Pros and Cons of Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers pros and cons
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Weight Watchers is a popular diet that helps people shed pounds through its point-counting system. You’re required to track your food intake (as each food has an assigned point value) and stay within your daily points budget. Since high calorie or empty calorie foods use more points, limiting those will reduce your overall energy intake and help you lose weight.

This doesn’t mean the plan is the right choice for everyone, though. While Weight Watchers has its positive attributes, it also may lead to unhealthy dieting habits. Some people feel the constant tracking is unpleasant, and others may manipulate points (such as skipping meals to bank points for less healthy foods). It also can be costly over time.

Pros

  • Balanced and flexible

  • Teaches lifelong skills

  • No foods are forbidden

  • Slow and steady weight loss

  • Tons of support and resources

  • Reduces diabetes risk

  • Promotes exercise

Cons

  • Can be costly

  • Counting points can be tedious

  • Weekly weigh-ins are necessary

  • Limited evidence for cardiovascular benefits

  • Too much freedom for some people

  • May lead to unhealthy dieting

Pros

Balanced and Flexible

Weight Watchers offers one of the most flexible commercial diets on the market. By assigning vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins a value of zero points, the diet encourages you to make these the bulk of your meals while still allowing for adequate grains and dairy within your daily SmartPoints allocation.

Teaches Lifelong Skills

No matter what diet plan you choose, you want it to be something you can follow for life. Weight Watchers teaches essential healthy eating skills that will serve you well over time - like measuring your portions and serving sizes and encouraging you to cook food at home.

No Foods are Forbidden

There is no list of foods to avoid on Weight Watchers like you'll find on other diets. Instead, you'll count SmartPoints and earn FitPoints. The point system encourages you to eat healthy food but also allows you to indulge with sweet treats or snacks once in a while.

Slow and Steady Weight Loss

You can expect to lose one to two pounds a week on Weight Watchers. Several studies have supported these claims and shown the program to be effective for weight loss.

For example, one study published in 2017 in Lancet compared weight loss among those using self-help materials, Weight Watchers for 12 weeks, or Weight Watchers for 52 weeks. The 52-week program led to better results than the 12-week program, and the 12-week program had better results than the self-guided program.

Another 2015 systematic review in Annals of internal medicine examined several commercial weight loss programs. The study found that those on Weight Watchers lost 2.6 percent more weight compared to control groups.

Interestingly, a ripple effect may also exist for spouses of those participating in Weight Watchers (or other weight loss programs). A study published in 2018 in Obesity found significant weight loss among spouses of those participating in Weight Watchers, even though they themselves did not join. 

Tons of Support and Resources

Weight Watchers offers more resources than most other diet programs. You'll find the app and website handy for calculating and tracking SmartPoints, as well as finding recipe ideas.

If you like accountability and group support, you can also attend the regular group meetings. You can even sign up for a premium membership that includes personalized coaching for one-on-one support.

Also, if you own a Fitbit for weight loss, or use another device or weight loss app like Jawbone, Withings, Misfit, Garmin Vivofit, Apple Health, or Map-My-Run, you can sync your activity to Weight Watchers. This helps you manage all your physical activity and weight loss data in one place.

Reduces Diabetes Risk

Because Weight Watchers steers users towards nutritious options and helps people lose weight, the program has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes or better blood sugar control among those with diabetes.

For example, a study published in 2017 in BMJ open diabetes research & care looked at the effects of referring those with pre-diabetes to a free Weight Watchers program. Those who participated lost weight and reduced hemoglobin A1c levels (a measure of blood sugar control). In fact, 38 percent of patients returned to completely normal blood glucose metrics.

Other studies have found similar results among those with pre-diabetes, including a study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care in 2017. Another study published in 2016 in Obesity (Silver Springs) has also shown those who already have diabetes experienced weight loss and better blood sugar control when following the Weight Watchers program.

Promotes Exercise

The Weight Watchers system encourages plenty of daily movement and exercise. You earn FitPoints with movement that help you balance out your food intake. Guidance is provided for new exercisers and for those who can work out harder and burn more calories.

Even though there are many benefits to Weight Watchers, that doesn't mean it's the right fit for everyone. Consider the drawbacks before investing in the plan.

