Study: Weight Watchers comparable to clinical weight loss programs

In the fight to lose weight, there’s new research that shows the tried and true, old school Weight Watchers or other group program method works better than trying to do it on your own.

The study published in the journal Obesity found the Weight Watchers group lost more than those who did the expensive one on one counseling. And the key to success appears to be group camaraderie, the support. The positive kind of peer pressure that happens when you’re inspired by the success of those around you.

ABC News reports on its website that “in the study, 141 overweight and obese adults were randomly assigned into one of three groups – a weight-loss behavioral program led by a health professional, or Weight Watchers, led by peers who had achieved their own weight-loss success, or a combination of both programs.”

According to the article, “overweight and obese adults who participate in any of the three weight-loss treatments that involved group counseling, whether it was with a health professional or with peers, as well as physical activity and diet change lost a significant amount of weight nearly a year later, the study found.” Lead researcher Angela Pint said, “When people who are working on a similar problem get together, they can support each other so they don’t feel alone in this weight-loss journey.”

The Washington Post reports in “The Checkup” blog, “while people in all three groups lost weight, those who followed Weight Watchers alone for the 48 weeks lost an average of 13 pounds apiece, compared to 12 pounds for” those who took part in the face-to-face behavioral weight loss treatment (BWL), and “8 in the combined-approach group.” The article adds that “beyond that, more than a third (37 percent) of the Weight Watchers group lost 10 percent or more of the weight they started with, and more than half (51 percent) lost 5 percent or more of their starting weight.”

WebMD notes that “the study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and Weight Watchers International provided vouchers for participants to enroll in the program at no cost.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that “the researchers found that Weight Watchers subjects attended more meetings, used the program’s electronic tools more frequently and were more likely to see the study through to its end than were those in the other two groups.”

The article notes that “in November 2011, Medicare said it would reimburse doctors who provide their obese patients ‘intensive behavioral counseling’ to lose weight.”

Later, the Times adds that “Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers International, said the company should be considered equally worthy of insurance reimbursement.”

Enter your email to subscribe to Dr. Walt's blogs.

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Dr. Walt Larimore will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.