In 2000, the American Journal of Medicine published a study that found Weight Watchers effective. Research showed that participating in the Weight Watchers program yields better results than going it alone. The study followed 65 men and 358 women for two years as they tried to lose weight with either a self-help program or the Weight Watchers program.
The Self-Help Program
Members of the self-help group met with a nutritionist in the first and 12th weeks. During counseling sessions, they received hard copies of information about healthy diet and exercise habits. In addition, self-helpers were told about other sources of weight-loss advice such as library materials, Web sites and phone hotlines. Once they were given the information, though, they were on their own to put it to use.
The Weight Watchers
Members of the Weight Watchers group, on the other hand, got vouchers to pay for weekly Weight Watchers meetings, at which graduates of the Weight Watchers program model healthy habits, lead weigh-ins and give moral support. The program also provided a meal plan, which is designed to ensure proper nutrition and a reasonable calorie deficit for weight loss of up to two pounds a week.
Like the self-help group’s nutritionists, Weight Watchers periodically gave its members hard copies of weight-loss information. These participants, however, had the support of their fellow members.
Who Lost More Weight? Self-Help or Weight Watchers?
All participants checked in at study clinics five times over the course of their participation. At each clinic visit, both the self-help group and the Weight Watchers group lost weight, but the Weight Watchers group lost more. Those participants also did better at keeping the weight off during the study.
In the first year, the self-help group lost about three pounds and kept it off. After the first year, though, they put the weight back on until they were back where they started!
The Weight Watchers group lost and kept off between 9 and 11 pounds in the first year. At the end of the second year, they were still about six pounds lighter than when they first started!
Weight Watchers members who went to at least three-quarters of the meetings were able to keep off an average of 11 pounds for the entire two-year period.
- At the end of the study, 52% of Weight Watchers group and 29% of the self-help group had lowered their body mass index (BMI) by one point.
According to Dr Heshke, author of the paper:
After 26 weeks, subjects in the commercial program lost more weight than subjects trying to lose weight on their own after two brief sessions of dietary counseling.[…] Measurement of body fat confirmed that theweight changes were, in large part, fat loss.
Should You Try Weight Watchers?
If you’re one of the many people who lose weight only to put it on later, you may benefit from participating in Weight Watchers. As the study showed, people who attended meetings regularly fared better both in losing the weight and keeping it off. The social support found at meetings probably helped the participants stay committed.
Plenty of weight-loss advice suggests teaming up with others to keep each other focused on the goal. Many people find that positive peer pressure offers reinforcement and accountability when they might otherwise slip up. For people who need social support, Weight Watchers can help them meet their weight-loss goals.
The study was supported by a grant from the Weight Watchers foundation. You can read the original abstract of this study here.