Oprah sells it. The ads are everywhere. And most likely, you know one or two devotees to the plan. But is Weight Watchers worth it compared with free weight loss programs like the mega-popular MyFitnessPal? Does paying for a program give you a better chance of losing and keeping off the pounds?
Over the past year, I have used both platforms for six months each. Using their tools, including food suggestions and exercises, I have tracked and sweated my way to a newer and healthier me.
First, a little background on me: Polycystic ovarian syndrome, bad habits in college, a pregnancy with months of hormone-based infertility drugs, and a general lack of willpower have led me to this point. Weight loss isn’t just a vanity project for me — it’s a necessity with my heart condition.
As you read on, remember that not all results are typical as each person’s body and mental health have their own, unique makeup and challenges.
One of the most popular free fitness programs out there is MyFitnessPal. With nearly 20 million active users on the platform, word of mouth alone was enough to make me sign on.
What It Does
The program has you input your weight, height, age, activity level, and goal weight to start. From there, it gives you a nutritional plan. In my case, I was allotted 1,700 calories to eat per day. It also breaks down nutrients like carbs and fats, and you’re given another goal for fitness.
How You Lose
Tracking is essential, and the most successful people do it religiously, as well as use the reports feature to study their food and exercise intake and output. For added support, there are forums, social media links, and pro blogs.
How It Worked for Me
In six months of tracking my food as honestly as possible every single day and meeting exercise targets weekly (except for a few illnesses), I lost 12.1 pounds and nine inches around my waist.
It’s bare bones, but it works for those who have willpower.
If you’ve tried other programs before or are knowledgeable about weight-loss basics, MyFitnessPal has what you need.
But it's a struggle for those who have trouble being proactive in finding exercises that will burn calories, educating themselves about nutrients, or staying consistent in tracking what you eat.
Paid: Weight Watchers
Currently, there are three programs you can pay for weekly or monthly. The meeting version (small groups that meet weekly for support, accountability, and weigh-ins) costs $8.84 per week, while the online-only version costs $4.22 per week, according to the Weight Watchers site. You can also opt for a personal coaching program, which costs $12.69 per week.
Plus, it's relatively easy to cancel your plan at any time. There are no long-term commitments.
What It Does
Like MyFitnessPal, tracking is the number one focus on Weight Watchers; however, instead of calories and nutrients, everything you eat or drink is given a point value. Based on your weight, height, and activity level, you're assigned a set amount of daily points, including a large number of flex points that you can use to splurge occasionally.
How You Lose
Points are assigned based on how healthy and filling the food is. For example, two tablespoons of cream cheese are worth four SmartPoints. While you could eat that version, Weight Watchers encourages you to eat a healthier version, such as the light option, which is only two to three SmartPoints.
It can become a game to find healthier alternatives to foods you already enjoy.
Support is also essential. The in-person meetings provide valuable time with those going through the struggle and a private, online social media platform helps those online connect with others.
How It Worked for Me
I stuck to the online-only version. I was successful in tracking and sticking to the allotted points about 90 percent of the time, and I was easily able to get activity points each day. My total, six-month loss was 21.4 pounds and roughly 11 inches.
Weight Watchers vs. MyFitnessPal: Who Wins?
In my opinion, Weight Watchers wins for those who are new to losing weight, want detailed guidance on what food to pick, and might need the meetings to support them along the way. The plan is so simple anyone can do it, and it’s relatively stress-free. While it is pricey, the returns and commitment were well worth the money.
However, MyFitnessPal is a great substitute for those who can start a weight loss program on their own and be consistent or are already invested in their health. And since the program is free, the return-on-investment in the program can only be positive.