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The Pros and Cons of Weight Watchers

Weight WatchersFrom Jean Nidetch's home in Queens, NY, where the founder of Weight Watchers in the early 60's invited friends to discuss how they could lose weight, to the ends of the world, where 1 million members attend 40,000 Weight Watchers meetings, the grand daddy of weight loss programs has become today a proven investment to a healthy lifestyle.

Weight Watchers is the most studied weight management program. The most recent paper was published on October 8th 2013 in The American Journal of Medicine. Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston compared 147 people who followed the Weight Watchers plan (they attended weekly Weight Watchers Meetings and had access to the company's online and mobile fitness applications) to 145 of a self-help group that was provided with printed and library materials offering basic dietary and exercise guidelines for weight loss.

Graph of Weight Watchers
As the graph shows, the Weight Watchers participants were 9 times more likely to achieve a 10% weight reduction at 6 months compared to the group that tried to lose weight by themselves.

Like with any weight loss plan, there's always the good and the bad. With the Weight Watchers plan, you are going to face some good things and some bad things as well. The bad news is you have to continue a diet on an ongoing basis, but the good news is you'll finally lose some of those pounds that are plaguing you. If you can weigh the pros and cons of Weight Watchers, then I believe you're likely to make the right decision about whether to proceed or not.

Some of the Pros of Weight Watchers

One of the great things about Weight Watchers is that no forbidden foods. It means that you're less likely to have late night binge-fests with those foods that you've been trying to avoid for weeks. In addition, not only the off limits, but you also learn about nutrition while you're on Weight Watchers. In meetings and online, you can learn about certain macro-nutrients, which you should be getting everyday like protein, carbs, and fats -- and in what amounts. There's also a healthy emphasis on fruits and vegetables to supply vital nutrients.

Another great plus about the Weight Watchers plan is that you are encouraged to lose the weight slowly, not like a crash diet where you're trying to drop a bunch of pounds in a couple weeks. This slow approach ensures that your weight loss will endure and that new habits will triumph over old ones in the long run.

One of the greatest lessons you'll learn on Weight Watchers is portion control. This is the most fundamental lesson you can learn to achieve lasting and sustainable weight loss. With the points system, you'll know exactly how much you can eat of your favorite foods to achieve your weight loss goals. Once you've mastered portion control (though it does take a lot of practice), you can surely manage your excess weight for the rest of your life.

But there are Still Some Cons to Weight Watchers

The cost of Weight Watchers is one of the biggest problems for some people. Even with the coupons and promotions, they're always pumping out. You have to pay a registration fee of about $30, and then you need to pay just about $11/week for the Monthly Pass and $5/week for Weight Watchers Online. This really can add up if you have a lot of weight to lose. Promotions are available at -- ranging from waiving the sign up fee, for getting the first month free, to saving 30% off the plan.

While weigh-ins are confidential, some people are really turned off by the group atmosphere of the Weight Watchers meetings. You do have the option to do the program online; however, success rates go up with those who attend the meetings. This sort of group atmosphere makes some people uncomfortable.

Weekly weigh-ins are required with Weight Watchers and this really frightens some people. It can also be a bit annoying. Some people stress about their weigh-in all week long and are embarrassed when they gained a pound or so over the week. It's discouraging to track progress weekly instead of monthly. It seems unfair and unrealistic to make much progress in a week. For some people, it's more reasonable to track their progress monthly.

The newly launched Points Plus system has been confusing for some people and has left many lifetime members unhappy. One woman says, she lost 100 lbs on the old Points system but is not achieving success with the Points Plus.

While Weight Watchers has been voted the best weight loss program by USNews and World Report, a study found that only half of the lifetime Weight Watchers members maintained at least 5% of their weight loss 5 years after completing the program.

Finally, I need to say that despite some cons, Weight Watchers works better than clinical weight loss programs. The latter cost 3 times more and run only in academic facilities whereas Weight Watchers is ubiquitous. You now have substantial information to decide if Weight Watchers is for you or not!

Medical References

Johnston CA, Rost S, Miller-Kovach K, Moreno JP, & Foreyt JP (2013). A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Community-based Behavioral Counseling Program. The American journal of medicine PMID: 24135513

Lowe MR, Kral TV, & Miller-Kovach K (2008). Weight-loss maintenance 1, 2 and 5 years after successful completion of a weight-loss programme. The British journal of nutrition, 99 (4), 925-30 PMID: 18042306