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Healthline diet score: 4.25 out of 5

WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) is one of the most popular weight loss programs in the world. Millions of people — including celebrities like Oprah Winfrey — have joined it, hoping to drop pounds.

In 2021, the company launched its latest program, PersonalPoints, which is designed to provide even more personalization than the original WW.

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

Diet review scorecard
  • Overall: 4.25 out of 5
  • Weight loss/gain: 4.5
  • Healthy eating habits: 4.75
  • Sustainability: 3.75
  • Whole body health: 4.5
  • Nutrition quality: 4
  • Evidence-based: 4

WW was founded by Jean Nidetch in 1963 in her home in Queens, New York.

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

Initially, WW 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.

WW has overhauled the points-based system several times over the years, most recently launching the PersonalPoints program, which introduced a new level of individualization.

Pros

  • offers a unique, individualized SmartPoints budget and ZeroPoint list for each person
  • provides helpful WW 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

Cons

  • can be expensive, especially if you sign up for the Unlimited Workshops + Digital option
  • can be difficult and expensive to cancel
  • no research on the PersonalPoints system specifically

The first step in signing up for WW is to take the personal assessment, which asks questions about a user’s current health habits and goals. These include:

  • why they want to lose weight
  • when they’re most likely to go off-track on an eating plan
  • how much they exercise
  • their sleep habits
  • their current mindset

Once the assessment is complete, WW provides a report that identifies the user’s strengths, such as exercising, and areas where they could use some help, such as making healthier food choices or getting more sleep.

After completing the assessment, users are prompted to sign up for one of these three memberships:

  • Digital. WW’s most basic option, the Digital plan offers access to the WW app, along with a customized weight loss and wellness plan, tracking tools, workouts, meditations, and a weekly check-in with a WW coach. It costs $9.92 per week or $22.95 per month for a 3- or 6-month commitment.
  • Unlimited Workshops + Digital. This plan offers everything from the Digital plan plus virtual and in-person meetups with a WW coach and group. Costs for this program vary based on your area. In my area, it was $16.15 per week or $49.95 per month for a 3- or 6-month commitment.
  • 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital. This plan offers everything from the Digital plan plus unlimited phone or messaging access to a WW coach. It costs $11.08 per week or $59.95 per month for a 3- or 6-month commitment.

Additional products and services

All WW memberships include access to the WW app and all its features.

Members can also access in-person and virtual workshops or personal coaching by signing up for one of WW’s other memberships.

In addition to these services, WW offers a WW Shop that sells a large variety of WW-branded and approved items, including:

  • snack foods
  • pantry staples
  • breakfast items
  • collagen powder
  • cookbooks
  • kitchen tools
  • drinkware
  • kitchen storage items
  • workout equipment and accessories
  • candles
  • jewelry
  • skincare products
  • body scales

The WW program recognizes that while certain individuals need extra accountability, others do better with more flexibility.

The PersonalPoints program is WW’s most personalized plan yet. It tailors a user’s daily SmartPoints budget and list of ZeroPoint foods based on the results of their initial assessment.

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

  • SmartPoints 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 are foods and beverages that don’t count toward your SmartPoints budget. The number and types of foods that are considered ZeroPoint foods depends on the plan you choose.

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

The WW app is packed with features for members, including a food tracker, a meal planning tool, personalized eating plans, and more than 9,000 recipes.

In addition to encouraging healthy eating, WW motivates users to stay active by assigning them a weekly fitness goal, referred to as FitPoints.

Members can log their activities using the WW app, with the goal of reaching a designated number of FitPoints per week.

Activities like dancing, walking, and cleaning, in addition to more traditional workouts like running and weightlifting, all count toward your FitPoints goal.

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, WW 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.

Finally, you can collect “Wins” on the app for completing healthy lifestyle activities, such as going for a run or eating three meals per day. You can exchange these Wins for prizes such as WW keychains, fitness accessories, and kitchen tools.

WW 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, WW explains to members that they should expect to lose 0.5–2 pounds (0.23–0.9 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 SmartPoints system, which prioritizes healthy foods.

Many studies have shown that WW can help with weight loss.

In fact, WW is one of the few weight loss programs with proven results from randomized controlled trials, which are considered the gold standard of medical research.

One study found that people with overweight who were told to lose weight by their doctors lost significantly more weight on the WW program over 2 years than those who received standard weight loss counseling from a primary care professional (1).

Furthermore, a review of 39 controlled studies found that participants following the WW program lost 2.6% more weight than participants who received other types of counseling (2).

Another controlled study in more than 1,200 adults with obesity found that participants who followed the WW program for 1 year lost significantly more weight than those who received self-help materials or brief weight loss advice (3).

What’s more, participants following WW for 1 year were more successful at maintaining their weight loss over 2 years than other groups.

Overall, most of the studies on the WW diet have found that participants lost an average of 10–16 pounds (4.75–7.5 kg) over the course of a year (1, 3).

These studies were performed before WW launched the new PersonalPoints program. Research on the effectiveness of the new program is still needed, although the plans still emphasize many of the same basic principles as previous WW programs, including the use of SmartPoints.

WW prides itself on being a realistic and flexible way to lose weight.

Especially with the new PersonalPoints program, which is tailored to the individual, users are encouraged to choose healthier, more nutritious foods.

The program also allow members to enjoy their favorite foods, as long as the items fit into their allotted daily SmartPoints value. This means members can go out to dinner or attend a party without worrying if the food served will fit into their diet plan.

