Weight Watchers is popular, so lots of people ask me, “How does Weight Watchers Work?” It’s a great question because it offers a lot of learning opportunities. Weight Watchers is fundamentally and critically flawed and I don’t want you to waste another dime or minute following Weight Watchers until you read this.

One of the questions I ask on my New Client Profile Form is, “What programs have you tried in the past?” 9 out of 10 people list Weight Watchers.

There’s no doubt that Weight Watchers is one of the most popular weight loss programs in the world. It’s an effective short-term program. What most people don’t find out–until it’s too late–is that it lacks the ability to produce long term results.

Failing at Weight Watchers has nothing to do with the client. As I’ll outline in this article, there are fundamental flaws in the Weight Watchers design.

It does an amazing job of marketing exactly what people hope to achieve. The problem is that it can’t deliver. To unpack why, I’m going to break down the program and explain why specific parts of the program are problematic.

My two sources for this review are the Weight Watchers official website and an article written by a “lifelong member of Weight Watchers” titled, “10 Reasons Why Weight Watchers Works!” (editor’s note: This article has sense been removed from the original source, so we have removed the link).

How Does Weight Watchers Work (Based on Their Claims)?

Weight Watchers is fundamentally a calories-in, calories-out diet (CICO Diet) that follows an “eat whatever you want, just less of it” philosophy.

This is the oldest modern dieting model and a philosophy that every single adult human being knows about (and yet we still have an obesity and preventable disease epidemic).

Now, if they were just telling you to count calories, there wouldn’t be much reason for them to exist, right? That’s right. So, they put a twist on things.

Weight Watchers realized that people don’t like to check the calorie count for every food they’re eating, portion out those foods, and log everything they eat manually. So, they developed a points system (called “SmartPoints”) that assigns points to every food item.

When you join Weight Watchers you’re given a points guide, a target point total for each day, and instructions on how to manage your points. That’s the core aspect of the Weight Watchers diet. If you hit your points, you’ll effectively cut your calories and lose weight.

To help with the “you don’t want to portion your food out” problem, they developed an entire line of food products that are already portioned and assigned a point total. Of course, none of these foods are actually healthy but we’ll get to that in a moment.

How Much Does Weight Watchers Cost?

Weight Watchers currently uses a monthly, tiered membership model with three plans to choose from.

OnlinePlus is their lowest tier plan which gives you access strictly to their online program. You can access this program for around $20/mo.

Meetings is the mid-tier plan which gives you access to the program as well as in-person meetings. You can access this program for around $45/mo.

Coaching is their highest plan which gives you access to the program, the in-person meetings, and a coach (not a real coach, just an experienced Weight Watchers member).

Keep in mind that all you’re really paying for when you join Weight Watchers is a points system for counting calories and accountability in the form of public weigh-ins (which are super unhealthy, in my opinion).

What you’re *not* paying for is a sound philosophy and process for changing your behavior and your environment in a way that’s going to create lifelong success. Weight Watchers is what I call a “treadmill diet.”

If you live on the treadmill they give you (which is very difficult), you’ll be successful. The minute you get off their treadmill, everything falls apart because you haven’t been given any real tools or been empowered in any meaningful way to be successful on your own (such as by teaching you what truly healthy eating looks like, what foods work best for your body, and why you behave the way you behave around food).

Weight Watchers Marketing

This is the poster from the Weight Watchers program page. It all sounds wonderful, but what’s the reality? It’s time to uncover the illusion of control, hope, and support that Weight Watchers is masterful at marketing to the masses.

weight-watchers-program
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Marketing Speak: Eat Real Food. Really…

The lifelong member says: “Weight Watchers is a new way of eating, it’s not just a diet” and, “No food is off limits.”

Pictured alongside the eat real food headline is a slice of pizza. Is pizza a real food? Hardly. It fails almost every aspect of our ANTI-food grading model.

ANTI foods are addiction-feeding, nutrient-poor, toxic, and/or inflammatory. People love our ANTI food grading process because it makes perfect sense and it’s not one-size-fits-all.

Real food is food that is minimally processed. Food that is as close to its natural state as possible. Food that is nutritious and that your biology has a long history of interacting with (from a genetic standpoint).

Real food, as defined by Weight Watchers, means food that’s not healthy. You get to have your cake and eat it too. You can eat whatever you want as long as you eat less of it.

