Weight Watchers: What You Need to Know

The Weight Watchers Diet helps people set realistic expectations by assigning points to all sorts of foods, including restaurant food. This Applebee's menu lists entrees with Weight Watchers points to make eating out while dieting a guilt-free experience. See more weight loss tips pictures.
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You can get all the exercise you can handle, but it still might not be enough to lose -- or prevent from gaining -- weight. And if you're avoiding both exercise and healthy foods, you could be in big trouble.

Weight Watchers is a program that (for a fee) encourages participants to stay active and to eat right. This means developing good eating habits like choosing healthier foods and eating sensible portions. Regular exercise is also strongly encouraged, as are keeping tabs on between-meal snacking and burning more calories than you consume.

The program calls for active participation, meaning you pay to attend meetings and, if you choose, to eat Weight Watchers meals. While it may be too time-intensive for some, the program may be perfectly suited for those who need a network of support and guidance, or who have a lot of weight to lose.

So how'd it all get started?

In the early 1960s, Jean Nidetch began hosting meetings in her home for people concerned with losing weight. From those earliest meetings, Weight Watchers has grown while helping others shrink: There are now 50,000 Weight Watchers meetings each week around the world [source: Weight Watchers].

Here are some of Weight Watchers' goals:

  • Help you change behaviors contributing to being overweight, such as overeating and not paying attention to caloric intake.
  • Create belief in yourself and self-confidence.
  • Keep you motivated.

One of Weight Watchers' dieting philosophies is the concept of flexible restraint, the idea that a dieter should account for real life and not feel guilty about the occasional treat or feel deprived by attempting to rigidly maintain a strict diet. This helps dieters avoid burnout and maintain a diet while accounting for real life.

About 9 in 10 people who join Weight Watchers are female, though there's an increasing focus on getting men signed up [source: Schultz]. With this goal in mind, there's now a Web site designed specifically for men with some unique manly features such as assigning points to different types of beers.

What else do you need to know about Weight Watchers? The PointsPlus™ system, which we'll talk about next.