Weight Watchers vs Calorie Counting: The Ultimate Guide


Losing weight can seem like a struggle sometimes with the fact there are so many options out there that claim to help or make weight loss easier.

I am sure you have seen the commercials on TV for Weight Watchers, but is it worth it? Should you just count calories?

Which is better for weight loss? Weight Watchers or calorie counting?

Good News. You can choose either. Both Weight Watchers and calorie counting work to help you lose body fat.

Both Weight Watchers and calorie counting work because they both do one thing: create a calorie deficit. Without a calorie deficit, weight loss will not occur.

Which you choose however depends solely on your lifestyle, preferences, and your finances as well.

Read on to learn more about which might be a better option for you.

Weight Watchers vs Calorie Counting

Weight Watchers and calorie counting are two different approaches to the same end goal: weight loss.

However, they are different in that one is an actual “program” that you can follow and the other relies solely on you keeping track of the calorie contents of the foods and drinks you consume.

Contrary to popular belief, all weight loss programs can work, including WW, but they only work by putting you into a calorie deficit. This occurs when you burn more calories than you take in on a daily basis over time.

Both WW and calorie counting are great options and both will help you reach your end goal, but how do you choose between them?

Let’s focus on both and their similarities and differences first.

What is Weight Watchers?

Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that uses a combination of healthy eating habits using a point system, physical activity, and group support to help people lose weight and improve their overall health. 

The program was founded in 1963 by Jean Nidetch and has since become one of the most popular weight loss programs in the world as time has passed.

Weight Watchers Point System

The Weight Watchers program is based on a point system that assigns values to foods based on their nutritional content, with an emphasis on eating foods that are lower in calories and higher in nutrients. 

These are known as Smartpoints and Fitpoints.

Participants are assigned a daily points target based on their age, height, weight, and gender, and are encouraged to track their food intake to ensure they stay within their points allowance.

This means that every food you choose will have a number attached to it. Your goal is to not go over your allotted points for the day but also not under.


Healthier foods will have a lower Smartpoint number attached to them based on their protein, fat, calorie, and sugar nutrient contents. Some foods also have zero points.

In addition to the points system, Weight Watchers also emphasizes the importance of regular physical activity, with participants encouraged to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. 

The program also provides support through weekly group meetings, where participants can share their experiences, receive guidance and encouragement, and learn from each other.

Weight Watchers has certainly evolved over the years, and now offers a range of different programs and tools to help people lose weight and improve their health. 

These include personalized coaching, online resources, and mobile apps that make it easier to track progress and stay motivated.

What is Calorie Counting?

Calorie counting is the practice of tracking the number of calories you consume in your diet in order to manage your weight and improve your health. 

A calorie is a unit of measurement that represents the amount of energy contained in food and drinks. You simply find the amount of calories a food or drink contains by looking at the nutrition label or the calories of each ingredient in the food if it is not pre packaged.

When you consume more calories than your body needs for energy, the excess calories are stored as fat, which can lead to weight gain over time.

To count calories, you need to determine the number of calories in the foods and drinks you consume, and then track the total number of calories you consume throughout the day. 

This can be done manually by looking up the calorie content of foods and drinks in a reference book or online database and writing them down, or by using a calorie counting app or website that does the tracking for you.

The number of calories you need each day depends on a variety of factors, including your age, gender, weight, height, and activity level. 

You will first need to calculate the amount of calories your body needs to maintain its current weight, which is known as TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure.)

Related Post: How To Create a Calorie Deficit With a Low TDEE

To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your body burns each day, creating a calorie deficit. 

calorie deficit hack for calorie counting

A deficit of 200-500 calories per day is typically recommended for safe and sustainable weight loss. It is important to maintain a calorie deficit in a safe and sustainable way.

Finding your own specific TDEE is easy to do. You can just use an online calculator and start from there.

Calorie counting is all based on trial and error. You begin by consuming a daily amount of calories less than your TDEE amount and track your progress. 

A few adjustments may be needed, but once you find your sweet spot, you will begin to lose weight by being in a calorie deficit.

Pros and Cons of Both: Weight Watchers vs Counting Calories

Weight Watchers and calorie counting both have the same end goal: creating a calorie deficit to cause weight loss.

Let’s talk a little about the benefits and disadvantages of both so you can make the best decision about what will work for you.

Pros of Weight Watchers

  • Provides both a structured and flexible plan for weight loss that emphasizes healthy eating habits and physical activity.
  • Offers social support through weekly group meetings and online community forums.
  • Allows for flexibility in food choices by assigning point values to foods, rather than just focusing on calorie counting.
  • No foods are “off limits.”
  • Offers personalized coaching and other resources to help individuals reach their weight loss goals.

