Say goodbye to “dieting” and hello to “healthy living.” That’s the guiding sentiment of the new WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. When the company rebranded, it also changed its program to offer three variations on its points-based food-logging system. When you join WW, you’re assigned to the Green, Blue, or Purple plans, which shape how you go about managing your meals. WW uses just as much branded insider language as ever, and as a result, it takes time to wrap your head around how the program really works. The real star, however, is the supportive community, who cheer you on in this excellent weight loss app.
WW works best for people who are on a committed, long-term weight loss journey. Doing the program for a month or two may not get you very far. For quicker and more modest weight loss, apps such as Editors’ Choice winners MyFitnessPal and Lifesum are better options. If the highly branded WW experience doesn’t sound appealing, Noom is another very good option for long-term weight loss. It emphasizes psychology and self-reflection more than most other apps for health and fitness.
To test WW, I used the Digital plan in late 2019. The bulk of this review reflects my experience at that time. Since then, WW has changed its pricing and plans, and I updated that information in early January of 2021.
WW offers four plans. Digital (about $20 per month), Digital 360 ($29.95 per month), Unlimited Workshop + Digital (roughly $45 per month; prices may vary by region), and 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital ($59.95 per month). For all these plans, you can expect a lower per-month cost if you commit to a longer membership up front. Additionally, there’s a $20 signup fee for new members, but it’s almost always waived.
Digital is an app-only experience with some limitations. You get all the core features of the app, including your customized weight loss plan with SmartPoints tracking. You also get access to community forums, recipes, and guided workouts and meditations, which are new. You can only chat with coaches in the app at this level, and the coach isn’t personalized to you.
Digital 360 includes everything in the Digital plan and adds live and on-demand content, such as videos and podcasts, as well as increased access to coaches via daily livestreams.
Unlimited Workshop + Digital includes everything that’s in Digital 360 and adds unlimited group meetings. These meetings can be virtual or in person where available. Every meeting has a coach who helps you along, but it’s always in a group environment.
The last tier, 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital, swaps out the unlimited group sessions for private and personalized one-on-one coaching. WW offers a choice of three plans. The simplest offer is called WW Digital, which is what I used for testing the service. WW Digital is entirely online with no coaching or in-person interactions. It costs $20.95 per month, though you can save if subscribe for longer. There’s a $20 starter fee, but it’s often waved. You get all the tools for following the WW program, including a daily and weekly SmartPoints allotment and an assignment into the Green, Blue, or Purple diet category. You get everything in the app, including access to the online community and a support line via in-app messaging for any questions you have. Don’t confuse this support line with one-on-one coaching, however.
WW reserves a special type of membership for people who meet and then maintain their weight loss goal. It’s called Lifetime Membership, and it includes everything in Unlimited Workshop + Digital, but it’s all free. To qualify, you have to meet a bunch of criteria, including hitting a healthy goal weight and staying within two pounds of it for a number of weeks. You also have to maintain that weight going forward or you get charged. I suppose the idea is that if you’re dedicated to WW enough to lose the weight and keep it off, you’re probably a positive influence and natural brand ambassador.
At about $20 per month, WW Digital is reasonably priced, considering what you get from the program. It’s not a bargain, but it’s not a rip-off either.
Noom is a good point of comparison. It has a high list price of $59 per month, although when I tested the app, my actual cost for the first six weeks ended up being only $20 due to a promotional discount and a $1 two-week trial. If you sign up for a year-long membership, the per-month price drops to about $17, though you pay it up front as a $159 lump sum. Noom is different from WW Digital in that the app gives you a short checklist each day, encouraging you to not only weigh in and log all the food you eat, but also read about the psychology of weight loss and maintenance. Like WW Digital, Noom also has an online support system in place among members. In Noom, you are assigned to a group, whereas in WW Digital, you can join as many groups as you want and choose people who have similar interests or lifestyles. There are groups for as nurses, LGBTQ+ people, or WW members over the age of 60, for example. In Noom, the groups are random, and you only get assigned to one.
Like WW Digital, Noom also has an online support system in place among members. In Noom, you are assigned to a group, whereas in WW Digital, you can join as many groups as you want and choose people who have similar interests or lifestyles, such as nurses, LGBTQ+ people, or WW members over the age of 60. In Noom, the groups are random, and you only get assigned to one.
Another app, Lifesum ($49.99 for one year) costs less but doesn’t have any community features. It does have special plans for people who follow specific diets, however, such as gluten-free, keto, dairy-free, or vegan. Lifesum shows you more nutritional information than WW Digital does, and it offers more flexibility in the type of changes you want to make to your eating habits, whether it’s switching to a high-protein diet or fasting every few days.
