Weight Watchers Review

by Valerie Kirk

One of the most popular diet programs in America, Weight Watchers boasts millions of satisfied members because it’s one of the most flexible diet plans in existence.

Click to Read Heidi's Weight Watchers Experience

The Weight Watchers program emphasizes calorie intake and portion mindfulness, relying on the famous PointsPlus System in which all foods are assigned point values, allowing participants to mix and match foods as they please as long as they stay under their daily point allotment.

Weight Watchers in 2013

2013 marks Weight Watchers’ 50th year of helping clients shed pounds. With the addition of Jennifer Hudson as their spokesperson, they’ve announced the new Weight Watchers 360 program. Weight Watchers 360 further promotes “lifestyle changes” which they claim not only helps you lose weight but keep it off too. It is mostly a continuation of their primary method of weight loss: tracking points with PointsPlus. Without food restrictions, their program tries to teach clients how to make healthier food choices and how to make these choices second nature.

Does Weight Watchers work?

Because Weight Watchers isn’t a fad diet and takes a lifestyle-conscious approach to weight loss, members should expect steady, but not dramatic results. A loss of one to two pounds per week is attainable, based on the dedication of the dieter.


The PointsPlus System: How It Works

The Points System assigns a numeric value to every kind of food based on calories, fat grams, fiber content, and serving size. No food is forbidden, but if you have a penchant for greasy food or sugar you’ll have to be vigilant about budgeting treats into your plan without blowing past your daily points limit.

Under the Points System different exercises are assigned a negative number of points to further enhance weight-loss. The Weight Watchers website features a health and fitness resource center with exercise demos and tips. At the end of each week, members tally their points and try to come in below their total weekly point allowance. Your individual point allowance takes your current weight and goal weight into consideration before it’s assigned. If you can balance a checkbook, the food math Weight Watchers requires won’t faze you a bit.

Weight Watchers Group Support

Group support—either online or via in-person meetings—is at the heart of the Weight Watchers program. The website features an online community with blogs, message boards, and group challenges. There’s even a Weight Watchers for men, a plan guys can do completely online. However, social support has been linked to lasting weight loss, and research suggests the more an individual gets, the better the weight-loss results. Attending in-person meetings mean your chances of reaching your goal increase significantly.

Weight Watchers Meetings

At your first group meeting your Leader will help you set your initial weight-loss goal. (The program generally recommends that participants aim to lose 5% of their weight as an attainable first step.) Members appreciate that their assigned Leader is an actual Weight Watchers success story—a mentor who has lost a notable amount of weight on the program. And many members look forward to these get-togethers:  In a 2008 survey, more than 90% of Weight Watchers meetings attendees said that they would recommend meetings to a friend.

Weight Watchers E-Tools

WeightWatchers.com offers various online tools to help facilitate weight loss. Clients can keep track of their goals with online weight, daily food intake, and activity logs. WeightWatchers.com also features a collection of over 3000 recipes, fitness video demos, up-to-date health articles, and of course access to PointsPlus values for over 40,000 foods. You can also read about others’ success stories and/or share your own. Their online community is also vast and has hundreds of topics for reference on their message boards. Also helpful for clients is the Weight Watchers mobile apps available for Smart Phones and similar devices.

What is the cost of the Weight Watchers program?

The Weight Watchers Monthly pass is $42.95 per month. This includes unlimited meetings, full access to the website and the use of all etools.

Your credit card will be charged every month unless you decide to cancel. Members report they’ll get charged twice in one month. This is because Weight Watchers will charge you for the next month’s Monthly Pass two weeks in advance.

It’s best purchasing the Monthly Pass prior to attending your first meeting as you’ll have to flash it each time. You can purchase a Monthly Pass at the meeting but completing sign up online is still required. After buying your Monthly Pass online, you’ll get the chance to print a temporary copy until you get the actual card in the mail.

