Weight Watchers (diet)

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The Weight Watchers logo

Weight Watchers or WW is a commercial program for weight loss based on a point system, meals replacement and counseling.[1][2]


A Weight Watchers sliding ruler to track food points to ease calories restriction targets.

The Weight Watchers diet tries to restrict energy to achieve a weight loss of 0.5 to 1.0 kg per week,[1][3] which is the medically accepted standard rate of a viable weight loss strategy.[4] The dietary composition is akin to low-fat diets[1] or moderate-fat and low-carbohydrate diet[5] depending on the variant used.

Contrary to several other diets, Weight Watchers does not focus on the calories but simplifies food selection with a points-based system named "SmartPoints", where each food type is assigned a point value calculated according to their nutrient and energy density. A point equals 50 cal. The point values system define both a quality scale and a quantity limit: a food with low point values, such as high fiber carbohydrates, lean proteins, legumes, can be consumed more freely and in higher quantities, whereas food items with higher point values must be eaten with parsimony or avoided. Most fruits and vegetables are "free", as they have a zero points value, and thus can be consumed at will.[1][6]

The parent company also produces meal replacements, which are "plug-in" meals that can be instantly consumed instead of the usual diet. Weight Watchers claims that meal replacements have been shown to outperform calorie-controlled diets, as there is less margin for errors and less decision-making and cooking skills are required.[1]

The dieters are also recommended to engage in regular physical activity as part of a broader lifestyle change to complement their dietary changes,[6] which mirrors the US national recommendations since 2013.[7][8]

In addition to the diet and related consumable products made by the brand, the Weight Watchers includes counseling via weekly or monthly meetings, calorie targets, and online support.[1][6] For children, online support, especially via social media, has shown mixed results.[9]


The Weight Watchers diet claims to produce weight loss comparable to other diets supervised by a nutrition professional.[1][7][10]

The scientific soundness of commercial diets by commercial weight management organizations (CWMOs) varies widely, being previously non-evidence-based, so there is only limited evidence supporting their use, including Weight Watchers, due notably to high attrition rates.[1][2][10][3][11][12][1]

Weight Watchers claims to result in modest weight loss in the long-term, similarly to other commercial diets,[10][11][13][14] non-commercial diets and standard care,[1][7] although Weight Watchers may have less cardiovascular[15] and glucose-lowering benefits than other diets such as low-carbohydrates.[16]

In a trial comparing 4 weight loss diets, the drop-out rate for the Weight Watchers diet was 35% (compared to others which had up to 50% drop-outs).[17]

Two systematic reviews found that Weight Watchers was the most cost-effective commercial diet as of 2019.[18][19]


Jean Nidetch, a housewife and mother living in Queens, New York City, conceived the original Weight Watchers diet and program in the 1960s, after her dissatisfaction with other weight loss programs, all of which failed except the "Prudent Diet", a diet developed in the 1950s by Dr. Norman Jolliffe, head of the New York City Board of Health's Bureau of Nutrition. Bringing inspiration from this successful but frustratingly difficult to sustain diet because of the lack of communication and its discouragement of peers discussions, Nidetch designed the original Weight Watchers around the same nutritional principles favoring lean meat, fish, skim milk, and fruits and vegetables, and banning alcohol, sweets, and fatty foods, but with the additional scheduling of support groups to foster discussion and motivation. It thus had lists of allowed and prohibited foods, and was more structured than subsequent versions of the Weight Watchers program, such as recommending weighing food portions, prohibiting skipping meals or counting calories, before later adopting a more flexible point based system, while keeping the group support meetings and personalized coaching which differentiated this diet from its predecessor.[20][21]

As of 2013, over a million members attend its weekly group meetings over the world.

