Weight Watchers Diet Analyzed

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How Does Weight Watchers Work?

If you’re looking to lose weight the chances are that you’ve looked into lots of different diets from Atkins to Slimming World and everything in between. Rather than leaving you to muddle your way through nutrition-speak these kinds of organized diets break things down into easy to understand, manageable steps so users can take their weight loss one step at a time.

Weight Watchers (also known as WW) is one such weight loss organization that runs dieting programs for people in multiple countries. Founded in 1963 in New York, the program helps over a million people come together at meetings every week to strive towards their weight loss goals.

Weight Watchers has gone through several changes since its conception in 1963 and the current system for 2018 is known as Weight Watchers Freestyle.

The main part of the diet is a points system where foods are assigned point values and members can eat unlimited foods from a provided “Zero Points” list. The current points tool that dieters can use to measure their food intake is known as SmartPoints.

What Are Weight Watchers SmartPoints?

To make keeping track of food intake simple, the company assigns a value known as SmartPoints to every food and beverage. The SmartPoint value of every food or beverage is based on four nutrient components:

  • Calories
  • Saturated fat
  • Sugar
  • Protein

Foods that are high in calories, saturated fat and sugar are awarded higher SmartPoint values due to their tendency to prevent weight loss. The amount of lean protein contained in a food lowers the SmartPoint value as it increases the feeling of being full and therefore helps towards weight loss.

Every person on the plan is allowed to consume a certain number of SmartPoints each day. SmartPoints are always whole values which make them easy to track, and participants are given all the information and tools they need to track their intake.

Examples of SmartPoint Values

Weight Watchers allocates zero points to a selection of over 200 foods that it considers to be conducive to weight loss.

These foods are generally high in fibre or protein and low in saturated fat, sugar and calories. Foods with a zero SmartPoint value include:

  • Fresh, frozen and canned fruit (in water or drained from its own unsweetened juice)
  • Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables (no sugar or oil added)
  • Fresh, frozen and canned beans and lentils (without oil or sugar)
  • Eggs
  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Seafood

Some examples of SmartPoint values for other everyday foods include:

  • Butter – 5 smartpoints
  • One slice of bread – 2 smartpoints
  • One ounce of cheddar cheese – 4 smartpoints
  • Three ounces of lean cooked ham – 4 smartpoints
  • One tablespoon of mayonnaise – 3 smartpoints
  • One teaspoon of olive oil – 1 smartpoints
  • One medium baked potato – 5 smartpoints
  • One cheese string – 1 smartpoints
  • Five ounces of red or white wine – 4 smartpoints
  • One cup of cooked brown rice – 7 smartpoints
  • Twelve tortilla chips – 4 smartpoints

How Many WW SmartPoints Will I Get?

The number of SmartPoints allocated to each individual will depend on several factors including their:

  1. Height
  2. Weight
  3. Gender
  4. Age

Weight Watchers participants are given a daily allowance of SmartPoints as well as a weekly allowance to use on bigger portions, treats or eating out. For example, someone may have a daily allowance of 30 SmartPoints as well as a weekly allowance of 40 extra points that can be used throughout the week.

If members get to the end of the week without having used up all their weekly points they should still lose at least one pound. This helps dieters to avoid the feelings of deprivation or restriction which often cause people trying to lose weight to give up or binge eat.

Do SmartPoints Roll Over?

The new version of Weight Watchers is the most flexible program yet, allowing members to roll over up to four of their daily points into their weekly allowance. This means that dieters can enjoy meals out or treats without worrying about jeopardizing their weight loss, and can learn to incorporate healthy eating as well as treats into their new, sustainable healthier lifestyle.

Example of a daily diet plan:

  • Breakfast: Two slices of wholemeal toast, two poached eggs and a banana accompanied by a white coffee
  • Snack: A Weight Watchers chocolate bar
  • Lunch: Tuna salad with hard boiled egg and herb flavored couscous, a fruit salad
  • Snack: Fresh vegetable crudites with hummus and salsa
  • Dinner: Chicken curry with brown rice and mixed vegetables, a glass of red wine

Example of a daily diet plan for vegetarians on Weight Watchers Freestyle:

  • Breakfast: Wholegrain porridge with almond milk, banana and a large handful of berries
  • Snack: Twelve tortilla chips with salsa, plus vegetable crudites
  • Lunch: Mushroom, onion, tomato and cheese omelette with a green salad and Weight Watchers wholemeal pitta
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with honey drizzle and an apple
  • Dinner: Tofu and tempeh skewers with peanut satay sauce, brown rice and stir-fried green beans and broccoli

Weekly Meetings

Weekly meetings are an iconic part of the Weight Watchers program. Meeting leaders, each of whom have already completed the program successfully, lead the sessions with current dieting participants.

