How Does Weight Watchers Work?

March 8, 2018   14 Comments

How does Weight Watchers work? I get this question a lot since so many people find me through Google.

How Does Weight Watchers Work?

When I first heard of Weight Watchers, there were only meetings to attend without an online presence. You went to a meeting, got weighed at the beginning, and then were given a plan to follow until the next week. People talked about their experiences, choices, and struggles and it was a strong community.

The idea was simple. Write everything down and keep your food under a certain points number (that was assigned to you based on your weight and goals) to keep your calorie intake in check.

Now, you can join online, talk to a coach, and skip meetings. The plan is called Weight Watchers Flex or Freestyle depending on whether you live in the UK or USA, respectively. It is pretty different than the old plans.

The biggest change is now you have over 200 zero points foods that you don’t have to count. If the food isn’t on this list, then you must count it and you are given a number of daily and weekly points based on your weight and goals.

What happens is that you end up counting foods that have added sugar, a lot of saturated fat, or a high level of carbohydrates. These are the foods that tend to have the most to do with weight gain and maintenance.

I happen to hate weighing, counting, and tracking my food so I thought that Freestyle would be a huge hit! But, some people absolutely hate it. They find that the list is too restrictive (they are getting sick of the food on the list) and want to be able to have more discretionary points.

My post New Weight Watchers Freestyle Review: Hate or Love? has over 200 comments and about 70% love the new program and 30% hate it.

Here is a comment from Sarah:

Love freestyle. No longer feel punished by eating healthy foods - instead, I feel rewarded! Freestyle pushes you to eat healthy foods but leaves room for indulgences. I ate a 6 course dinner at a French restaurant, including 2 glasses of wine, for New Years and didn’t gain— because I planned for it and have been adjusting my other meals/activity for the week accordingly.

I never feel hungry. If I’m out of points for the day and hungry, I can eat fruit and yogurt, white bean chicken chili, chicken salad, or tofu veggie stir fry for zero points. What?! it’s crazy awesome. I love it.

She is indicative of the fans of the program. Here is Jeanette’s perspective:

I don't like Freestyle. I am already sick of chicken, chicken, chicken, eggs, eggs, eggs. I never did like chicken that much...and anything you DO to the chicken will make it NOT zero in season it, put barbeque sauce on it, etc. I can't afford fish or sea food more than once a week, tops. I have not lost any weight on this plan. Inspite of careful measuring and tracking. It is super boring. There is no "fun" in it. I feel like this narrow way of eating is being forced on me.

The perception that Freestyle is flexible comes from Weight Watchers which states: “you’ll lose weight and have total freedom with your food choices”.

That statement is literally true but in practice – it isn’t the heart of the program. The process ensures that you limit your treats – foods that cost you points – and eat the zero point list which is very healthy but narrow.

For example, you could decide to drink a 12 ounce can of Coca Cola and it would cost you 9 Freestyle SmartPts. I only got 23 points for a day so that can was almost half!

Being on this plan would definitely stop me from drinking Coke and that is probably a good thing for my health.

I do think the plan is very healthy and I would hope it would help its members to lose weight (and have a little fun doing it).

How does Weight Watchers work for you?

Other posts you might like:

New Weight Watchers Flex 2018

Weight Watchers Flex or Freestyle for 2018: The New Program

The 2018 New Weight Watchers Flex debuted in the United Kingdom yesterday and will be coming to the USA (perhaps as WW Freestyle)....

New Weight Watchers Freestyle Review: Hate or Love?

New Weight Watchers Freestyle Review: Hate or Love?

The new Weight Watchers Freestyle program has about a month to simmer and now it is time for a review.....

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I like Weight Watchers. If you're not going to meetings, give one a try! I have a super-dynamic team leader and the meetings are fun! You will get lots of tips on making smart food choices at family events and holidays, and you'll also see that you're not the only one craving chocolate during a weak moment - everyone at the meetings has been there, too.

Lost 10 pounds first 3 weeks, then add my walking treadmill and weight lifting to my program, still eating mostly "0" point food all day except for Dinner and weekends. I gained 1 pound back after beginning my weight lifting program again.

