Weight Watchers encourages weight loss with a sensible diet of healthy, ordinary foods, combined with exercise and a positive attitude. The program has been evaluated in a number of clinical studies, and researchers conclude that it's an effective diet plan. Reviewers say Weight Watchers is flexible and accommodates people with special dietary needs, including vegetarians. The cost is also much less than commercial programs that require the use of prepackaged foods, although the weekly fee for in-person meetings can add up quickly. Meeting fees vary based on location, but average $13 to $15 per week. An online version is also available (*Est. $19/month).
Weight Watchers focuses on in-person support and counting calories in the form of "points." The point system was overhauled in 2010, and reviewers say these changes make Weight Watchers even better, although many long-term members are annoyed by having to relearn the point values of their favorite foods. They also say that some sources of the old point system, including cookbooks, are now outdated. The new system, called Points Plus, places more focus on whole foods and fresh produce, which nutritionists say is a great improvement. Overall, Weight Watchers has a much better long-term record than any other diet plan, including Slim-Fast (*Est. $20 per week for shakes/bars).
Weight Watchers is reviewed by numerous medical and general-interest publications, including ConsumerReports.org, U.S. News & World Report, The Journal of the American Medical Association, the British Medical Journal, Health magazine and WebMD. User opinions can be found at Viewpoints.com.
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Seven weight-loss programs, including Weight Watchers, are evaluated and rated. Each receives an overall score based on adherence to nutritional guidelines set down by the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the results of published randomized clinical studies.
Review: Top Diets Reviewed, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, May 2011
2. U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report asks a panel of health and diet experts to review and rank 20 diets. Weight Watchers receives the top score as the best weight-loss diet and the second spot for best overall diet, just behind the DASH diet. It receives good marks for weight loss, safety and nutrition.
Review: Weight Watchers Diet, Editors of U.S. News & World Report, June 2011
3. Journal of the American Dietetic Association
This study compares the dietary quality of eight weight-loss plans. Researchers say Weight Watchers is one of the best options, especially compared to popular diets such as Atkins, South Beach and the Zone.
Review: A Dietary Quality Comparison of Popular Weight-Loss Plans, Y. Ma, et al., Oct. 2007
4. Obesity Reviews
This review analyzes 39 weight-loss studies that focused on diets and lifestyle modifications. Of those, only 11 produced significant weight loss that was kept off for at least two years. The effective diets included low-fat, low-calorie and Weight Watchers plans. Weight Watchers is the only commercial diet mentioned as being effective for weight loss.
Review: Systematic Review of Long-Term Lifestyle Interventions to Prevent Weight Gain and Morbidity in Adults, T. Brown, et al., Nov. 2009
5. The Journal of the American Medical Association
This article details the results of a two-year study comparing dieters on the Weight Watchers plan and those on a self-help plan. At every point during the study, weight loss in the Weight Watchers group is greater than that of the self-help group.
Review: Weight Loss With Self-Help Compared With a Structured Commercial Program, Stanley Heshka, PhD, et al., April 9, 2003
6. British Medical Journal
The BBC's "Diet Trials" is a reality TV show and accompanying medical study that follows the ups and downs of 293 dieters on either Weight Watchers, the Atkins Diet, Slim-Fast, Rosemary Conley's "Eat Yourself Slim" (a U.K.-based diet and exercise program) or a self-regulated control group. The only dieters who report continued success are those on Weight Watchers and "Eat Yourself Slim," suggesting that these diets are easier to stick with than Slim-Fast or Atkins.
Review: Randomized Controlled Trial of Four Commercial Weight Loss Programmes in the UK: Initial Findings from the BBC "Diet Trials", Helen Truby, et al., June 1, 2006
7. Health Magazine
Health magazine reviews more than 40 diets and weight-loss programs, and describes Weight Watchers as healthy and effective in helping dieters lose weight. "This is probably the best plan on the block," editors say. In a separate article, Health magazine calls Weight Watchers one of America's top 10 healthiest diets.
Review: Weight Watchers, Editors of Health
WebMD provides a detailed review of the Weight Watchers diet. The writer interviews nutritional experts for their takes, including a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Nutritionist Keri Gans calls the new Points Plus system a "huge improvement."
Review: Weight Watchers Points Plus: Diet Review, Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
The Weight Watchers program receives more than 825 user reviews, earning an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5; 91 percent recommend the diet. Many reviewers say they're able to stick with Weight Watchers because of the excellent support.
Review: Weight Watchers Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com
10. CBS Moneywatch
Jeanne Lee reviews eight of the most popular diet plans, including Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem. She interviews nutrition and health experts, and looks at the latest clinical studies to determine which weight-loss plans are the best bet for most dieters. Membership and food costs are also taken into consideration.
Review: Diet Plan Review: Best Ways to Lose Weight, Jeanne Lee, Jan. 7, 2011