Weight Watchers (diet)

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Weight Watchers is a comprehensive diet program, including a tailored diet with a point system, counseling and behavioral therapies.

Weight Watchers or WW is a popular[1] commercial diet and comprehensive program for weight loss based on a point system, meals replacement and counseling. It is a leader in the commercial diet industry.[2][3]

This diet produces weight loss comparable to other diets supervised by a nutrition professional.[2][4][5]

In 2018, Weight Watchers was ranked 1st in "Best commercial diet", "Best Weight-Loss Diets" and "Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets" and 2nd in "Easiest Diets to Follow".[6]


Dietary principles[edit]

The Weight Watchers diet is aiming to restrict energy to achieve a weight loss of 0.5 to 1.0 kg per week,[2][7] which is the medically accepted standard rate of a viable weight loss strategy.[8]

The dietary composition is akin to low-fat diets[2] or moderate-fat and low-carbohydrate diet[9] depending on the variant used.

Point values system[edit]

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

Contrary to several other diets, Weight Watchers does not focus on the calories but simplify 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 50kcal. 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.[2][10]

Meal replacement[edit]

The parent company also produces meal replacements, which are "plug-in" meals that can be instantly consumed instead of the usual diet. 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.[2]


In addition to the diet and related consumable products made by the brand, the Weight Watchers is a comprehensive program, including counseling via weekly or monthly meetings, calorie targets and online support.[2][10]

For children, online support, especially via social media, has shown mixed results.[11]

Behavioral therapy[edit]

The dieters are also recommended to engage in regular physical activity as part of a broader lifestyle change to complement their dietary changes,[10] which mirrors the US national recommendations since 2013.[4][12]


The scientific soundness of commercial diets by commercial weight management organizations (CMWOs) 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.[2][3][5][7][13][14]

Weight Watchers results in modest weight loss in the long-term, similarly to other commercial diets,[5][13][15][16] non-commercial diets and standard care,[2][4] although Weight Watchers may have less cardiovascular[17] and glucose-lowering benefits than other diets such as low-carbohydrates.[18]

Comprehensive diet programs such as Weight Watchers, providing counseling and targets for calorie intake, are more efficient than dieting without guidance ("self-help"),[2][19][20] although the evidence is very limited.[14] The NICE devised a set of essential criteria to be met by commercial weight management organizations to be approved.[7]

Adherence to a diet is the best predictor of a diet's success in weight loss and health benefits. As such, Weight Watchers, being a comprehensive dietary program, has shown good adherence comparable or lower than standard care, and with slightly more consistent long-term results.[2][3][5][21]

Comprehensive diet programs, combining dietary changes with exercise, behavioral therapy, meals replacement and/or calorie restriction, were shown to be more effective than any single change for long-term prevention of weight gain and risks of metabolic syndromes in lean individuals,[22] mirroring similar results for obese individuals.[2][4][23]

Up to 90% of consumers partaking in CMWOs programs are women, despite obesity being more prevalent in men.[7][14]

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).[24]


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 in following the "Prudent Diet", a diet developed in the 1950s by Dr. Norman Jolliffe, head of the board's Bureau of Nutrition. Bringing inspiration from this successful but difficult to sustain diet, the original Weight Watchers was based around lean meat, fish, skim milk, and fruits and vegetables, and it banned alcohol, sweets, and fatty foods. It thus had lists of allowed and prohibited foods, and was more structured than subsequent versions of the Weight Watchers program, such as recommended weighing food portions, prohibited skipping meals or counting calories, before later adopting a more flexible point based system.

In the past, CMWOs were inappropriately associated with fad diets, giving them an unfounded poor reputation,[7] although some authors still do.[1][9][10][21]


As of 2013, over a million members attend its weekly group meetings over the world. As of 2017, Weight Watchers is the leader in the diet industry.[2][3] The diet industry represents sixty billion dollars in 2018, of which 3 billion dollars is spent on weight loss chains such as Weight Watchers, with meal replacements, including Weight Watchers meals, being another 3 billion dollars.[25]

Two systematic reviews found that Weight Watchers was the most cost-effective commercial diet as of 2019.[26][27]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]