Weight Watchers is an international company that offers diet plans and products to customers, and bases weight loss on the concept of allotting points for food. The system is designed with the idea that each portion of food is assigned points for the types of calories it contains. A meal low in fat and high in protein would be assigned lower points, while one higher in fat would be assigned higher points. The idea is to reach a balance of nutrition while not exceeding daily maximum points.
There’s more to weight loss than counting calories – if you make healthy choices that fill you up, you’ll eat less. Weight Watchers’ new Beyond the Scale Program, launched in late 2015, assigns every food a SmartPoints value, based on its nutition. (Higher amounts of saturated fat and sugar increase the point value; higher amounts of protein bring the point value down.) Choices that fill you up the longest “cost” the least, and nutritionally dense foods cost less than empty calories. So if you’re wavering between a 200-calorie fruit smoothie and a 200-calorie iced coffee, the smoothie is the smarter choice. A backbone of the plan is multi-model access to support from people who’ve lost weight using Weight Watchers and kept it off.
Pasta, steak, cheese, ice cream… You can eat what you want on Weight Watchers. While the popular weight-loss plan has been revamped, the basic principle of eating what you love remains — though the program steers you toward healthier foods with its points system.
In its new program, called Beyond the Scale, fitness also takes a bigger role. You’ll be encouraged to move more every day.
Weight Watchers isn’t so much a diet as a lifestyle-change program. It can help you learn how to eat healthier and get more physical activity, so you lose the weight for good.
You can follow the plan online on your own. You’ll track your food choices and exercise, chart progress, and find recipes and workouts. There’s a coaching option if you prefer one-on-one consultations by phone, email, and text. Or you can go to in-person group meetings, where you’ll weigh in.
A Consumer Reports survey found that people who went to meetings were more satisfied with the program and lost more weight than people who used only the online tools.
How does Weight Watchers Diet work?
In late 2015, Weight Watchers introduced its new Beyond the Scale program, which emphasizes three components: eating healthier; fitness that fits your life; and “developing the skills and connections to tune in and unlock inner strength.”
The new SmartPoints food plan guides members toward an overall eating pattern of foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat and sugar, and higher in protein. However, you can eat whatever you want – provided you stick to your daily SmartPoints target, a number based on your gender, weight, height and age. You can find the points values of more than 287,000 foods on the mobile app or desktop food database. Processed choices like bologna usually have the highest point values (meaning they should be eaten in small amounts or less often) while fresh fruits and most vegetables carry zero points, so you can eat as many as you need to feel full. That’s because they’re high in fiber and are more filling than, say, a candy bar. (Fruit juice, dried fruit and starchy vegetables don’t count as freebies, since they’re higher in calories.) Weight Watchers also pushes specially-designated Power Foods, or the best choices among similar foods. If you’re mulling 10 types of canned soup, for example, you can quickly see which has the least sugar and sodium, the most fiber and the healthiest types and amounts of fat.
The company offers thousands of recipes, each with a SmartPoints value, to show how it fits into your eating plan. If you’re preparing a dish that’s not listed in the database, you can calculate the points value ingredient by ingredient, using your mobile app or through the company’s website. Vegetarians, gluten-free eaters and people with other dietary preferences can also easily find items and recipes tagged for them – a feature introduced in late 2014.
FitPoints, a new metric to help you track activity, was also introduced in late 2015. Every member has a personalized FitPoints goal based on an initial assessment, and FitPoints can be earned anytime, anywhere – from cleaning the house to walking the dog. Whether you want to get active and don’t know where to start or are ready to take it to the next level and run a 5K, the program helps members uncover fun and easy ways to move more. Plus, Weight Watchers syncs with popular activity monitors, including FitBit, Apple Health, Jawbone, Withings and Misfit.
Weight Watchers isn’t only about what you eat; support is also a big component. Though you can choose to follow the plan online only, the company says dieters lose about three times more weight if they attend weekly meetings, too. One 2005 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed Weight Watchers dieters who attended the most weekly group sessions over a two-year period, rather than routinely skipping the meetings, kept the most weight off. What happens during those 30-minute get-togethers? You’ll swap weight-loss tips and recipes with other members and, the company says, discuss both scale and non-scale victories. If in-person meetings don’t appeal to you, you can take advantage of personal coaching or a 24/7 expert chat service online.