I've been on the program since January first, online only. It has a good app, a very good online community and it's great for a busy,working mom like me. I can afford to buy seafood and fresh veggies so I'm not bored with the zero point options. I am quickly learning what foods are healthy for me and what is not. I like it!

Hi Snack Girl - found your blog through Google and am already a big fan and have turned my Weight Watchers group onto it also. Your cholesterol lowering blog was VERY interesting. Recipes are great too! Now on to WW Freestyle. I have been a member since January 2011 - lost 131 pounds and hit goal in late 2013. Stayed at goal for two years, had kind of a kick butt year and gained some back. When I was gaining I was skipping meetings, stopped tracking, etc. You know, the bad stuff. I've been back full time since June of last year and am losing again steadily. So I have seen Points Plus, Smart Points, and now FreeStyle. I LOVE FREESTYLE! However, it does reward those who plan ahead. Losing the seven points a day does impact things and I am eating much less beef during the week than I used to. These are probably good things. I shoot to stay in the healthy eating range - up to 28 points per day (our meeting calls it the "blue dot" range because you get one on your tracker). It helps that I have a great meeting group and great leader. I'm sticking with it! Ready to get back to goal weight. Thanks again for your blog and posts - keep it coming!

Down 16 lbs since Freestyle started. Yes, they take away 20% of your daily points. You fill that with the Zero foods, which is what should be 20% of your day anyway. If you choose Zero foods over junk food, you can even ROLL OVER 4 POINTS to the next day! (Hello, weekend)...

Some say that this program is very easy to follow but I don't understand how unlimited eggs can be healthy and balanced.

I absolutely love Freestyle! I have been a life time Member for over 30 years and finally, this is so simple and great and so healthy. I really didn't like SP at all, way too difficult to figure that one out, in all the years I've been a member, It was the hardest one I had ever been on. Thanks WeightWatchers!!

I quit Weight Watchers when they introduced the SmartPoints, because things had been going so smoothly with the PointsPlus. I was a lifetime member and had been at my goal weight for years. I was angry and resistive(sp.?) to the change. I continued with the PointsPlus on my own and stopped meetings. I've found that meetings are essential for me. And since I stopped I gradually reverted to my bad eating habits and gained 35 pounds. I re-upped with Weight Watchers on March 5th. I stayed for the newbie orientation and listened well to the reasons for the change. and how to work it. I asked a lot of questions and accepted the SmartPoints as if I never new anything about the Points Plus. The points values are more restrictive, but the zero point foods support the way I was eating when I was following PointsPlus. Three things I know:

1) Weight Watchers has worked for me in the past.

2) My plan does not work.

3) The meetings are an essential component for me.

I committed myself for six months and will re-assess over time if Weight Watchers STILL works for me.

I'm doing fine with Freestyle and I don't feel like I am restricted to just zero point foods. Whatever the points program, for me, eating fish as many times in a week as possible paves the road to success. (Fish may be more expensive, but consider also that there is zero waste - you pretty much eat what you pay for. Also, I can buy fish at a local fish market that supplies restaurants (and I live in the mountains not at the coast!) and can get the "trimmings" at a lower price than the prime cuts. It's the same fish, just odd shaped pieces, etc. that the restaurants don't want. I am at Lifetime, this is my THIRD time here, and I am determined to stay. I have found a really great leader and the meetings are very inspirational and motivating. I got back to goal in January, and I think SmartPoints made that happen faster than it might have occurred otherwise. I am looking for maintenance motivation, and I know that attending meetings, tracking and maintaining my level of physical activity is KEY. I just got home from 5 days mini vacation, part of which was spent in Portland where Food is King and I pretty much ate my way through the Pacific Northwest. I could hardly wait to get home to my environment, and my fresh, home-cooked meals. When FreeStyle kicked off, well, actually before, I knew I needed to make some changes and have cut way down, if not actually eliminated butter, mayonnaise, and bread. I haven't given up pasta though and have it about once a week. I believe that to lose the weight and then maintain the weight loss, you really do have to make some permanent changes. It's great to say hey we're Weight Watchers and you can eat whatever ever you want... that's true, but, I have had to make some permanent changes to succeed over time. At least that is how I am viewing it this time around. Always before I drifted back to my favorite foods: hamburgers, bread, tuna with lots of mayo, desserts, chocolate - well, the list is endless:-) Now I am trying very hard to limit my favorites and not have them in the house. I also have searched out a leader that absolutely inspires me and a meeting that is invigorating. The leader/meeting is Key for my success. Weight Watchers, in all its various incarnations, has been the only program that has worked over time for me. Lifetime means I get the meetings and the app for free. That works.

