Weight Watchers, which was recently rebranded to "WW," is one of the most well-known weight loss programs in the U.S. The brand suggests that you can lose weight and still eat what you want, stating “Lose weight, not your favorite foods!” right on their homepage.
But is Weight Watchers actually proven in research studies to work, or is it a waste of money? What foods are allowed and disallowed? Why was the brand sued? And how do real users rate and describe the weight loss effects of Weight Watchers?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze medical studies on Weight Watchers to find out if it’s actually proven to work and how much weight loss the program causes on average.
We’ll compare the effectiveness of weight watchers to other weight loss programs, explain why the brand was recently sued, and feature real, unsponsored Weight Watchers user reviews.
Is Weight Watchers Proven to Work?
The weight loss effects of the Weight Watchers program have been tested in research studies.
A 2013 clinical trial tested the effectiveness of Weight Watchers on Tennessee Medicare recipients who were overweight or obese. The median weight loss was 4.19 pounds after 9 weeks of participation, which equates to a potential annualized weight loss of 24.48 pounds.
A clinical trial published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal tested Weight Watchers in women around 30 years of age who were overweight. Women who completed the course lost an average of 5.7% of their initial body weight.
Weight Watchers has also been compared to other popular weight loss programs in research studies. A 2015 medical review on the efficacy of commercial weight loss programs looked at how much weight loss was caused by Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, HMR, Medifast, Optifast and Atkins.
The Jenny Craig program was found to cause the greatest weight loss, with 2.3% greater weight loss than Weight Watchers. Noom is another weight loss program clinically shown to cause greater weight loss than Weight Watchers, as we documented in our Noom review article.
Based on the available research, we consider Weight Watchers likely to cause weight loss given that it consistently caused weight loss in clinical studies.
But what does the diet actually look like and are any foods disallowed? We’ll review in the next section.
Weight Watchers Diet Review
Weight Watchers does not restrict any foods. Instead, it assigns points to foods. Each plan has a “Points Budget,” which refers to how many points are allotted per day.
Higher-calorie foods tend to have higher points, so a pizza will have a higher point score than a salad.
This is a logical approach in our opinion, and Weight Watchers’ claim that tracking food consumption is the biggest factor in weight loss is accurate. A medical review published in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that of all dieters, those who consistently tracked their food intake experienced the greatest weight loss.
We like Weight Watchers approach for two reasons:
1. It doesn't incentivize eating disorders
Weight loss programs that assign “good” and “bad” scores to foods can encourage eating disorders. As we explained in our Golo Diet reviews article, many commercial diet programs claim that certain whole foods like bananas are “bad,” and discouraging people from eating whole foods is illogical and can be harmful.
2. It can reduce cravings
Telling people to entirely cut out a certain food (especially one that they may like) can cause cravings and binging. Weight Watchers’ approach allows for flexibility which is why it seems to have better long-term outcomes than most diet programs.
Overall we like Weight Watchers’ diet plan, and we would recommend that those using this program try to stick to whole, unprocessed foods because avoiding processed foods is clinically shown to improve weight loss efforts.
But how do real people rate the Weight Watchers diet and how much weight loss it causes? We’ll review in the next section.
Real, Unsponsored Weight Watchers User Reviews
A YouTube creator called “Nikki Gets Fit” reviewed Weight Watchers and included before-and-after images, tips for how to get the most out of the program, thoughts on the daily calorie counts and more:
A YouTube creator named “HomeWithHailey” shared a full day of meals on the Weight Watchers program, which is useful for people who want to get a glimpse of the recipes before purchasing:
Why Was Weight Watchers Sued?
In March of 2022, the FTC sued Weight Watchers for illegally collecting children’s health data.
According to the lawsuit, Weight Watchers “marketed a weight loss app for use by children as young as eight and then collected their personal information without parental permission.”
Weight Watchers ended up paying a $1.5 million penalty and was ordered to destroy all data that was illegally collected.
While this lawsuit obviously has nothing to do with the efficacy of the Weight Watchers program, it does suggest that parents may benefit from avoiding use of this program and app in children.
Was Weight Watchers’ Rebrand Bad for Users?
A popular YouTube channel called “iiluminaughtii” published an exposé on Weight Watchers, alleging that the company’s rebrand may be bad for consumers:
Real Customer Complaints About Weight Watchers
Weight Watchers has been reviewed 75 times on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, with an average review rating of 1.07 out of 5 stars.
Most customer complaints are about billing issues, such as this complaint from a user named “Amy C”:
“Go with any other company, but avoid WW. I cancelled my account and they literally argued with me and refused to delete my credit card from their website. I had to talk to 5 different people before someone finally agreed to fully delete my account as ‘this is the only way to delete your payment information" I will not ever go back to them.’
To the credit of Weight Watchers, the brand responds to the majority of the complaints to try to resolve the situation, which is the sign of a high-quality brand.
We would recommend that unsatisfied Weight Watchers customers submit a complaint on the BBB page, because this may fast-track resolution of your issue.
Our Clean Weight Loss Picks
There are food-based nutrients which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.
Dietary fiber was shown in a medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition to cause 16 pounds of weight loss in 6 months when combined with moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline).
Supergut Fiber Mix is our top fiber supplement, because it contains three different types of fiber powder, and retails for only $1.75 per serving at a subscription rate.
MCT oil was shown in a meta-study to cause more than one pound of weight loss over 10 weeks. This equates to potential annualized weight loss of 6 pounds per year with less than one tablespoon's worth of MCT oil per day.
Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil product, because the only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts. and it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.
Ginger intake "significantly decreased body weight" according to a 2019 meta-study on ginger and weight loss that analyzed data from 14 clinical trials.
Pique La Ginger is our top ginger product, because it's an organic tea in convenient crystallized form, and all that's needed is to pour the powder into a glass and add hot water.
All three of the products mentioned in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy or unsafe.
Pros and Cons of Weight Watchers
Here are the pros and cons of Weight Watchers in our opinion:
- Clinically proven to work
- Doesn't restrict foods
- Recommended by many doctors
- May be less effective than Jenny Craig and Noom
- Collected data and marketed to children
- Doesn't appear to be clinically studied for long periods (over 1 year)