Is Weight Watchers A Low-Calorie Diet? What Oprah Has To Say!

By Lily | Last Updated:  July 1, 2021
 

Weight Watchers is a diet plan that has been around for decades. It’s famous for its points system, which assigns values to food based on their calories and nutritional value. 

So, is Weight Watchers a low-calorie diet? Weight Watchers is not considered a low-calorie diet because it does not have an eating plan that restricts calories. 

However, the point system makes it easy to monitor how much you are eating over the course of the day so that you can keep your energy levels high and stay satisfied without going overboard with your daily intake of calories.

Like any diet plan, Weight Watchers isn’t perfect, and there are some things you need to know before trying it out for yourself.  Keep reading below to find out more about how Weight Watchers works and if it’s right for you!

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About Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers (WW) was founded in 1963, thanks to Jean Nidetch’s determination to lose more weight. She conducted weekly meetings with her friends, and their combination of ideas evolved and expanded until they became widely popular.

You can probably say WW was a pioneer in weight loss programs. What’s impressive is how Weight Watchers has been able to stay afloat with so much competition.

Today, WW is a multi-million company with an extensive range of products and services. But how effective are they? 

Is Weight Watchers A Low-Calorie Diet?

No! The goal of Weight Watchers is not to track your daily calories intake. Instead, their Freestyle Program uses a “point-based system” called SmartPoints (previously PointsPlus) on food items. 

This encourages dieters to eat healthier food and exercise more. On average, dieters on WW are given a budget of 23 food points per day.

With that said, you are more likely to consume less calories or burn more calories by following the point-based system. In fact, you have to be in a calorie deficit if you want to lose weight, or else WW will not work for you.

Click the link to check out my blog post on The Ultimate 7 Step Guide To Lose Weight!

How Does The SmartPoint System Work?

The first step is to take a personal assessment which will be used to match you up with a weight loss plan – blue, green, or purple.

Once you enroll in WW, you will be given a daily point limit or budget. They base this on your gender, age, height, and target weight. 

Their previous system, PointsPlus, considered carbs, fiber, protein, and fat. Now, SmartPoints measures calories, protein, sugar, and saturated fats. I personally think this is better for targeting weight loss.

Another good thing about this system is there are no food restrictions, hence the name “freestyle.” As long as you stay under your daily point limit, you can have any food you want. 

If you can’t consume all your points in one day, you can just “rollover” the remaining food points to the next day. Enticing, right?

To make the point system even more feasible, Weight Watchers also provides recipes complete with points. What’s more, they list at least 200 foods that are zero points!

Can You Do Weight Watchers On A Plant-Based Diet?

Yes! This is taken directly from their website:

“WW has thousands of meatless recipes (plus a new plant-based cookbook!) that make a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle and weight loss totally possible–and better yet, delicious.”

Here are some examples of their plant-based recipes and food points:

SmartPointsFood Items and Recipes
0All fruits (except avocado and coconut), Al veggies (except some starchy veggies like potatoes), Corn, Lentils, Peas, Soy yogurt, Tofu, Tropical spice-rubbed grilled pineapple, Moroccan-style veggie shepherd’s pie
1Orange, strawberry, and kiwi salad, Roasted vegetable and four-bean chili, Marinated tofu kebabs, Minestrone soup
2Corn tortilla chips and salsa, Lemony beet hummus, Quorn, cauliflower, and spinach curry
3PB and strawberry rice cake, Turmeric broth bowl, with beans, veg, and noodles, Strawberry jicama salsa
4Pear almond oatmeal, Veggie wraps
6Veggie lettuce wraps, Basic muesli mix, Spicy bean and squash stew
7Oh-so-easy overnight porridge pot, Broccoli and broad bean tajine, Mushroom and rocket roast topper, Veggie pad thai with satay dressing, Avocado toast
8Vegan chocolate mousse, Pasta with (vegan) meat sauce
9Soy roasted aubergines with fragrant rice, Jerk style sweet potato curry with cauli rice

WW recipes are known to be far from boring, and their plant-based offerings are not an exemption. Savory recipes mostly call for soy sauce instead of salt, with natural spices making a frequent appearance. Short preparation times seem to be the standard too.

