Weight Watchers is a complete dietary program designed to help you lose weight in a healthful, practical and relatively inexpensive way. The Weight Watchers founder, Jean Nidetch, started the organization from her New York home in the 1960s. Since then, the company has expanded from home meetings to national weight loss centers, food products, online Internet programs and dietary equipment, such as scales, water bottles and cookbooks.
The Weight Watchers philosophy encompasses more than just weekly weigh-ins but rather encourages its clients to change their eating habits from unhealthy to healthy. The focus as of 2011 is on whole, healthy foods with their Points Plus program. Weight Watchers assigns foods different numbers of points. As you eat, you keep track of how many points you eat during the day. When you reach your assigned point value for the day, you should be finished eating. The program encourages a variety of foods, from whole grains to healthy fats. The Weight Watcher’s program also encourages clients to learn the nutritional value of foods, to exercise regularly and to stay active throughout the day.
Two-Year Study Results
Weight Watchers encourages clients to focus on steady, small weekly weight-loss rates of no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. A January 2005 study published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” compared Weight Watchers to other popular weight loss programs. Over a 24-month period, Weight Watchers members who regularly weighed in at meetings and stayed on the plan lost an average 5 1/2 pounds per year, or slightly less than 1/2 pound per month. This monthly weight-loss rate translates into less than 1/8 pound per week. Although not substantial, even losing 5 percent of your body weight on a healthy weight-loss program can help reduce your blood pressure and take strain off your joints and heart.
Six-Month Study Results
A 2010 study published in the “American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine” followed a group of Weight Watchers members for six months. Those members who participated in at least two-thirds of the meetings during the six months both lost weight and reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes due to lower insulin and glucose levels. In this fairly short study, the participants lost an average of 14 pounds, which translates to a 1.71-pound weight loss per week for a 24-week period. The difference in pounds lost between the two studies could be a result of several factors. A 2-year study may account for participants who do not stay on the diet; also, weight watchers changes their formula periodically, from food-exchange based plans to the points-plus plan. The Points-Plus plan did not start until after 2008, and the first study took place before 2005.
Recommendations for Success
When using the Weight Watchers program, either online or in your community, make every attempt to follow all aspects of the program, from the weekly weigh-ins to attending in-person meetings. The "Journal of the American Medical Associaton" study found that the more meetings the Weight Watchers participants attended, the more likely they were to continue with the program. Exercise regularly, recording your activity in your booklet to track your minutes and to help burn additional calories throughout the week.
- Weight Watchers: History & Philosophy
- Weight Watchers: Our New Program: The Next Level
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: Type 2 Diabetes Risk Reduction in Overweight and Obese Adults Through Multidisciplinary Group Sessions: Effects of Meeting Attendance
- EurekAlert!: New Study Finds Attending Weight Watchers Meetings Helps Reduce the Risk or Type 2 Diabetes