Cons

Can Be Costly

The cost for Weight Watchers will vary from person to person, depending on the options you select and how long you’d like to stay on the program. Be sure to consider the total cost for the entire time you need to be on the plan to make sure that you can afford it.

Digital-only programming is the cheapest option, while in-person workshops fall in the middle, and personalized coaching will cost the most. Current prices range from around $4 per week on the low end for the online program, to around $14 per week for personalized coaching.

You can get slightly discounted weekly rates by paying up front for several months, or by keeping an eye out for promotions. Some health insurance companies also offer a discount for Weight Watchers, so be sure to check with yours if you’re planning to join.

Just how much does it cost on average for people to reach their goals? In a study that analyzed the cost for a group of women to lose 5 percent of their body weight, they found Weight Watchers clocked in at approximately $1,610. While this may sound like a lot, think of the cost-savings that may come later with better overall health. Also, this amount was still far less than the other weight loss program studied, Curves Complete, which clocked in at $8,613 to achieve the same goals.

Counting Points Can Be Tedious

If you don't like counting calories, you may not like counting SmartPoints either. The process can be time-consuming and may be too complicated for people who want a quick and simple approach to eating.

Weekly Weigh-Ins Are Necessary

You need to weigh in once a week to track your progress on Weight Watchers. For some people, this requirement is uncomfortable. You may not like to be weighed in at a group meeting (even though the weigh in only takes place in front of the leader, not the entire group). Or you may get frustrated by lack of progress on the scale that week, even though you followed your plan precisely.

For others, though, weekly weigh-ins can be a plus, helping to monitor progress and stay on the right track.

Limited Evidence for Cardiovascular Benefits

A systematic review in 2016 found that Weight Watchers offered little additional help for blood pressure or cholesterol compared to control groups – though data was limited. If you're looking for a diet with established cardiovascular benefits, you may want to investigate other options (like the Mediterranean diet, for example).

Too Much Freedom

As silly as it sounds, too much freedom can be an Achilles heel for some people. The ability to choose anything you want to eat may prove too tempting. It is completely possible to use all your SmartPoints on less-than-nutritious foods. If that speaks to your personality, weight loss plans with stricter guidelines may work better.

May Lead to Unhealthy Dieting

There is some concern that the focus on counting points can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. For example, there have been anecdotal reports that some Weight Watchers followers “save up” points to binge on food later. Though they may not exceed their daily points, that behavior does breech on unhealthy dieting.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ahern AL, Wheeler GM, Aveyard P, et al. Extended and standard duration weight-loss programme referrals for adults in primary care (WRAP): a randomised controlled trial [published correction appears in Lancet. 2017 Jun 3;389(10085):2192]. Lancet. 2017;389(10085):2214–2225. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30647-5

  2. Gudzune KA, Doshi RS, Mehta AK, et al. Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic review [published correction appears in Ann Intern Med. 2015 May 19;162(10):739-40]Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(7):501–512. doi:10.7326/M14-2238

  3. Gorin AA, Lenz EM, Cornelius T, Huedo-Medina T, Wojtanowski AC, Foster GD. Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Ripple Effect of a Nationally Available Weight Management Program on Untreated Spouses. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018;26(3):499–504. doi:10.1002/oby.22098

  4. Piper C, Marossy A, Griffiths Z, Adegboye A. Evaluation of a type 2 diabetes prevention program using a commercial weight management provider for non-diabetic hyperglycemic patients referred by primary care in the UK. BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2017;5(1):e000418. Published 2017 Oct 16. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2017-000418

  5. Piper C, Marossy A, Griffiths Z, Adegboye A. Evaluation of a type 2 diabetes prevention program using a commercial weight management provider for non-diabetic hyperglycemic patients referred by primary care in the UK. BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2017;5(1):e000418. Published 2017 Oct 16. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2017-000418

  6. O’Neil et al. Randomized controlled trial of a nationally available weight control program tailored for adults with type 2 diabetes. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Nov;24(11):2269-2277.

  7. Mehta AK, Doshi RS, Chaudhry ZW, et al. Benefits of commercial weight-loss programs on blood pressure and lipids: a systematic review. Prev Med. 2016;90:86–99. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.06.028