MyFitnessPal ($9.99 per month or $49.99 per year for Premium) is a standard calorie-counting app rather than a complete health and weight-loss program the way WW is. With a Premium membership, you can log everything you eat and drink, as well as all the activities you do. You can also adjust the caloric daily goals to your exact preferences rather than follow the parameters that MyFitnessPal sets. This app does have some community features, but they aren’t as strong as WW Digital’s.
The MayoClinic Diet costs $65 per quarter, which works out to about $20 per month. With the MayoClinic Diet, the only membership type is quarterly—no month-to-month. It’s a decent option if you want detailed meal plans chosen for you, but a terrible option if you have any dietary requirements, such as being vegan or allergic to many foods. There’s no community or coaching, and it’s web-only, with no mobile app.
If you’re less concerned with losing weight specifically and more tuned into shaping your body, the Jillian Michaels App might be a better fit. Michaels’ app costs $119.99 per year, $34.99 per quarter, or $14.99 per month and contains guided workouts by her alongside meal suggestions and other weight-management tools. Another app that’s similar to Jillian Michaels in balancing workouts and strength training with diet is 8fit, which we also like a lot. It’s priced similarly at $24 per month, $39 per quarter, or $79 per year.
You can sign up for WW online via the web app or through Apple or Google Play via the iOS or Android app. I signed up using an iPhone and the iOS app, which means Apple handles the subscription. In my experience, letting Apple be the middleman makes it extremely easy to cancel an app subscription or stop recurring payments at any time.
If you enrolled via the website, you can cancel by filling out an easily accessible online form. You can also call a toll-free number to cancel. Under a few conditions, you can request a refund, such as canceling for medical issues or pregnancy.
When it comes to changing your diet assignment (meaning, if you don’t like the Green, Blue, or Purple plan and want to change), you can do that right in the app on your own. Your SmartPoints change accordingly from that date forward only.
When you decide to plunge into WW, you fill out a few forms, make your payment, and answer some questions to get started. This process takes only a couple of minutes, but there’s still the long journey of learning all the inside lingo and SmartPoints systems that WW uses ahead of you.
As with any fitness app, you enter your birthday (to calculate age), sex, height, and current weight. WW asks if you’re breastfeeding, a validating question seeing as so many mothers have concerns about postpartum weight loss and need to be careful not to restrict their daily caloric intake too much. The app also asks what you’d like to focus on in your program. I selected “Weight loss and healthy habits.”
The next step in setting up your account is to answer a bunch of questions about your eating habits. “Are most of your meals home-cooked, ready-made, or fast food/restaurant meals?” “How often do you eat chicken or turkey breast?” Most of the questions are of the “how often do you eat…” variety, cycling through dairy, eggs, tofu, beans, legumes, vegetables, and so forth.
Based on your answers, you are assigned a color group and given an allotment of Daily and Weekly SmartPoints, also known as dailies and weeklies. From this point, you begin your true indoctrination into the program.
Some decades ago, Weight Watchers (when it was still called that) invented a method of tracking food known as the SmartPoints system. It is anti-calorie counting in so much as you never look at or think about calories. Instead, you focus on SmartPoints. Weight Watchers assigned every food a number of points. Nutritious foods with a low-calorie density have a low number. In fact, there’s a whole category of ZeroPoints foods. Foods that are calorically dense have a higher point value. This system was/is especially convenient for Weight Watchers branded foods, where the SmartPoints per serving are clearly advertised on the packaging.
When you become a Weight Watchers member, one of the first things you learn is how many points are in your SmartPoints Budget. You get a daily budget, which are your “dailies.” In addition, you get a weekly budget that you can pull from whenever you want during the week—your “weeklies.” It’s basic budgeting, really.
In 2019, when Weight Watchers rebranded to WW, it changed the old Points system by creating three variations on it: Green, Blue, and Purple. The Green group gets more SmartPoints to use than anyone else, but their list of Zero Points foods is smallest. The Purple group gets the fewest SmartPoints, but their list of ZeroPoints foods is nearly three times as long. Blue is somewhere in the middle and used to be called Freestyle SmartPoints.
When it’s time to log food and activity, you can do so from the WW app or the website. The app is slightly easier to use than the website, although neither is a stunning example of a well-designed user experience.
For example, you’d imagine that to log a meal, you might tap a button that says, “Log food” or “Add food” or “Log breakfast.” Nope. Rather, you start from a search bar that reads, “Search food” or, depending on the page, merely “Search.” It’s not clear that you’re searching for food to log, seeing as you could be searching to look up a food’s nutritional value or SmartPoints. Part of the problem is the search bar sits high at the top of the screen, a good distance away from the area where you see your logged meals. Separating them is a mini calendar and a dashboard showing your points. Really, the tool you use to log food and the summary of foods you just logged should be next to one another.
