One of the more mainstream diets that you often hear people having success on is Weight Watchers. Backed by millions of dollars in advertising, it's hard not to have at least heard of this dietary approach before.
But what's it all about? And is it the best choice for you?
Weight Watchers is a diet plan that is geared to any individual, active or not. While there are no requirements that you must participate in, exercise is recommended by the plan.
Lack Of Special Measures
The drawback to this though is that since it is a diet that can work without exercise, special measures have not been incorporated into the plan that will help to specifically enhance your workouts.
These special measures would be things such as exact details on pre- and post-workout meals, refeed periods to prevent the drop in Leptin levels and metabolic slowdown and a slightly different macronutrient ratio for active individuals (one that leans towards a slightly higher protein intake).
Other diets, the Targeted Keto diet for instance, will look into these factors, thus it makes them slightly more favorable for those who are participating in regular, intense physical activity.
The basic premise of Weight Watchers is that you work on a points system. Depending on your current weight, height and activity levels you will get a designated points value that you should be trying to eat per day. This plan may help to fool people into thinking they can lose weight without having to count calories, but make no mistake, you virtually are still 'counting' as you must stay in your point allotment in order to lose weight.
They do however have a non-counting version of the diet out now where you simply choose from a list of foods they give you, however this plan will not allow as much flexibility in selection as the counting plan does.
This plan also allows you to skip or 'save' points from one time in the day and place them later on in the day. While this is perfectly fine as it really does not matter a whole lot when you eat the foods you do (pre and post workout meals aside), if it encourages you to save up all your calories and then go on a binge at night, that my not be the healthiest idea to get into.
You would really need to gauge your own individual personality to decide whether you should allow yourself to save up points for later.
No Strict Guidelines
A second drawback to this plan is that it doesn't really set out strict guidelines as to what you can and cannot eat. While for some this is great because the moment someone tells them they cannot eat a certain food, you can place bets that food will be on their mind 24/7 until they give in and just eat the damn thing, for others this may encourage a diet that is filled with highly processed foods.
Again, there is nothing wrong in terms of weight loss with eating foods that are not as clean, you will still lose weight regardless provided you stick within your calorie budget, however, from a health perspective you will get many more nutrients, have better appetite and blood sugar control and help with the prevention of diseases if you choose non-processed, cleaner foods over those that aren't.
Low Fat Bias
The third drawback of this diet is that due to the way the point system works, it tends to naturally favor low fat foods since they are lower in point value. For those who have issues such as insulin insensitivity or who simply do not feel well on a low fat diet, this can cause some issues.
Eating higher fat foods can be highly advantageous for a few different reasons such as appetite control, regulation of hormones and proper body functioning, so as far as that point is concerned, Weight Watchers does not address this.
Higher Fiber Foods
The good thing about the way the points system works is that it does encourage a lot of higher fiber foods, which do help to provide a greater feeling of fullness and satiety.
Another benefit to weight watchers is that it does provide a lot of support throughout the diet. Individuals who are on it usually go to group meetings where they will get weighed and talk about their progress. If that is not feasible they also have a whole online community that you can join that will provide support during the hard times.
Pre-Packaged Food Selections
Finally, there are a variety of pre-packaged food selections that you can use while on the diet to make meal planning easier and ensure that you stay within the allotted points.
Room For Flexibility
The cost of joining weight watchers varies slightly depending on where you live however usually you will find it costs approximately $12-15 per week.
In terms of this plan working for those who are really involved in fitness, it definitely can if you already have some general background on what constitutes proper nutrition for the athletic individual.
As the plan does not really directly lay out a specific diet for you—you are going to virtually create your own by choosing point value foods and putting them in place for your meals. If you don't understand about the major macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates and fat and how they relate to building muscle and fat loss, you may be at a slight disadvantage.
Since this plan is calorie controlled in a sense though, it would work for those looking to either lose fat or build muscle as total calorie intake is still virtually the most important factor when seeing results.
Weight Watchers definitely will not work magic though and does not follow any type of more advanced physiological principles as say a keto diet would (getting your body into a state of ketosis in order to promote fat loss)—but it may work for those looking for something simple, easy to follow and that has a lot of room for flexibility.
Overall, in comparison to other diets, I would rank it about 3/5 for both fat loss and muscle building.