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Healthline diet score: 4.10 out of 5

From its humble beginnings as a weekly weight loss group for founder Jean Nidetch and her friends, WeightWatchers quickly grew into one of the most sought-after diet plans in the world.

Millions of people — including celebrities like Oprah Winfrey — have joined it, hoping to drop pounds.

This article reviews how the WeightWatchers program works so you can decide whether it’s the right weight loss solution for you.

Diet review scorecard
  • Overall: 4.10 out of 5
  • Weight loss: 5
  • Adherence: 4.5
  • Whole body health: 3.5
  • Nutrition quality: 4.5
  • Health promotion: 3

Bottom line: WeightWatchers uses a flexible, points-based system and has research to support its effectiveness. It also encourages an overall balanced lifestyle and provides support through in-person support groups and online community forums. However, the program isn’t free, and some people may dislike having to track their food intake.

  • What it is: WeightWatchers is a weight loss program that uses a points-based system, rather than calorie counting, to support weight loss and encourage healthier eating habits.
  • How much it costs: A 1-month membership starts at $23 per month, with a $20 membership starter fee. Optional add-ons, including access to weight loss medications or coach-led workshops, are also available for an additional cost.
  • Potential benefits: Some of the main benefits of WeightWatchers include:
    • Effectiveness: WeightWatchers prides itself on being a realistic and flexible way to lose weight, and many people have found weight loss success on the program. The Points system and ZeroPoint foods also encourage people to choose healthier, more nutritious foods.
    • Sustainability: The program allows members to enjoy their favorite foods, as long as items fit into the allotted daily Points value. This means you can go out to dinner or attend a party without worrying if the food served is allowed on your diet plan.
    • Flexibility: WeightWatchers is a good choice for people with dietary restrictions, like vegans or those with food allergies, since members choose how they spend their Points.
    • Included tools: Another benefit of the program is that it provides members with tools and resources for achieving a healthier lifestyle. In particular, the WeightWatchers app includes community support to help members feel connected and stay motivated by engaging with fellow members.

Pros

  • offers a unique, individualized Points budget for each person
  • provides helpful app features like meal planning tools, recipes, workouts, and meditations
  • short-term effectiveness backed by research
  • more sustainable than other diet programs because no foods are off-limits
  • online and in-person community support available
  • access to weight loss medications for those who qualify

Cons

  • can be expensive, especially if you sign up for optional add-ons
  • can be difficult and expensive to cancel
  • may be too lenient for some
  • does not guarantee a balanced diet
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WeightWatchers uses a science-based approach to weight loss, emphasizing the importance of:

  • portion control
  • food choices
  • slow, consistent weight loss

Unlike many fad diets that promise unrealistic results over short periods of time, WeightWatchers says members can expect to lose 0.5–2 pounds (lb) [0.23–0.9 kilograms (kg)] per week, depending on their chosen plan.

The program highlights lifestyle modification and counsels members on how to make better decisions by using the Points system, which prioritizes healthy foods.

Short-term weight loss

Several studies have shown that WeightWatchers can help promote short-term weight loss.

In one study in 152 people with obesity, researchers found that people on WeightWatchers lost an average of nearly 6% of their body weight at 3 months. Plus, one-third of participants in this study were able to lose 10% or more of their body weight after 6 months.

Another study evaluated the effects of WeightWatchers in women of childbearing age and people considering or planning pregnancy with obesity.

The study found that the program was effective for short-term weight loss, with approximately one-third of participants losing at least 5% of their body weight in 12 weeks.

Long-term weight loss and maintenance

WeightWatchers is designed to support long-term, sustainable weight loss.

In fact, two studies from 2018 and 2021 investigating the cost-effectiveness of the WeightWatchers program found that it helped save significant amounts of money on future healthcare costs via weight reduction.

In one of these studies, researchers found that WeightWatchers was more cost-effective and more successful at reducing obesity than standard care.

In the other, researchers found that, on average, participants lost between 6.3 and 11.6 lb (2.9 and 5.2 kg) in about 7 months.

Furthermore, a 2015 review of 39 controlled studies found that after 12 months, participants following the WeightWatchers program lost 2.6% more weight than participants who received standard weight loss education.

Still, more recent research on the long-term effectiveness of WeightWatchers is lacking.

Initially, WeightWatchers used an exchange system, where foods were counted according to servings, similar to the diabetes exchange system.

In the 1990s, it introduced a points-based system that assigned values to foods and drinks based on their fiber, fat, and calorie content.

WeightWatchers has adjusted the points-based system several times over the years, most recently focusing on individualization and other health considerations that may affect your weight, like sleep, stress, and exercise.

Membership options

The first step in signing up for WeightWatchers is to take the personal assessment, which asks questions about your current health habits and goals.