In 2018, Weight Watchers was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as 1st in "Best commercial diet", "Best Weight-Loss Diets" and "Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets" and 2nd in "Easiest Diets to Follow".[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thom, G; Lean, M (May 2017). "Is There an Optimal Diet for Weight Management and Metabolic Health?" (PDF). Gastroenterology (Review). 152 (7): 1739–1751. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2017.01.056. PMID 28214525.
  2. ^ a b Wadden, Thomas A.; Webb, Victoria L.; Moran, Caroline H.; Bailer, Brooke A. (6 March 2012). "Lifestyle Modification for Obesity". Circulation (Narrative review). 125 (9): 1157–1170. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.039453. PMC 3313649. PMID 22392863.
  3. ^ a b Avery, Amanda (2018). "4.7 Commercial weight management organisations for weight losss s in obesity.". In Hankey, Catherine (ed.). Advanced nutrition and dietetics in obesity. Wiley. pp. 177–182. ISBN 9780470670767.
  4. ^ "Fact Sheet—Fad diets" (PDF). British Dietetic Association. 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2015. Fad-diets can be tempting as they offer a quick-fix to a long-term problem.
  5. ^ Khawandanah, Jomana; Tewfik, Ihab (15 November 2016). "Fad Diets: Lifestyle Promises and Health Challenges". Journal of Food Research (Review). 5 (6): 80. doi:10.5539/jfr.v5n6p80.
  6. ^ a b c Kuchkuntla, AR; Limketkai, B; Nanda, S; Hurt, RT; Mundi, MS (December 2018). "Fad Diets: Hype or Hope?". Current Nutrition Reports (Review). 7 (4): 310–323. doi:10.1007/s13668-018-0242-1. PMID 30168044. S2CID 52132504.
  7. ^ a b c Jensen, MD; Ryan, DH; Apovian, CM; Ard, JD; Comuzzie, AG; Donato, KA; Hu, FB; Hubbard, VS; Jakicic, JM; Kushner, RF; Loria, CM; Millen, BE; Nonas, CA; Pi-Sunyer, FX; Stevens, J; Stevens, VJ; Wadden, TA; Wolfe, BM; Yanovski, SZ; Jordan, HS; Kendall, KA; Lux, LJ; Mentor-Marcel, R; Morgan, LC; Trisolini, MG; Wnek, J; Anderson, JL; Halperin, JL; Albert, NM; Bozkurt, B; Brindis, RG; Curtis, LH; DeMets, D; Hochman, JS; Kovacs, RJ; Ohman, EM; Pressler, SJ; Sellke, FW; Shen, WK; Smith SC, Jr; Tomaselli, GF; American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice, Guidelines.; Obesity, Society. (24 June 2014). "2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity Society". Circulation (Professional society guideline). 129 (25 Suppl 2): S102-38. doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000437739.71477.ee. PMC 5819889. PMID 24222017.
  8. ^ US Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). "2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - health.gov". health.gov (National guideline). Skyhorse Publishing Inc. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  9. ^ Li, Jennifer S.; Barnett, Tracie A.; Goodman, Elizabeth; Wasserman, Richard C.; Kemper, Alex R. (15 January 2013). "Approaches to the Prevention and Management of Childhood Obesity: The Role of Social Networks and the Use of Social Media and Related Electronic Technologies". Circulation. 127 (2): 260–267. doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182756d8e. PMID 23212719.
  10. ^ a b c Atallah, R.; Filion, K. B.; Wakil, S. M.; Genest, J.; Joseph, L.; Poirier, P.; Rinfret, S.; Schiffrin, E. L.; Eisenberg, M. J. (11 November 2014). "Long-Term Effects of 4 Popular Diets on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials". Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes (Systematic review of RCTs). 7 (6): 815–827. doi:10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.113.000723. PMID 25387778.
  11. ^ a b Tsai, AG; Wadden, TA (4 January 2005). "Systematic review: an evaluation of major commercial weight loss programs in the United States". Annals of Internal Medicine (Systematic review). 142 (1): 56–66. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-142-1-200501040-00012. PMID 15630109. S2CID 2589699.
  12. ^ Allan, Karen (2018). "4.4 Group‐based interventions for weight loss in obesity.". In Hankey, Catherine (ed.). Advanced nutrition and dietetics in obesity. Wiley. pp. 164–168. ISBN 9780470670767.
  13. ^ Vakil, RM; Doshi, RS; Mehta, AK; Chaudhry, ZW; Jacobs, DK; Lee, CJ; Bleich, SN; Clark, JM; Gudzune, KA (1 June 2016). "Direct comparisons of commercial weight-loss programs on weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure: a systematic review". BMC Public Health (Systematic review). 16: 460. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3112-z. PMC 4888663. PMID 27246464.
  14. ^ 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 (Systematic review). 162 (7): 501–12. doi:10.7326/M14-2238. PMC 4446719. PMID 25844997.
  15. ^ Mehta, AK; Doshi, RS; Chaudhry, ZW; Jacobs, DK; Vakil, RM; Lee, CJ; Bleich, SN; Clark, JM; Gudzune, KA (September 2016). "Benefits of commercial weight-loss programs on blood pressure and lipids: a systematic review". Preventive Medicine. 90: 86–99. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.06.028. PMC 5300307. PMID 27373206.
  16. ^ Snorgaard, O; Poulsen, GM; Andersen, HK; Astrup, A (2017). "Systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate restriction in patients with type 2 diabetes". BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 5 (1): e000354. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2016-000354. PMC 5337734. PMID 28316796.
  17. ^ Matarese, LE; Pories, WJ (December 2014). "Adult weight loss diets: metabolic effects and outcomes". Nutrition in Clinical Practice (Review). 29 (6): 759–67. doi:10.1177/0884533614550251. PMID 25293593.
  18. ^ Finkelstein, EA; Verghese, NR (April 2019). "Incremental cost-effectiveness of evidence-based non-surgical weight loss strategies". Clinical Obesity. 9 (2): e12294. doi:10.1111/cob.12294. PMID 30677252. S2CID 59253025.
  19. ^ Finkelstein, EA; Kruger, E (September 2014). "Meta- and cost-effectiveness analysis of commercial weight loss strategies". Obesity. 22 (9): 1942–51. doi:10.1002/oby.20824. PMID 24962106. S2CID 25378188.
  20. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (29 April 2015). "Jean Nidetch, a Founder of Weight Watchers, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 March 2022.
  21. ^ Bockmann, Rich. "Weight Watchers' humble origins began in Deepdale". TimesLedger. November 6, 2011.
  22. ^ "U.S. News Reveals Best Diets Rankings for 2018". U.S. News & World Report.

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