can be a daunting task, and it can be even harder to know where to start. If your research on diet programs led you here, it’s very likely that you are considering Weight Watchers, now called WW after a rebranding in 2018.
WW is a well-known program with decades-long history. For over 58 years, this program has helped millions of people lose weight—including influential celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. If you want to begin a weight-loss journey, WW may be the push you’re searching for. Follow along to see if their program is right for you.
Editor’s Note: Always consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet.
What is WW?
You know the name, you’ve heard the talk or seen the commercials — maybe even one from the 2015 Super Bowl.
WW is among the most popular dieting regimens available. In 2019, WW reached over 4.6 million members all over the world. It continues to grow today.
WW offers four membership plans that aim to meet the unique needs of each individual looking to lose weight. Each plan builds off the others, offering more support than the last. Memberships only include what’s accessible through the app and don’t include any actual meals, only a plan with recipes you can follow.
The four memberships you can choose from are:
With this membership, you get a fully personalized food plan paired with recipes that’ll help you reach your goals. You can also access meal, water, activity, weight and sleep trackers so you can stay on top of your progress. Even though this is WW’s basic plan, you also get workouts for all levels, 24/7 live coaching, plus 5-minute coaching audios. WW partnered with Headspace to provide members with exclusive guided meditations if you are also interested in incorporating wellness for the mind.
This membership plan offers all of the above plus access to virtual cooking demos, nutrition classes and Digital 360 Coaches. With the Digital 360 Coaches, you can access on-demand sessions hosted by people who have gone through the WW journey and share their experiences to help guide you through yours. Some topics in this section include:
- Getting the Most Out of Your WW App
- Yoga for a Stronger You
- Your Top WW Questions, Answered
With the Unlimited Workshops Plus Digital membership, you get everything included in the Digital 360 plan, plus in-person and virtual workshops led by WW coaches that deliver what the company claims are “scientific behavior change techniques” for weight loss. You will also be included in a workshop group to help motivate you.
The One-on-One Coaching Plus Digital plan swaps the Digital 360 Coaches for a private coach. You’ll be able to view all of the coaches’ profiles on the app and choose the one that best suits your needs. You will begin the program with a 30-minute session with your coach, where you will talk about lifestyle, preferences, and personality to build your action plan tailored to your goals. After that, you can schedule unlimited 15-minute phone or video check-ins.
After choosing your preferred membership, you will have the chance to pick a meal plan of recipes and suggested dishes that lines up with your palette, dietary needs and weight goals. Those three meal plans are:
Green plan: This is the most restrictive and has the least amount of approved foods.
Meal example: Salmon salad with lemon-caper dressing
Blue plan: A medium amount of restriction, designed for vegetarians and vegans.
Meal example: Irish steel-cut oats with pomegranate seeds and pistachios
Purple plan: The least restrictive plan, and the one with the most food choices.
Meal example: Swordfish, vegetables and brown rice
Keep in mind that while WW pushes well-balanced meals full of protein, fruits, vegetables and nutrients, the company is adamant that no food is off-limits.
The WW experience
When you enter the WW site for the first time, you will be prompted to take a quick quiz to further personalize your program. The quiz asks questions about your home life, reasons why you want to lose weight, sleep cycle and even your mindset going into the program.
Once finished, WW will recommend the membership plan best suited for you based on your answers. It’ll also suggest areas of your life that you can improve to reach your weight loss goals, whether that be nutrition, activity, sleep or mindset.
WW then provides — based upon your membership plan — resources to make strides towards your goals. If you struggle with reaching your desired amount of sleep each night, there are guided meditations you can listen to before bed. If you would like to be more active during your day, there are workout classes you can join virtually.
The most important aspect of WW’s programs is its SmartPoint system. It works by assigning each food a number of points. Foods higher in saturated fats or sugar, like potato chips or chocolate, tend to be high in points. Meanwhile, healthy whole foods such as fruits and vegetables or foods high in protein like chicken are low in points.
Depending on your chosen meal plan, you will be given a set number of SmartPoints that you can use daily. This means that every meal you eat will subtract from your budget. Please note that you will not be penalized in any way if you go over your SmartPoint budget. Those things happen!
One nice feature is that your SmartPoints roll over, so you never have to feel like you are throwing away points if you don’t hit your daily budget. For example, if you eat only 15 SmartPoints on Monday (out of a budget of 16 daily SmartPoints), you could potentially eat 17 points on Thursday.
ZeroPoint foods are everyday nutritional food items that you don’t need to track—meaning that they aren’t counted towards your daily SmartPoints budget. Everyone’s ZeroPoint foods list will be different since it’s tailored to your personalized plan. The amount of ZeroPoint foods will depend on which meal plan you choose (Green, Blue or Purple), as well as the number of ZeroPoints allowed (the Purple plan allows for the most ZeroPoint foods), but some of the basics include:
- Whole-grain pasta
- Lean chicken
- Brown rice
Which color program should you choose?
