Why Weight Watchers Has a 99% Failure Rate

Close-up of a fitness woman with thumb up holding a weight scale

Just about everyone knows someone who is attempting to lose weight and become healthier by signing up for Weight Watchers, maybe you have yourself.

The problem is, that despite good intentions, Weight Watchers isn’t an effective or healthy approach to weight loss.

It’s hard to get an exact number, but the percentage of people on Weight Watchers who reach their ‘goal weight’ and maintain it is less than 1%.

1…percent…

Do I really have to ask you if you think that’s an acceptable success rate?

Does that mean that 99% of people are doomed to being unhappy with their weight and health?

The answer is no in both cases, and I’m going to break down the problems with Weight Watchers one by one and tell you what the better way is.

Note: Weight Watchers have funded multiple studies themselves that show their failure rate being only around ~65%. These studies have flawed methodologies that I can go into if need be, but first read my article on spotting bullshit science.

1. The meetings are counter-productive

Here’s what happens when you sign up with Weight Watchers. They tell you to count your ‘points’, come to the meetings and you’ll lose weight.

You’ll quickly find those meetings repetitive and boring, so much so that you might want to start skipping them. Once you give up a part of a plan the rest of it usually follows. If you have a job where you often have meetings, you should know how wasteful most of them are.

There might be some therapeutic benefit to venting your problems, but in an unguided meeting, it’s minimal at best. For what you pay for Weight Watchers, you aren’t getting a professional therapist.

At best the meetings are an unproductive use of your time.

2. It over-complicates things

scattered numbersThe system is more or less based on ‘points’. Instead of counting calories, you have to calculate and count points.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with counting calories, but now you’re converting them to ‘points’ of little significance. Not only does this take more effort on your point, it’s probably less effective.

As we saw in my case study with Corres, when it comes to weight loss simple works best.

3. It’s a traditional temporary ‘diet’

If someone asked you when you signed up for Weight Watchers if you were willing to count calories for the rest of your life you probably would have told them they must be out of their minds.

Most people who get into Weight Watchers are sold on the premise that once you hit your target weight you’ll be healthy, fit, and awesome.

Once they hit their target weight, not surprisingly, the weight comes back.

In order to enjoy long term health and weight stabilization you need to focus on creating healthy behaviors and habits, not on what the scale says. The name itself, Weight ‘Watchers’ indicates an unhealthy and ineffective take on weight-loss.

If you want to learn more about approaching weight-loss on a healthier and long-term basis, start with my guide to goal setting.

This problem with Weight Watchers leads nicely into my last point…

4. No focus on education

EducationThere are 2 types of weight loss journeys:

  • Someone tells you exactly what to eat and what to do

  • Someone teaches you about eating psychology, nutrition, and health, so that you understand and can apply healthy principles

Which one of these methods do you think is more effective?

This is essentially the same concept of teaching a man to fish as opposed to giving him a fish, but for some reason it is grossly overlooked when it comes to something as important as health.

You’ll notice that I rarely give specific diet plans or exercises to do on this site unless they are examples.

Learning solid principles is what will lead to long-term success.

Where to go from here?

I strongly support anyone trying to improve their health, and I want to see you do it with the highest chance of success – Weight Watchers is not the way.

A successful weight-loss approach will consist of 2 things:

  1. Education
  2. Application

That’s really all there is to it.

We are luckily living in a time where knowledge is at your fingertips on the keyboard, waiting for you to learn it.

I encourage you to start with the articles on this site, sign up to the Solving Nutrition newsletter, or check out some of the top nutrition blogs on the web.

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7 comments

  1. Amanda   •  

    I’ve been ‘yoyoing’ for years while doing weight watchers on and off. Its not something that I can do forever like you mentioned. I think the saddest part is that when I really think about it, I’ve really learned barely anything about health or my body and am not better off than when I started.

    This has inspired me to QUIT WEIGHT WATCHERS for good!! It’s time for me to take responsibility for my health :)

    • Dale   •     Author

      Amanda, you make a good point about recognizing when progress isn’t being made. It’s important to re-evaluate after a significant time period trying something and determining the effects it had.

      Good luck with your new direction, I think it’s a great decision.

  2. Jenna   •  

    I don’t think its fair for you to condemn WW like this. Just because some people fail who cares, cause lots of people fail normal diets to!

    • Dale   •     Author

      Fair point Jenna, people fail normal diets all the time.

      If you wouldn’t mind I would suggest reading the last few sections of the article again. I have a very strong opinion that most people are approaching dieting in a completely incorrect way, and I’ve explained what would be a better approach.

      It’s not that I think Weight Watchers is necessarily worse than any other ‘diet plan’ out there, it’s that I think they are all equally ineffective at achieving the goals that most people want.

  3. Tina Tilly   •  

    What a coincidence that you wrote about this!

    I’ve been thinking about this kinda stuff for the last little while, especially with new years. I switched to spending more time reading and learning, but I still wasn’t sure if that was better than a diet program. This is honestly what I needed to keep me on the right track and reassure me, thanks.

    • Dale   •     Author

      Great minds think alike?

      Seriously though it sounds like you’re on the right track. Keep going and check in from time to time to let us know how it’s going.

      • Tina Tilly   •  

        Thanks! Will do!

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