Weight Watchers – How it works (and what is it all about)?

Weight Watchers logo wordmark
Weight Watchers logo wordmark

Weight Watchers’ is arguably the most famous diet in the world and it’s not even just a diet these days. Weight Watchers teaches the philosophy that a healthy body comes from living a healthy lifestyle. While diet is part of that lifestyle, it is by no means the entire answer. Weight Watchers’ educates members about all aspects of living healthy and focuses quite a bit on motivation.

How It Started

Back in 1963, a Brooklyn housewife named Jean Nidetch wanted to lose weight and she knew that many of her friends had the same goal. She began inviting them to weekly meetings at her home, where the friends would share ideas on how to lose weight and would encourage each other in their weight loss journey. Losing weight became a shared experience, instead of the isolated solo journey it had been before.

The public accountability – no one wants to be the one who gained that week – and the active encouragement between the women are the two things that made Weight Watchers’ stand out. It was the first time the concepts of support and motivation were tied to being able to successfully lose weight. With Weight Watchers’ now in over 60 countries, these core principles clearly work for millions of people.

The Four Pillars of the Weight Watchers’ Diet
There are four areas that Weight Watchers’ calls the four pillars: food, exercise, behavior, and support. The emphasis has always been that in order to lose weight and keep that weight off, people must make changes that can become habitual parts of a healthy lifestyle. They believe there is no quick fix to weight management, but that we must change how we think and feel in order to make long term brand changes.

When discussing any diet plan, most people focus on the food, but equal energy must be placed on the other pillars for lasting success. The famous support group style of Weight Watchers’ helps to teach healthy lifestyle choices, but also provides motivation and encouragement along the way. Making any lifestyle changes can be difficult, because you’re often trying to change habits of a lifetime. Support is an integral part of the successful weight loss management plan, at least according to Weight Watchers’.

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How It Works

With the original Weight Watchers’ program, a very large part of the program was attending weekly meetings. At these meetings, members would be educated on what they should include or avoid in their daily diets, as well as be ‘weighed in’. This weigh-in was done in front of everyone there and recorded. All those who lost weight were rewarded immediately with well wishes and applause; those who gained were encouraged to keep the faith.

The goal of Weight Watchers’ was always to enable members to control their weight by eating properly. Unlike other diet plans that offer very rigid amounts or foods, Weight Watchers’ has always sought to allow as much freedom as possible. The goal is not to deprive yourself or change your diet so drastically that it’s impossible to stick to it. Their goal is to empower members to make the best choices for what they put in their bodies.

Through the years, the program has approached the dietary component in various ways, but always with the idea of giving people as much choice as possible. Eventually it evolved to a point system. Each food was assigned points based on nutritional content. When starting the program, a point level appropriate to each person would be developed, and the person was responsible to see that their daily diet met that point level.

The Newest System

In 2010, Weight Watchers’ replaced their old points system with a new one called Points Plus or ProPoints in the UK. As with earlier plans, people can still choose their foods to meet their points level, but how foods are assigned a point value has changed. New research and findings in the nutrition world show that foods high in protein and fiber are better for you, so the points system has developed around that concept.

Foods rich in protein and fiber fill you up and take longer for the body to digest and process. That keeps you from being hungry too quickly, as well as maintaining stable blood sugar levels which give you energy throughout the day. To encourage eating more of these type of foods, the assigned point value is lower than it used to be.

Calories are still factored into the point assignment but where the calories come from is recognized as being a key component to a proper diet. By assigning them a lower point value, it encourages people to eat more of those type of foods.

Another new twist to the Weight Watchers’ system is that dieters can eat as much as they want of fresh fruits and any non-starchy vegetables. These foods are packed with nutrition and also with stomach-filling fiber, while remaining low in calories.

Power foods are what they call the foods with the lower point value and include lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, along with the fruits and vegetables mentioned above. In the educational meetings and materials, a lot of emphasis is put on eating from these power foods as much as possible.

Instead of daily point allowances that could be carried over to the next day, the newest plan gives daily and weekly allowances. Any points not eaten on a given day are lost and cannot be carried over. However, the weekly allotment can be used anytime during the week so that adjustments can be made for special occasions.

Weight Watchers’ Tools

To begin with the Weight Watchers’ program, one would sign up for meetings, whether a local group or the new online meetings. The new member first fills out a questionnaire to be used to determine their individual point level. Details like age, height, weight and gender


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