When Weight Watchers Doesn’t Work

When Weight Watchers Fails

October 6, 2014   78 Comments

I know many of you are Weight Watchers members and find the program helpful.

But, I also know that some of you get to a place where you no longer lose weight counting your points and going to meetings – and you feel like a failure.

An acquaintance of mine lost 50 pounds and was thrilled to tell me about her success on Weight Watchers. She is now 50 pounds plus overweight. I don’t know how to approach the subject with her so I thought I would do it here.

First question you must ask yourself:

  • Are you a failure or can you blame Weight Watchers?

When I attempted Weight Watchers, I lost weight but then I plateaued and even gained weight. I asked a leader for guidance and was told, “You must not be following the program correctly.”

Really? Is it possible the program is flawed? Or maybe the program doesn’t work for my body type? Weight Watchers is a corporation and (I believe) if an employee admits to you that the service you are paying for doesn’t work for you – they might have to give you your money back. There isn’t any possibility of this answer:

“You know, Weight Watchers is simply one weight loss solution and it may not work for you.”

Second question:

  • What are you going to do now?

Obviously, cancel your membership ASAP so you aren’t spending money on a program that isn’t working for you (making you feel even worse). Pat yourself on the back for making a commitment to your health and then take a good hard look at what you learned.

Many of the rules, ideas, recipes, and methodology of Weight Watchers are based in science. I LOVE the “free” fruits and vegetables and feeling of kinship in the meetings.

Can you take the good stuff that you learned and apply it to your life without the program? For example, find a friend who wants to get healthy with you and never feel guilty for eating an apple?

Now is the time to use the things that did work for you.

Third question:

  • Is a “diet” really the right thing for you?

I would love to proclaim that the “diet” is dead. What the heck!


I love owning my own website sometimes. In my terrific book, I talk about habit and lifestyle changes as well as healthier food that can lead you to lose weight without TRYING to lose weight.

The emphasis is on health. Your health is much more important than a number on a scale (though they may be related).

Putting yourself on a diet so you can lose weight and fit into your high school jeans is not nearly as compelling a reason to change as getting healthy to be filled with energy and life and meet your grandchildren.

Maybe all that scale stuff at Weight Watchers doesn't motivate you - instead of inspiring you it could be holding you back.

Whatever you do - don't blame yourself for not losing weight. Own that you tried and move on feeling good about the attempt.

Please share your thoughts on diets – your failures and successes.

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First 20 Comments: [ see all 78 ]

I half agree and half disagree.

When I joined WW in 2008 to lose 3 stone, loads of people complained. While I was steadily losing, they weren't, but they didn't have the willpower to stick to it by making the right choices and this meant they were wasting their time.

That said, following an accident and needing to lose the 1.5 stone I put on again after, I went back. The programme has changed and their 'unlimited fruit' doesn't work for me for the same reasons that Slimmers World doesn't work for me - if I could have unlimited anything I wouldn't be there!

I think it is 80% willpower and 20% finding the right programme for you. Because, at the end of the day, you really could just count calories and it would be fine.

on October 6, 2014

Thanks Lisa I'm so happy to read this post. Weight Watchers has never worked for me. Not an ounce lost! Eating healthy has never been an issue for me. But I have learned that there can be too much of a good thing so I turned to calorie management. I've had several meetings with a dietician and learned some great stuff. So far it;s a slow go but I am losing. By keeping track of what I eat I discovered that my calorie intake was not that high so I had to cut back to fewer calories. Tracking points never gave me that information. By tracking calories I can be much more flexible and still ear a healthy diet. One more thing: If you're talking to a doctor or dietician they talk in calories not points. Good luck to all!

on October 6, 2014

You've hit home on this one! I keep going back and forth - do I quit WW (and admit I'm a failure)? - do I try it on my own (again) and maybe fail at that too? - do I give WW a few more weeks/months/years? - and on and on. I lost almost 65 pounds several years ago, and gained most of it back. I can't seem to get my act together, there's always something that distracts me from counting points and getting to the gym - ALWAYS. And the newest version of WW, which is skimpy on carbs, is hard for me to stick with. Doomed by a sandwich? Seriously?? And my meeting leader - who I adored! - just retired. Her replacement is nice enough, but we don't click. Maybe it's time to take a real, honest, clean break from WW - instead of just skipping the meetings - and try it on my own...but GOD, is that scary!

