Weight Watchers

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Weight Watchers International, Inc.
Traded as NYSEWTW
Founded 1963
Headquarters 675 Avenue of the Americas, 6th Floor New York, NY 10010
Key people
James R. Chambers, President & CEO[1]
Products Weight loss, Packaged foods, Exercise products
Revenue Decrease $1.724 billion (2013)[1]
Decrease $460.757 million (2013)[1]
Decrease $204.725 million (2013)[1]
Total assets Increase $1.408 billion (2013)[1]
Total equity Increase $-1.474 billion (2013)[1]
Owner Artal Group SA (51%)
Oprah Winfrey (10%)
Number of employees
25,000 (as of 2013)[1]
Slogan Stop Dieting. Start Living
Website weightwatchers.com
A former Weight Watchers location
in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts

Weight Watchers International is an international company based in the United States that offers various products and services to assist weight loss and maintenance. Founded in 1963 by Queens, New York, homemaker Jean Nidetch, it now operates in about 30 countries around the world, generally under names that are local translations of “Weight Watchers”. The core philosophy behind Weight Watchers programs is to use a science-driven approach to help participants lose weight by forming helpful habits, eating smarter, getting more exercise and providing support.[2][3]

At 12 months Weight Watchers is associated with 2.6% more weight loss than those who were in a control group.[4]

The term weight-watcher, in the same sense, had circulated publicly for several years before the company was formed.[5]


A 2015 systematic review found that at 12 months Weight Watchers was associated with 2.6% more weight loss than those who were in a control group.[4] There is a lack of evidence beyond this period of time.[4]

Weight Watchers claims that members who both use Weight Watchers’ Web-based eTools and attend meetings lose half again as much weight as those who only attend meetings, citing an unspecified “12 week study comparing people who were instructed to attend Weight Watchers meetings and use eTools to people who were instructed to attend Weight Watchers meetings alone”.[6]


Weight Watchers' core approach is to assist members in losing weight through eating more healthily and getting more exercise.[2] Weight Watchers' primary diet plan has no directly comparable requirements and no food is off limits. Participants lose weight by creating a calorie deficit.[3] Weight Watchers is generally compatible with other diet approaches and/or food intake restrictions, provided participants use the Weight Watchers framework to measure and limit the quantity of food consumed while using the other diet plan to dictate the range of acceptable food choices.[citation needed]

There are two primary ways individuals can work with Weight Watchers: via in-person meetings and an online-only program.[2] Both programs use the same basic materials and computations.[3] For in-person meetings, Weight Watchers encourages members to select a goal weight that results in a body mass index generally accepted as healthy (18 to 24.9), although a member may also establish a goal weight outside of that range after providing a doctor's note to that effect. In order to join Weight Watchers in the United States, one must weigh at least 5 pounds (2.3 kg) more than the minimum weight considered healthy by the company for his or her height.[7]

Once a member reaches his or her goal weight, he or she starts a maintenance period. For the following six weeks, the member gradually adjusts his or her food intake until the member no longer loses or gains weight. If, at the end of six weigh-ins during the maintenance period, the member weighs in within 2 pounds (0.91 kg) of his or her goal weight, he or she becomes a "Lifetime" member

Weight Watchers’ eTools is a Web-based service for members that includes access to support materials and tracking tools. In some areas Weight Watchers meetings are operated by a locally franchised organization rather than by Weight Watchers International.[8]

In most locations, Weight Watchers holds meetings for members which in some cases may cause positive reinforcement for participants. [9]

Weight loss plans[edit]

United States[edit]

Weight Watcher Slide Ruler

The primary, current plan offered in the United States, started in November 2010, is called "PointsPlus". Touted by Weight Watchers as incorporating a decade of science compared to the prior Points-based plans, the focus remains on assisting members in creating a calorie deficit to lose weight using a reformulated calculation approach for computing target daily points (e.g., approximately how many calories per day should be eaten) and the "costs" (PointsPlus values) of food.[10]

The calculation of the daily points targets is based on creating approximately a 1,000 calorie/day deficit (WO application 2010025422  [0098]-[00109] and accompanying equations 16-19). This in turn means that members are assigned a daily point target in the range of 26-71 PointsPlus to consume each day. Additionally, members are allowed 49 PointsPlus each week, or weekly points, that they can spend how they wish throughout the week. Physical activity earns activity points that, like weekly points, can be used to supplement the daily points allowance.

