Weight Watchers Diet Review

In this Weight Watchers Diet Review, I give the Weight Watchers Diet a C+ and 48/100 points because keeping track of your points in order to avoid low-fat food does not lay the proper foundation for becoming permanently slim and healthy.

Dr. Pearsall’s Scorecard (48 out of a possible 100)

Customer reviews: (96% approval rating for 135 opinions) 10  
Quality of the nutrition information (Note: Core program is better than Flex) 6  
Reasonable cost 7  
Uses a holistic weight loss approach, addressing the body, mind, and spirit 4  
Sensible meal plans and tasty, healthy, quick recipes 4  
Emphasis is teaching healthy lifestyle changes instead of selling products 4  
Provides a detailed functional approach to weight training and cardio fitness 2  
Easy to follow for life 2  
Offers effective weight loss products e.g. supplements, videos, techniques 3  
Advice on other weight factors (hormones, food allergies, toxicity, lifestyle) 0  
Advocates a diet of foods that are whole, natural, clean, organic and 50% raw 2  
Advises how to individualize the program for biochemical differences 0  
Counselors are credentialed professionals such as registered dieticians 0  
Research and statistics support the efficacy of the program 4  


Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers (WW) in the early 1960's when she began inviting friends into her home once a week to discuss how to lose weight. Today, an estimated one million people worldwide attend Weight Watchers Meetings every week.

Diet Details:

Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that encourages a high carbohydrate, low-fat, calorie restricted diet for weight loss. There are two plans to choose from, the traditional Flex Plan and the relatively new Core Plan.

The Flex Plan allows you to eat whatever you want as long as you do not exceed the number of points you are allowed in a day. Each food is assigned a point value based on how much fiber, calories and fat the food contains. Foods that are higher in fiber and lower in calories and fat are assigned lower point values and therefore you can eat more of these foods.

The Core Plan is more restrictive but a much healthier plan. You can eat unlimited amounts of:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Lean meats
  • Fat-free dairy
  • 6 glasses of water
  • 2 teaspoons of healthy oil (olive, safflower, sunflower, flaxseed and canola)
  • Weight Watchers Fruities (snacks)
  • Air popped (or 94% fat-free microwave) popcorn (snacks)

Or you can eat whatever you want for snacks as long as you do not exceed 35 points for the week.

The Flex Plan is for people who want flexibility for what they eat but need portion control. The Core Plan is for those who want to stick to a diet of healthier foods.

Exercise is also encouraged for 10 minutes three times a day.


Weight Watchers has a number of programs to choose from:

1. WW Group Meetings which are held 4-5 times a day and have a one time joining fee of $15 plus a weekly fee of $10-13.

2. WW e-Tools is an online companion to the meetings which gives you tools to track your progress and helps you make food choices with hundreds of meal ideas and recipes.

3. WW Online costs $65/for a 3-month membership. The online program includes meal planning with 1,000s of recipes, a comprehensive list of foods and their points, exercise tips, demonstrations and a community forum.

Members are encouraged to purchase online services, cookbooks, videos and food products such as nutrition bars and frozen entrees

Praise for Weight Watchers:

1) Highly recommended by members

Out of 135 reviews on Epinions.com, 129 sang the praises of Weight Watchers. Here is what one woman said:

"I am a BIG fan of Weight Watchers. Want to know why? I have used this easy-to-follow program 3 different times and it has ALWAYS worked for me; and for everyone I convinced to try Weight Watchers."

2) Provides group support classes 4-5 times a day

These classes are taught by former Weight Watcher members and are designed to be motivational and supportive. Members can ask questions and get advice on issues they need help with. The classes also provide tips for how to cope with emotional issues surrounding food which so many people struggle with.

3) Weight Watchers Online is a helpful and inexpensive resource


Weight Watchers Online has the following features:

1. Weight Tracker

2. Menu planner with 1,000s of recipes that show the points

3. Health assessments and quizzes

4. Video demonstrations of exercises--including weight training

5. Community forum

6. Detailed description of the diet

7. Lots of weight loss articles and tips

4) The Core Plan Has Merit

Although I don't agree entirely with the Core Plan (I will explain later), I do think the Core Plan is a tremendous improvement over the traditional Flex Plan which is more about portion control than eating healthy foods.

The following is a testimonial from a World Enlightened subscriber:

"I successfully lost 25 lbs on the Flex Plan (points), but was frustrated by the constant counting, weighing & measuring & so I switched over the Core plan. Core is wonderful...it is not restrictive, it promotes healthy oils daily, grains, complex carbs, non-processed foods, fruits & veggies & lean meats.

Sugars, carbs such as breads & bun, no matter how healthy, are not Core foods. Yet if you really want a non-Core food, it certainly may be had by counting points. Cravings for sugars & carbs such as was just mentioned, after following the plan for a month to a 'T', either dramatically diminish, or disappear all together...this is not just my experience, but everyone I know who is on Core."

