I’ve written quite a bit about the WW (Weight Watchers) program on this blog before, but I wanted to write a more general guide that discusses what this program actually is.
And by the way, they have recently rebranded themselves as WW. I don’t think it’s a very appealing name (just my opinion) and to me, they’ll always be Weight Watchers.
What is Weight Watchers, anyway?
Weight Watchers (currently called WW) is one of the oldest commercial diet programs out there. It was created way back in the 1960s, but the program that exists today is completely different than how it used to be.
You may know WW as the diet that uses points, but these were actually not even used until 1997. And in the years since then, the point system has gotten some major overhauls.
The main idea behind this diet is that it teaches you how to lose weight eating normal, everyday food. No food groups are cut out, nothing is off-limits.
Do you have to eat their prepackaged foods?
WW is not like other commercialized diets like Jenny Craig or Medifast where you must eat special prepackaged food.
Despite the fact that you may see Weight Watchers brand name on prepackaged foods at the grocery store (like frozen meals or ice cream bars), this diet is not about eating any type of exclusive, name-brand foods at all.
This is a misconception that some people have about this program, and it’s completely untrue.
With WW, you just eat everyday, normal foods you can find at your grocery store.
Food is tracked with Smartpoints
Weight Watchers uses something called Smartpoints to track food intake.
When you follow this diet, you’re given a daily limit of points you can spend however you want, plus extra points to use each week (referred to as your weekly allowance).
Smartpoints are not equal to calories, although calories are part of the equation. They’re also based on saturated fat, sugar, and protein.
You can read about calories vs. WW points here for a more in-depth read.
Most foods that are highly processed or high in sugar are very, very high in points. This can make it seem very restrictive if you’re used to eating a certain type of diet.
You will soon learn if you eat junk all day, you will run out of points before you get full.
Thankfully, there is enough wiggle room built into the plan to allow you to still enjoy eating foods you like and even splurge sometimes.
Current plan options – Green, Blue, or Purple
Weight Watchers has been notorious for switching their eating plan every few years. In 2020, WW finally allowed members a choice of what plan they wanted to follow.
There are currently 3 choices – Green, Blue, or Purple.
The difference is based on the number of foods that are considered zero points, and the number of daily points you’re given.
Green Plan: 100+ zero point foods, you get the most amount of daily points to use
Blue Plan: 200+ zero point foods, you get fewer points than Green plan
Purple Plan: 300+ zero point foods, you get the least amount of points to spend with this plan
With Green, only fruits and non-starchy veggies are considered “free” of points.
Blue and Purple plans let you eat more foods for “free” like lean meats, eggs, beans, and even things like potatoes and whole grains are zero points if you follow Purple.
The purpose of zero-point foods is so you don’t have to worry about weighing, measuring, or tracking. It’s important to understand it doesn’t mean “unlimited”.
How do you know which plan to choose?
You can pick whichever one you want, it’s really up to the type of food you eat. If you eat mostly foods that are zero points, it might make sense to go with Purple or Blue so you don’t have to track as much.
If you don’t eat heavily on zero point foods and want more freedom to eat what you want, or if you want to be held more accountable, Green might be better.
WW may suggest a certain color for you based on your preferences but it’s ultimately up to you.
You can also switch between colors as often as you like, so if you don’t like the plan you initially choose, you can select another option.
The official recommendation is to follow the plan for 2 weeks to see if it’s a good fit, but you can switch between plans all within the same day if you really want to.
All of these plans have been proven to work for weight loss, but some people may find a certain color works better or fits more into their lifestyle.
Do you have to attend meetings?
One of the aspects that make WW stand out from other diets is you have the option to attend weekly, in-person meetings.
While this can be an awesome experience for some people who thrive on community support, it’s not for everyone.
The good thing is you do not have to attend meetings if you don’t want to. There are different levels of membership you can purchase.
The bottom tier membership is a digital-only subscription. You get access to the app to track your food, search the recipe database, and get support from the online community, and you can do this all entirely at home. This is the cheapest, most affordable option.
If you want to attend meetings, you’ll have to pay a bit more, but many people find it’s the key to their success with the program.
Does Weight Watchers really work, though? A look into the research
Actually this is one of the few commercialized diet programs that is backed by the “gold” standard clinical research. There are multiple studies proving it’s more effective than just following general weight loss guidelines.
For example, this clinical trial studied participants of Weight Watchers over a 12-month period and found they lost more weight than those who were just given general nutrition and weight loss advice from their doctors.
While the study also looked at other diets like Jenny Craig and Medifast, and found those participants lost even more weight – those are diets that rely on strict prepackaged foods and are much more restrictive than following WW.
Another study showed people who followed Weight Watchers for 12 months lost more weight than those who only followed the program for 3 months, and, these differences remained for 2 years.
This suggests that Weight Watchers is a better option to follow if you’re looking for a long-term weight loss solution and not a quick fix.
Weight Watchers is also one of the more widely recommended programs by doctors.
This is NOT any type of “crash diet”
If you’re looking to lose 30 lbs in a couple of weeks, this isn’t the diet for you. The WW program is meant to result in healthy, sustainable weight loss – around 1 – 2 lbs per week.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, you may find you lose more than that in the beginning, and if you are closer to your goal weight, you may lose much slower.
Some critics of Weight Watchers say it’s just another restrictive way of eating, like any other diet, that can be psychologically damaging to your relationship with food.
But I actually find it to be one of the least restrictive programs there is, especially with the sheer number of free foods you don’t have to worry about weighing/measuring/tracking.
And the fact you can still eat any type of food you want makes it even more appealing.
…and it’s NOT just for women!
A stereotype of this program is that it’s a diet for women. This isn’t true, men can use the WW program too! Actually, my dad followed Weight Watchers for a while and lost a lot of weight on it. He even attended meetings!
It’s designed to work for anybody.
Is WW super expensive?
Not necessarily. If you sign up for a digital-only subscription, you’ll get access to the app and resources to track your food without a super high price tag.
The normal price for this is just under $20, but they often run specials where you can grab a few months for a pretty good discount.
You can check out any current promotional offers through this link.
However, the program also has studio (meetings) and private coaching options as well, both of which are a bit pricier.
The Bottom Line
I believe WW is a pretty good program for weight loss and many people absolutely love it. I followed it and lost weight before I got more into intermittent fasting.
But I also fully recognize that weight loss is not a one size fits all approach. There is no universal “correct” diet to follow, and some people find certain diets work better for them.
Some people find having to track all their food tedious and find it difficult to stick to, and the program cost can add up if you stick with it for any length of time.
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