WW (Formerly Known as Weight Watchers) Review and Guide

an image of a woman getting weighed, and meals that are weight watchers approved
Unlike many other restrictive fad diets, WW focuses on whole foods, like Asian-style beef and broccoli (left), and even dessert, like chocolate chip cake mix cookie bars (right).Shutterstock; Masterfile; Shutterstock

WW is the modern evolution of the popular weight loss plan, formerly known as Weight Watchers. The weight loss company began more than 50 years ago in founder Jean Nidetch’s home, intended to support friends seeking dietary support.

Currently, WW remains one of the most popular diets in the world, with 4 million subscribers as of November 2023, and an international roster of doctors, researchers, and other experts on its scientific advisory board.

Rebranding to Work With the Modern World

Rather than traditional “quick fix” approaches to weight loss, WW focuses on a slow and steady — and ultimately, more accessible — plan. The WW system has realigned the program to match the current needs of subscribers, shifting its emphasis to promote and encourage overall wellness, while creating and maintaining a balanced diet based on moderation and satisfaction.

The heart of the WW program: Curating an attainable approach to weight loss that can be individualized to suit each subscriber’s unique needs. “There’s something for everyone,” according to the WW website. Whether health goals are centered primarily around weight loss, incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into a daily diet, or to manage conditions such as the WW plan tailored for those with diabetes to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss, WW has a program to address its members’ lifestyle, including a newly launched program for those on prescription weight management medication.

Latest Launch: Prescription Medication Program

WW recently unveiled the WeightWatchers? GLP-1 Program. Designed to support the unique biological and lifestyle needs of those taking prescription weight loss medication, the program takes the approach that, “you shouldn’t have to choose between looking and feeling good.” For some, long-lasting results may not be attainable without prescription medications.

This weight loss medication?program option goes beyond simply integrating healthy lifestyle changes. Developed by a team of obesity specialists and behavior-change experts, the newly launched program is targeted to address the needs of those with biological factors that could be blocking weight loss. It might be the right fit for members seeking an alternative that includes prescription weight management medication, including GLP-1s.

“GLP-1 agonists reduce hunger and slow down digestion, so you feel full more quickly and stay full longer, helping with weight loss,” says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT of NutritionTwins. “They are designed to mimic the GLP-1 hormone, a hormone that the body produces naturally when food is consumed that signals the brain that you are full.”

The science behind the WW GLP-1 program is marketed as a new approach to losing weight. Think less “food noise” or intrusive thoughts centered around eating and quick weight loss. Also included is one-on-one support, insurance coordination, and potential access to FDA-approved weight management medication, including GLP-1s.

Based on 5,377 members who have been on WeightWatchers + Medication Access program?for at least 26 weeks, the average reported body weight lost was 15.17 percent, and the top quartile lost an average of 19.90 percent of body weight.

Participants can choose from a range of plans that are accessible, affordable and flexible, offering WW signature services combined with board-certified clinician care. Plus, clinicians can provide access to prescription GLP-1 medications, which may help to support healthy habits, increase satiety, and decrease food noise.

A Comprehensive, Actionable Approach to Achieve Weight Loss Goals

By encouraging healthier food choices, users may find it easier to incorporate more whole, unprocessed foods and key nutrients into their day-to-day routines. Better yet, this may help subscribers stick with the plan, without feeling as if they’re making sacrifices.

WW allows subscribers to “lose weight, not the foods you love” by being able to cook their favorite foods and enjoying dining out. Experts agree that an emphasis on healthier choices, rather than feeling restricted, can help users stick to a plan for longer-term success when it comes to weight management.

“It seems people can sustain the plan for a longer period of time, as it’s not restrictive. You can eat what you want and focus on specific caloric needs,” say the NutritionTwins. “We like that WW does encourage nourishing foods versus calorie-free foods with an emphasis on fiber. Little changes [like these] can help maintain weight management over time.”

The Core of WW: Points-Based System

Based on your lifestyle and goals, WW focuses on cultivating healthier food choices. The Points? system gives you a daily budget of points you can use toward foods you eat.

Each food’s points value takes into consideration not only calories, but also added sugars, fiber, protein, and fats. Every food has a point value, so no food is off-limits as long as you stay within budget.