When Weight Watchers talks about “real food,” they’re talking about “everyday food.” In other words, “food ‘real people’ in the ‘real world’ eat.”

You mean the people who are statistically obese and dying from preventable diseases? Yes, those real people.

They’ve molested the term in an attempt to appeal to your emotions and your clinginess to “comfort foods.”

If you want to see healthy recipes based on real-food, EatRealFood.Recipes is a wonderful resource.

For any “diet” to work, it must become second nature. It must be something you can stick to – not just for a few weeks or months, as you loose weight – but for the rest of your life. The Weight Watchers program is just that. Can you honestly say that about a diet that requires you to buy their precooked meals or drink a liquid shake? I don’t think so! So the Weight Watchers plan prepares you for the rest of your life, not just for weight loss! ~ Lifetime Weight Watchers Member

This argument, of course, is a false dilemma fallacy. The choice isn’t between Weight Watchers and precooked meals and liquid shakes. The choice is between Weight Watchers and TRULY eating real food.

People who use these types of fallacies as their argument do so to hide the true alternative in the shadows. Weight Watchers has 50 years of experience perfecting this type of subtle misdirection.

Marketing Speak: We’ve Got Your Back. Always…

The lifelong member says: “Weight Watchers makes you accountable.”

Believing that you need someone on your team to hold you accountable is erroneous.

I don’t fault people for thinking they need someone to hold them accountable. It’s driven by the myth that willpower and discipline are the keys to success and these are two things that most people complain about not having enough of.

What happens next? They recruit an accountability partner to force them to stay on track when their willpower is gone. When their discipline wavers.

It’s not necessary. In fact, it can be destructive. When you understand the psychology of health and fitness, you free yourself from a lot of these myths. That’s why our clients are successful long-term without willpower or discipline.

Let’s look at what accountability isn’t.

  • Accountability is not support, at least not the type of support you need.
  • Accountability doesn’t heal complex psychological roadblocks.
  • Accountability doesn’t help with addiction and dependency.
  • Accountability doesn’t change your relationship with food, body, and Self.

Even worse, they’re using the scale as an accountability tool just like all traditional diets do…

Having to show up at a meeting on a weekly basis to weigh in makes one accountable. Each week there’s a real person there – a trained Weight Watchers staff member – waiting to record your weight and progress. ~ Lifelong Weight Watchers Member

The process of a weigh-in is fundamentally flawed as explained in my article, The Ten Pound Problem. Weight has nothing to do with this journey and the scale is the most useless tool one can use to gauge success. In fact, the fastest way to exchange your one-way ticket to success for a round trip ticket is to start weighing yourself and pretending those numbers mean something.

Based on Weight Watchers’ slow starvation model, the weight you’re likely losing is due to the cannibalization of muscle. Hey, they didn’t promise to help you lose fat — they promised to help you lose weight.

Marketing Speak: The Smart Choice is the Easy Choice…

The lifelong member says: “Weight Watchers fits the way you live” and “Weight Watchers is for life!”

Train your brain by learning new routines and great habits, so you can make healthy choices without even thinking about it. ~ Weight Watchers marketing

Counting, tracking, and weighing doesn’t make decisions easy. It doesn’t “train your brain.” It doesn’t “give you great habits.” It makes you obsessive and unhappy.

And what better time to point out another aspect of Weight Watchers that’s billed as “making life easy.” Have you seen their food products?

Weight Watchers Meals, Recipes, and Food Products

Weight Watchers subsidizes the cost of their memberships by selling food products that are the antithesis of healthy.

Though no food is technically off limits, the Weight Watchers plan will guide and lead you toward healthier choices simply because of the point system it employs. ~ Lifelong Weight Watchers Member

Really? Is this why Weight Watchers offers microwavable meals, frozen desserts, and other packaged food products filled with corn syrup, aspartame, wheat/gluten, Canola Oil, hydrogenated oils, added sugar, MSG, corn, and GMOs?

Weight Watchers makes millions off their licensing deals at the enormous expense of their clients’ health. That might make things easy, but it certainly doesn’t make them smart.

The smart way is to eat real food while working to heal your relationship with food, body, and Self. You can’t wrap that up in neat marketing with quick-fix promises, though, can you?

