From Jessica Simpson to Oprah, you’ve seen celebrities left and right join the Weight Watchers crew. Though fad diets and weight loss programs come and go, it seems this one has really stood the test of time. Many women who have tried the program swear by its results, and with weekly meetings and weigh-ins, the program does its best to hold you accountable. But does everyone have love for Weight Watchers? Not so much.
Why so many people are flocking to Weight Watchers
Here’s how the system works: You can eat exactly what you want, and their SmartPoint system keeps you in line. Every food you eat costs a certain number of points — and once you’re out of points for the day, then you shouldn’t continue eating. And because nutritious, high-quality foods will keep you fuller for longer, WebMD notes that most Weight Watchers users end up making healthier choices so they don’t run out of SmartPoints by noon.
It’s certainly not effortless, but tracking by points seems to be an easier system than guessing calorie counts. And there are also apps, group meetings, and online forums to help you stay on track.
Does it really work? Actually, it does
There’s a simple reason people are shelling out their hard-earned cash to join Weight Watchers — and that’s because it works. ABC News explains the program repeatedly proves that members do lose weight, even if it’s not necessarily quick or immediate. And a study from a few years ago found those on Weight Watchers lost an average of 11 pounds after a year, whereas those who just had standard health care only lost 5.
So the system works thanks to the eating program and peer support. But as you’ll see ahead, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
While fruits and veggies have 0 points, that may not be the best approach
For Weight Watchers users, there’s no better phrase than “0 points.” And in accordance with the program, all fruits and veggies have exactly that.
Yes, this means you can technically eat all the bananas, watermelon, and mangoes you want — but if weight loss is your goal, you’ll want to watch your sugar and calorie intake. One medium banana contains 14 grams of sugar and over 100 calories, and a mango has up to 200 calories and a whopping 31 grams of sugar. Yes, eating fresh fruit is certainly better than reaching for a cookie. But these calories really add up and can sabotage your goals.
Weight Watchers might just take over your life
Weight Watchers isn’t as simple as tracking your food — it can easily become your entire world. Now, not only do you get your SmartPoint system based on your goals, but you can earn FitPoints depending on your activity. And you can use their OnlinePlus program to track all of this and see your progress.
Think that’s it? Nope — you’re still encouraged to attend the weekly meetings and weigh-ins for in-person support. Oh, and then there’s the personal coaching option for one-on-one support. If you find yourself constantly logging into the app, recording your whole life, and attending more meetings outside of work than in the office, then this community can certainly be a time suck.
The horror story: Fat-shaming occurs in their meetings and ads
Many people have good experiences with the Weight Watchers community, but the company put out a worrying ad in Australia last year, The New York Times reports. Many complained the ad insinuated larger women don’t have sex because they’re too self-conscious about their size. The ad was pulled, though Weight Watchers maintains the ad was more about self-confidence than shaming women’s bodies.
Also, as one Bustle writer notes, Weight Watchers ruined her relationship with the scale, as the weekly weigh-ins made her feel more shameful than excited about her body. And when she was unable to drop the weight, she felt like a failure compared to others in the program.
And if you gain weight from building muscle, you may feel bad at your weekly weigh-ins
Blogger Feminist Figure Girl, a long-time Weight Watchers follower, noted the troubles she’s had with the program. Mainly, after she saw the number on the scale drop and started lifting weights, she saw that number rise again.
As she notes, “Weight Watchers is fundamentally numerical and it is about shrinking in order to become more comfortable in various social situations … It is not about having a ripped back or lean abs. By losing fat and gaining muscle, I was thwarting the Weight Watchers system and I was punished for it.” Keep this in mind if building muscle is on your to-do list.
Who is Weight Watchers ideal for?
Weight Watchers isn’t for everyone — and if you feel like you can count calories and keep track of your own fitness just fine, then this all-encompassing system probably isn’t for you. U.S. News & World Report notes the system is helpful for those trying to get in the right frame of mind for weight loss. All the tracking, weigh-ins, and community support is an excellent way to hold you accountable — but it requires a ton of extra effort.
And as we noted before, if you gain weight from muscle mass (or for any other reason), you might feel like you’re failing the system. We suggest taking note of your personal goals and how much support you think you need, and going from there.
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