“It promotes the inclusion of a wide variety of foods; therefore it supports balance — all foods are considered ‘legal,’ to avoid feeling deprived,” says Susan Kraus, RD, of the Institute for Weight Management in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Included within the points-based structure of dietary guidelines are ZeroPoint foods, which play a key role in the system. These foods support the feeling of fullness, while being rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as fiber and protein. No matter your budget, each user has access to a list of over 200 “ZeroPoint” foods that you don’t have to measure or track.

ZeroPoints: Pro or Pitfall?

ZeroPoint foods (which, unsurprisingly, have 0 Points?) serve as the foundation of healthy eating, as they’re fiber- and protein-rich. Subscribers are allowed to eat as much as they like of these foods, which are thought to support overall health and keep you full.

Some examples include: Starchy veggies, fat-free yogurt and cottage cheese, eggs, corn and popcorn, fruit, poultry, fish and shellfish, tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, and peas.

According to the experts, however, zero points doesn’t necessarily equate to zero calories. And, there may be a risk of overeating ZeroPoint foods. As with finding balance in life, practicing moderation is also key when it comes to diet.

“Even with following the ZeroPoints plan, you could still overeat; some people can gain weight on it,” say the Nutrition Twins. “ZeroPoints are not 0 calories.”

How Accessible and Convenient Is WW?

WW was ranked the No. 1 “best weight loss diet” in U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 diet rankings, as well as No. 8 in best diets overall. The reason? WW is convenient and easy to stick to on a day-to-day basis.

“WW is an excellent program because it focuses on portion sizes, is well balanced, and puts the responsibility on the participant to make the right choices, which is really where it belongs, because you are responsible for your success,” says Barbara Schmidt, RD, a nutritionist in private practice in New Canaan, Connecticut. “You need to be able to live and eat different foods. You can have that bagel or dessert, just not every day.”

As the points system gives participants the flexibility to choose what to eat and when, users can quickly utilize the WW app or website to determine how many points are in a food (the database contains information on about 300,000 foods).

The WW App: Your Digital Companion

Designed for optimal ease, the WW app offers a range of options, including recipes, food, weight and activity tracking, science-based nutritional plans, barcode scanner, restaurant search, and a database of 200+ no-track ZeroPoint? foods.

Or, subscribers can create an at-home meal from one of the website’s 12,000-plus recipes, such as the following daily plan.

A 1-Day WW Diet Sample Menu to Consider

Based on a SmartPoints budget of 23, a sample day?might consist of:

  • Breakfast: Irish steel-cut oats with pomegranate and pistachios
  • Lunch: Honey mustard chicken salad whole-wheat sandwich and 1 ounce of pretzels
  • Snacks: Parmesan-herb popcorn and apple slices drizzled with a ? tablespoon of honey and cinnamon
  • Dinner: Asian fish and veggie bowl

Additionally, there are personal coaching options to help support and reach weight-loss goals. The aim: keeping motivation and accountability high with the help of an expert.

There’s a supportive members-only digital community, as well as weekly behavior change techniques; coach-led workshops; in-person and virtual support, which can be beneficial for those seeking a program with accountability and ease. Plans start at $10 per month for the first 10 months; consult the WW website?for specific pricing details.

Benefits of WW

WW isn’t a fad diet. The programs help people lose weight and maintain the loss through lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet, portion control, exercise, and access to a community that can help keep you accountable.

According to the Nutrition Twins, some of the WW benefits include individualized, custom-curated meal plans that are easily accessible for any user’s lifestyle.

WW pioneered the support-group diet concept, and research shows having that connection can help with weight loss. A review of qualitative studies found that continued accountability through group meetings played a significant role in successful weight loss.

A meta-analysis found people were more successful in sticking to their weight loss program if they had a social support system in place, whether in the form of group sessions, peer coaches, or a “buddy” program. One study cited in the meta-analysis found people with a support system in place were 37 percent more likely to maintain their weight loss compared with those who tried to do it alone.

WW Workshops?(formerly known as meetings) are available seven days a week at thousands of locations across the United States, where people can go to connect with coaches, guides, and other members. Virtual meetings are also offered. WW Workshops are roughly 30 minutes long, and cover a range of topics related to health, wellness, and weight loss.