What About Weight Watchers Freestyle?

In late 2017, Weight Watchers announced that it was releasing a new program called Weight Watchers Freestyle.

This program promised to create a massive list (over 200 foods!) of “points-free foods” which is supposed to make Weight Watchers more flexible and less restrictive.

I’ve looked at the Freestyle foods list and it’s clearly just a marketing initiative. Before Freestyle, Weight Watchers already allowed you eat vegetables and fruits for zero points. So, how did Weight Watchers add tons of new items to their Freestyle list? By skirting the lines of obvious and obscure, basically.

In addition to all the fruits and veggies that were already zero points, Weight Watchers added things like: beans, calamari, daikon, eggs, egg whites, egg substitute (yum!), fish, garlic, ginger root, seaweed, and turkey breast.

If that doesn’t trigger the Trump shrug inside you, I don’t know what will.

trump weight watchers reaction
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And to help promote it, they brought in another celebrity, DJ Khaled. Will Khaled and his private chef have better success than Oprah and her private chef?

That brings me to this question I want you to ponder…

If Oprah, With Her Private Chef, Can’t Succeed on Weight Watchers, How Can You Expect to?

When a weight-loss plan is built for human nature, you can expect amazing. Temptation is everywhere, and science shows us that our brains are hardwired to give in. That’s why we created our program, built on our proven PointsPlus® plan and backed with 50 years of helping real people in the real world lose weight. And it’s changing the face of weight loss.

It’s not human nature to harm yourself. We’re not hardwired to eat poison. And having a points system that helps us eat less poison is not a “real world” process, nor is it effective.

Weight Watchers knows that by restricting how much you eat, you’re going to lose weight. Since they’ve defined success by weight, nothing else matters. They’re not promising health. They’re not promising happiness. They’re not promising a healthy relationship with food, body, and Self. They’re promising weight loss. That’s it.

Does it matter that they’re setting you up for further disordered eating habits?. Not to them. When your disordered eating habits lead to failure, they get to keep you on as a paying member for even longer.

They’ll tell you to double down on willpower and discipline and show up to more “accountability” meetings. It’s always your fault, not theirs.

If you reach your goal weight on Weight Watchers, the program is free and you stop paying. If you yo-yo for a long time and then quit, they make more money on average.

The free membership offer is not a reward, by the way. It’s a dangling carrot they know very few will manage to grab hold of. Even with a private chef and all the resources in the world, Oprah hasn’t been able to make it work.

Whether Weight Watchers do this on purpose, or its pure negligence, is debatable.

Weight Watchers did finally admit, in 2010, that calorie counting doesn’t work:

We needed a program that recognized that calories are most definitely not created equal. We knew that counting, budgeting and planning still made fundamental sense, but we wanted a better and more accurate currency. We wanted a POINTS formula that was much more “opinionated” about food choices beyond just calories.” ~ Weight Watchers CEO

Unfortunately, their new points system is just as ineffective. They have “50 years of experience” and still haven’t scratched the surface of what it takes to truly help people. Their horrific long-term failure rate proves that.

Combine that with their licensing deals for unhealthy food products and Weight Watchers looks less and less like a program doing it’s best to help people. Rather, it tends to look more and more like a racket.

Comments

  • Karen Hunter says:

    I totally agree Kevin. I am glad you are addressing this misinformation that WW puts out there. As someone who has been down the WW road (4 TIMES!) I can attest to how much work it is and that long term it does not work. Each time I was less and less successful and it was harder and harder to do what they were telling me to do. Ugh! So thankful for your program. I am off that train and am happy to be doing something now that works and doesn’t perpetuate that insanity.

  • Kathy says:

    This is great information. As a person who has tried weight watchers many times with only temporary success I get it. It doesn’t work for me because I would satisfy my sweet cravings with some low point ice cream daily which keeps the cravings coming! I’ve recently begun moving toward eating real food and just discovered your site today. I’m excited to see what else I find.
    Kathy

  • Michelle Grosch says:

    As someone who joined weight watchers for the first time at age 16, I completely agree with your article Kevin. Each of the most recent three times I have been on weight watchers, I was buying all of their snacks and frozen foods and downing diet soda like crazy and I was not dealing with my food addictions. I also couldn’t reconcile the idea that it was okay to eat so much processed food. I will never go back -it just doesn’t work for me.

