The Basics: Weight Watchers originally started in the 1960s as a discussion group for dieters. That ethic is still present in the program, which relies heavily on weekly meetings where dieters get weighed and their progress is measured (and celebrated). Although the dieters can purchase the program's prepackaged food, Weight Watchers also teaches dieters portion control.
How It Works: Several plans have been introduced over the years, but Weight Watchers' current "Flex" program is arguably the most popular. It categorizes food according to a "points" system, and you are given a set number of points (determined by your current weight) that you are allowed to eat each day. There are no restricted foods, but you must not go over your point allotment for the day, thereby teaching portion control and responsible eating habits.
What You Can Eat: There are no restricted foods, but the goal is to eat more food with lower points (such as a cup of raspberries, which is 1 point), which are generally considered healthier
What You Can't Eat: Again, nothing is forbidden, but if you eat something with a lot of points, that might be all you eat for the day. (Example: a Big Mac and fries totals 24 points, which is a common daily point limit.)
When You Can Expect Results: The weight loss is gradual, not dramatic.
Pros: The system teaches you about portion control and making the right decisions. "It's more behavioral," says Dr. Ian from Celebrity Fit Club. It's also healthy. "There aren't any medical side effects," he says.
Cons: The cost: There's a registration fee, plus you have to pay a fee at the weekly meeting.
Who Did It: Ethelyn Abellanosa, 37, from Seattle, went from 364 lbs. to 158 lbs. on Weight Watchers. "I didn't feel deprived as I learned to make good choices," she says. Check out her amazing transformation here.
For More Information: Check out the Weight Watchers Web site here or find a meeting near you.
12/20/2006 AT 12:50 PM EST