WeightWatchers Diet Review 2023: Does It Actually Work?
Can one of the oldest and best-known weight loss programs help you?
Updated Feb. 24, 2023 8:13 a.m. PT
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Reviews ethics statement
Caroline Igo (she/her/hers) is a wellness editor and holds Sleep Science Coach and Stress Management certificates from the Spencer Institute. She received her bachelor's degree in creative writing from Miami University and continues to further her craft in her free time. Before joining CNET, Caroline wrote for past CNN anchor, Daryn Kagan.
ExpertiseSleep, mattress accessories, vitamins and supplements, nutrition & personal careCredentials
Carl R. Greer/Andrew D. Hepburn Award for Best Nonfiction Essay (Miami University, 2020)
WeightWatchers is a well-known weight loss program with a decades-long history. For over 58 years, this program has helped millions of people lose weight, including influential celebrities like Oprah Winfrey.
Losing weight can be a daunting task, and it can be even harder to know where to start. If you want to begin a weight-loss journey, WeightWatchers may be the push you're searching for. Follow along to see if their program is right for you.
Editors' note: Always consult with your health care provider before making any changes to your diet.
What is WeightWatchers?
You know the name, you've heard the talk, you've known someone who's tried it or you've seen the commercials -- maybe even one from the 2015 Super Bowl.
WeightWatchers is among the most popular dieting programs around. Millions of people have been members.
WeightWatchers offers two membership plans that seek to meet the needs of anyone looking to lose weight. Memberships don't include actual meals but offer support, a plan and recipes you can follow.
The two memberships you can choose from are:
With the Core membership, you get a personalized food plan paired with recipes to help you reach your goals. You can also access meal, water, activity, weight and sleep trackers so you can stay on top of your progress. Even though this is WW's basic plan, you also get workouts for all levels and 24/7 live chat sessions. Workshops are not included with this membership.
The Premium membership includes everything under Core, as well as access to coach-led workshops. You can attend these workshops virtually or in person and learn behavior change techniques and connect with other WeightWatchers members. Workshops are available seven days a week, day or night.
The WeightWatchers experience
When you enter the WeightWatchers site for the first time, you will be prompted to take a quick quiz to personalize your program. The quiz asks questions about your home life, reasons why you want to lose weight, sleep cycle and even your mindset going into the program.
Once finished, WeightWatchers will recommend the membership plan best suited for you based on your answers. It will also suggest areas of your life that you can improve to reach your weight loss goals, whether that be nutrition, activity, sleep or mindset.
WeightWatchers then provides -- based upon your membership plan -- resources to make strides toward your goals. If you struggle with reaching your desired amount of sleep each night, there are guided meditations you can listen to before bed. If you would like to be more active during your day, there are workout classes you can join virtually.
WeightWatchers assigns each food a number of points. Foods higher in saturated fats or sugar, like potato chips or chocolate, tend to be high in points. Meanwhile, healthy whole foods such as fruits and vegetables or foods high in protein or fiber are low in points.
Depending on your personal Points Budget, you will be given a set number of points that you can use daily. This means that every meal you eat will subtract from your budget. Please note that you will not be penalized if you go over your points budget. Those things happen!
One nice feature is that your points roll over, so you never have to feel like you are throwing away points if you don't reach your daily budget. For example, if you eat only 15 points on Monday (out of a budget of 16 daily points), you could potentially eat 17 points on Thursday. The rollovers happen automatically in the WeightWatchers app.
Keep in mind that WeightWatchers pushes well-balanced meals full of protein, fruits, vegetables and nutrients, but the company is adamant that no food is off-limits.
Do note that WeightWatchers also offers a diabetes-tailored plan. This food plan is specifically for those who have been told by a doctor that they have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It will offer all the same benefits of the WeightWatchers program, but it will be tailored to their health condition.
ZeroPoint foods are everyday nutritional foods that aren't counted toward your daily points budget. All members are given the same 200-plus ZeroPoint foods list. The ZeroPoint foods include:
A day in the life of a WeightWatchers user
This is an example day of 16 daily points.
Breakfast: Omelet with cheese, ham and bell peppers (2 points)
Lunch: Pesto chicken sandwich with a side of Italian arugula salad (8 points)
Snack: Plain fat-free cottage cheese with fresh peaches (0 points)
Dinner: Italian turkey sausage and pepper pasta (3 points)
Dessert: Sugar-free ice cream bar (3 points)
After counting all of these meals, you would have totaled 16 points. Keep in mind that you have the power to create and plan your meals.
Depending on the plan you choose, your costs using WeightWatchers can vary. Keep in mind that your membership cost doesn't include the price of food. Here's a breakdown of the weekly costs:
The user-friendly app is one of the best parts of the program. Since you bring your phone everywhere, your dieting plan can come, too.
The WeightWatchers app allows you to:
Track points, sleep, activity and water intake
Communicate 24/7 with customer support and other people using the app
Access prerecorded coaching sessions and meditations
Scan barcodes to see points for specific foods
Find recipes based on what is in your fridge
Plan all your meals for the week
Track your weight and reflect on your goals
What do studies say about WeightWatchers?
Recent research has a lot to say about the relationship between WeightWatchers users and weight loss. There are plenty of tempting fad diets to choose from, but evidence seems to suggest that WeightWatchers is the real deal.
A study from 2017 found that, out of a test group who struggled with obesity, 57% lost weight on WeightWatchers compared to 42% on another weight-loss program.
Another study from 2016 found that WeightWatchers and another popular dieting program, Jenny Craig, were effective in helping a test group lose weight. The study concluded that health physicians could recommend either program to patients who are looking to lose weight.
Benefits of the WeightWatchers diet
There are a lot of benefits to the WeightWatchers program, such as:
A big emphasis on overall wellness, including exercise, not just dieting
Never have to skip meals or fast
Not a fad. Could be sustainable for you
Motivation within virtual classes
Lots of other resources
The cons of this dieting regiment seem to hit in two main categories: nutrition and money.
Low points don't always equal high nutritional value.
Could potentially encourage poor eating habits in the future or trigger binge eating. Being on a calorie deficit may activate your hunger levels, which in turn can lead to overeating or yo-yo dieting.
If you want to attend workshops, you'll have to pay for the more expensive plan.
The bottom line
WeightWatchers is not a one-size-fits-all program. It is not recommended if you don't have the time to plan or track your food each day. It's not for those who deeply struggle with self-control and portion sizing. It is great if you're looking for overall wellness advice. There are few restrictions when customizing a dieting plan fit just for you.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.