Potential Downsides to the WW Diet

One major disadvantage of the program is that WW coaches are not medical professionals trained in diet and nutrition. Instead, they’re people who have seen success losing weight with this approach.

“I don’t know that everyone who’s leading the meetings will give the best advice,” Weinandy says.

Depending on your diet personality, there could be additional drawbacks. “Some people may get tired of tracking all the time; they might not want to think about it all the time,” note the Nutrition Twins. “And, people can be discouraged when they are always counting points and not losing weight.”

What’s more, while the flexibility of the program is welcome to some, for others it may cause too much temptation, says Susan Kraus, RD, of the Institute for Weight Management in Hackensack, New Jersey.

“Some people find that having too much flexibility might cause too much temptation. If they indulge in something not considered ‘on plan’ in their mind, this might cause them to overeat that particular food,” says Kraus, adding that this type of dieter would be better off following a very defined diet to stay on track.

She also worries about individuals abusing the points system; even if people are losing weight, it doesn’t always mean they’re developing healthier habits. Because people following WW have no restrictions on what they can eat, it could give the impression it’s okay to eat a sugary dessert every night, for example.

“Some people might use the points for less healthful foods — for example, desserts in place of a lunch,” explains Kraus. “So they might still succeed in losing the weight, but at the expense of choosing less nutritionally balanced foods.”

The Possible Short- and Long-Term Effects to Expect on WW

Unlike fad diets, including the ketogenic diet, which help people drop weight fast but are not sustainable long term, WW helps people lose weight and maintain it.

A study found obese adults who followed WW for one year lost more weight than those who stuck with the program for 12 weeks or those who used self-help materials. In the study, the 52-week group lost just under 15 pounds on average over the course of the year, which shows the plan won’t result in drastic weight loss overnight.

The researchers also checked in with study participants one year later, and found that while all groups had regained some weight, the 52-week WW group was able to maintain their weight and fat loss the best.

“WW might be slower because it’s based on realistic living and portion control,” Schmidt says. “It may not give an obese person initial gratification because it’s not as restrictive, but chances are you can stay on it and live with it much longer [than other diet plans].”

Adopting a healthier diet paired with self-monitoring and more willingness to ignore food cravings helped 4,786 WW members maintain their weight loss for more than three years. These members participated in a study published in the journal Obesity revealed that the keys to weight loss maintenance were more frequent practice of healthy eating, self-monitoring, and psychological coping strategies. In short: practicing the healthy lifestyle habits taught in the program for the long run.

The Takeaway: Will the WW Diet Help You Lose Weight?

The short answer: Most likely, yes. WW has a track record of successfully helping people lose weight, mainly because it’s easy to follow, flexible, doesn’t make any foods off limits, and offers a support system to keep participants on course.

Don’t jump ahead — you shouldn’t expect to see dramatic changes on the scale immediately. But if you follow the system (and don’t abuse it by eating dessert instead of a well-balanced meal), you likely will see pounds come off and your overall health improve. As with any dietary change, consider your individual needs and consult with your medical professional when considering WW, or any other weight loss program.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, the most successful in the long run focus on overall lifestyle changes. The biggest takeaway is that the WW program teaches healthier eating habits that you can realistically stick with long term.

“Not everything works for everybody; different strokes for different folks,” explain the Nutrition Twins. “But, the smallest changes that are doable and attainable over time make the biggest impact.”

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy. We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.

Resources

  • Tay A et al. Uncovering Barriers and Facilitators of Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance: Insights from Qualitative Research. Nutrients. March 6, 2023.
  • Lemstra M et al. Weight loss Intervention Adherence and Factors Promoting Adherence: a Meta-analysis. Patient Preference and Adherence. August 12, 2016.
  • Ahem A et al. Extended and Standard Duration Weight-loss Program Referrals for Adults in Primary Care (WRAP): a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Lancet. June 3, 2017.
  • Phelon S et al. Behavioral and Psychological Strategies of Long-Term Weight Loss Maintainers in a Widely Available Weight Management Program. Obesity. January 23, 2020.
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