-Jacquie North, Canada

Criticism Of The Flex Plan :

1) You can eat whatever you want on WW as long as you stay within your points.

Here is a quote from a raving fan of WW posted on Epinions.com:

"You can legally fit the foods you love in, and there is no regimented diet for you to follow…if you wanted to eat Twinkies all day, you could! (really.)"

Wow! What a great program! I can eat Twinkies all day as long as I stay within my points? And even if I get heart disease or cancer ten years down the road it won’t matter because at least I’ll be thin!

Your body deserves better than to be a slave to your tastebuds.

2) Low-Fat Dieting Is So Last Century

With popular diet books like Atkins’ Diet, South Beach, The Zone, Suzanne Sommers, most people are aware that refined carbohydrates are the main culprit in the obesity epidemic. But somehow, the corporate office at Weight Watchers remains in their ivory tower of low-fat ignorance. Here is a sample menu from Weight Watchers:

½ c. Orange juice, ¾ c. bran flakes, 1c. blueberries, 1c. fat-free milk

Smart Ones (Weight Watchers) Seafood Linguini Bowl, 1c. celery, 1c. light yogurt

2 c. greens, 2 T. fat-free dressing, Smart Ones Veggie Pizza, 3 low-fat wafers

What is wrong with this picture?

It’s all carbs! High carb foods will raise your insulin levels and since insulin is the fat building hormone, this diet can make you gain weight. However, Weight Watchers uses the high-carb Flex Plan to appeal to the masses who don’t want to give up their addiction to high-carb foods.


3) The points system does not teach good nutrition.

WW Points System makes the members dependant on WW guides and food products in order to avoid having to constantly look up point values for anything they eat. How do you graduate from this artificial system of making food choices if you’re never taught how to evaluate healthy food choices based on sound nutrition?

In addition, the WW points system assigns low points to high-carb, low-fat items and high points to high-fat items which is completely wrong for weight loss. Therefore, WW is doing a disservice by teaching incorrect nutritional advice in order to sell their high-carb food products.

4) You can eat whatever you want on WW as long as you stay within your points.

Here is a quote from a raving fan of WW posted on Epinions.com:

"You can legally fit the foods you love in, and there is no regimented diet for you to follow…if you wanted to eat Twinkies all day, you could! (really.)"

Wow! What a great program! I can eat Twinkies all day as long as I stay within my points? And even if I get heart disease or cancer ten years down the road it won’t matter because at least I’ll be thin!

Come on. Your body deserves better than that.

5) Toxic processed and artificial foods are encouraged

I’m flipping through a WW magazine “In The Groove” that was given to me when I signed up for WW. Here is a listing of the foods they recommend:

Pg. 1 Reduced-calorie margarine with potatoes, oatmeal with artificial sweeteners

Pg. 3 White flour buttermilk biscuits, sugar-free (Splenda) chocolate pudding

Pg. 5 Low-fat fudge bars, sundaes cones and ice-cream sandwiches, caramel corn

Pg. 6 Baked Tostitos (contains hydrogenated oil)

Pg. 7 White flour crackers (hydrogenated oil), chocolate pie, white chocolate pie

Pg. 8 Key Lime Pie, reduced fat graham cracker pie crust (hydrogenated oil)

Ok, I’ll stop here. You get the idea.

Are any of these foods good for your health? Not one.

Will they help you lose weight? Nope.

Does WW make a ton of money off these ads? You bet.

If you read the labels of WW packaged food products you will note many unhealthy ingredients. Here are some of the 200 ingredients listed for Smart Ones Chicken Enchilada Suiza: partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil, BHA, white rice, autolyzed yeast extract (MSG), corn maltodextrin (sugar and possibly MSG).

If you want to get serious about losing weight, you need to seriously get rid of the processed food. You won’t get fat from eating natural foods.

For more information about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, read my book Sweet Deception: Why Splenda®, NutraSweet®, and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health.

6) Perpetuates sugar addiction

Many people are overweight because of their addiction to carbohydrates. I should know, I used to be one. The way I cured myself of my addiction is through abstinence. After a month, I stopped craving sugar and have never looked back. But I would still be addicted and overweight if I were eating WW desserts everyday which may be low-fat but contain a lot of sugar.

7) Some members became obsessed with food

Read this review from a former WW member:

" I was 'OP' (on program) for about eight months, and lost 45 pounds. Pretty good, but I just totally burnt out. I could not possibly stand to convert the nutritional information of just one more morsel of food into POINTS, and then survive on these tiny portions. Ultimately, I went through a kind of backlash, thrilled I could eat cheese again, and gained back about half of the weight.

At first, I LOVED the program, because in part I was excited to lose weight, and when you go to the meetings, so many people have lost weight, and it's very inspiring, at first. It was also easy to get all hyped up into the novelty of POINTS and how much you can eat of this or that for so many POINTS.