As compared to prior Points-based plans, the main change is the direct computation of PointsPlus-values from macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) vs. calories and fat. Both formulas used dietary fiber information when it was available. The formulas are country specific based on the information on nutrition labels in a given country. The patent provides equations for different country labeling techniques.

This change allowed Weight Watchers to change the relative cost of the different macronutrients. Specifically, the relative weight of fat appears to be unchanged vs. the Momentum calculation; however, carbohydrates are "more expensive" and fiber is "less beneficial" and protein is only modestly changed. This increases the PointsPlus cost vs. the Point cost of a number of foods that were specially designed to take advantage of the old formula, e.g., muffins loaded with fiber to stay at 1 Point. The range of calories for one PointsPlus point is approximately in the range of 35-45 calories, in contrast one Point had a broader range of approximately 25-80 calories. However, because the approach for computing the daily points target has been refined (WO application 2010025422  [0098]-[00104] and accompanying equations 16 (male) and 17 (female)), most people have significantly more PointsPlus available as part of their daily points target than on the prior Momentum plan. For example, under the Momentum plan 18 was the minimum number of points; now 26 (as of 2012, down from 29) is the minimum number of points. Additionally, irrespective of the underlying nutritional information, on the PointsPlus plan, many fruits and most vegetables are considered to have a PointsPlus value of 0.

As an alternative to the PointsPlus plan, participants can use the Simply Filling Technique.[11] On the Simply Filling Technique, participants are intended to eat from a designated list of foods without the requirement to track.[11] Categories of foods on the list include: most fruits and vegetables, whole grains, non-fat dairy and dairy substitutes, lean proteins,and a handful of other items.[11] For items that a person eats that are not on the list, a weekly points allowance of PointsPlus points is available to be used and the value of that item must be tracked.[11] Because the plan does not require tracking, participants must be mindful to "[e]at portions that feel right for [them]. Not so much that [they] feel too full, and not too little that [they] still feel hungry."[11]

On December 3, 2012, Weight Watchers introduced additional aspects to the program. This was dubbed "Weight Watchers 360". Additions included introducing more interactivity to meetings, more focus on building healthful habits, and fighting hedonic hunger: "the desire to seek out high-sugar, high-fat foods that bring pleasure." The 360 plan also introduced the ActiveLink physical activity monitor as an optional purchase item.[12]


Weight Watchers implemented the Momentum Plan on December 7, 2008. The cornerstone of the plan is the proprietary Points formula, which allocates each food a value based on its calories, fat, and fiber. Members are allocated a certain number of points each day based on their height, current weight, age, and activity level. Members were also allowed 35 optional Points each week. Finally, members earn additional Points through exercise. These "Activity Points" are calculated based on the member's weight and the duration and intensity of the activity. Activity Points previously had to be consumed on the day that they were earned or they were lost; with the Momentum plan, they can be eaten on any day during the week.

The Momentum Plan encourages members to choose foods by meeting the so called "Good Health Guidelines." These include eating lean protein and whole grains, meeting target servings of fruits and vegetables and dairy or soy products, taking a multivitamin, exercising, eating healthy oils, drinking adequate liquids, and limiting sugar and alcohol. Additionally, the Momentum Plan encourages members to remain satisfied while dieting by focusing on eating foods identified as Filling Foods, which include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and soy products, and lean proteins, but this is not required. The effect of this is that the member is not prevented from eating any specific type of food, but he or she must consume foods only with his or her allotment of points. This stands in marked contrast to approaches such as the South Beach or Atkins diets, in which some foods are completely forbidden and others are permitted in as great a quantity as the dieter likes. The member also has the choice to exercise — which will entitle him or her to consume more food — or to eat food of lower Points value if he or she prefers not to exercise.