Once the assessment is complete, you are prompted to sign up for one of two membership options:

  • Core: The most basic option, this plan offers access to the WeightWatchers app, along with a customized weight loss and wellness plan, tracking tools, workouts, and meditations. It costs $23 for a 1-month membership, or as low as $10 per month for a 10-month membership.
  • Premium: This plan offers everything from the Core plan, plus virtual and in-person meetups with a WeightWatchers coach and group. It starts at $45 for 1 month, or just $25 per month if you sign up for 10 months.

WeightWatchers Points are a stand-in for calorie counting, designed to simplify eating healthily at a calorie deficit. Your Points budget is based on your starting weight, weight goals, activity level, age, and reproductive status. For example, you will get more points if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding because you need the extra calories.

There are also ZeroPoint foods, which anyone on WeightWatchers can eat without spending Points from their budget.

Here’s a brief explanation of Points and ZeroPoint foods:

  • Points: These are values assigned to foods based on their nutritional content. More nutritious foods, like fish and vegetables, are assigned fewer points than more heavily processed foods like candy and soda.
  • ZeroPoint foods: These are foods and beverages that don’t count toward your Points budget. There are over 200 ZeroPoint foods, including things like scrambled eggs (with no added fat), nonfat yogurt, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables.

While no foods are off-limits, WeightWatchers recommends staying at or below your Points budget if weight loss is your goal.

The WeightWatchers app is packed with features for members, including a food tracker, a meal planning tool, personalized eating plans, and more than 13,000 recipes.

In addition to encouraging healthy eating, WeightWatchers motivates people to stay active by assigning them a weekly fitness goal.

Activities like dancing, walking, and cleaning, in addition to more traditional workouts like running and weightlifting, all count toward your fitness goal. You can get extra Points in your Points budget by including exercise in your routine.

The app provides fitness videos and workout routines, along with a weekly review of your physical activity level.

Because sleep is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, WeightWatchers also offers a sleep tracker and services from Headspace, including sleep music, 5-minute behavior change coaching, and mini-meditations.

Another notable feature is the app’s built-in social network, which allows members to create posts, view other members’ posts, search by hashtags, and interact with others in group forums.

Although the WeightWatchers Point system emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, including vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins, no foods are off-limits.

While healthy choices are encouraged, members can choose any foods they want, as long as they stay under their daily Points allotment.

The WeightWatchers program also makes nutritious food more tempting to members by offering ZeroPoint foods.

ZeroPoint foods may include fruits, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, lentils and beans, nonfat dairy, eggs, tofu, seafood and shellfish, and some whole grains.

Foods to eat

  • lean proteins
  • healthy fats
  • non-starchy vegetables
  • fresh, frozen, and unsweetened canned fruit
  • high fiber carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, beans, and whole grain products

Foods to limit

While the Points system allows members to choose any food they like, WeightWatchers discourages eating foods that are highly processed or high in added sugar and saturated fats, such as:

  • sugary drinks
  • potato chips
  • processed meats
  • candy
  • cakes and cookies

However, WeightWatchers makes it clear that no foods are off-limits and members can eat their favorite snacks and desserts as long as they stay within their designated Points.

WeightWatchers recently paired up with Sequence, an online weight loss program, to offer prescription weight loss medications to those who qualify.

These injectable medications — known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists — work by reducing appetite, slowing the emptying of the stomach, and increasing feelings of fullness to promote weight loss.

The program offers several different types of GLP-1 medications, including:

  • semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic, or Rybelsus)
  • liraglutide (Saxenda or Victoza)
  • tirzepatide (Mounjaro)
  • dulaglutide (Trulicity)

In some cases, other types of medications may also be prescribed for weight loss, including metformin or naltrexone/bupropion (Contrave).

For this service, WeightWatchers offers flexible monthly plans starting at $99 per month, along with a $49 initial consultation fee. Note that this doesn’t include the cost of GLP-1 medications, which can vary in price depending on your insurance coverage.

Plans include assistance from an insurance coordinator to help navigate insurance coverage, regular check-ins with a clinician to adjust your treatment plan as needed, and a WeightWatchers membership.

Many reviewers are happy with WeightWatchers and report that they successfully lost weight on the program. Positive reviewers say they appreciate that no foods are off-limits on WeightWatchers, which makes the program a much more sustainable approach to weight loss.

Of course, not all reviews are positive. Customers most frequently complain about expensive early cancellation fees, difficulties canceling their memberships, and confusion about how the WeightWatchers pricing structure works.

Company reputation

As a brand, WeightWatchers has been around for more than 60 years and currently holds an A rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

However, in 2022, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the company, which alleged that WeightWatchers marketed to and collected personal information from children.