on October 6, 2014

Thank you so much for your comments on WW. I am a lifetime member from 45 years ago. Yes, I'm 76 now. Every time I go back, I can't seem to get into the program. I'm 20 pounds overweight and can't seem to find a weight loss solution. Maybe calorie counting really is the key. Thanks again.

on October 6, 2014

WW can work, if you take what you are learning from it and leave the rest behind..I cannot eat anything I want as far as fruit and vegetables. I have to limit myself. I am losing very slowly but each week is different and I have to reflect to see why some weeks I gain and some I loose. Overall, I do like claiming ownership and being in control..I am feeling better about what I am eating and limit myself to certain foods. I have only lost about 6lbs over the last month, but I am sure my blood sugars are down and my cholesterol has improved. I will stay the course with WW until I am satisfied I can do this alone.

on October 6, 2014

Weight Watchers is as good as the leader you have. Maybe your friend needs to "shop" for a leader. Also I am thinking Weight Watchers pairs well with "The Beck Diet Solution," which explained to me that beating myself up about my weight did not bring me closer to my goals. Beck gives suggestions of how to talk to yourself differently.
When I'm close to goal I do weight watchers. Right now I'm 30 pounds above my healthy range and weight watchers would be too expensive.

on October 6, 2014

I have done weight watchers 3 times over the last twenty years. I lost weight every time. It's when I stopped counting points that the weight came back on. I think it's a great program to teach you to eat healthy and how to cook for the whole family. I don't believe in some of the horrendous diet fads out there, so in that respect it's a great program. But at the end of the day as soon as you get bored or lose motivation the weight creeps back on. Now as I get older I'm motivated to eating healthy and looking after my body rather than fitting into a certain size. That's what makes me feel good about myself.

on October 6, 2014

My thought on different programs, having tried many and they all failed after a time-you DON'T get that it has to be a permanent change...not temporary....you cannot just go back to the way you ate before once you have lost the weight. You have to find what works for you personally and make permanent healthy changes to your eating habits. This takes a lot of time....so you have to figure out that you are worth it and spend however long it takes to make those changes and make them ones you can live with.

on October 6, 2014

I tried ww numerous times but never seemed to be able to stick with it. I wish it would work for me as I love the meetings and the idea of it all. So I just count calories instead on my lose it app. I lose weight easier just doing that for some reason.

on October 6, 2014

I lost 165 pounds on WW and managed to keep most of the weight off for 5 years. However, the last year/year and a half I have been struggling to maintain and have managed to gain about 20 pounds of it back. Fortunately, I was WAY below my lifetime goal weight when I started, but am now within 2 pounds on any given week (yes I still weigh in every week even though I dont have to) of having to pay again. I am scared, disheartened and not sure what to do. I asked my leader what to do, and she said I needed to start staying at the meetings again. (I go in and weigh and then go back to work). I dont know what to do! I cut back my points from 26 to 12-14, and that didnt work, and I increased them back to 15-17 thinking that would charge my metabolism, but to now avail. HELP!!!

on October 6, 2014

I understand that this post is not for people who like WW like myself, so I am trying to keep that in perspective; I think the few things I would like to note is that a) point tracking is almost identical to calorie tracking, but I think the thought process is that it makes it into a more manageable number (26 vs 1200 or what have you), and b) something that I particularly took from the program is that it is designed to be used for life. That is why when you reach your goal weight you no longer pay to use the program when you maintain it - and you must stick to the program to keep
The weight off. Going from x calories or points a day to y calories or points a day, y>x, after your WW program ends, yes, you will gain weight. (Unless you're one of the prodigies who can join, lose weight, and keep it off! Good for you!) The last point is that WW has taught me a lot about balance and what kinds of foods help me feel full or
Manage my everyday diet.

