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Is WW Really Different from Weight Watchers?

I heard that Weight Watchers has had a makeover. Disclaimer: I’ve never been to a meeting but am blogging about them anyway. What I have to say isn’t based on firsthand knowledge, but on what I’ve read about the new “WW” and heard from numerous clients over the decades.

The company started in 1963 and has touted itself as a weight-loss program ever since. Many of you probably are familiar with their philosophy and practices because you’ve gone to meetings, used their online services or know Weight Watchers’ members. The group is known for its eating plan which assigns points to all foods and drinks to help members make “healthier” choices and eat smaller portions—to lose weight.

According to “Before and After” (The Economist, 10/20/18, page 61-2), Weight Watchers officially became “WW” as part of rebranding itself after a steady decline in memberships and profit for years. Claiming to encourage “beyond the scale” goals, their new slogan (keeping the alliteration) is “Wellness that works” and they’ve loosened up their point system with a “Freestyle program” and “Fitpoints” for exercise.

I understand that Weight Watchers (I simply cannot bring myself to call them WW) is out to make money. That is what companies do. And I also assume that they think they’re helping people in spite of the dismal statistics that they must know about regarding dieting and weight loss. Those statistics are why you’re reading this blog and not at a Weight Watchers’ meeting. Moreover, you’ve probably been down the diet-leads-to- weight-loss-leads-to-rebound-eating-leads-to-weight-regain road enough times that you’re finally learning to trust yourself around food enough not to start down it again.

My problem with Weight Watchers (the new or the old program) is that they can’t have their cake and it too: promoting an overt or covert goal of weight loss and encouraging “beyond the scale” goals. I’m not saying that it’s wrong or unwise to wish to lose weight or maintain lost weight. I’m not saying that weight loss isn’t important to many people for appearance and health reasons. I’m saying that weight-loss as a primary goal doesn’t work because it’s incompatible with becoming an intuitive or “normal” eater. You can’t be focused on cravings, eating according to appetite, enjoying food and losing weight.

And therein lies my problem with Weight Watchers. If they tossed out their scales and just kept their Fitpoint and Freestyle eating plan, that might work. If they taught intuitive and mindful eating skills, that might work too. But, as long as they hold onto their weight-loss focus, they’re still offering the same old same old.



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