Many (but not all) of the Filling Foods also have a SetPoints value that allows members to eat a reasonable portion of the food and track the SetPoints value, rather than having to measure and calculate the exact Points value of the portion eaten. The Momentum Plan also includes an option that allows members to eat from the Filling Foods list without tracking Points values at all. This option, known as the Simply Filling Technique, is very similar to the former Core Plan. Members following the Simply Filling Technique do not receive a daily Points allowance, but eat to satisfaction from the Filling Foods list. They do, however, receive the 35 weekly Points, and are entitled to eat any Activity Points that they earn. The weekly Points and Activity Points may be used for foods that are not on the Filling Foods list.

Many Weight Watchers proponents enjoy the tracking option of the Momentum Plan precisely because no food is out of bounds as long as it is eaten in moderation.[citation needed] (In the UK, Weight Watchers advertises under the slogan "Where no food is a sin"; this is a reference to its chief competitor Slimming World’s system of giving some food "syn" values.) Many others, however, dislike the record-keeping that the plan requires of participants, who must keep track of the Points values of everything they eat; they prefer the Simply Filling option or other plans that place restrictions on types of food rather than quantities.

Old plans[edit]

Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers, wrote a book in the early 1970s called The Memoir of a Successful Loser The Story of Weight Watchers which documented the original Weight Watchers plan.

That original plan was supplanted shortly after the book with materials bearing a 1972-73 copyright: “Weight Watchers(R) Program Handbook for Ladies”.[13] This plan was similar to the original plan.

By 1989, the plan had switched to an exchange-based diet.[14] The document's subtitle and copyright dates make determining the exact date difficult, “The Quick Success(R) Program” with the subtitle “New for 1989” has a copyright date of 1987, 1988.[14]

By 1997, the first Points-based program was introduced.

On April 15, 2005, a sputtering low-carbohydrate fad and the end of a licensing deal with Weight Watchers International Inc. had carved a big chunk out of CoolBrands International Inc.'s bottom line.[15] On December 20, 2005, CoolBrands International Inc. said it intended to wield the power of three big-name licensed brands to help it recover from the loss of Weight Watchers from its product lineup. [16]


The original Points Plan (aka free money plan) was developed in the UK by the Weight Watchers program development team headed by Sarah Watson and Marian Way who took out the first patent for a calculator to embody the algorithm (based on the summation of calories/70 and saturated fat/4 with the sum rounded to the nearest half) the patent was filed on 1/11/95 [17] In the UK during November 2010 the Points plan had been replaced with ProPoints. This is similar to the Points plan only the calculation now takes protein, carbohydrates, all fat and fiber into consideration. The following main changes were made from the Points to ProPoints plan:

  • Change the formula, so the majority of foods now cost more ProPoints than Points
  • Daily ProPoint allowances (give you free money) were increased however you are no longer allowed to carry your daily ProPoints over to the next day
  • Most fruit and vegetables are now zero ProPoints
  • All participants also have a weekly ProPoints allowance of 49 ProPoints which they can choose to use as they see fit throughout the week.

Ireland and Australia[edit]

In Ireland there has recently been a new plan launched called ProPoints Plan.Traditional weight loss plans are based on the calories on a food label. But the new ProPoints system incorporates the latest science that shows there is a more accurate way to assess the impact a food has on weight loss. ProPoints values are calculated using 4 macronutrients: fat, fibre, protein and carbohydrate. There is also a new weekly ProPoints allowance and zero ProPoints values fruit and veg.[18][19] In Australia, Weight Watchers also offers free trials for ProPoints online program to attract customers.[20]


In addition to Weight Watchers membership plans, other products (such as packaged foods, exercise equipment and DVDs, food preparation and storage tools, cookbooks, etc.) are available for purchase. In 2012, the company partnered with Philips to create the ActiveLink activity tracker.[21][22]


The current spokesperson for Weight Watchers is Grammy/Academy-Award winner singer/actress Jennifer Hudson.[23][24] The newest spokesperson to sign with Weight Watchers is Jessica Simpson. Prior spokespersons associated with the product were actresses Lynn Redgrave and Jenny McCarthy, and Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson.[25]

Corporate information[edit]


From 1978 until 1999, Weight Watchers was owned by the H. J. Heinz Company, which continues to produce packaged foods bearing the Weight Watchers brand (and with point values clearly identified). Weight Watchers was acquired in a leveraged buyout in 1999 by Artal Luxembourg and went public in 2001. Artal continues to own over 50% of the shares of Weight Watchers as of 2010. In October 2015 Oprah Winfrey purchased a 10% stake in Weight Watchers.[26]


The current members of the board of directors of Weight Watchers are Philippe Amouyal, John Bard, Raymond Debbane, Marsha Evans, Jonas Fajgenbaum, Linda Huett, Sacha Lainovic, Steven M. Altschuler and Christopher Sobecki. On October 19, 2015, Oprah Winfrey announced her place on the board of Weight Watchers International.


