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Pros and Cons of the Weight Watchers Program

written by: Melanie Greenwood • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/12/2010

Weight Watchers is a popular weight loss program, but is it for you? Here are the positive and negative aspects of the program, so you can choose for yourself.

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    Introduction to Weight Watchers International

    The Weight Watchers program is one of the most popular weight-loss systems. Weight Watchers International has hundreds of locations in the United States, as well as franchises in 30 other countries (Peippo, 2010).

    However, just because a program is popular doesn't mean it's right for everyone. Here are some of the pros and cons of the Weight Watchers program, so you can tell if it's right for you.

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    Healthfulness of the Weight Watchers Program

    PRO: The Program is Based on Sound Science

    Weight Watchers is based on the established principle that weight loss happens only when calories burned exceed those consumed. Also, the program establishes 1-2 pounds per week as a safe weight loss rate while encouraging members to exercise moderately and consume a varied diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Thus, the program raises none of the red flags that the FCC uses to identify bogus weight loss claims (FCC, 2010).

    CON: There Can be An Over-Emphasis on Proprietary Products

    Though Weight Watchers (unlike other programs) does not require members to buy any specialty products, Weight Watchers does many several "healthy treats" and other products (such as food scales) available only at meeting locations. There have been reports that some less-than-ethical meeting leaders tend to turn meetings into hour-long commercials (Dave, 2010).

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    User-Friendliness of the Weight Watchers Program

    PRO: The Program is Easy to Use

    Most members find Weight Watchers easy to work into normal life. There are two systems available. The Momentum system is based on "points". Each food has a specific "point" value (meaning no foods are absolutely forbidden). Points are easier for most people to track than calories. For those who do not like tracking, there is a Filling Foods system based on a list of specific healthy foods (vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and most lean proteins), which can be eaten until satiation.

    CON: Filling Foods Not Always Available and Not Totally Without Tracking

    One disadvantage of these two systems is that members are asked not to use Filling Foods until week 6 of the program. This restriction is designed to help members learn to eat healthy foods and to become aware of hunger and satiety signals, but it can cause people who aren't "wired for tracking" considerable frustration. Also, all foods not on the "Filling Foods" list still need to be tracked.

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    Affordability of the Weight Watchers Program

    PRO: The Program is More Affordable Than Most

    Weight Watchers is a very affordable program, since members are not required to buy special foods. For those who choose to attend meetings (rather than use the online-only option), a monthly pass costs $40 ($1.30 per day). Meetings teach not only healthy cooking and eating, but many useful life skills, such as caring for oneself and asking for help when it is needed. Some members report that it's their "group therapy, only a lot cheaper than a shrink." There is also an online-only option available for significantly less, usually about $19 per month.

    CON: The Monthly Pass Works Like a Gym Membership

    New Weight Watchers members are advised to remember that the monthly pass works like a gym membership, which means that members pay even if they do not attend. This means that if a pass is purchased on the first day of the month, it will expire on the last day of that month, even if the member has not attended meetings.

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    References

    Dave, L. (2006, May). Re: Weight Watchers-An Unhealthy Diet? A Pinch of Health. Retrieved 10 May, 2010 from http://www.apinchofhealth.com/forum/vbb/showthread.php?t=4894.

    Peippo, K. (2010). Weight Watchers International Inc. Reference for Business. Retrieved 11 May, 2010 from http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history/Vi-Z/Weight-Watchers-International-Inc.html

    Federal Communications Commission. (2010). Red Flag: Bonus Weight Loss Claims. FCC. Retrieved 10 May, 2010 from http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/redflag/falseclaims.html.