Each plan has a designated SmartPoint budget and a range of ZeroPoint foods to choose from. The plan you select is completely up to you based on your preference of flexibility around your meal planning.
Green plan: 30 daily SmartPoints with 100-plus ZeroPoint foods
Blue plan: 23 daily SmartPoints with 200-plus ZeroPoint foods
Purple plan: 16 daily SmartPoints with 300-plus ZeroPoint foods
The Green plan has the highest daily SmartPoints budget but the lowest amount of ZeroPoint foods to choose from. In this plan, the ZeroPoint foods are mostly fruits and non-starchy vegetables.
The Blue plan is middle of the road — fewer SmartPoints but more ZeroPoints. The Blue plan offers more than just ZeroPoint fruits and vegetables, such as fish, eggs and non-fat yogurt.
The Purple plan is by far the most malleable with ZeroPoints. These foods include whole-grain pasta and grains, beans and starchy vegetables.
A day in the life of a WW user
This is a meal from the Purple plan, and it is to be assumed that you would have 16 daily SmartPoints.
Breakfast: Omelette with cheese, ham and bell peppers (2 points)
Lunch: Pesto chicken sandwich with a side Italian arugula salad (8 points)
Snack: Plain fat-free cottage cheese with fresh peaches (0 points)
Dinner: Italian turkey sausage and pepper pasta (3 points)
Dessert: Sugar-free ice cream bar (3 points)
After counting all of these meals, you would have totalled 16 SmartPoints. Keep in mind that you have the power to create and plan your meals to your liking.
Depending on the plan you choose, your costs using WW can vary. Keep in mind that your membership cost doesn’t include the price of ingredients. Here’s a breakdown of the weekly costs:
Digital: starts at $3.30 per week (about $13.20 a month, or $158.40 a year)
Digital 360: starts at $4.23 per week (about $16.92 a month, or $203.04 a year)
Unlimited Workshops plus Digital: starts at $5.96 per week (about $23.84 a month, or $286.08 a year)
1-on-1 Coaching plus Digital: starts at $11.08 per week (about $44.32 a month, or $531.84 a year)
Note: A $20 starter fee will be added to your membership the first time you sign up.
The WW app
The WW app has pretty solid ratings on the App Store and Google Play store.
4.8 out of 5 stars on App Store
4.4 out of 5 stars on Google Play store
The user-friendly WW app is one of the best parts of the program. Since you bring your phone everywhere, your dieting plan can come too.
WW app allows you to:
- Track SmartPoints, sleep, activity, and water intake
- Communicate 24/7 with customer support and other people using the app
- Access prerecorded coaching sessions and meditations
- Scan barcodes to see SmartPoints
- Find recipes based on what is in your fridge
- Plan all your meals for the week
- Track your weight and reflect on your goals
What do studies say about WW?
Recent research has a lot to say about the relationship between WW users and weight loss. While there are plenty of tempting fad diets to choose from, evidence seems to suggest that WW is the real deal.
A study from 2017 found that out of a test group who struggled with obesity, 57% lost weight on WW compared to 42% on another weight-loss program.
Another study from 2016 found that Weight Watchers and another popular dieting program, Jenny Craig, were effective in helping a test group lose weight. The study concluded that health physicians could recommend either program to patients who are looking to lose weight.
Benefits of the WW diet
There are a lot of benefits to the WW program, such as:
- A huge emphasis on exercise and overall wellness, not just dieting
- Little restrictiveness
- User-friendly app
- Never have to skip meals or fast
- Not a fad: could be sustainable for you
- Find motivation within virtual classes
- Lots of other resources
The cons of this dieting regiment seem to hit in two main categories: nutrition and money.
- Low SmartPoints don’t always equal high nutritional value
- Could potentially encourage poor eating habits in the future or trigger eating disorders such as binge eating. Being on a calorie deficit may activate your hunger levels, which in turn can lead to overeating or yo-yo dieting
- If you need one-on-one coaching, you’ll have to pay for the most expensive plan
The bottom line
WW is not a one-size-fits-all program. It is not recommended if you don’t have the time to plan or track your food each day. It’s not for those who deeply struggle with self-control and portion sizing. It is great if you’re looking for overall wellness advice, however, such as help tracking sleep, activity and water intake. There are little to no restrictions when customizing a dieting plan fit just for you.
- If you need extra support on your goals, the one-on-one Coaching Plus Digital membership may be the best for you.
- If you’re only looking for dieting advice and healthy eating habits from experts, the Digital plan may make the most sense.
- If you want your experience to be less self-guided, then choose the Digital 360 plan.
- If you prefer learning through videos and seminars, then Unlimited Workshops Plus Digital may be the way to go.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.