I also love that the ingredients are easy to find. It even tells you how many sprays of cooking oil you need in order to control calories!

Weight Watchers Products And Services

Let’s take a closer look at what WW’s services consist of:

1. Food Library

WW is also known for its extensive source of recipes both through its website and app. Their recipes are mostly simple, easy to make, and quite tasty.

2. The App

What better way to stay on top of your weight loss journey than having everything in a phone app? You can find daily meal ideas in the app, track your food points & activities, and monitor your progress. It also enables access to WW’s 24/7 coach support.

Food Tracking: 

Once you’ve set up your profile, the app will help you track your SmartPoints.

The app’s food tracker will also show you how many points you have left, including rollovers. Keep in mind, it can only rollover a maximum of 4 unused daily points.

WW also suggests using their barcode scanner. By scanning the barcode of (almost any) food packages, the app can calculate that food’s SmartPoints.

Activity Tracking Through FitPoints:

Another point system, FitPoints, aims to provide a custom fitness plan. 

The assignment of points here, however, is the opposite of SmartPoints. The more physical activities you have, the higher points you’ll get.

The plan varies per goal, but it is also dependent on your age, height, sex, weight, and intensity of activity. 

WW also provides a library for fitness videos and daily workout routine ideas. What’s cool is that you can sync the app with your fitness device. 

WW made this even better by giving you the option of converting extra FitPoints for SmartPoints. This means if you workout more than you should, you can eat more, as long as your extra points allow it. 

The Recipe Builder:

Via the WW app, you can also build your own recipes with your choice of ingredients. WW’s recipe builder can be found under the plan manager.

  1. Start with a name for your recipe.
  2. Type your choice of ingredients or drag and drop from the cupboard.
  3. Adjust your measurements, add details if that ingredient should be chopped or minced.
  4. Add optional cooking instructions.
  5. Indicate the number of servings. This is important for the app to determine the SmartPoints of your recipe.
  6. Save it, and you’re done!

3. Recipe Books and Magazines

For foodies, WW is also popular for its cookbooks and magazines

The magazines offer more than just ideas, as its content also aims to motivate and inspire dieters. 

4. Food And Drink Products

WW sells frozen meals in supermarkets, although taste-wise, there are more complaints than compliments from buyers. 

Also, remember that they also have an online food shop!

5. Weight Loss Workshops 

Wellness Wins is WW’s 30-minute workshop done at WW studios around the world. This is an excellent addition for dieters who could use a support group throughout their weight loss journey.

In these workshops, you’ll be met by a Wellness coach and other members of the program. Here you can exchange weight loss tips and ideas.  Sessions are typically available 3 times a day, every day.

6. Personal Coaching

For members who prefer one-on-one coaching, this is the way to go. Your wellness coach can create a plan that suits your lifestyle best. More importantly, they can help you achieve your weight loss goals faster and safer than you can on your own.

WW’s wellness coaches are not only certified, but a lot of them are also successful WW dieters in the past. After choosing your preferred coach, you get access to unlimited phone calls and messages.

7. The Rewards System

Don’t we all deserve a treat every time we reach our goals? Besides, admit it or not, knowing that there’s a reward waiting at the end of your hard work can motivate you even more.

In the WW reward system, you can accumulate points by attending the Wellness Wins workshops. Once you earn enough rewards points, you can exchange them for gifts such as a cooler bag, a water tumbler, a mini Bluetooth speaker, and gift cards.

How Much Does Weight Watchers Cost? 

To help dieters discipline themselves, WW requires you to pay for a subscription. When you go to WW’s website, you’ll be given 4 subscription options:

  1. Digital: website and app access, about $5.07/week.
  2. Digital 360: website, app, and live & on-demand expert-led digital content, About $6.92/week.
  3. Unlimited Workshops + Digital: website, app, and unlimited face-to-face Coach-led sessions with other members, About $10.38/week.
  4. 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital: website, app, 1-on-1 private coaching. About $13.85/week.

These membership plans are available on a 1, 3, and 6-month subscriptions with early termination fees. Keep in mind that subscriptions are subject to auto-renewal. There is 24/7 chat support available if you need it. 

Does Weight Watchers Have An Online Store?