In any event, the first few times you log food, you must use the search bar. For any food item you look up, you can adjust the portion size to match what you had. WW’s database contains fresh foods, packaged foods, menu items from supported restaurants, plus recipes. You can enter new recipes, as well as explore recipes that WW has created. You can also use a barcode scanner to look up packaged foods. I didn’t have much luck with it. When the scanner can’t find your food, it asks if you’re willing to add the nutritional information to the database manually. When I did that, WW immediately assigned a SmartPoints value to the item.
After you have a few meals under your belt, logging becomes easier because the app lists foods and meals you ate recently as options for meals you can log. Swipe any meal or item and you get options for logging it. I like being able to add all the items from a previous meal in one go and then adjusting as necessary. For example, if I put avocado on a sandwich yesterday, and today I eat the same sandwich but without avocado, I can log the same lunch as yesterday in one swipe and then delete just the avocado.
Once you log a meal, you can save it as a favorite, which also makes it easy to log it again another time. There’s also a Quick Add button where you can name what you ate and estimate the Smartpoints value if you don’t have the time, patience, or desire to look up every ingredient from your meal. If you have an iPhone, you can use Siri to search and track the foods you eat, too.
Logging activities is similar to logging food. You look them up using a search bar and then specify the duration. WW Digital also connects with a few fitness apps that log activities as well as daily steps automatically. On iOS, you can connect with the Apple Health app. Other options include Daily Burn, Fitbit, Garmin, MapMyRun, Misfit, and Withings.
When you’re active, you earn FitPoints. The whole concept of FitPoints and how you can use them is buried in the WW Digital app settings. You have an option to keep FitPoints on hand as a sort of emergency budget in case you use all your dailies. You have three choices:
By default, the app chooses option 1. In that scenario, it’s pretty easy to forget about FitPoints entirely. I certainly never felt motivated to look at them or try to earn more of them, I didn’t see people talking about them in the WW community either.
I signed up for WW Digital for one month. When I started WW, I had just come out of several weeks of testing other weight-loss apps and I had already dropped a few pounds. That said, while following WW, I ended up gaining back two pounds. Fluctuating a pound or two is perfectly normal, but I certainly didn’t lose any more weight while on WW. If you’re curious, I’m 5’8′ and around 145 pounds, which is considered in the healthy range. Given my size and build, I wouldn’t want to drop more than 10 pounds, maximum. My understanding of WW is that it’s meant for long-term, sustained weight loss, and usually for people looking to lose more than 10 pounds. I didn’t hold my actual weight changes against the app’s rating.
As I said, I had just wrapped up a few weeks of testing other weight loss apps. I was burned out on calorie counting and genuinely looking forward to trying the SmartPoints system. I was curious if it would be easier than counting calories.
At first, it wasn’t.
Let me back up and say I got into the Purple plan. I imagined I could eat like normal, log my food, and get accustomed to the SmartPoints system that way. No dice.
Working with points felt confusing. I burned through them by lunchtime. With no points left for dinner, I’d say to myself, “Well, now what am I supposed to do?” Calories and calorie density are easier for me to understand. I’ve had a whole lifetime of reading nutrition labels to get a sense of what 50 or 100 or 500 calories looks like for different foods. In WW Purple, a large slice of sourdough bread is three points. What does that mean? Eight ounces of orange juice for six points—is it worth it?
When I tested Lifesum, I learned that I spread my calories very unevenly over the day. Lifesum recommended I try eating almost twice as many calories as I usually do in the morning, a little more at lunch, and fewer at dinner. Making the change felt good. With WW, it’s impossible to know how you spread your calories throughout the day. WW also doesn’t give you macronutrient readouts, meaning the total amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you eat in a day or a week. If tracking those things matters, then Lifesum is a much better app than WW Digital.
In WW, each color group has resources, including a list of all ZeroPoint foods. I started there. Before I started WW, my diet was already mostly plant-based, so meat, fish, eggs, dairy were all out from the get-go. I browsed through the list of ZeroPoint Purple foods and identified a lot that I would happily eat over and over, which gave me a sense of direction. Potatoes and oatmeal, for example, have no points and I enjoy eating them. They’re filling. I started to think about how those foods could become the base of a meal or two. Chickpeas, bananas, edamame—there’s no shortage of foods to work with from the ZeroPoint list.
Still, after a few weeks, I haven’t fully shifted to understanding points at a gut level. I had no idea how many points will be in a meal until I log it, whereas, with calories, I can estimate how many I’m about to consume. Furthermore, when I’m thinking in calories, I can eat less at night to balance out my day if I eat too much during the day. If I blew all my WW SmartPoints early in the day, however, suddenly entire foods were off-limits if I wanted to stay within my budget. I could eat only ZeroPoint foods, which just doesn’t match my lifestyle.
