What is WW (Weight Watchers) Diet?
This diet has been reviewed by U.S. News’ team of expert panelists. LEARN MORE
Although still used to shed pounds, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) is also focused on inspiring healthy living and improving overall well-being. That includes taking a holistic approach to help members eat healthier and move more. Its myWW program, launched in late 2019, is its most customized and flexible program yet. The program builds on WW’s SmartPoints system, which assigns every food and beverage a point value, based on its nutrition, and leverages details about food preferences and lifestyle to match each member to one of three comprehensive ways to follow the program. A backbone of the plan is support via the WW app and expert-led workshops to provide practical tools and behavior-change techniques for help along the way.
These diets fall within accepted ranges for the amount of protein, carbs, fat and other nutrients they provide.
Pros & Cons
- Eat what you want; no foods off-limits
- Flexibility to shape your own diet
- Participation can be pricey, though often deemed a good value, depending on the program you choose
U.S. News Best Diet Rankings
WW (Weight Watchers) Diet is ranked:
- #4inBest Diets Overall
- #2inBest Fast Weight-Loss Diets (tie)
- #1inBest Weight-Loss Diets (tie)
- #12inBest Heart-Healthy Diets (tie)
- #7inBest Diabetes Diets (tie)
- #1inBest Commercial Diet Plans
- #5inBest Diets for Healthy Eating (tie)
- #2inEasiest Diets to Follow
- 3.9/5Short-Term Weight Loss
- 3.4/5Long-Term Weight Loss
- 3.6/5Easy to Follow
Scores are based on experts’ reviews.
How does WW (Weight Watchers) Diet work?
For those who join WW via a Digital, Workshop or Personal Coaching membership, there’s no fixed membership period. But you can continue with the program after you’ve reached your weight-loss goal to receive continued guidance on eating and healthy living. There’s also a way to follow WW for those who want to build healthy habits without focusing on weight loss.
The SmartPoints system guides members toward an overall eating pattern that is lower in calories, saturated fat, added and concentrated sources of sugar, and higher in protein. The new myWW program offers participants lots of freedom and flexibility, making losing weight easier by leveraging members’ food and lifestyle preferences to match them to one of three comprehensive ways to follow the program. As always, no foods are off-limits on myWW.
- Green guides people toward 100-plus ZeroPoint foods, with the largest SmartPoints Budget to spend on other foods they love.
- Blue is based on 200-plus ZeroPoint foods to build meals around, with a smaller SmartPoints Budget.
- Purple is comprised of 300-plus ZeroPoint foods and a more modest SmartPoints Budget.
On myWW, each food plan has a certain amount of ZeroPoint foods (those with a SmartPoints value of zero); the plan with the longest list of ZeroPoint foods has the lowest SmartPoints Budget, and the plan with the shortest list of ZeroPoint foods has the highest SmartPoints Budget. ZeroPoint foods help lay a foundation for healthier pattern of eating, and there’s a low risk for overeating them, WW says.
However, you can eat whatever you want – provided you stick to your daily SmartPoints budget, a number based on your sex, weight, height and age. The budget is divided into a daily and weekly value to allow more flexibility. The company offers thousands of recipes, each with a SmartPoints value, to show how it fits into your eating plan, and you can find the points values for more than 308,000 foods on the mobile app or desktop food database. 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.
What can I eat?
1 of 12
Egg, bacon and avocado sandwiches
Serve this ultra‐satisfying breakfast sandwich with hot sauce on the side. For less mess on the go, use whole wheat pita pockets instead.(COURTESY OF WEIGHT WATCHERS)
How much does WW (Weight Watchers) Diet cost?
WW’s cost varies, with promotions throughout the year and depending on whether you choose to attend weekly in-person or virtual workshops, work with a personal coach, use the digital tools only or all three. All new members pay a $20 starter fee and then select an offering that fits their needs:
- Digital,which includes access to the WW app and a 24/7 chat service, costs $19.95/month. The WW app offers trackers, recipes, fitness, community and rewards for healthy behaviors.
