Is Weight Watchers really going to help you lose the extra weight?

If you've ever thought about dieting, then you've likely considered joining Weight Watchers at one point or another. For me that point was the second semester of my freshman year at college. After I gained about 30 pounds in between graduating high school and the next New Year (what I begrudgingly refer to as the "Freshman 30"), I stepped into my first Weight Watchers meeting with a kind of desperate hope. I had tried a million diets, pills, anything to lose weight before and I needed this program to finally work.

Now, eight years later, Weight Watchers is bigger than ever--and coming into attack for their latest program. So is it true, then? In the end, does Weight Watchers work or not?


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Well, here's the thing: that question is actually MUCH trickier to answer than you would imagine. In her piece, "Weight Watchers Probably Won't Help You Lose Tons of Weight, So Maybe Stop Dieting?", writer Laura Beck attacks Weight Watchers as a company because dieting doesn't really work as a long-term weight loss solution and WW (as they're often referred to by those of us who attend meeting) have been linked to funding their own studies.

Yes, that's VERY sketchy and  while I agree with Laura that dieting doesn't work, the one thing that she's very wrong about is that Weight Watchers is a useful program exactly because they aren't simply a "diet". Every meeting I've ever attended (which, as you can imagine, is a lot over the past 8 years) the WW leader has pushed lifestyle changes because those are the ones that actually work in the long term.

Unlike diet fads or weight loss programs that push their own pre-packaged meals on you, like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers allows people to eat what they want as long as it is all within the daily points. Then the program even helps attendees keep the weight off with a 6-week maintenance program and free meeting attendance for the rest of their lives (the "lifetime membership") to make sure they keep it off.

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Now, don't get me wrong. Weight Watchers isn't perfect. I don't love that leaders and receptionists sometimes try to push Weight Watchers brand products on you with encouraging discounts and their own stories of success with those 2-point chip bags. And yes, keeping track of points can often get tedious. For me, my major failure with Weight Watchers came when I quit after two and a half years, without entering the maintenance program, thinking that I knew how to eat healthy and could do it on my own now.

Well, that was my mistake. I regained 80 out of 90 pounds I had originally lost and then, despite going back to Weight Watchers, my body became 10 times more stubborn than it was before. Ultimately, I chose to get gastric bypass in January 2009, exactly four years after attending my first meeting, and have since lost 100 pounds. But you know what? I still go to Weight Watchers meetings!

No matter what anyone else says about the Weight Watchers program and a few negatives, I find that the overall effect of weekly meetings is a good one. In fact, studies have proven that peer-led group weight loss programs work best. That's why I encouraged my best friend, who needed to lose weight, to start coming with me to meetings.

Now he's lost 40 pounds and I've managed to maintain my weight loss. Unfortunately for anyone who's ever been seriously overweight or obese (like I was), the weight loss struggles will last a lifetime. Still, it's nice to sit down in a meeting of people like me, have a "big group therapy session" as Laura writers and find some inspiration to keep going with my lifestyle changes for another week.  

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Topics: weight loss  workout  healthy eating