WW (Formerly Called Weight Watchers)

The Promise

Pasta, cheese, ice cream ... no food is off-limits on this popular weight loss plan, which has been named best weight loss diet in U.S. News & World Reports’ annual Best Diets assessment. Formerly called Weight Watchers, the company changed its name to WW and recently introduced its myWW program.

The basic principle of eating what you love remains, though the program steers you toward healthier foods with a new color-coded system that designates foods as ZeroPoint foods. Your SmartPoints budget is then adjusted accordingly so that the fewer ZeroPoint foods you have to choose from, the larger your SmartPoints budget, and vice versa.

There are three options in the myWW program, each based on a certain color. In the green plan, you can choose from over 100 ZeroPoint foods with a large SmartPoints budget to spend on other foods. If you’re following the blue plan, formerly known as WW Freestyle, you’ll build meals around over 200 ZeroPoint foods and a more modest SmartPoints budget than the green plan. Meanwhile, the purple plan consists of over 300 ZeroPoint foods and the smallest SmartPoints budget.

You’ll then follow the program via the WW app where you can track everything from your SmartPoints budget to your daily meals, and even build your community. You’ll be guided not only on what to eat but how to move, too. Should you desire, you can add one-on-one meetings and personal coaching.

Even with the launch of myWW, these plans still aren’t a diet as much as they are a lifestyle-change program. Each plan, after all, includes just-for-you recipes, activity suggestions, and science-backed mind-set skills to help you lock in behavior and lifestyle changes.

Research from the Medical University of South Carolina’s Weight Management Center suggests that it works: In a 6-month clinical trial of myWW, participants lost 8% of their weight on average and had less hunger. More telling, 88% said that myWW was an easier way to lose weight than when they’ve tried to go it alone.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

The foods you can eat depend on which myWW plan you follow. The good news: You don’t have to buy prepackaged meals. And you can easily mix and match foods to suit your goals and preferences.

The program starts with SmartPoints, which gives every food a value based on calories, saturated fat, protein, and sugar. SmartPoints are designed to nudge you into healthier eating, for as calories, saturated fat, and sugar go up in a food, so do the SmartPoints. Protein, however, lowers a food’s SmartPoints.

Your age, weight, height, and sex are used to create a personal SmartPoints budget that will help you reach your goal weight. As long as you stay within your daily target, you can spend those SmartPoints any way you’d like, even on alcohol or dessert. Bonus: If you don’t use all of your SmartPoints in one day, you can bank up to four each day into your weekly budget.

Foods are then arranged by the ZeroPoint system. Each plan has its own list of ZeroPoint foods. They form the basis of a healthy eating pattern. You can enjoy them without measuring or tracking.

Green has the smallest amount of ZeroPoint foods allowed, all focused on fruits and veggies. But it has the largest SmartPoints budget to spend. On the Blue level, your ZeroPoint foods expand to over 200, including fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Your SmartPoints budget shrinks, though. Move up to the Purple level and once again, your SmartPoints budget shrinks. But your ZeroPoint choices expand to over 300, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Level of Effort: Medium

WW is designed to make it easier to change your habits for the long term. It's flexible enough that you can adapt it to any diet or lifestyle. You’ll tweak your eating and habits, even ones you’ve had for years, and create new ones.

How much effort it takes depends on how much you’ll have to change your habits and how willing you are to make those changes.

Cooking and shopping. Expect to learn how to shop, cook healthy foods, and dine out in ways that support your weight loss goal without skimping on taste or needing to buy unusual foods.

Packaged foods or meals. Not required.

In-person meetings. Optional.

Exercise. You’ll earn FitPoints for your activity, and those FitPoints are unique to you, based on your height, weight, age, and sex. Although you’ll earn FitPoints for any activity, you’ll earn more with higher-intensity activities and strength training.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Whether you’re a vegetarian or vegan or need to limit salt or fat, myWW is designed to be flexible enough that you can follow it.

What Else You Should Know

Cost. There are three ways you can follow myWW, all of which require a starter fee of $20 to join (taxes vary by state). Subscribe to the digital content for $19.95 a month (which includes access to the Weight Watchers app and 24/7 chat with a live WW coach).

For $44.95 per month (or $14-$15 per week if you’d rather pay as you go), you can choose the workshop option, which gives you access to the app plus unlimited in-person workshops. There’s also a personal coaching option for $54.95 per month, which includes one-on-one support with a coach and access to the app.

Support. You can find inspiration and guidance through a members-only social network on the app and in person via community events and workshops that put you in touch with WW coaches, guides, and other members.

What Brunilda Nazario, MD, Says

Does It Work?

WW is one of the most well-researched weight loss programs available. And yes, it works.

Many studies have shown that the plan can help you lose weight and keep it off.

For instance, a study from The American Journal of Medicine showed that people doing WW lost more weight than those trying to drop pounds on their own.

WW ranked first both for “Best Weight Loss Diet” and for “Best Commercial Diet Plan” in the 2019 rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

Overall, it's an excellent, personalized program that focuses on wellness and building healthy habits. Weight loss is just a part of it. The WW program meets you where you are on your journey and helps you create a community of support.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

WW is good for anyone. While its focus on nutritious, low-calorie foods makes it great for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and even heart disease, it can work for anyone looking to improve their health.

If you choose any premade meals, check the labels, as some may be high in sodium.

Work with your doctor so they can check your progress, too. This is especially important for people with diabetes, as you may need to adjust your medicine as you lose weight.

The Final Word

If the thought of weighing your food or counting calories make your head spin, this is an ideal program because it does the work for you. The online tool assigns a certain number value to each food, even restaurant foods, to make it easy to stay on track.

If you don’t know your way around the kitchen, the premade meals and snacks make it easy. They’re a quick and easy way to control portion sizes and calories.

You don’t have to drop any foods from your diet, but you will have to limit portion sizes to cut back on calories.

The emphasis on fruits and veggies means the diet is high in fiber, which helps keep you full. And the program is simple to follow, making it easier to stick to. You can also find WW’s premade meals at your local grocery store.

A big advantage of WW is their website. They offer comprehensive information on dieting, exercise, cooking, fitness tips, and wellness practices as well as online support groups and weekly live coaching.

Be prepared to spend some money to get the full benefits of the robust program. It’s well worth it to reap the health perks of losing weight and keeping it off.

WebMD Diet A-Z Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 2, 2019.

Consumer Reports, February 2013.

The American Journal of Medicine: “A randomized controlled trial of a community-based behavioral counseling program.”

WW: Weight Watchers reimagined.

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