Weight Watchers was developed in 1963 by Jean Nidetch, a Brooklyn, New York, homemaker who was concerned she would not be able to keep off the 20 pounds she had managed to lose. Nidetch recruited a few friends and started her own support group.

Before long, the group evolved into weekly classes and Weight Watchers was born. Its purpose is to support those who want to lose weight and keep it off by teaching better eating habits. H.J. Heinz bought Weight Watchers in 1978, but kept Nidetch on as a consultant. The goal of the program is to help dieters achieve a body mass index (BMI) of between 20 and 25.

Today, Weight Watchers is a stalwart in the diet world. In an evaluation of 38 diets by U.S. News & World Report, Weight Watchers was deemed the best weight-loss diet, the best fast weight-loss diet, and the easiest diet to follow.

Weight Watchers emphasizes support networks

One of the primary things that sets Weight Watchers apart from other diet programs is its emphasis on a support network. In fact, the organization calls support networks “crucial for both short- and long-term success.” Weight Watchers points to research that suggests that “social support reduces stress-induced cortisol release.” High cortisol levels are associated with weight gain.

Members have their progress monitored weekly and attend meetings where they learn about nutrition and exercise. Weight Watchers will accept any new participant, as long as they are at least 5 pounds over the minimum weight for their height.

You won’t grow hungry or bored

On Weight Watchers, no food is forbidden and there is no need to buy prepackaged meals. Rather than forbid particular foods, Weight Watchers assigns each food a value. Nutritious foods that are also filling have fewer “points” than junk food with empty calories. They also calculate sugar, fat and protein into their points in order to steer participants toward healthier fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. The number of points a participant is allowed each day is based on their personal goals. In theory, a person could use their daily allotment of points on alcohol or dessert, although lower-point foods are healthier and more satisfying in the long run.

Participation is easy

There are two ways to take part in Weight Watchers. One is through weekly meetings at a local meeting place. Meetings last 30 to 45 minutes and weigh-ins are confidential. The other is to join the organization online. Although people who attend Weight Watchers meetings are more satisfied with the program and lose more weight than those who use only the online tools, working the program online is a viable method for those with the discipline to see it through.

How much does it cost?

The cost of Weight Watchers varies slightly by location, although the average cost per week is between $6.92 and $13.85, depending on how many weeks one pays for in advance. While there is a starter fee of $20, that fee is often waived through special promotions. Their Online Plus program begins at $3.07 per week. (These prices are as of January 2017.)

What does the price include?

Weight Watchers bases its program on four pillars:

  • Healthy weight loss.
  • Fits into everyday life.
  • Allows for informed choices.
  • Offers a holistic view.

Their philosophy is that these four pillars can help their members incorporate healthy changes into any lifestyle, no matter the starting point. They do not see these changes as a quick fix, but rather a long-term way of thinking, eating, acting, and feeling.