I do not think WW is the be all end all - I don't like the idea that to look like a person of smaller/average weight I'd need to track my entire diet, day in day out - but the program did work for me, and does teach life skills to those of is who could use a little help managing.

I am a younger person with higher metabolism and do not struggle with obesity - I believe there are many factors that go into why this works for some people and not others. But I tend to enjoy the both sides evenness of your articles, and I feel like this one was a little more biased than normal.

However. Thanks for bringing awareness for people who feel guilt for WW (the golden child) not working.

on October 6, 2014

Weight Watchers, like other programs, requires you to pay attention to every single thing that goes into your mouth. The reason most people don't "like" tracking points is because it is difficult to maintain the discipline to log that tbsp of butter or to realize that the innocent looking sandwich at lunch actually accounts for half of your daily allowable intake. I like WW - it helps greatly for me to take a disciplined approach, and after some time I don't even have to "calculate" the points - I can tell that the taste of a certain food is not worth the fat-carbs content.

on October 6, 2014

Thankyou for posting this. I have been going back and forth with deciding to do weight watchers again ( for the 100 th time) or just count calories. What you say makes a lot of sense. I really dont have the 40.00 bucks a month for ww. Counting calories is free.And I think coynting calories keeps you more in control.

on October 6, 2014

WW is a crutch that helps some people. The fact remains that 95 percent of those who lose weight will gain it back. People think of a diet as a finite period of time and then they can go back to previous eating habits. Not so. I lost 90 lbs. 6 years ago and I still struggle with 10 lbs. it's calories consumed vs. calories expended. Eating healthy AND exercising is the only way. A comment on newest WW: the thing about not counting fruit is silly and makes no sense.

on October 6, 2014

Weight Watchers is the program for me. I've been a member for 7 years (this time) and have lost over 50 pounds. At 60 I finally hit lifetime goal after discussing with my doctor who raised the goal weight for me and recommended to WW (via a letter) this higher weight range as a healthy weight for me.

As a food addict - a truth I've had to accept - just like an alcoholic - I will never be able to stop attending meetings and PAYING ATTENTION to everything I choose to eat. When I don't write it down the weigh starts to climb. When I follow WW guidelines, exercise and attend those weekly meetings - and yes, I'm back to PAYING every week to weigh in - my progress shows up on the scale. I've been in and out of WW so many times in my life I've lost track of the number of times I've joined, lost and quit - thinking I could do this 'on my own'. I know what to do! Never works for me. This time I'm sticking with it. I'm a foodaholic and I'm accepting that about myself. I fall back into bad habits easily and need the support that WW meetings give me. Even the 'on-line' version didn't work as well for me as the accountability of weighing in every week. Some weeks are good, some are not. But I'm a big girl and I need to grow up and accept the truth that I'll never be able to eat like a teenager. I need to choose healthier foods and track everything I eat - because even 'healthy' foods when eating too much of them can cause me to gain weight. So weighing/measuring is still a requirement for me. Unfortunately, I'm not naturally thin and as I grow older find that my heart and other organs can't tolerate that extra weight. I tried all the other diet programs - Med. Weight Loss, Jenny Craig, Atkins - just to name a few. Weight Watcher's is for those who have a lot of weight to lose and who can give it the time, patience and work that is needed to do this over a LIFETIME. WW is not a quick fix.

on October 6, 2014

I lost 80lbs in my first year on WW and recently entered my 3rd year as a paying member, having spent my 2nd year plateaued despite program adherence using the online tools (no meetings).

In the past few weeks, I seem to have become caught in a vicious cycle of re-gaining & re-losing the last 10 of those 80lbs, with reaching my goal (an additional 20-30) seeming like a distant & elusive dream.

I DO have the mindset that the struggle to reach goal is my fault (just like getting fat was my fault). But I don't consider myself a "failure", as I'm not giving up!

I DO believe I just need to step up my exercise level to boost my metabolism, eat FEWER apples & grapes, curb the occasional indulgence - in general, tighten any slack I've given myself since losing the first 80 (or should I say 70-75 until get this plateau well behind me?!).

I'm not ready to give up WW, as I've gotten used to tracking points and feel it gives my weight loss journey accountability & infrastructure.

