Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that encourages its members to eat a variety of nutritious foods to lose weight.
It's not a fad diet. The international organization has been around for 45 years.
Studies support the diet's success. One study, published in Obesity, showed that people using Weight Watchers lost an average of 13 pounds in 48 weeks -- or at least 10% of their starting weight.
WebMD takes a closer look at the Weight Watchers system and helps you decide if it's right for you.
Weight Watchers: How It Works
One of the benefits of Weight Watchers is that no food is off limits. You can eat a variety of healthy foods.
The diet even allows for small indulgences. But participants are encouraged to eat protein and fiber-rich foods instead of high-calorie foods containing fat and simple carbohydrates.
Instead of counting calories, you count points. All food and drink is assigned a number (for example 1, 2, 3) -- called a "PointsPlus value."
As you eat, you deduct points from your personal budget. You can earn extra points when you exercise, so you can eat more that day, if you choose.
You are also given a weekly allotment of extra points -- your PointsPlus allowance. The PointsPlus allowance gives you wiggle room to splurge every now and then.
The 'PointsPlus' System
The "PointsPlus value" is different from the points system in an older version of the diet. The number in the PointsPlus system is based on nutrients in the food, such as:
The PointsPlus value is also based on how filling the food is.
Foods rich in protein and fiber have a lower point value to encourage people to eat more of them. Fat and simple carbohydrates have a higher point value.
You are given a personalized PointsPlus daily target. The target is based on personal characteristics, such as your:
- Current weight
You must stay within your daily target.
Support for Dieters
In addition to its PointsPlus program, Weight Watchers provides online or in-person support.
Depending on the option you choose, you are encouraged to attend weekly meetings or use the support tools available online.
The online tools include a database that lists PointsPlus values for more than 40,000 items. It lists recipes and meal plans with precalculated PointsPlus values.
Weight Watchers also provides its members with tools that can be used on smartphones.
Weight Watchers Principles
Important features to the Weight Watchers system include:
Healthy weight loss. The program recommends dieters lose up to 2 pounds per week. That's the amount recommended by professional health organizations like the American Dietetic Association.
Weight Watchers recommends that you should initially aim to lose no more than 10% of your starting weight.
Instructive. The program teaches its members how to make healthy choices based on current scientific recommendations for nutrition and disease prevention.
Supportive. Weekly meetings -- available in cities throughout the country -- and online tools help its members stay motivated, overcome dieting hurdles, and learn new ways to eat.
Easy to understand. The PointsPlus system is relatively easy to understand and simple to follow.
Flexible: Because no food is off-limits, the program allows for all kinds of eaters, including:
- Business travelers
- People with food-restricting health conditions
Gender-specific. Weight Watchers offers an online program geared just for men. It addresses their unique diet needs.
You will have the greatest success if you cook most of your meals, following the Weight Watchers recipes and meal plan ideas. Weight Watchers provides quick and easy recipes called Perfectly Simple meals.
When you eat out, Weight Watchers lists PointsPlus values of meals from many common restaurants.