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WW (Weight Watchers) Diet Review: A Dietitian’s Objective Analysis

Written by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Published on February 2, 2021

Our Expert Rating:

4.1

About This Rating
The average rating of this product is calculated based on the evaluation of the following factors:
  • Evidence-Based:5.0
  • Easy to Follow:3.0
  • Customization:5.0
  • Sustainability:5.0
  • Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:4.0
  • Accountability:3.0

As a registered dietitian and weight loss expert, I would recommend Weight Watchers as a healthy, flexible, and more balanced approach to weight loss.

WW (Weight Watchers) Diet Review: A Dietitian’s Objective Analysis

Pros

  • Flexible diet options
  • Cost-effective
  • Support and accountability provided
  • Teaches you how to eat in the long-term

Cons

  • Counting points can be cumbersome
  • Support provided is not always from trained professionals
  • Risk for weight regain once the program is stopped

How WW Diet Works

WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers, is a membership program that promotes weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle.

The program works by assigning a certain number of points to each food based on its nutrition value.

Your total points are dependent on your individual needs and the specific plan you select. You are also allowed an unlimited amount of certain “zero points” foods that are thought of as “free” foods.

There are 3 nutrition plans you can choose from, depending on your preferences for the daily number of points and free foods – green, blue, and purple plans.

Support, education, and accountability are also provided by WW coaches at various levels, depending on the plan you sign up for. Accountability is key when it comes to successful long-term weight loss.

However, not all of the WW coaches are qualified nutrition experts. Many of the WW coaches become coaches after being members and following the diet themselves. Following a diet does not make you a nutrition expert.

Even so, WW is similar to the type of diet I would recommend to clients for sustainable weight loss. It teaches you how to eat in a balanced way and doesn’t require you to avoid specific foods.

WW Diet’s Scorecard

The Weight Watchers program was objectively evaluated by a dietitian based on the following criteria:

  • Evidence-Based: 5.0
  • Easy to Follow: 3.0
  • Customization: 5.0
  • Sustainability: 5.0
  • Safety: 4.0
  • Value for the Price: 4.0
  • Accountability: 3.0

Overall Rating: 4.1

Learn About the Methodology

Foods to Eat and Avoid

With WW, you don’t have to avoid any foods completely. However, certain foods have to be limited.

Since the WW program is based on a points system, higher points foods are more restricted.

The points system is based on the number of calories, saturated fat, and sugar in foods. The higher the amount, the higher the point value.

Fried food, foods high in saturated fat like red meat, and foods with added sugar like cookies and cake are considered higher points foods.

You are allowed a certain number of points per day based on your plan. However, over the past year, WW also added “zero points” foods to their plans.

Foods in the zero point category are essentially unlimited depending on the plan and can include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

These foods are allowed in unlimited quantities as these foods are naturally healthy and filling. Therefore, it is unlikely you will overeat them.

Can It Help You Lose Weight?

WW is an effective diet for many when followed correctly. It is probably one of the most researched diet plans out there.

There are studies that show one-third of the participants on WW achieved greater than 5% weight loss, which is considered clinically significant for health.

There was also a large research review done on several commercial diet programs, and WW was found to be one of the most effective long-term.

However, in order to maintain weight loss, it’s necessary to continue following the diet and tracking your points.

I have had many clients successfully lose weight with WW, but once they stopped tracking, they start to regain the weight back. It requires consistent effort for long-term success.

Sustainability

I feel WW is a sustainable plan because it allows flexibility in food choices and promotes balance.

However, some people may find it cumbersome to track points long-term. This may lead to slipping off the diet after some time.

If followed properly, WW is a diet you can stick to even when you are out at restaurants, parties, and traveling as long as you have the Weight Watchers app to track what you’re eating.

Accountability

Support and accountability are provided as a WW member in various ways. There are 3 different membership options based on the amount of accountability you desire.

As a member, you have access to training, workshops, and coaches. You can also connect with other WW members to set goals together and keep each other motivated.

Depending on how robust your plan is, you can have access to all of the group training or have a plan set up personally by a Weight Watchers coach.

On the more robust plans, you also have access to communicate with the WW coaches one-on-one and other members more regularly.

Value for the Price

The cost for a Weight Watchers membership ranges from $2.97 to $5.36 per week.

The cheapest plan is digital-only, you only get access to the website and accompanying smartphone app.

For $3.80 a week, you also get access to online coaches and on-demand programs to keep you on track.

The most expensive option includes all of the digital products and in-person meetings at your local WW center. There is also a virtual meeting option included with this plan.

All the plans include access to the extensive recipe database and weekly progress reports.

I feel this is a very reasonable price given the resources and level of support that is provided.

But, if you want long-term results, your best bet is to be a lifetime member. In this case, even though the weekly cost is low, the overall cost can add up over time.

Safety

Based on the available research, WW is an overall safe plan to follow for most people.

It emphasizes a variety of foods and food groups, and also promotes the importance of exercise, stress management, and behavior modification.

My only concern would be for someone who has a history of an eating disorder, as tracking points may trigger more eating disorder tendencies.

I would also not recommend it during pregnancy when weight loss is generally not recommended.

How It Compares

Out of any commercial weight loss diet, WW is the one I’d be most likely to recommend to clients.

It does not require you to completely avoid any particular food or food groups and promotes a balanced diet.

Compared to most other weight-loss diets out there, WW is probably one of the most well balanced and sustainable options.

Most other weight-loss diets such as keto, paleo, or Whole30 require you to avoid certain foods.

These diets are not sustainable and often lead you to want those foods even more.

WW programs put the emphasis on portion control and variety instead of restriction. They also provide a lot of support to keep members on track and motivated.

Related: Noom vs. Weight Watchers: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

The Bottom Line

WW is a diet program I would recommend.

However, I would highly suggest consulting with a registered dietitian before starting the diet, particularly if you have any health conditions that require dietary management.

An RD can help you to make sure you are meeting your own individual nutrition needs and goals in a way that supports your health and lifestyle.

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