I justify the expense by never paying "retail", always hunting for promo codes or negotiating with a WW phone rep to ensure the longest term available, at the lowest available cost.

On the other hand, my daughter, whose 60lbs lost on WW in 2012 preceded & inspired my joining, has re-gained a significant amount. But she has abandoned her WW membership and is focusing on applying what she learned and amping up her exercise level, focusing on fitness.

We're now on different paths, but continuing the same journey. Everyone has to find the right program fit for themselves, and then WORK IT!

It's a lifelong journey for many of us, and it begins with a single step. Get started, take a first step, do SOMETHING, and if its effectiveness seems to wane, try something else. After all, the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same things and expecting different results! =)

on October 6, 2014

Wow... lots of good comments! The truth is, if it were easy to lose weight & keep it off (or to never gain extra weight in the first place), there would not be any companies like Weight Watchers.

I strongly agree with Sue & Krystina and others, above, that this is a long-term, lifetime commitment, not just a quick fix. And, WW does work if you follow it & have a good leader to help you figure things out - (i.e. sometimes you think you are following, but little things throw you off.)

That said, it isn't easy to stay motivated and on program, so, for me the accountability of weekly meetings a good leader (YES, shop around!) and a supportive group can help. Even if you have only 5-10 lbs to lose, or are trying to maintain, my feeling is that without WW, I would be gaining. (And, yes, I hate paying too, but in the long term, it may be $ well spent, and on Lifetime it is free. Also check into your insurance - BC/BS reimburses up to $150 per year.)

A note to Christy - sounds like you are not eating enough, but please check in with a doctor or nutritionist. That low of a points range is not healthy, and yes, your metabolism is probably slowing because of it.

One last point, I really like the Simple Start/Simply Filling program on WW. The program is known for points, so some leaders don't emphasize it. With Simply Filling, a lot of foods are "free" and you eat as much as you want of these healthy foods. You are eating healthier, no points counting except for your "indulgences" - but, again, you need to commit to it.

It is tough, try not to get discouraged, and if you can do it on your own, great - but a lot of people can't. I'll also have to check out the Beck book - makes a lot of sense.

on October 6, 2014

One issue I've had with Weight Watchers is that they have their own food products, which they want to sell, and tend to be highly processed. I choose not to eat most "diet" foods for that reason. I've therefore instead been participating in Calorie Count, an online community for people who want to track calories, fitness, and nutritional breakdown of their food. It is free (unless you want to upgrade to Premium, which is totally unnecessary for most people). It has many of the features I always liked about Weight Watchers without the push to purchase their overly-processed diet food. I believe another free online option is My Fitness Pal, and there may be others.

That said, I'm really not anti-Weight Watchers. It works very well for some people - I just wasn't one of them.

on October 6, 2014

Lisa, I'm with you! Longterm, I don't think WW works (for most people -- for some it does). I don't think any "diet" works longterm for most people.

I'm 68 and have struggled with my weight my whole adult life (ever since starting to diet in my teens, when I wasn't overweight). A year ago, I found myself at my highest weight, with health problems.

The health problems motivated me to start eating in a more healthy way (though not perfectly). I retired in January, and the stress of a long commute combined with aging parents largely went away. Most importantly, I think, I dumped food rules and just tried to gently focus on eating healthful foods.

I've lost 21 pounds -- it's not much, but it helps, and I'm thrilled. I do exercise a lot, and have for years. But in the past, I was gaining even while exercising a lot.

For me, stress was a HUGE factor in my weight problem. And relaxing about the whole food thing paradoxically seemed to be more helpful than anything I've done in the opposite direction.

I really enjoy your column!

Sue Hubley

on October 6, 2014

I use a lot of WW recipes, however, I swap out the overly processed ingredients for more natural/raw foods. I believe it's more important to focus on the quality of our food vs the quantity. And it takes more than counting points to know the difference. It's well worth the time to find local sources of organic, pastured, free-range foods. Farmers markets are a gold mine of good healthy ingredients. Many have products available year round that they sell from their own business or local markets. It takes time to find them, but your health is so worth it!

on October 6, 2014

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