Weight Watchers does not focus on prepackaged foods.
Nutrisystem costs around $300/month while WW is less expensive with the most expensive plan being just over $100/month. This is because Nutrisystem is also supplying food for you, while WW is not. You may end up spending more with WW after factoring in the cost of groceries.
Both of these choices are unsustainable as both diets are focused on weight loss through food restriction and require the user to sacrifice a great deal of their life towards their weight loss efforts.
Weight Watchers with Diabetes
Another aspect of this Weight Watchers review is the option that Weight Watchers has for those with type 2 diabetes. Weight Watchers claims it is "a clinically backed" method for those with Diabetes Mellitus, but is it?
The clinical trial used for the diabetes plan and discussed on their website was funded by... guess who... Weight Watchers. Let's talk about what they actually found.
Allegedly, they report a significant reduction in the HgA1C values of the participants - which is debatably the most important value we should be measuring in a study like this. But can we really trust that, considering who funded the study? Considering the study wasn't longer than 6 months? Considering this is the only research on their diabetes plan?
Another point I want to bring up on this Weight Watchers review about those using Weight Watchers with Diabetes is that managing Diabetes requires medical nutrition therapy (MNT). Registered dietitians are the only nutritionists who are qualified to provide MNT, and WW does not employ registered dietitians to personally review their customer's food intake and give tailored recommendations.
Weight Watchers Failure Stories; Real Weight Watchers Feedback
Weight Watchers is the #1 diet that my clients say messed up their relationship with food. Optavia is a close 2nd.
Here's just a few things that my clients and other women I've connected with have said about Weight Watchers: 👇
Something I've heard from now 2 different clients of mine is that Weight Watchers caused an obsession with peanut butter. They couldn't keep it in the house without binge eating a half of a jar in one sitting. I was curious about this commonality and asked, "does WW assign a high point value to peanut butter?". Sure enough, the answer was "yes". If that isn't evidence of restriction leading to binge eating, I don't know what is.
Weight Watchers Review: Overall Thoughts
Who is Weight Watchers Good For?
I'm honestly not sure who Weight Watchers is good for. Weight watchers is an expensive diet program completely focused on making people lose weight. Having you weigh-in every week (even making you weigh-in in front of others) and encouraging micromanagement of food is not good for mental health. As you can see from the photos above, Weight Watchers is creating an all-or-nothing mentality around food in many women.
With such a high value put on the number on the scale, Weight Watchers is also facilitating an unhealthy obsession with the scale and with one's body weight (they're called Weight Watchers for crying out loud).
What Weight Watchers really does wrong is that women are now afraid of foods that are high in points, even though those foods can still be exactly what their body needs. For example - sandwiches, caesar salad, pizza, and beef are all high in points for Weight Watchers, but these foods all come in handy on many occasions. There's no need to be afraid of them, especially if they will provide the nutrients needed to satisfy you and prevent a binge from happening later on.
What Should I Do Besides Weight Watchers?
Rather than trying the same-ol restrictive methods that suck your wallet dry for the rest of your life, make you hate yourself, create a war with the scale and your body, and cause obsession over food, we need to get into the root issues behind our struggles with food. To learn more about how to do this, sign up for my free 2-day event all about how to Conquer Food Stress Once and For All.
If you need help transitioning off of Weight Watchers, or were previously considering it but now are unsure of what to do, consider healing your relationship with food with an intuitive eating coach by applying for my group coaching program.
Interested in reading other diet reviews? Click the links below to learn more.