Yes! And there are plant-based products available for purchase. Here are some examples:

SmartPointsFood Product
3 SP per cup Apple cinnamon oatmeal
2 SP per bagSea salt popcorn
2 SP per pouchSea salt hummus crisps
2 SP per pouchSalt and vinegar potato crisps
3 SP per cup Maple brown sugar oatmeal
3 SP per cup Cranberry orange oatmeal
2 SP per pouchChili lime quinoa strips

Weight Watchers Success Stories And Reviews

WW’s decades of evolution in the weight loss market have given them thousands of stories and reviews, both good and bad. 

1. Success stories:

Celebrities like Oprah, Jessica Simpson, and Jennifer Hudson have nothing but praises for WW. Being brand ambassadors themselves in past years, their success in the program is no secret.

  1. Jennifer Hudson: After joining in 2010 with her post-baby weight, she lost 80 lbs in 2 years and was one of the brand’s spokespeople for 4 years.
  2. Oprah Winfrey: Started working with WW in 2015 and lost 80 lbs in her first year with the brand. She even became a stockholder! Oprah loves that she can still eat everything she wants and doesn’t feel deprived. In her commercial for the brand, she also mentions how the diet helped with her hyperthyroidism.
  3. Jessica Simpson: Another celebrity who successfully got her pre-baby weight back. Jessica became WW’s endorser in 2014 and lost about 50 lbs following the program. 

2. Average Ratings from Online Reviews:

Here’s a summary of the online negative and positive reviews I’ve found:

  • Negative reviews:
  • The app is difficult to use
  • Refunds are always refused
  • Difficulty canceling subscription
  • Poor customer service, phone calls never returned, and prolonged hold
  • Overbilling in auto-renewals
  • Prolonged plateaus
  • Zero points limit weight loss
  • Artificial sweeteners in recipes
  • Frozen foods are dry
  • Some find it too restrictive
  • You lose more money than weight
  • No weight loss after the change in the point system
  • Positive Reviews:
  • Great food selection
  • Flexibility
  • Lost weight with just walking and diet
  • Encourages portion control
  • Changes lifestyle
  • Meetings make you accountable
  • Educates about food choices
  • Allows you to still eat out
  • Corrects eating habits
  • Weight loss of at least 10 kgs even without exercise

The Verdict

When it comes to their weight loss program, WW covers the essential aspects: diet, exercise, education (via coaching and meetings). This is what has made WW successful for decades. 

You have to put in the effort, of course, but having these options at your disposal all in one place makes progress easier.

However, while effective for some, this doesn’t mean that WW is a perfect solution that will suit everyone. 

WW cons:

1. In general, a lot of high-protein foods are given a 0 score, including meat. Even if this is lean meat, you’ll eventually gain weight if you consume too much of it. It should be common sense not to overindulge, but where does WW draw the line? I believe a clear limit should be in place.

2. Reviewers who have pointed out the use of artificial sweeteners in some of WW’s recipes. This is an attempt to lower calorie count. If you come across any of these recipes, substitute them with natural sweeteners.

3. The number of WW members complaining about billing issues and poor customer service is staggering. Some of the major complaints are: having difficulties canceling subscriptions and getting refunds, being put on hold for an unacceptable length of time, and speaking to less than knowledgeable staff. 

WW pros:

1. Members find the weekly meetings very helpful in terms of learning and staying motivated.

2. A good chunk of their members claim to have lost weight from the diet alone, even without exercise.

3. The variety of food choices is extensive.

4. SmartPoints allow treats once in a while, which takes away feelings of deprivation, common in other weight-loss diets.

Conclusion

If you’re struggling with your weight and looking for a change, Weight Watchers is an option. 

Some of the pros are that they have support options like group meetings and an app for tracking your SmartPoints on the go. 

However, Weight Watchers is NOT a low-calorie diet, so keep track of your caloric intake while following the program, or you are unlikely to see results.

So if this is something you’ve been considering, ask yourself these questions first: Do I have enough time to dedicate to following the plan? Am I ready to commit 100%? What are my goals going into this program? How will success look when I reach those goals?

Hi, I'm Lily! Like you, I have struggled with my weight. It was not an easy journey but I was able to lose 40 pounds and have kept it off for 14 years. My goal is to share with you all the research, tips, and tricks that I have learned over the years to help you lose weight also.