Quickly, though, this program turns into a self-perpetuating obsession, as you are encouraged and sometimes almost bullied into documenting every morsel of food that passes your lips, and having those little morsels add up oh-so-quickly to your daily food maximum. This, then, leads to obsession and frustration.

Fostering the obsession, at the meetings, the talk is mostly of POINTS tips, for example, which foods are low-POINT. After having experienced 'wasting' POINTS and resulting hunger (or supposed failure at staying OP), you become driven towards foods that are simply low-POINT.

Then you wake up one day and are startled to realize that you don't like what you eat, and don't eat what you like, AND that you are constantly thinking about what you have eaten and will eat. And you hit a wall..."

Criticism of the Core Plan :

(Lean meat, fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, non-fat dairy, 2 tsp. of oils, popcorn)

1) A One-Size-Fits-All Diet Is Less Than Ideal

I'm a proponent of Metabolic Typing where you take a questionnaire to help you figure out the foods that you feel the best eating. According to Metabolic Typing, 1/3 of the population needs to eat a lower-carb, high-fat diet, 1/3 needs to eat a high-carb diet and 1/3 does best on a mixture of both. Unfortunately, the Core Plan's low-fat diet only suits 1/3 of the population, other metabolic types would not do well on this diet.

2) Too Low In Fat

Weight Watchers has always taught that the key to losing weight is to eat low-fat. It just isn't true. You wind up eating more without eating a healthy amount of fat because fat is what causes satiety (feeling of fullness).

3) At Least 2 Servings A Day Of Non-Fat Dairy Are Recommended

The reason for this is for people to get enough calcium but you can get calcium with leafy green vegetables and with supplementation. The problem with your typical dairy product is that it is loaded with growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. The pasteurization process destroys all the vitamins and live enzymes (everything that is healthy about dairy) and the homogenization process creates an enzyme called that is linked to heart disease.

4) Core Plan recommends some wrong oils
(olive, flax, safflower, canola, sunflower)

Olive oil is great and flax is good, but the other oils are omega-6 oils. Most people (as much as 95%) have an excess of omega-6 and a deficiency of omerga-3 in their diet. In order to be healthy, you should supplement with a high quality omega-3 oil from cod liver or krill, not flax (flax requires an enzyme to convert it and many people are deficient in this enzyme).

5) WW recommends artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are an unwise trade-off; you save a few calories in exchange for your health. But don't take my word for it, read the facts for yourself in the well researched book Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, Nutrasweet and the FDA May Be Hazardous To Your Health . There is a guarantee that after reading it, you'll never use artificial sweeteners again for the rest of your life, or your money back.

Long-Term Success Rates For WW Are Better Than Most Programs But Still Nothing To Brag About

Weight Watchers conducted a research study which involved a random sample of 870 lifetime members of Weight Watchers in the United States — those who reached their goal weight and maintained it for six weeks. (NOTE: I assume this study was done on the Flex Plan since the Core Plan is relatively new. The Core Plan may have different results).

The average WW member weighed 75 kilograms (165 pounds) when she joined Weight Watchers and lost 10 kilograms (22 pounds), or 13.3%, on the program.

Five years later, most of the dieters had regained 5 kilograms (11 pounds), or half their original weight loss but this was considered very good since half the people still weighed 5% less than they did when they started.

I think these are very unimpressive results. So half of these women are 5% less--they are still overweight! It didn't work. Weight Watchers and all the other weight loss programs on the market are designed to fail because they put people on low-fat, processed food diets (Flex Plan) that make it impossible to be naturally slim.

Conclusion :

Weight Watchers is one of the most popular programs of all time. I think its strengths lie in giving people a structured plan for how to eat, the group support and the user friendly online program. Weight Watchers is also very affordable and has helped many people.

The Weight Watchers Core Plan is much better from a nutritional perspective than the Flex Plan but still has some major flaws. It is a one-diet-fits-all program and does not provide much support for the other complex factors that cause weight gain.

So if you have not lost weight with WW, take heart. I am in the process of putting together an online program based on the naturopathic weight loss program I used in my clinical practice. This should be ready in June of 2007. In the meantime, feel free to sign up for my free newsletter to learn more about the natural approach to weight loss.

About the Author:

Dr. Kendra Pearsall is a naturopathic medical doctor (a physician who specializes in natural medicine) and a weight loss specialist. Her mission in life is to teach people simple truths for healthy weight loss using natural, holistic lifestyle changes. You can learn more about this approach in her free weekly newsletter: The Enlita Natural Weight Loss Newsletter.

About the Author:
Dr. Kendra Pearsall, N.M.D. is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor specializing in natural weight loss and food addiction. She created Enlita.com to help millions of people achieve optimal health, natural weight loss and life success with her free weekly e-newsletter (sign up at the top of this page.)