Weighing scales (in a private booth) are available but not mandatory for people who wish to keep track of how their progress is going; successes are celebrated and individuals can ask for help and support with areas they are finding difficult.

You’ll share recipes and tips on eating out and meal planning, get help recognizing where your weight loss journey could be made easier and of course meet like-minded people and new friends. There are several options for meeting places and times so you can pick a meeting that suits you.

Do You Need To Exercise?

A physical activity program that complements the Freestyle plan, FitPoints helps participants shed pounds quicker by introducing exercise in a gentle and manageable way.

FitPoints is the rating system that Weight Watchers uses to measure the physical activity of its members. The more exercise you do, the more FitPoints you earn. These can either be traded in for more SmartPoints so you can eat more, or you can simply reap the benefits of faster weight loss! Each member gets a weekly FitPoints goal to aim for based on their age, weight and other health and lifestyle considerations.

Using psychological and scientific principles, the FitPoints system helps users to find their personal motivations for weight loss and to identify the most enjoyable and sustainable ways of bringing physical activity into their lives. The Weight Watchers website contains fitness videos, tips and workout routines to help keep the fun and motivation in exercising.

General government recommendations for healthy adult are to complete 30 minutes of exercise five times per week; if you are not used to physical activity then simply do what you can and build up your stamina gradually. Low impact movements such as swimming and cross-training are good options for people who are trying to lose weight and build up their exercise regimen.

Members are required to log their physical activity in their online member portal or on a tracking app or device such as a FitBit, and record the type and intensity of the exercise.

The intensity may be low, moderate or hard:

  • Low intensity: During the activity you’re not sweating or  breathing more rapidly than normal.
  • Moderate intensity: You’re breathing more rapidly than normal, but not out of breath (not winded). You are able to talk but not able to sing while performing the activity.
  • High intensity: You’re breathing hard and can’t converse normally while performing this activity- you may be able to utter short phrases.

The program works to not just get people active, but incorporate sustainable lifestyle changes that go beyond just a fad diet. Weight Watchers weekly meeting leaders work with users to overcome psychological barriers to exercise, build confidence, redefine what counts as ‘activity’ and continue to support them until active living becomes a natural lifestyle.

Weight Watchers Rewards Positive Changes

Weight Watchers is a positive and healthy lifestyle program and celebrates users’ milestones, whether it be the first pound of weight loss or six months’ of continued healthy diet and exercise.

The weekly meetings are set up to be fun, dignified and helpful, offering a supportive community and environment in which people can share the same goals, struggles and successes.

What Kinds Of Memberships Are Available?

In the US there are three membership options available for people wishing to join Weight Watchers.

  • OnlinePlus: Get the app and access to the Weight Watchers website, full of recipes, motivational tips and exercise ideas. You can also keep in touch with the WW community and find a supportive peer group to help you along your journey. The app even has the SmartPoints values of popular meals at restaurants, so keeping track of your intake has never been easier.
  • Meetings and OnlinePlus: Get all the benefits of a digital membership as well as access to weekly in-person meetings with local Weight Watchers members and an enthusiastic member. Pricing varies according to ZIP code but is generally around $7 per week.
  • Coaching and OnlinePlus: Enjoy the services of a personal coach who will help tailor a diet and lifestyle plan just for you, with unlimited phone calls and support. The OnlinePlus app and website is also included in this package.

How Effective Is The Freestyle Program?

The Weight Watchers program is based on over 50 years of research and development, as well as nutritional research and behavioral psychology. It is no wonder then that the diet organization has had good results, with a 2005 study finding that members lost an average of 14 pounds over 24 weeks which works out at 1.71 pounds per week.

Weight Watchers often assesses its program and policies to ensure it stays up to date with the best nutritional and weight loss research in order to deliver maximum benefit to its users.

Conclusion

To wrap up our review, we believe that this is a highly successful diet plan and weight-loss organization that has helped millions of people make improvements in their health and sustainable changes in their lifestyle. Rather than a quick fad, Weight Watchers provides creative solutions and long term guidance based around practical dietary advice.

The foods suggested are everyday items that require no specialist knowledge of nutrition or cooking, and there are plenty of branded meals and snacks to make healthy eating even easier. This makes it a good program for people wanting to lose weight quickly, safely and with the support of people who have done it before them.

Hannah Canavan
Hannah Canavan
Staff Writer & Fact Checker at DietProbe
Hannah is a health and lifestyle journalist with a passion for veganism and nutrition.
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Fact Checked


This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.