- Effective in clinical studies
- Many support options
- Flexible plans
- Whole-foods focus
- Costs can add up
- Requires dedicated food tracking Bottom line Easily outshining the competition, Weight Watchers promotes a sensible diet, exercise, group support and a positive attitude that has been proven effective in a variety of scientific studies. There are no off-limit foods, and the program can be customized for those with special dietary needs. In-person, group meetings are the plan's cornerstone, but there are online "meetings" and support options, as well as food and activity-tracking programs.
Performance Top-shelf performance. Weight Watchers encourages weight loss with a sensible diet of healthy, whole foods, plus exercise and a positive attitude. It earns top marks from researchers and experts for nutrition because there are no forbidden foods. You track your calorie intake via a point system that is currently known as PointsPlus. Your ideal daily caloric intake is determined by your gender, age, height and weight. Weight Watchers has been evaluated in a number of clinical studies, with researchers concluding over and over that it's effective for both weight loss and long-term weight control.
Key features Group support is key. Weight Watcher's flagship feature has always been group meetings, which experts say are key to sticking to a long-term eating plan. Traditionally, they are physical meetings where people weigh in, share tips and stories, and provide general support and encouragement. For those who can't make a meeting, there is a full range of online services, including support groups, recipes, tips and tracking software. There are even mobile apps available. Exercise is also encouraged on Weight Watchers and you can earn extra food points through exercise, something that earns high praise from experts on obesity and weight loss.
Ease of use Eat what you want, just not too much. Eating on Weight Watchers requires budgeting food points throughout the day. Points values are assigned to a food based upon a formula that includes fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrate count; in other words, they do the math. You can eat unlimited amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are points for specific categories, such as dairy, to help you balance your nutrients, as well as flexible points for treats or for that second helping. There are many cookbooks available that have recipes with pre-calculated points. Weight Watchers easily accommodates people with special dietary needs, including vegetarians and the gluten-adverse.
Lifestyle factors Support comes at a cost. There is a $20 to $30 registration fee to join Weight Watchers, depending upon the program you choose. An online-only membership is about $5 per week; meetings will cost you about $15 per week. The monthly pass at $42.95 per month waives the registration fee and gives you unlimited meetings and eTools. While it does cost money, experts and consumer-reviewers agree that compared to diet plans that require prepackaged meals, it's much less expensive and you get a lot for your money.