  • Kelly says:

    This article is insanely wrong. I have lost 127lbs on weight watchers. The only time I ever gained any of it back was after surgery that had me bed ridden. Even then, I had only gained 8lbs back, which I lost plus some as soon as I was able to get back into the gym. That was over 3 nd 1/2 years ago. Weight watchers did teach me how to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. About 9 months into my weight loss journey I stopped counting point because at that point I knew how to eat. Because I was able to indulge I was able to truly stick to the program. I think it is insanely immature to bash and rip apart another program. It tells me your program must suck if it can’t stand on it’s own merit. You blatantly bashing another program does one thing and one thing only, it tells me your insecure about the effectiveness of your own program. Does every program work for every person? No of course not, but WW is like everything else on the market, if you truly have the will and desire you will be successful. Unfortunately because of your childishness even if your program is effective many will never know because once you begin acting like a high school mean girl every word out of your mouth is invalidated

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Hi Kelly. Congratulations on your results. This often happens, where I’ll make an argument and someone says it doesn’t apply to them. Of course, no argument applies to everyone. My article was written specifically because your results are not typical of Weight Watchers. The fact remains that it has a 90%+ long term failure rate. Your argument about “will” and “desire” is not accurate and is insulting to those who Weight Watchers has failed. Furthermore, your personal attacks on me will not be tolerated. If you can’t participate without insults, then I’ll turn off your ability to comment.

      • Kelly says:

        If you do not want to be insulted maybe you shouldn’t insult others. Looking at this one thread alone I can tell you are quite arrogant. You were rude and nasty to Linda simply because she disagreed. Maybe your not attempting to come off arrogant, or harsh or rude but you are. I understand translation can get lost when you cannot see a persons body language or hear the persons tone of voice. You need to let your program stand on it’s own. Your attitude alone is a turn off and you will chase potential clients away. Will, determination and desire are the only thing that makes any diet work. It’s obvious you know very little about weight watchers. You need to educate yourself properly before you write an article on something because all it does is make you look like a total fool. There is a reason why weight watchers has been around and no one knows who the hell you are. Grow up. It would help your career.

      • Kevin Geary says:

        I didn’t insult anyone. I wrote an article that is statistically accurate and highly informative. Furthermore, I didn’t do it because of anything wrong with my program, I did it because I believe wholeheartedly in my program and want people to avoid unhealthy, disordered eating driven programs like Weight Watchers.

        You claim I don’t know anything about Weight Watchers when I have a former Weight Watchers director as my client. This is your last warning as far as hurling personal insults goes. If you can’t express yourself in a more productive way, I will prevent you from commenting.

  • Tanya says:

    I know people that have had long term success with weight watchers. Your article just sounded mean and I don’t think that was a very good way to get new clients by putting another program down…. If YOU have personally NEVER TRIED it you can’t say bad things about it. That would be like me reading about your program and then writing an article on how badly it sucked. You need to change the way you are thinking because your not going to be successful acting like a 12 year old boy. Why not support the people who have done weight watchers and teach them to eat even healthier? Work together? Be nice? It’s not that hard. This article is quite frustrating

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Tanya,

      Your comment is really difficult to understand. And I apologize for being chippy ahead of time, but instead of spending time helping more people, I’m responding to comments like this. Let me show you:

      I know people that have had long term success with weight watchers.

      I’m not sure that the 9 out of 10 people who fail at Weight Watchers care much about “people you know.” Do you think they should? Do you think they should accept the horrid advice Weight Watchers dishes out simply because Tanya in Nowheresville “knows some people” who succeeded?

      If YOU have personally NEVER TRIED it you can’t say bad things about it. That would be like me reading about your program and then writing an article on how badly it sucked.

      So, if I’m lung cancer researcher, I can’t talk bad about cigarettes unless I also smoke. Is that right?

      A large percentage of my clients are former Weight Watchers members. I work closely with these men and women to reverse the destructive programming that Weight Watchers installs in people. I don’t have to do the program myself to know what its foundational principles are and how much those principles fail people. Do I?

      You need to change the way you are thinking because your not going to be successful acting like a 12 year old boy.