Monthly Pass holders will receive 30 days notice of any price change.

The Weight Watchers Online Program

The online program includes the same full access to the website and etools as the regular Weight Watchers program, but it does not include in person meetings.

The Weight Watchers website provides access to over 3,000 recipes, downloadable Blackberry, iPhone, and mobile device tools, and features to help you create goals and manage daily food choices.

What is the cost of Weight Watchers Online?

Weight Watchers Online has a one time sign-up fee of $29.95 and is $18.95 each month. However, if you enroll in and pay for their 3 Month Savings Plan, the sign up fee is waived. This option costs $56.85 for the first 3 months and $18.95 for each additional month. But you must complete the full 3 month term to qualify for the savings.

If you choose to sign up on a month-to-month basis from the start, you’ll pay the initial $29.95 sign-up fee and the monthly $18.95. This would make the first month cost $48.90.

You’re also automatically enrolled for the following month at the current monthly rate, unless you decide to cancel.

What is Weight Watchers’ Cancellation Policy?

You may cancel membership at any time. It’s best to cancel online, but you can cancel by writing or emailing Weight Watchers as well. After your initial Monthly Pass purchase, you can cancel within 5 days.

Refunds are not prorated for Monthly Passes and therefore can’t be requested for your current Monthly Pass. Because Monthly Passes are valid for the whole month, if you cancel towards the beginning of the month, cancellation goes into effect when the card expires. However, because they automatically mail you next month’s Monthly Pass two weeks in advance, if you cancel towards the end of the month, you must return the next month’s Monthly Pass within 7 days to get refunded.

Weight Watchers does allow special circumstances refunds due to death, disability, pregnancy, or if you move more than 15 miles away from a location.

Weight Watchers for Men

Spokesperson Charles Barkley highlights Weight Watchers’ realistic approach to dieting for men. To cater to the critical male dieter, there’s a focus on making comfort/party foods, like pizza and beer, manageable. There’s also a heavy concentration on made-for-men workouts and exercises.

Weight Watchers is family-friendly and flexible.

Weight Watchers is a particularly good choice for people with families. Since you don’t have to rely exclusively on prepackaged meals and no foods are exiled, you can still enjoy the same foods as your family (although your portion sizes may need to be significantly modified). You can cook as much or as little as you like. Busy people will appreciate that supermarkets feature an array of the diet’s frozen meals (Smart Ones) and snacks.

Dining out on Weight Watchers.

Dining out is easy as long as you bring your trusty points book with you. Some chain restaurants, such as Applebee’s, even have exclusive Weight Watchers-friendly dishes with points printed on the menu. Alcohol is also permitted on the Weight Watchers program, as long as you factor the drink’s points into your daily allotment.

Who can use Weight Watchers?

Anyone may enroll in membership except individuals who are pregnant, under 18 years of age, are no more than 5 pounds overweight, and have an active medical diagnosis of bulimia nervosa.

Weight Watchers - Things to Keep in Mind

The group setting can be intimidating to introverts. Dieters with a significant amount of weight to lose may become annoyed with the slow, steady approach. And the points from little indulgences (including healthy snacks) can add up fast.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to flexibility, Weight Watchers is a dieter’s Holy Grail. All your favorite foods are permitted, provided you’re willing to be diligent about tracking them. If you can count, then on this program you can lose.

At a glance: Is Weight Watchers the diet for me?

Yes, if:

  • You don’t want to give up dining out
  • You don’t want to give up alcohol or caffeine
  • You’d prefer to cook when you feel like it and rely on prepackaged foods when you don’t
  • You don’t mind keeping track of everything you eat (including portion sizes)
  • You crave guidance and peer support

No, if:

  • The idea of a public weigh-in makes you break out in a sweat
  • The ongoing cost of meetings and registration don’t fit with your budget
  • You’re an extremely independent person
  • You’re too busy to keep track of every morsel of food that goes into your mouth
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