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Does Weight Watchers Really Work?

Weight Watchers is one of the most popular diets among individuals who want to lose weight, and with a whopping two out of one thousand success-rate, we want to know why.


An article published in the British Journal of Nutrition, depicts a survey of Weight Watchers participants who became Lifetime Members in the years 1992 to 1996 to see how they did after one to five years (Lifetime Members are ‘the most successful’ Weight Watchers members who achieve their goal weight [usually a BMI of 25] and maintain it for 6 weeks.)


Why limit the data to only the successful goal-reaching members?

The article states that there have been 189,000 goal-reaching members in five years; roughly about 38,000 successful members per year.

We agree that 38,000 people who reached their goal weight per year sounds like a lot!


But after more research, it’s not.


Weight Watchers had 600,000 attendees in the U.S. in 1993.

Divide 38,000 lifetime members per year into 600,000.

Each year roughly 6% of Weight Watchers members reached their goal weight.

Presumably 94% of the members failed.



Which brings us to our next question: how many people actually reach a “normal” weight long-term by using Weight Watchers?

As it turns out only 3.9% of the 6% were still at or below their original goal weight after 5 years.

That means 3.9%*6.3% = 0.24%.

About two out of a thousand Weight Watchers participants who reached their goal weight stayed there for more than five years.

So if we’re talking every two out of every one thousand Weight Watchers members, that means we can name two supposed Lifetime Members off the top of our head:


Charles Barkley and Oprah Winfrey.


Funny enough, Charles Barkley thinks Weight Watchers endorsements are a scam by simply paying him more money to average a higher weight loss result, “I've been on weight watchers three months. I have to lose two pounds a week. I'm at 38 pounds now. They come and weigh me every two weeks. I ain't never missed a weigh-in. Never going to...I'm feeling much better. But I ain't giving away no money. I'm not giving away no free money. I thought this was the greatest scam going—getting paid for watching sports—this Weight Watchers thing is a bigger scam."


And Oprah Winfrey – well, most of us can probably relate to her regain. Been there, done that. But for 45-million dollars and a stake in the company, Oprah’s ready to try Weight Watchers again.


But what about the Weight Watchers members that are not being paid to live by the Weight Watcher guidelines day-by-day; what benefits are they reaping from the brand?


Conveniently, The Journal of the American Medical Association reported head-to-head comparisons of different types of diets, and even individual named diets, to find out the average annual weight loss amount for each diet.


They decided to break the types of diets into three sub-groups:


Low carb” (Atkins, South Beach):

-Limits carbohydrate intake while increasing portions that come from proteins and fats.


Low fat” (Ornish, Rosemary Conley):

-Limits fat intake while increasing portions that come from carbohydrates and proteins.


Moderate macronutrients” (Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers):

-Keeps the portions that come from the dietary food group, but must limit their overall caloric intake.


Since Weight Watchers falls into the “moderate macronutrient” category, should we discuss the detrimental effects to your body when you limit your caloric intake? Here’s a quick list:



Your body has the natural ability to let you know when you should eat and when to stop eating. By minimizing your calories to anything less than what the body needs to stay sustained, you’re going against this natural pattern.



The balance of hormones in your body is vital to proper body functions. In many studies, researchers have found that bodies react as if they are starving when the caloric intake is cut below a sufficient amount.

The New England Journal of Medicine followed dieters for 6 months after their reduced calorie diet. They found that even after the diet was over, the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin stayed elevated, and the levels of the two hormones that make you feel full (leptin and peptide YY) remained lower. This explains why people typically regain even more than they lost on a diet.



As you lower your caloric intake, your brain reduces its levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that helps individuals feel calm and content, while also regulating the appetite.) The serotonin reduction causes dieters to feel intense cravings for different foods, and feelings of anxiety, depression, and rage. Basically, with low serotonin, your body begins to store fat and obsess over food.


The study concluded that the dieters that fall into the “low fat” and “low carb” category lost about 16 pounds a year if they stuck to the diet faithfully.


While the diets that fell into the “moderate macronutrient” category, like Weight Watchers, averaged only 13 pounds of weight loss a year if they stuck to the diet faithfully.