- Workshops + Digital, which includes access to the WW app in addition to unlimited in-person or virtual workshops with other WW members, costs $44.95/month. Or, if you don’t want a monthly Workshops membership, you can pay-as-you-go at $14 to $15 per week.
- Personal Coaching + Digital, which includes dedicated one-on-one support with a coach and access to the app and digital tools, costs $54.95/month.
None of the costs include food, as there are no required food purchases on the program. WW encourages members to choose the foods they want, which helps make the program sustainable for the long term.
Will WW (Weight Watchers) Diet help you lose weight?
Most studies suggest WW is effective for weight loss, but may not be much more so than other similar diets.
Here’s what several key studies had to say about WW:
- A study published in the May 2017 issue of Lancet of more than 1,200 overweight or obese patients in British primary care practices found that assigning participants to a WW program for at least 12 weeks was more effective than providing brief advice and self-help materials for weight loss. A year-long program resulted in even more weight loss and was cost-effective, concluded the study supported by the U.K. National Prevention Research Initiative and Weight Watchers International.
- A November 2014 review in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes looked at the results of previous studies comparing Atkins, South Beach, WW and Zone diets. It found that all but South Beach were equally effective at achieving sustained weight loss for more than a year. WW did have one advantage, though: In studies that compared it with usual care, rather than with other diets, it was the only diet that “consistently demonstrated greater efficacy at reducing weight at 12 months,” the researchers wrote.
- That finding supports a 2011 study in the Lancet showing that WW is more effective than standard weight-loss guidance. Researchers tracked 772 overweight and moderately obese people who either followed WW or got weight-loss guidance from their primary care doctors. After a year, those in the WW group had dropped 15 pounds compared with 7 pounds for the doctor-advised group. What’s more, 61 percent of the WW participants stuck with the program for the full 12 months the study lasted, compared with 54 percent for the standard-care group. The program’s success is likely explained by its regular weigh-ins and group meetings, which hold dieters accountable while offering support and motivation. WW funded the study, but an independent research team was responsible for all data collection and analysis.
- A 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine also suggests WW has major benefits over standard “self-help” approaches. In it, researchers found overweight and obese participants assigned to WW were nearly nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their weight than participants who were only provided with printed materials and publicly accessible websites and tools for weight loss. The more WW participants used the program’s various tools – including meetings, a mobile phone app and online tools – the more weight they lost.
- WW seems to be worth the cost. In a study published in 2011 in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that people lost more weight – and saved money – when they enrolled in a commercial weight-loss program as opposed to a primary care-based program. After 12 weeks, WW participants had lost 9.8 pounds; those on a primary care-guided plan had dropped 3 pounds.
- A 2014 research review in the journal Obesity reviewed other randomized controlled trials of weight loss programs to determine which program offered the best shot at weight loss for its cost to the wallet and quality of life. WW fared best – costing $155 per kilogram lost and $34,630 per quality adjusted life year gained.
- A 2013 study in the journal Obesity compared WW to professionally directed weight-loss treatments. It found that participants stuck with traditional WW longer and were more likely to lose weight than they were with the treatment delivered by a specialized weight loss clinic. Nearly 150 overweight or obese men and women were assigned to one of three groups: a behavioral weight-loss treatment led by a health professional; WW, whose groups are led by WW staff; or a hybrid program that started with 12 weeks of behavioral weight-loss treatment, followed by 36 weeks of WW. All programs lasted a total of 48 weeks. People in all three groups lost weight, but on average, WW participants lost a little more than 13 pounds, compared with a little less than 12 pounds for those in the professionally led group, and nearly 8 pounds for those in the combination group.
- In a 2015 Annals of Internal Medicine review of studies evaluating commercial weight loss programs, researchers reported they “found consistent evidence supporting the long-term efficacy of WW and Jenny Craig.” The study found WW participants achieved at least 2.6 percent greater weight loss at 12 months, compared with those who underwent no intervention other than receiving health education. The review found following Jenny Craig resulted in at least 4.9 percent greater weight loss at 12 months than education and counseling. Researchers noted it was unclear whether WW was superior to undergoing behavioral counseling to lose weight.