      Let me get this straight. You’re writing this comment because you don’t approve of how I talked about Weight Watchers. And you’re setting the example for how to *productively* write something on the internet by telling me how I *should* behave and following that up with a personal attack?

      Well done.

      Why not support the people who have done weight watchers and teach them to eat even healthier?

      What do you think I’m doing by spending hours a week producing FREE CONTENT in the form of blogs posts, videos, and podcasts? What do you think I’m doing by building the best programs online and supporting people 100% as they work through them?

      Be nice? It’s not that hard. This article is quite frustrating.

      No, it’s your comment that is quite frustrating. The only person on this page who is demanding that others “be nice” is the same person who just finished personally attacking someone. Does the hypocrisy of your behavior bother you at all?

  • Isaac says:

    Kevin:

    Hey there. Thank you for everything you do. I appreciate your work immensely.

    I am also someone who uses Weight Watchers and have lost 140+ pounds with it. It’s a good program to follow and really, its about tracking your food and staying within your points allotted. It offers basic education, a tracking tool, friendships you meet along the way and accountability.

    However, remember, I said that it offered basic education? It’s just that: basic. It takes someone who really wants to lose the weight for good and someone who really wants to understand the whys and the whats behind everything that will succeed. At least in my eyes. This is where the extra tools come in (hence: your information).

    So, again, I thank you kindly for everything. This journey is hard enough as it is and to use all the tools you can, use them well, and know when you attain new tools is critical.

    Hope you are well.

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

    Isaac

  • viv says:

    What a relief to have come across this article!

    It will be almost fours that I had joined weight watchers. I am slowly gaining my weight back. Not because tracking didn’t work. I found it so hard to stick to it.

    1. Once I got to my goal weight, my points were increased and I was trying to find ways to consume all my points ) finding myself over eating many times.
    2. If I had 6 points left in the day (I would have cookies instead of a lean protein)- I am learning now that I was not getting enough protein in my diet.
    3. Well my cravings came back- but so, so much worse.

    WW helped me with basic foundation. I was someone who would have 3 donuts for breakfast. So I learned how to cut back on calories….However, long term, there was a lot I had to learn on my own regarding real food vs “real food”.

    Thanks for this write up!

  • Anderson Faith says:

    I loved your response! Very positive, no negativity, encouraging, inspiring, and congrats on your weight loss. That is awesome!!! Kevin’s negativity, and sarcastic attitude was such a turnoff. Basically all diets work as long as you commit and change your eating habits.

  • James Gough says:

    I agree that their system must be flawed based on numbers. Where did you get the stat for – “Their 98% long-term failure rate proves that.” right at the end?

    I’m looking for stats to help with an experiment and survey I’m doing. It to create a system to help people change thier association with food and health.

    Maybe you would like to help me with it sometime, maybe I’ll come back.

    Thanks

  • Mary Kay says:

    Kevin, your article was spot on. I did WW IN 1986 and lost 35 pounds in 13 weeks. It was a low fat 1200 calorie plan. The depriving 3 little teaspoons of fat caused me to have gallbladder trouble. I tried repeatedly to repeat that weighlòss success and gained my way up to 225 pounds over the next 30 years. I’ve been doing keto for the past 5 months and the weight is finally coming off. I’d love to see how their current point system would calculate my 10-12 ounces of protein, 6-8 TBS of fat and 20 net carbs I eat each day.

  • Ryan Gallaher says:

    You sound like a huge dick. “How many people have you coached?” I wouldn’t trust you to coach me to tie my shoes.

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      I guess I should just let people make ignorant statements like, “Basically all diets work as long as you commit and change your eating habits” without being challenged?

      And then people who were committed and still failed can come along, read that, and feel even more poorly about themselves?

      Sorry, Ryan, but being direct with people and correcting the record doesn’t make me a dick. People give us rave reviews because we’re not people-pleasers who thank everyone for their comment. We’re real and they know they can trust us.

      p.s. If you need a coach to help you tie your shoes, you’ve got bigger things to worry about.

  • E. Marie says:

    A friend of mine who’s at WW tried to get me into the plan. After only a couple of days I was so
    stressed out I cancelled. You are so right on when you say the “accountability” system can do
    more harm than good psychologically; and frankly, I didn’t like the idea of having to go each week to
    “air my dirty laundry” with a bunch of strangers.

    Finally, the program costs too much and they want you to buy a lot of their “stuff”.

