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Weight Watchers International is an American company that offers various products and services to assist weight loss and maintenance. Founded in 1963 by Queens, New York, homemaker Jean Nidetch, it now operates in about 30 countries around the world, generally under names that are local translations of “Weight Watchers”. The core philosophy behind Weight Watchers programs is to use a science-driven approach to help participants lose weight by forming helpful habits, eating smarter, getting more exercise and providing support.

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At 12 months Weight Watchers is associated with 2.6% more weight loss than those who were in a control group.

The term weight-watcher, in the same sense, had circulated publicly for several years before the company was formed.

Effectiveness

A 2015 systematic review found that at 12 months Weight Watchers was associated with 2.6% more weight loss than those who were in a control group.There is a lack of evidence beyond this period of time.

Weight Watchers claims that members who both use Weight Watchers’ Web-based eTools and attend meetings lose half again as much weight as those who only attend meetings, citing an unspecified “12 week study comparing people who were instructed to attend Weight Watchers meetings and use eTools to people who were instructed to attend Weight Watchers meetings alone”.

Approach

Weight Watchers’ core approach is to assist members in losing weight through eating more healthily and getting more exercise.Weight Watchers’ primary diet plan has no directly comparable requirements and no food is off limits. Participants lose weight by creating a calorie deficit.Weight Watchers is generally compatible with other diet approaches and/or food intake restrictions, provided participants use the Weight Watchers framework to measure and limit the quantity of food consumed while using the other diet plan to dictate the range of acceptable food choices.

There are two primary ways individuals can work with Weight Watchers: via in-person meetings and an online-only program.Both programs use the same basic materials and computations. For in-person meetings, Weight Watchers encourages members to select a goal weight that results in a body mass index generally accepted as healthy (18 to 24.9), although a member may also establish a goal weight outside of that range after providing a doctor’s note to that effect. In order to join Weight Watchers in the United States, one must weigh at least 5 pounds (2.3 kg) more than the minimum weight considered healthy by the company for his or her height.

Once a member reaches his or her goal weight, he or she starts a maintenance period. For the following six weeks, the member gradually adjusts his or her food intake until the member no longer loses or gains weight. If, at the end of six weigh-ins during the maintenance period, the member weighs in within 2 pounds (0.91 kg) of his or her goal weight, he or she becomes a « Lifetime » member

Weight Watchers’ eTools is a Web-based service for members that includes access to support materials and tracking tools. In some areas Weight Watchers meetings are operated by a locally franchised organization rather than by Weight Watchers International.

In most locations, Weight Watchers holds meetings for members which in some cases may cause positive reinforcement for participants.

Corporate information

History

From 1978 until 1999, Weight Watchers was owned by the H. J. Heinz Company, which continues to produce packaged foods bearing the Weight Watchers brand. In October 2015 Oprah Winfrey purchased a 10% stake in Weight Watchers.

Governance

The current members of the board of directors of Weight Watchers are Philippe Amouyal, John Bard, Raymond Debbane, Marsha Evans, Jonas Fajgenbaum, Linda Huett, Sacha Lainovic, Steven M. Altschuler and Christopher Sobecki. On October 19, 2015, Oprah Winfrey announced her place on the board of Weight Watchers International.

Formulas

Weight Watchers has not provided official confirmation of the Points or PointsPlus formulas and has aggressively sent cease and desist letters to websites and a number of third party tools that claimed to provide Points, or PointsPlus, calculations.

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