WW offers recipes you can explore as well as other tools to help you think about building meals around your color-assigned diet. Purple plan members learn to “start with a ZeroPoint food, add some veggies, bump up the flavor, and include some fat.” The recommendations and recipe explorer tools made it easy to find dishes that both met my own dietary preferences and actually looked enjoyable. I had the opposite experience with the MayoClinic Diet, which gives you a set meal plan but doesn’t take into consideration vegetarians, people who eat kosher, dairy-free folks, or any other dietary requirements. If you don’t like a meal in the MayoClinic plan, you can swap it for something else, but it’s a time-consuming process and you could end up with the same old tofu scramble day after day.
Another adjustment I had to make with WW was weighing in only once per week. You can add your weight more often if you want, but the recommendation is once per week. Noom suggests daily weigh-ins. MyFitnessPal and Lifesum let you do it whenever and as often as you like. With only a few weeks to test the app, I ended up recording my weight more often. Once per week is perfectly reasonable for a long-term weight loss plan, however.
The app has more content to explore, including recipes, articles with advice and information about weight loss, and a marketplace where you can spend your WellnessWins, or points that you earn from following the program. For example, log any meal and you earn five Wins. Accumulate 3,000 Wins, and you can buy a one-month ClassPass membership. A mere 1,500 Wins gets you a WW-branded journal.
Something lacking from WW that I really like about Noom is a daily checklist. With WW, your reasons for using the app every day is to log your foods and track your SmartPoints. Noom has you log foods, too, but it also has you complete short readings and quizzes. Most of the readings teach you about the psychology (with a strong focus on cognitive behavioral therapy) or physiology of weight loss. They’re spread out over a few screens, so it never feels like you’re diving into a long article. Most weeks’ readings have a theme that lines up with your current progress. For example, early on in the program, you read a lot about habits. Later in the program, you learn about the reasons weight loss plateaus for most people. It’s as if Noom anticipates the topics that you’ll need to address and when, and then spoon-feeds you appropriate information. WW doesn’t have anything like that. WW does have a lot to explore, but you don’t get a checklist telling you exactly what to read today.
To recap some of the WW lingo that I’ve had to pick up so far, we have SmartPoints, ZeroPoints, FitPoints, WinPoints, dailies, weeklies, Wins, Purple, Green, and Blue. I thought I was doing all right mastering this new language, until I popped my head into the community area and started seeing even more insider lingo.
A Facebook-like feed in the app is where people share updates about whatever they want. My favorite day to scroll is Transformation Tuesday, when people share their success stories and photos. That’s where I encountered HW, SW, GW, CW, and other shorthand that I had to look up (heaviest weight, starting weight, goal weight, current weight). The community area is also where I learned about keychain charms. Every so often, people post pictures of charms they received for hitting weight loss milestones. It reminds me of the chips given out in Alcoholics Anonymous when people reach various milestones in their sobriety.
Every day I was learning more and more about the WW way and its special insider language. Sometimes it felt a little cultish, to be honest. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for community support in your weight loss journey, WW is undeniably outstanding. People openly connect their weight struggles to the difficulties in their lives, and some of the posts are raw and vulnerable. Several of them brought me to tears.
Within the community area are subgroups. They include people with dietary preferences and restrictions (Gluten Free, Vegans, Nut Free, Halal), groups based on a shared identity (LGBTQ+, 70s Plus, Black Women, Brides, Singles, Nursing Moms, Working Parents), people on a specific journey (50lb Club, Living with Cancer, Recommitted), and many others. The tone is incredibly supportive, both among people with similar histories and struggles, and all around.
Weight Watchers has been around for decades, and despite the rebranding, the new WW has a lot of the same strengths as before. If you join WW, you will encounter loyalists, Lifetime members, and other brand ambassadors who praise the program. You can get in-person support at meetings as well as heaping amounts of it from the online community. Aspects of WW felt cultish to me, with all the trademarked terminology, keychain tokens that you earn, and the insistence on using Weight Watcher’s SmartPoints system rather than a universal standard, like calories.
That said, WW is an excellent option for people who intend to commit to a weight loss program for several months or longer and who thrive in an overwhelmingly supportive environment. There is a learning curve with WW as you learn about SmartPoints and decide whether your assigned color group is the right one for you.
If everything I’ve described about WW in terms of insider language and branding is a turnoff, you might be better suited to Noom. Noom focuses a lot more on psychology and self-reflection. While Noom does have some group support, they won’t cheer you on or cry virtually by your side in the way the WW community will.
While you’re considering your weight, you should also read our Ultimate Guide to Health and Fitness for reviews on everything from sleep-enhancing technology to smart gym home equipment.Source