    Weight Watchers may work for some of us, but definitely not all of us.

  • mike. says:

    So true. WW has unbelievable marketing that makes one believe if they join, then they will automatically
    have the knowledge to lose weight. Weekly meetings and accountability and coaching is nice especially when the advocate tells you how much weight THEY have lost. But I’m not HER. I’m ME.

    I joined did the meetings, bought the books, the products, the kitchen tools. Took off 20 pounds and reached a WALL where I didn’t have the energy to exercise.. let alone move. At this point, instead of increasing better food choices and putting in pre workout and post workout meals ( small but frequent)
    they just went ahead and demanded that I needed to ‘ follow the program’.

    FAILURE… it didn’t work. Gained all the weight back within 3 years. As your article mentioned, WW coaches are all trained to preach the ‘ system ‘. To sell product. To sell membership and attendance.
    To count ‘ points ‘ instead of retraining customers to follow healthy food menu’s.

    In summary… WW is all about making money for WW by marketing a product everyone needs ‘ losing all those excess pounds ‘ instead of teaching ‘ how to eat sensibly ‘.

  • Leslie says:

    Dude, you need a marketing consultant. Most potential customers are not going to be attracted to your service because of your message.

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      Hi Leslie,

      Rebooted Body is a very successful business. My content and my comments are designed to do two things:

      1. Let people know that I’m never going to lie to them or feed them nonsense and fairy tales and people-pleasing rhetoric.

      2. Weed out the salty religious dieters and dogmatic thinkers that aren’t a good fit for our programs.

      Surely you realize that it’s extremely boundariless to show up to someone’s property and start telling them what they “need” to do and how they “need” to act?

      It’s understandable that when faced with ideas that contradict your current beliefs, you feel a little defensive. I’m looking for people who are willing to ask questions, re-think their beliefs, and do whatever it takes to identify the information that’s truly going to help them.

  • Kim says:

    Wow!! Hit all the points right n the nose! No pun intended. WW gives a sbconcuous guilt complex. The “freestyle” points is a joke. Making it seem zero points means zero calories, what? Ya, no. Thank You!

    • Irrevenant says:

      Weight Watchers is quite up front that zero points does not mean zero calories.

      The zero points foods are chosen for being healthy foods that people are not inclined to overeat.

      A reasonable amount of zero point foods are accounted for in the base points allowance. The end result is that healthy zero point foods serve as the foindation of your diet while richer foods that it’s easier to abuse get treated as extras.

      It’s an approach that will work better for some people than others, but don’t mistake it for a calories-in-calories-out program. It’s very deliberately weighted towards specific foods (lean proteins, vegetables, legumes and fruits).

      • Kevin Michael Geary says:

        It’s fundamentally a calories-in, calories-out program. There’s no way around that.

  • Angie says:

    Liked the article, I to am a few times failed WW, I do however disagree with the accountability part, I thrive on anything that questions my bad habits, anyhow most I agree, if I have to revisit WW this many times, clearly I haven’t solved the real issues! As another commenter said it’s Okay initially,maintaining is a bitch! Thanks for the insightful article!

  • Carol says:

    Weight watchers work in helping people lose weight. Education and self management are up to the individual. Weight watchers isn’t making anyone fal off the band wagon, nor is it their fault that one does so. It is the individual’s responsibility. And for those with true eating disorders and possibly psychological or physiological issues behind their obesity, relying on a commercial weight loss program entirely is not self serving. Many people need to approach their weight loss journey via different paths and using different resources. No one is a victim.

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      Except…when you understand the psychology of human behavior you can clearly see that the tactics Weight Watchers promotes actually do *cause* failure.

  • Fuzzita says:

    WW fails for people as it’s not the right fit for them. Nothing wrong with the plan. Just like you’ll have people quit your method. I am self motivated so don’t need any plan but my husband does and WW works for him and the counting points makes sense to him. He also can’t go cold Tturkey so the treats he enjoys are nice. He eats very few of the premade meals and none of the shakes and is able to convert home cooked meals into points.

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      I’m wondering…at what percent failure rate would you consider it a failure? Are you aware that less than 1% of people ever become WW lifetime members? Considering that becoming a WW lifetime member isn’t all that hard, what’s wrong that almost everyone is failing?

