Reviewed By: Casey Seiden MS, RD, CDN, CDE
Weight Watchers® (WW) is an old staple when it comes to dieting. It’s been around for decades, and it’s likely you know more than one person who has tried it— in fact, it’s the largest commercial weight loss program in the US and even has international reach. But even if WW seems as old as time, there can still be some pros and cons when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon. If you’ve considered trying WW, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and how you can take away the benefits without opening your wallet. Here’s what to know about WW and how it can help a healthy diet.
Weight Watchers was first developed in the 60s and encompasses a healthy lifestyle along with healthy eating choices. Although there are multiple plans to pick from based on your goals, it traditionally uses points assigned to different foods based on their nutritional value with the goal of keeping your diet low in sugar, saturated fats, and calories. As such, it incentivizes eating foods that are low in points and staying away from foods that are high in points. Additionally, it focuses on support from workshops and being active in ways that you enjoy, making it an all-around lifestyle rather than simply a diet.
If you’re someone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of food and nutrition, WW helps you become more aware of the nutritional composition of foods. It naturally guides you to choose more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein because you’re able to see which foods are more “nutrient-dense” based on the points system. The newly redesigned WW is now personalized, giving each member a unique target and set of goals or recommendations, which many other diets don’t take into consideration and simply provide a list of “yes” and “no” foods. WW also doesn’t make any foods off-limits, so you can choose to have sweets and larger portions of foods if you like, as long as it fits within your budget.
Weight Watchers offers a lot of flexibility. However, if you do choose to eat more sweets as a part of your budget, for example, it’s obvious that they use up more points which can easily lead to labeling these foods as “bad.” Labeling foods as “bad” and “good” assigns them moral value and can lead to feeling guilty about your food choices or your “failure” on the diet, ultimately leading to abandoning the plan. Another drawback of WW is that, at the end of the day, you are still tracking your food which is just another form of restriction and calorie counting, which has been shown to not result in meaningful long-term weight loss. Dieters who are constantly reading labels and obsessing over calories and grams may be creating a harmful relationship with food and causing more food and body preoccupation than is necessary.
The idea behind WW is a good one in that it introduces you to the basics of a healthy diet and how to balance the different components. At its core, it still encourages a diet that is high in fruits, veggies, fats, and whole grains, as well as a well-rounded approach to health and lifestyle. Additionally, Weight Watchers offers a large amount of free information and recipes even if you don’t choose to pay for the services, meaning it can be a great way to supplement your at-home diet and find ideas.
Optimizing your diet can seem overwhelming at first, but an expert nutritionist can help. During an appointment, we can discuss your health goals and create the right steps for you and your body. To get started, we invite you to contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.
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