I got to goal on Points back in 2009 with 45lb off. An accident a few years later and I’ve put it back on. I would have gone back to WW but I liked the freedom of the old plan in that I got to choose. Seeing as all the clubs do the exact same plan now (fruit, low fat meat, eggs and non-sugary veg is free) there’s no point choosing so I go to slimming world because there are meetings every day so there’s no excuse and it’s cheaper.

I love weight watchers and have a long history of being in every plan,losing,then quitting. I had hit lifetime in 2011 on points plus plan and bulked and quit when smart points was introduced. I gained 50 of 70 pounds back! 10 monthes ago I went back and have hit lifetime again, much faster than on points plus! I bulked again when Freestyle was introduced but did it. Lost 11 pounds since Christmas on it. Meetings, tracking, weighing & measuring all so important. Why we all think we know more than this huge weight loss corporation does is beyond me. I know I will always be a weight watcher. I feel so good and am very happy!

Weight Watchers worked for me 2006, lost 75, 60 still gone. But then Points Plus began this march toward low carb, with another big step now with Freestyle. A slice of pie a la mode that was 25% of my daily points in 2008 is now 100% in 2018. I quit PP in 2011, and I just now quit Freestyle. Like PP then, weight loss stopped, since we couldn’t stay on the old plan.

Weight Watchers’ secret really was simplicity. You knew your targets, your frequent foods, and it’s easier to do 2 digit point math instead of 4 digit calorie math. But now it’s complicated. Even Weight Watchers’ site is inconsistent on whether that chicken breast added to your salad counts or not.

Perhaps worst of all is that WW is no longer a workable maintenance diet. As many commenters have noted, a diet of chicken breast, poached fish, hard boiled eggs and plain beans is more like a life sentence, not a life style.

Final thought for those happy with Freestyle. Around 2020, WW will change again. If low carb works for you, you might as well go to a stable program like South Beach. Me, I’m now on a calorie counting site, $10/mo to be ad-free.

I've been on WW multiple times over the past 30 years or so. I really liked SP and being able to use the app to track things. I wasn't sure about Freestyle when it came out, but it really was a non-issue for hubby and I. We already ate a lot of the new zero point foods. You don't have to (and are encouraged not to) base your entire choice of meals around zero point items!

It does force you to think about your food choices more though. And I do agree that each new plan at WW makes it harder than the last to continue eating Standard American Diet foods by just reducing the quantities. That doesn't mean we never have pizza or steak (or even cake) but those just aren't our staple foods.

It also doesn't mean every meal is a hard boiled egg and a piece of grilled chicken! In fact, I constantly get comments on my vlog about how varied and yummy-looking our meals are.

Maybe I'm just odd though. I've a lot of eggs since before Freestyle and before WW SP. I wouldn't do well on a plan that forced me to cut them out. Maybe hubby doesn't represent the average American male? He's perfectly happy with a bacon egg and cheese muffin for breakfast each morning. But honestly, that doesn't seem like such a hardship. :)

I find it hysterical that people think that you only eat the zero point foods! I still count points as always, I still weigh and measure as always. I don't have chicken and eggs at every meal - sometimes I don't have them at all in a day! I still eat beef, pork, pasta and such. I just plug them into the app on the days I plan on eating it and work the rest of the day around it. I'm actually at the lowest points you get for the day and sometimes have points left over. I think the problem is that people tend to overthink don't eat unlimited amounts of the free food (eat until satisfied not stuffed - if you can't do that weigh, measure and track it; WW has never said you can't do that). And a previous poster was right - yep, the plan will change again and probably again & again! Freestyle is a step towards their Simply Filling Plan which is where it is heading. Remember WW didn't always have points...if all you've learned is how to count points, then you're doing something wrong. And remember Zero Points doesn't equal Zero Calories!

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