Weight Watchers International is an international company based in the United States that offers various products and services to assist weight loss and maintenance. Founded in 1963 by Brooklyn homemaker Jean Nidetch, it now operates in about 30 countries around the world, generally under names that are local translations of “Weight Watchers”. The core philosophy behind Weight Watchers programs is to use a science-driven approach to help participants lose weight by forming helpful habits, eating smarter, getting more exercise and providing support.
How it Works
There are two primary ways individuals can work with Weight Watchers: via in-person meetings and an online-only program. Both programs use the same basic materials and computations. For in-person meetings, Weight Watchers encourages members to select a goal weight that results in a body mass index generally accepted as healthy (18 to 24.9), although a member may also establish a goal weight outside of that range after providing a doctor's note to that effect. In order to join Weight Watchers in the United States, one must weigh at least 5 pounds (2.3 kg) more than the minimum weight for his or her height.
Once a member reaches his or her goal weight, he or she starts a maintenance period. For the following six weeks, the member gradually adjusts his or her food intake until the member no longer loses or gains weight. If, at the end of six weigh-ins during the maintenance period, the member weighs in within 2 pounds (0.91 kg) of his or her goal weight, he or she becomes a "Lifetime" member. A Lifetime member may attend meetings free of charge as long as he or she weighs in at least once per calendar month and, at any weigh-in, does not weigh more than 2 pounds (0.91 kg) more than his or her goal weight. If the member weighs more than 2 pounds (0.91 kg) over the goal weight at a weigh-in, he or she will be charged the weekly fee until he or she again obtains a weight within the target range. As long as a Lifetime member weighs in each month and stays within the target range, there is no fee for attending meetings, and the member may attend for the rest of his or her life. Unlike new members, Lifetime members are never charged a registration fee, even if they regain weight or fail to weigh in every calendar month.
Weight Watchers’ eTools is a Web-based service for members that includes access to support materials and tracking tools. The service is available for an additional fee for members who pay as they go, and is included in the fee for members who opt for the recurring "Monthly Pass" membership plan. In some areas Weight Watchers meetings are operated by a locally franchised organization rather than by Weight Watchers International.
Additionally, a fully online program is available via the Weight Watchers website. Online and meeting memberships are entirely separate and online-only members are not eligible for "Lifetime" status. The support system for Weight Watchers Online is a message board where members can post support and share advice. The message board (but not the other support tools) is available free of charge to the public; in an attempt to limit access to the essential plan information to its members, Weight Watchers prohibits the posting of Points or PointsPlus values for foods on the boards.