Weight Watchers has not provided official confirmation of the Points or PointsPlus formulas and has aggressively sent cease and desist letters to websites and a number of third party tools that claimed to provide Points, or PointsPlus, calculations.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g WEIGHT WATCHERS INTERNATIONAL, INC. Form 10-K, Securities and Exchange Commission, February 26, 2014
  2. ^ a b c "Helping People Lose Weight for 45 Years". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  3. ^ a b c David Kirchhoff, Our New Program the Next Level, retrieved 2010-12-29 [dead link]
  4. ^ a b c Gudzune, KA; Doshi, RS; Mehta, AK; Chaudhry, ZW; Jacobs, DK; Vakil, RM; Lee, CJ; Bleich, SN; Clark, JM (7 April 2015). "Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic review.". Annals of internal medicine 162 (7): 501–12. doi:10.7326/M14-2238. PMID 25844997. 
  5. ^ "Menu from Stouffer's restaurant, probably Chicago, dated November 7, 1959: "Weight-Watcher's Luncheon ... $1.20."". Retrieved 2012-01-14. 
  6. ^ "eTools, the Internet companion". Weight Watchers International. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-07. People who both attend Weight Watchers meetings and use eTools lose over 50% more weight on average than those who attend weekly meetings alone. ...Weight loss data based on 12 week study comparing people who were instructed to attend Weight Watchers meetings and use eTools to people who were instructed to attend Weight Watchers meetings alone. 
  7. ^ https://welcome.weightwatchers.com/faq/#/
  8. ^ "Home Page". Weight Watchers of Philadelphia. Retrieved 2008-06-07. This website is operated by Weight Watchers of Philadelphia, Inc. [punctuation sic] a franchise of Weight Watchers International, Inc. 
  9. ^ Moisio, R.; Beruchashvili, M. (2010). "Questing for Well-Being at Weight Watchers: The Role of the Spiritual-Therapeutic Model in a Support Group". journal Of Consumer Research 36 (5): 857–875. doi:10.1086/605590. 
  10. ^ "Weight Watchers Points Plus: Diet Review By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD WebMD Expert Review". Webmd.com. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "What's included in the Simply Filling Technique". Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  12. ^ Hellmich, Nancy (December 2, 2012). "New Weight Watchers 360 plan unveiled". USA Today. Retrieved December 8, 2013. 
  13. ^ "WW 1972 Plan". B.feli.me. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  14. ^ a b "WW 1989 Plan". B.feli.me. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  15. ^ "Low-carb, low-fat crazes hit CoolBrands; Shares drop on second-quarter loss". 
  16. ^ "CoolBrands plays down its loss of Weight Watchers". 
  17. ^ "UK Patent Application 2 302 605 A". 
  18. ^ Ireland
  19. ^ Australia
  20. ^ Weight Watchers Online 14 Days FREE Trial
  21. ^ Dolan, Brian (October 11, 2012). "Weight Watchers taps Philips for activity tracking". mobihealthnews. Retrieved December 8, 2013. 
  22. ^ Jennifer's Weight Watchers Story Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  23. ^ "Jennifer Hudson is New Weight Watchers Spokeswoman - ABC News" Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  24. ^ Hendley, Joyce. "Weight Watchers at Forty: A Celebration". Gastronomica: the Journal of Food and Culture: 16–21. doi:10.1525/gfc.2003.3.1.16. JSTOR 10.1525/gfc.2003.3.1.16 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)). 
  25. ^ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11531776
  26. ^ "Chilling Effects Notice". Retrieved 27 December 2010. 

External links[edit]