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WeightWatchers 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.
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.
WeightWatchers 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, WeightWatchers quickly grew into one of the most sought-after diet plans in the world.
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.
- 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
- can be expensive, especially if you sign up for the Premium option
- can be difficult and expensive to cancel
- may be too lenient for some
The first step in signing up for WeightWatchers is to take the personal assessment, which asks questions about your current health habits and goals. These include:
- why you want to lose weight
- when you’re most likely to go off-track on an eating plan
- how much you exercise
- your sleep habits
- your current mindset
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 starts at $15 per month.
- Premium: This plan offers everything from the Core plan, plus virtual and in-person meetups with a WeightWatchers coach and group. It starts at $33.30 per month.
Additional products and services
All WeightWatchers memberships include access to the WeightWatchers app and all its features.
Members can also access in-person and virtual workshops or personal coaching by signing up for Premium.
In addition to these services, a WeightWatchers Shop sells a large variety of WeightWatchers-branded and approved items, including:
- snack foods
- pantry staples
- breakfast items
- collagen powder
- kitchen tools
- kitchen storage items
- workout equipment and accessories
- skin care products
- body scales
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 9,000 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 from Obe Fitness, 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.
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 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 Points system, which prioritizes healthy foods.
Many studies have shown that WeightWatchers can help with weight loss.
In one study in 152 people with obesity, researchers found that people on WeightWatchers lost an average of 8% of their body weight at 6 months. One-third of participants in this study were able to lose 10% or more of their body weight at 6 months (
Additionally, two studies that investigated 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 pounds (2.9 and 5.2 kg) in about 7 months (
Furthermore, an older 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 (
Some other benefits of Weight Watchers 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.
While WeightWatchers has many benefits, there are several reasons why it may not be the best plan for everyone. These include:
- 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.
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 healthy 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 avoid
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
- 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 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 WeightWatchers focus on fresh, whole foods. Dessert recipes are available as well.
Here’s a 3-day sample menu using recipes from the WeightWatchers website:
- 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
- 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
- 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 WeightWatchers or eat any food they desire, as long as it fits within their Points limit.
WeightWatchers 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 WeightWatchers-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, WeightWatchers-branded 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 WeightWatchers-branded ice cream bars and sorbet
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.
As a brand, WeightWatchers has been around for more than 59 years. While it previously had a Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating of A+, the score recently plummeted to D, which appears to be caused by a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2022 (5, 6).
The complaint 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 (6).
It’s also worth noting that the company has faced legal scrutiny because of how difficult it is to cancel a WeightWatchers membership.
On the positive side, 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 two of its main competitors: Noom, an app-based weight loss program, and Jenny Craig, which delivers premade meals to customers.
|Monthly subscription||Meal plan||Support||Other resources||Pros||Cons|
|WeightWatchers||$15–$33+||custom Points allotment with 200+ ZeroPoint foods||virtual and in-person coaching and workshops, depending on the plan||• tracking tools|
• guided meditations
• meal planning
|• customized program|
• research-backed effectiveness for short-term weight loss
• no off-limits foods
• 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
• tracking tools
|• Noom app|
• research-backed effectiveness for short-term weight loss
• no off-limits foods
• focus on behavior change
• no long-term research
|Jenny Craig||$420–$856 per month, depending on the plan||consists mostly of Jenny Craig prepared meals and snacks||1:1 coaching, depending on the plan||fitness plans||easy and convenient||• expensive|
• relies on highly processed foods
• not sustainable
• limited research on effectiveness
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 tried and failed 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)
On the other hand, WeightWatchers may not be a good fit for people who:
- prefer more rules and structure around what to eat
- prefer a lower carb, higher fat diet (because most higher fat foods are much higher in Points values)
- are on a very limited budget
- have a history of disordered eating or an eating disorder
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 struggling.
You can also chat, call, or text anonymously with trained volunteers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline for free or explore the organization’s free and low cost resources.
Is Weight Watchers good for weight loss?
However, more research is needed on the effectiveness of the program after 1 year.
How long does it take to see progress with Weight Watchers?
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?
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.
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, WeightWatchers might help you reach your health and wellness goals.