How easy is WW (Weight Watchers) Diet to follow?
You won’t go hungry – daily points are always high enough to allow for three meals a day, plus at least two snacks. Members are also allotted a number of weekly SmartPoints – personalized to them – that provide flexibility.
Plus, programs like WW that offer emotional support and group meetings lead to higher compliance than a do-it-yourself dieting, according to the findings from a 2006 British Medical Journal study.
Whether you’re online or on the street, WW makes it easy to check the points value of what you’re eating. For example, you can search for food by name on the mobile app or website, use a barcode scanner or simply enter the necessary nutrition information on the label. And if you have an Apple Watch, you can voice track your foods with the WW Apple Watch app. WW also has voice integration with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, enabling WW members to use their voices to look up SmartPoints, track foods and quickly add SmartPoints to their tracker.
WW members can access thousands of free recipes on the company’s website or mobile app, complete with serving size, preparation and cooking time, difficulty level and user reviews. Each is stamped with its SmartPoints value, eliminating guesswork. You can also purchase WW cookbooks.
Dining out and ordering in are doable. On the WW app, members can find the nutritional low-down on meals at hundreds of restaurants and includes tips on making healthier restaurant choices and substitutions. The WW app also includes a range of 400 popular restaurants and SmartPoints values listed for menu items. Since no foods are off-limits or required, you’ll have an easier time at restaurants than will folks on more inflexible eating plans. Most 12-ounce beers cost 5 points, so knocking back a couple glasses means you’ll have fewer points to spend on food.
If you’re not up for cooking, head to the grocery store. WW gives members a list of a wide range of grocery store staples and ingredients to prepare tasty meals at home. At grocery stores, you can also find WW packaged foods, such as single-serve cheese, whole-grain tortilla chips and canned wine. And WW products, including cookbooks, can be purchased in WW Studios nationwide, on Amazon’s WW Marketplace and in the WW online shop.
The WW mobile app includes personalized food, water, fitness and sleep tracking. It gives members a comprehensive look at their personal weight loss journey; a rewards program that recognizes them for behaviors that lead to healthy habits; and advice from a coach who’s participated in the program via 24/7 Chat. The most popular feature, though, according to the company, is the Connect community on the WW app, where you can share your journey via photos and status updates with other members like you. To strengthen the WW community in Connect, WW launched Connect Groups to help people find other members like them.
Hunger shouldn’t be a problem on WW, since the program emphasizes foods that will keep you feeling fuller, longer. Plus, you’re allowed a personalized weekly cushion of extra points on top of your daily SmartPoints target, so if you’re feeling particularly ravenous one day, you have some leeway to eat more than usual. Up to 4 SmartPoints you don’t use automatically “roll over” into your weekly cushion, and you can use those rollover points whenever you like during the week, including on the weekend. In addition, numerous “ZeroPoint” foods don’t need to be measured, weighed or tracked.
No foods are off-limits – if you’re drooling for a double-cheese pizza, go for it. WW simply guides you toward foods and portions that fit your lifestyle, and you can tweak your favorite recipes so your meals are as healthy as possible. And you’re bound to find a WW recipe that will please your palate: Philly cheese steaks, sautéed shrimp and homemade sugar cookies are all popular. Plus, packaged products include favorites such as Giant Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream Bars and Mozzarella String Cheese. WW even offers a co-branded Cense Wine, which comes in four varieties and cans.
How much should you exercise on WW (Weight Watchers) Diet?
Rather than a one-size-fits all approach, WW encourages members to be active in ways each individual enjoys. That considers factors ranging from a person’s age to their current fitness level when determining things like duration and intensity. Of course, health experts agree that everyone is best served by staying active. In its app, WW provides equipment-free workouts that you can do anywhere, as well as articles and tips on activity.