  • Dorothy Normand says:

    I have been on WW maintenance program 45 years? Remained at same wt. all this time

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      Congrats, Dorothy! You’re in a very small percentage of people. If only the same were true for more!

  • Bonnie says:

    It is an awful program! It taught me to eat more fish and less pizza! It taught me to pay attention to those ridiculous and pointless serving sizes! It taught me that it was ok to have an occasional piece of cake as long as I didn’t go overboard. It taught me that *gasp* vegetables are good for you. Eeek!!!

  • Irrevenant says:

    Hi Kevin.

    You make some legitimate criticisms. But you’ve also misrepresented the Weight Watchers program in a couple of ways.

    Weight Watchers is *not* just a CICO program. While its points are based on calories they’re also deliberately weighted away from sugar and saturated fat and towards lean protein. For example 100 calories-worth of sugar costs 6 points while 100 calories-worth of lean rump steak costs 2 points.

    And, as you noted, a number of healthy foods – vegetables, lean chicken and turkey breast, fish, legumes, etc. have been designated zero point foods regardless of their calorie values specifically to encourage you to base your meals around them.

    You criticise the inclusion of pizza as an example of “real food”. But that misses the point of the system.

    Yes, on the Weight Watchers system you can eat pizza. And it will cost you 8 points for a single slice. Or you can use that same 8 points to have a full meal of steak, potato and vegetables. (To put that in context, most people only have around 23-30 points available per day).

    Weight Watchers doesn’t tell you what you can and can’t eat. It “just” sets up things so you get far more bang for your buck if you use your points for healthy food rather than crap. IMO that’s a more effective and empowering approach than outright dictating what people should or shouldn’t eat.

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      While its points are based on calories they’re also deliberately weighted away from sugar and saturated fat and towards lean protein.

      I’m aware of this. What you don’t seem to be aware of is that their framework is based on bad science. For example, your mention of saturated fat is simply more evidence that Weight Watchers isn’t the right answer for people since saturated fat is an essential ingredient in a healthy lifestyle. The fear mongering around saturated fat is based on 30-year old bad science.

      And, as you noted, a number of healthy foods – vegetables, lean chicken and turkey breast, fish, legumes, etc. have been designated zero point foods regardless of their calorie values specifically to encourage you to base your meals around them.

      And yet, those foods are highly problematic for many people for a variety of reasons. But, Weight Watchers doesn’t tell you that, tell you why, or teach you which foods are best for you as an individual. So, you’re just continuing to make my point for me.

      Weight Watchers doesn’t tell you what you can and can’t eat. It “just” sets up things so you get far more bang for your buck if you use your points for healthy food rather than crap. IMO that’s a more effective and empowering approach than outright dictating what people should or shouldn’t eat.

      Dictating what people should and shouldn’t eat isn’t the only alternative. You’re pretending there are only two options (Weight Watchers vs mandating what people eat), and that’s simply not true.

      • Irrevenant says:

        I’ve found the information on your site now, thank you.

        Your plan looks good, and I can see how your ideology is incompatible with WW.

        I still think some of the claims in your original article about WW are hyperbolic, but you look to have a great program here founded on solid principles.

      • Kevin Michael Geary says:

        I’ve found the information on your site now, thank you.

        Your plan looks good, and I can see how your ideology is incompatible with WW.

        I still think some of the claims in your original article about WW are hyperbolic, but you look to have a great program here founded on solid principles.

        All good. I appreciate the back and forth.

      • Irrevenant says:

        I didn’t say WW was the only alternative to more dictatorial systems. It isn’t, there are plenty of others.

        My comment was specifically a response to your criticism that WW says you can eat pizza. I was pointing out that WW *does* discourage you from eating pizza – it just does it by weighting the points system against it rather than by taking a “Eat this. Don’t eat that.” approach. That way it’s up to you to decide whether or not that slice of pizza is worth it – and it rarely, if ever, is. The WW approach is a “nudge” approach and there’s a lot of research backing that up.

        What is the approach to food choices in your system, by the way? I couldn’t seem to get a clear picture of that without signing up.

        I agree with the other criticisms in your response. WW definitely has its flaws. I’m not arguing that WW is perfect, I’m pointing out specific inaccuracies in your original article.