The case has since been settled, with WeightWatchers paying a fine and agreeing to delete any illegally collected personal information and any algorithms derived from the data.

It’s also worth noting that the company has faced legal scrutiny because of how difficult it is to cancel a WeightWatchers membership.

Additionally, another recent class action lawsuit also alleged that WeightWatchers violated privacy regulations by sharing the video viewing history of users with Facebook.

WeightWatchers scored well during Healthline’s vetting for not making any unsubstantiated health claims.

Additionally, while WeightWatchers coaches are not required to be licensed health professionals, the company doesn’t mislead consumers into thinking that coaches are doctors or dietitians.

Here’s a quick look at how WeightWatchers compares with a few of its competitors: Noom, Ro Body, and Calibrate.

CostMeal planSupportOther resources
WeightWatchers• $10–$45 per month
• $99 per month for medication access, with $49 initial consult fee
custom Points allotment with 200+ ZeroPoint foodsvirtual and in-person coaching and workshops, depending on the plan• tracking tools
• recipes
• workouts
• guided meditations
• meal planning
• weight loss medications
Noom• $70 if paying monthly
• $17 if paying yearly
• $49 per month for Noom Med
calorie counting with traffic light system (green, yellow, and orange foods)• Noom guide
• support group

• daily lessons
• tracking tools
• weight loss medications
Ro Body• $99 for initial consult
• $145 per month
general guidelines to help you choose more nutritious foods• up to 24 virtual visits with healthcare professional per year
• on-demand coaching
• insurance concierge
• weight loss medications
• tracking tools
• step-by-step curriculum
Calibrate• $250 assessment fee
• $146 per month
curriculum designed to make changes to four pillars of metabolic health (food, sleep, exercise, and emotional health)• biweekly video visits with coach
• Calibrate medical team
• weight loss medications
• tracking tools
• metabolic health assessment

It’s worth noting that Noom Med’s $49 monthly cost is in addition to the cost of a Noom app subscription. However, WeightWatchers’ $99 per month medication plan includes full access to the WeightWatchers program.

The cost for each service listed above does not include the cost of weight loss medications, which may be covered by insurance in some instances.

As with any diet program, WeightWatchers may be a good fit for some and not a great fit for others. Here’s a quick look at who should or shouldn’t give it a try.

WeightWatchers may be a great fit for people who:

  • have not had success with restrictive diets
  • need more flexibility to be successful
  • want to develop healthy habits that will stick
  • want support from a coach or support group (although this group should sign up for the Premium option)

Potential drawbacks

While WeightWatchers has many benefits, there are several reasons why it may not be the best plan for everyone. It:

  • Requires food tracking: Following the program requires tracking foods — and their associated Points — that you consume each day. This can be a tedious and time-consuming task and may be a turnoff for some.
  • May be too lenient: The WeightWatchers program may be too lenient for those whose top concern is self-control. Especially with an allotment of calorie-containing ZeroPoint foods, it’s possible — and simple, even — to eat higher quantities of calories without going over your Points budget. This can make it difficult to lose weight.
  • Does not guarantee a balanced diet: Similarly, while the program encourages the intake of nutrient-rich foods, members can theoretically choose to eat foods that are high in sugar and low in nutrients and still stay under their set amount of Points.
  • Isn’t free: Another potential downfall is that it may be too expensive for some people. Though monthly costs vary depending on the subscription plan, the total investment might be out of reach for those on a budget.

Heads up

Trying to “do it right” when it comes to nutrition may feel tempting, but it can backfire.

If you are preoccupied with food or your weight, feel guilt surrounding your food choices, or routinely engage in restrictive diets, consider reaching out for support. These behaviors may indicate a disordered relationship with food or an eating disorder.

Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, age, body size, socioeconomic status, or other identities.

They can be caused by any combination of biological, social, cultural, and environmental factors — not just by exposure to diet culture.

Feel empowered to talk with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, if you’re having a hard time.

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Many people have been successful with WeightWatchers, and a handful of research studies note that WeightWatchers is good for short-term weight loss.

However, more research is needed on the effectiveness of the program after 1 year.

According to the company’s website, members can expect to lose 0.5–2 lb (0.23–0.9 kg) per week. However, results will vary from person to person.

WeightWatchers occasionally offers free months when you sign up for a subscription. However, the company doesn’t offer a program that’s free indefinitely.

WeightWatchers is a popular weight loss program that attracts hundreds of thousands of new members every year.

Its flexible, points-based system appeals to many people and encourages an overall balanced lifestyle.

Plus, studies have found that WeightWatchers is an effective way to lose weight and keep it off.

While it’s not right for everyone, WeightWatchers is an evidence-based weight loss program that is worth considering to help you meet your health and wellness goals.