Plus, WW is a good choice for people with dietary restrictions, like vegans, or those with food allergies, since members choose how they spend their SmartPoints.

Another benefit of the program is that it provides members with tools and resources for achieving a healthier lifestyle.

In particular, the WW app includes community support to help members feel connected and stay motivated by engaging with fellow members.

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

For example, to follow the program, you must be willing keep track of the foods — and their associated SmartPoints — that you consume each day.

This tedious and time-consuming task may be a turnoff for some.

Conversely, the WW program may be too lenient for those whose top concern is self-control.

Additionally, 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 SmartPoints.

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.

Although the WW 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 SmartPoints allotment.

The WW program also makes healthy food more tempting to members by offering ZeroPoint foods, which will vary from person-to person.

Some example 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 encouraged on the WW plan include:

  • 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 avoid

While the SmartPoints system allows members to choose any food they like, WW 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, WW 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 SmartPoints.

Sample menu

WW provides members with a database of more than 9,000 healthy recipes. These recipes help keep users motivated and prevent boredom in the kitchen.

Most meal ideas provided by WW focus on fresh, whole foods. Dessert recipes are available as well.

Here’s a 3-day sample menu using recipes from the WW website:

Monday

  • Breakfast: poblano and egg breakfast sandwich
  • Lunch: barbecue-ranch chicken salad
  • Snack: banana–chocolate chip mini muffins
  • Dinner: roasted salmon with chickpeas, zucchini, and red pepper
  • Dessert: chocolate-almond “nice” cream

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: cranberry-walnut oatmeal
  • Lunch: Greek-inspired veggie burgers
  • Dinner: spicy chicken soft tacos with goat cheese
  • Snack: deviled eggs with capers and dill
  • Dessert: Baked apples with vanilla drizzle

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with warm blueberry sauce
  • Lunch: pesto chicken salad sandwiches
  • Dinner: easy shrimp and veggie bowl
  • Snack: Parmesan-thyme popcorn
  • Dessert: Mini brownie cupcake

Members can choose home-cooked recipes provided by WW or eat any food they desire, as long as it fits within their SmartPoints limit.

Shopping list

WW encourages members to keep weight loss friendly foods on hand.

Purchasing healthy foods makes it less likely that you’ll eat highly processed foods and ensures that members have the ingredients necessary to prepare fresh, tasty meals at home.

Here’s a sample grocery list of WW-approved foods:

  • Produce: fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, plus fresh herbs
  • Protein: lean meats, poultry, eggs, tofu, shellfish, frozen veggie burgers, and fish
  • Dairy: low fat milk or nondairy milk substitutes like almond milk, low fat or fat-free unsweetened yogurt, fat-free cottage cheese, and regular or low fat cheeses
  • Grains, breads, and pastas: brown rice, barley, quinoa, corn tortillas, whole grain bread, oatmeal, whole grain pasta or waffles, and shredded cereal
  • Canned and prepared foods: tomato sauce, hummus, black bean dip, WW frozen entrees, salsa, canned beans, canned unsweetened fruits, and canned low salt vegetables
  • Healthy fats: olive oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds
  • Seasoning and condiments: vinegar, hot sauce, mustard, dried herbs, fat-free mayonnaise, reduced-sodium soy sauce, and fat-free or low fat salad dressing
  • Snacks: fat-free popcorn, baked tortilla chips, sugar-free gelatin, and WW ice cream bars and sorbet

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

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

As a brand, WW has been around for more than 59 years and has a Better Business Bureau Rating of A+. The company also scored well during Healthline’s vetting process, as it doesn’t make unsubstantiated health claims.

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

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

Here’s a quick look at how WW compares to two of its main competitors: Noom, an app-based weight loss program, and Jenny Craig, which delivers premade meals to customers:

Monthly subscriptionMeal planSupportOther resourcesProsCons
WW$23–$64, depending on the membership type and payment plancustom SmartPoints allotment with unique list of ZeroPoint foodsvirtual and in-person coaching and workshops, depending on the plan• recipes
• workouts
• guided meditations
• meal planning
• customized program
• WW app
• research-backed effectiveness for short-term weight loss
• no off-limits foods
• expensive
• can be difficult to cancel
Noom• $60 if paying monthly
• $17 if paying yearly
calorie counting with traffic light system (green, yellow, and red foods)• heath coach
• goal specialist
• support group
daily lessons• Noom app
• research-backed effectiveness for short-term weight loss
• no off-limits foods
• focus on behavior change
• expensive
• no long-term research
Jenny Craig$420–$714 per month, depending on the planconsists mostly of Jenny Craig prepared meals and snacks1:1 coaching, depending on the planfitness planseasy and convenient• expensive
• relies on highly processed foods
• not sustainable
• limited research on effectiveness

Does WW really work?

Many people have been successful with WW, and a handful of research studies have noted that WW is good for short-term weight loss. (1, 2, 3).

However, more research is needed on the long-term effectiveness of Weight Watchers.

How long does it take to see progress with WW?

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

Is there a free version of Weight Watchers?

WW currently offers a free 30-day trial of the Digital membership. However, the company doesn’t offer a program that’s free indefinitely.

WW 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 encourage an overall balanced lifestyle.

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

If you’re looking for an evidence-based weight loss program that lets you choose which foods to eat as long as you stay within your designated points, WW might help you reach your health and wellness goals.