      • Kevin Michael Geary says:

        The WW approach is a “nudge” approach and there’s a lot of research backing that up.

        Is that why only 1% of WW members ever reach and maintain their goal and become lifetime members?

        What is the approach to food choices in your system, by the way? I couldn’t seem to get a clear picture of that without signing up.

        I have a lot of information on this between the blog and the podcast.

        I’m pointing out specific inaccuracies in your original article.

        They’re not inaccuracies. They appear to be things you’re misunderstanding. Each time you think you’re brining up an inaccuracy, you’re only proceeding to make the exact point I was making.

  • Irrevenant says:

    Hi Kevin, a couple more points:

    You say WW “knows that by restricting how much you eat, you’re going to lose weight”. But they charge zero points for healthy food options like chicken breast, veggies, eggs and fish precisely so you *don’t* have to starve yourself. Even if you have no points left for the day you can always make yourself a filling meal of fish and salad, or a chicken breast omelette, etc.

    I agree that the scale isn’t the best measure of success. But the scale isn’t WW’s main accountability tool – the point system is. That’s what tells you whether you’re achieving what you set out to or not. And the points system is designed to reward healthy eating.

    I suppose tracking of points could seem obsessive if you’re not used to it, but it’s not really any more obsessive than keeping track of how much money you’re spending. In both cases I find it keeps me both more aware and accountable for what I’m doing. For me they’re just normal everyday habits now, not an obsession.

    The WW weekly meetings also provide support by discussing topics like diet, healthy activity, mindfulness, healthy self-talk etc.

    I have criticisms of WW. They sell unhealthy food products, and their new “freestyle” points system has poor support for some dietary requirements, etc.

    But some of your complaints seem to be based on a misunderstanding of how WW actually works. Hopefully my comments help clarify those points.

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      I agree that the scale isn’t the best measure of success. But the scale isn’t WW’s main accountability tool – the point system is. That’s what tells you whether you’re achieving what you set out to or not. And the points system is designed to reward healthy eating.

      This is patently false. The points are meaningless if they don’t change the number on the scale – that’s the entire basis of Weight Watchers. Getting to a goal weight is the only way to become a lifetime member. It’s not me misrepresenting the program, it’s you.

      The WW weekly meetings also provide support by discussing topics like diet, healthy activity, mindfulness, healthy self-talk etc.

      Except they talk about these things in a very unhealthy way.

      • Irrevenant says:

        We have no direct control over numbers on a scale. We only have direct control over what we eat, and what exercise we do. That’s what’s represented by points and they’re what you’re accountable to. The results on the scale are the real world effect of staying accountable to the points (plus some random fluctuation).

        You seem to have a very binary definition of failure. If someone loses 50kg and stays there but never loses that last 5kg, is that a fail? Life membership is nice carrot, but it’s a bonus.

      • Kevin Michael Geary says:

        The results on the scale are the real world effect of staying accountable to the points (plus some random fluctuation).

        This is a statement based on the myth of calories in, calories out. It’s patently false.

        If someone loses 50kg and stays there but never loses that last 5kg, is that a fail? Life membership is nice carrot, but it’s a bonus.

        C’mon. You know that’s not happening for the vast majority of people. As I said in the article, Oprah has a private chef and can’t even make it work for herself.

  • Jade says:

    Hi,

    I fount this very helpful and useful and definitely agree with what your saying, it’s a very obsessive program and extremely hard to stick with I started weight watchers at 10st and am now nearly 12st been on and off with WW for over a year now, it isn’t good for your mental health keep following points calorie counting is just as bad and for others who are saying it isn’t obsessive are wrong. My mental health isn’t great i have issues with my weight diets have never worked for me and I regret starting WW in the first place it has actually weirdly enough made me eat more then what I used to, it isn’t a great diet isn’t a long lasting diet either I stayed on it for a couple days then fell off the wagon again. It does work for some people just unfortunately didn’t work for me, also regret wasting all my money on WW when clearly it wasn’t working. The whole WW system is messed up it makes you eat alot of free food that ain’t free in calories and this is when you start to give up and eating alot of free foods will keep you bloated and will not help with weight loss. I fount it to be very restrictive I have a sweet tooth but to be honest never used to be this bad until I joined WW if I could go back in time and not have signed up I would.

    Thank you for this information will definitely never go back on WW.

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