Cons of Weight Watchers

  • Can be expensive, especially if you opt for personalized coaching or other premium services.
  • Membership costs money.
  • Requires tracking and monitoring of food intake using points, which can be time consuming and cumbersome for some individuals, especially when eating out.
  • Weekly weigh-ins.
  • Foods higher in sugar and fat may have higher points, which may discourage you from eating them at all, causing you to restrict fun foods.
  • If you decide to stop WW and not count points, you may gain weight back.
  • May not be suitable for individuals with certain dietary restrictions or food allergies.

Pros of Calorie Counting

  • Allows for flexibility in food choices and can be tailored to individual dietary preferences and restrictions.
  • Can be done for free or at a low cost using online resources or smartphone apps such as MyFitnessPal or Loseit.
  • Provides a clear understanding of energy balance and can help individuals make informed choices about food and portion sizes.
  • Can be an effective way to lose weight if a calorie deficit is maintained
  • No foods are restricted!
  • Weigh yourself at your own leisure.
  • Over time, you may not need to count calories and can make your best judgment based on known calorie contents of foods.
  • Keeping the weight off will be easier as you know the typical caloric contents of most foods.

Cons of Calorie Counting

  • Can be time consuming and require a learning curve to accurately track and monitor food intake at first.
  • May not provide the social support and accountability that Weight Watchers offers. You must find this on your own.
  • Does not account for nutrient density or food quality, which can be important for overall health and well being. This is up to you.
  • May not be suitable for individuals with disordered eating habits or a history of eating disorders.

Related Post: Do Calories Reset At Midnight?

Do Calorie Counting and Weight Watchers Both Work?

Absolutely. Both approaches can be effective for weight loss because they are based on the principle of energy balance, which states that weight loss occurs when energy intake is lower than energy expenditure. This is where a calorie deficit comes into play.

The key to success with either approach is to create a calorie deficit in a sustainable and healthy way, which means consuming a balanced diet that includes nutrient-dense foods, regular physical activity, and consistent tracking and monitoring of progress.

In order to start calorie counting, you will need to create a calorie deficit so that you have a starting point.

This is done by calculating your maintenance calories and consuming a daily amount of calories over time that is below this value (200-500 calories less than maintenance.)

This is not as difficult as you may think it is! Check out the article below to learn more about how you can create a calorie deficit all on your own.

Which Should You Choose? Weight Watchers or Calorie Counting?

The answer to this is simple. Pick which one works for you. 

Ultimately, the choice between Weight Watchers and calorie counting depends on your individual preferences, needs, and overall goals. 

Both approaches can be effective for weight loss when done correctly and can help you achieve your desired weight and improve your overall health and well being in the process.

Personally, I have found success with calorie counting. I think it is tried and true and it is what has helped me lose weight. And look, it has a smaller list of cons!

Calorie counting is not as hard as you might think, and it can actually be fun!

You will learn so much about the calorie contents of typical foods you eat and how you can improve.

You can keep track of your calories right on your phone using any app of your choosing, or you can use a calorie counting food diary instead.

You do not need to restrict anything. If you want to have a dessert? Go ahead. You can just rearrange your other foods in the day to keep you on track.

I always like to focus on the fact that you DO NOT need to restrict your favorite foods in order to lose weight.

You do not want to be miserable and you want to enjoy the foods you eat.

This is why I have opted for calorie counting each time I wanted to lose weight. Because I know it is doable long term and I know that it definitely works.

Another bonus? Exercise is not required. Yes it is true that exercising can help you lose weight, but it is not required.

It is possible to shed body fat using diet alone. It all comes down to calories in and calories out. If you burn more calories than you consume over time, you WILL lose body fat.

Want to see even greater results? You can surely add some exercise and strength training to your every day routine. It can be something as simple as walking!

In Summary

Both Weight Watchers and calorie counting can be effective for weight loss when done correctly. 

The key to success with either approach is to create a calorie deficit in a sustainable and healthy way, which means consuming a balanced diet that includes nutrient dense foods, regular physical activity, and consistent tracking and monitoring of progress.

Yes, no matter any diet you choose, they all work by putting your body into a caloric deficit.

Ultimately, the choice between Weight Watchers and calorie counting depends on individual preferences, needs, and goals. 

Both approaches can be effective for weight loss when done correctly and can help individuals achieve their desired weight and improve their overall health and well being. 

It’s important to choose an approach that aligns with your individual lifestyle and preferences and is sustainable for the long term.