The Paleo Diet Vs. Weight Watchers

Dieters In Weight Watchers Study Drop Up To 15 Pounds a Year” was the title of an article dated September 7th 2011, published on, and written by Amanda MacMillan.

The article was written in response to an article in the Lancet, that apparently followed 772 men

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and women in The UK, Germany, and Australia, who were recruited for the study while visiting their physicians for ordinary office visits. It’s not clear whether any of them had any interest in receiving dietary advice from their doctors, but they ended up being dragged down that road regardless. Fifty percent of the participants were given a free 12 month membership to Weight Watchers, which included all meetings, while the other group was given no such luxury. Instead, the slightly less fortunate group was “encouraged” to attend weekly personal weight-loss meetings at their doctor’s office to track their progress. Boy, did the second group pull the short straw, considering that an average office visit with insurance requires a $20 co-pay!

“Overweight and obese adults who followed the Weight Watchers program lost more than twice as much weight as those who received weight-loss advice from a doctor or nurse, according to a new yearlong study funded by the company.” – Amanda MacMillan, 2011 

Most of us already know that the average doctor or nurse today possesses very limited nutritional knowledge, and honestly have no business giving dietary advice to anyone. Check out , which outlines the abysmal amount of training that doctors receive during their medical school career.

“The 61% of Weight Watchers users who stuck with the program for a full year lost 15 pounds, on average, compared to 7 pounds among the 54% of people in the other group who continued to visit their doctors each month. When the researchers included the people who dropped out of either program before the year was up, the average weight loss was lower but followed the same pattern: 11 pounds in the Weight Watchers group and 5 pounds in the other group.” – Amanda MacMillan, 2011

Let’s be honest here, I don’t consider 15lbs of weight lost in one year to be much by any standard, especially if weight loss is a goal, and not just a by-product of a healthy dietary change. Of course that is an average amount, so some people lost more, and some lost less weight. However, according to the researchers, this 15lb loss is “medically significant”.

“Similar studies of other commercial weight-loss systems, such as Jenny Craig and prepackaged food programs, have produced comparable results in the past. In a 2010 study funded by Jenny Craig and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for instance, women who completed one year of the program lost about 20 pounds, three or four times more than women who received occasional advice from a nutritionist.” – Amanda MacMillan, 2011

The researchers believe that the Weight Watchers program was more effective because primary care practitioners on the whole have other responsibilities and distractions that prohibit them from focusing so much upon Nutritional concerns. In comparison, programs such as Weight Watchers rely upon “group spirit” for consistent, effective motivation, and also upon the inherent accountability factor that it fosters. After all, if you have to pay when you fail to meet your goals, you’ll probably try harder!

Ironically though, in this study, the “accountability factor” could not have paid a part in the outcome, because the Weight Watchers group did not have to pay for their membership or meetings out of their pockets. To address this confounding factor, the researchers gave this analysis, just to ensure that everyone is sufficiently confused:

“People may be more likely to stick with a program like Weight Watchers when they’re participating free of charge, however. The cost of Weight Watchers can run as high as $500 per year, a price tag that could sap the motivation of real-world dieters who are paying out of pocket. At the same time, Jensen says, it’s possible that some people paying out pocket might be less likely to drop the program because they’d feel obligated to get their money’s worth.” – Amanda MacMillan, 2011

As for the “medically significant” results:

“Those really are medically very significant numbers,” Dr. Jensen says. “For overweight or obese people, that kind of loss results in pretty substantial improvements in health and disease risk—to the point where, if you’re on medication for blood pressure or cholesterol or diabetes and you can [lose] 10% of your weight, you’ve got at least a reasonable chance of decreasing or discontinuing that medication.” – Amanda MacMillan, 2011

Discontinue blood pressure medication? Probably. Cholesterol medication is completely useless anyway, so of course that can go away. As for diabetes, I’d be willing to bet that no one is going to lessen the need for their diabetes medication, just because they lost 10% of their body-weight. The standard flavor of Weight Watchers isn’t going to reverse metabolic derangement all by itself. Such a feat requires some serious carbohydrate restriction over a long period of time.

The researchers were careful to point out that, even though Weight Watchers sponsored the study…..SURPRISE!….the researchers did reserve the right to publish the results regardless of final outcome. That allows me to sleep better at night.

So what’s the Punch-line Barry? I hear you ask. What is always my punch-line? Wait for it…..


There it is. I feel much better now. However, it’s the honest truth. Considering that (minus the price of any purchased books/ebooks), converting to the Paleo lifestyle is essentially free, people tend to lose a much larger amount of weight over the course of a year, and that Paleo can truly give people the ability to reverse diabetes and other chronic diseases, why wouldn’t Paleo be a better idea?

The problem is that as of yet, there is no Paleo governing body that can shoulder the responsibility of paying researchers to perform large, high profile studies such as this one. Do we want a governing body? Probably not, because we would potentially find it impossible to come to a consensus on exactly what “Paleo” means. That’s not a bad thing, that’s the just the way it is, and honestly the way it should be. However, if pushed I would feel it necessary to vote for Robb Wolf to be the “Paleo King”.

Don’t worry about counting calories, or points, just listen to your body and eat the rightfoods until


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you are full. No more, no less. Don’t worry about going to meetings and weighing-in in front of your peers, join the International Paleo Movement Group on Facebook, and you’ll have access to all the motivation and knowledge that you could need. Just eat whole, real, fresh foods, and everything will fall into place.

Personally, I wouldn‘t respect a doctor that refers people to Weight Watchers, any more than I would respect a doctor who instructs patients to follow the USDA MyPlate guide

But, a doctor who counsels a patient on following the Paleo lifestyle? Now there’s a doctor I can respect!

Take my 30-Day UN-Challenge now, by downloading my step-by-step instructional eBook from my website. It’ll change your life, and make you look sexier too.


Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

For more information please visit: 


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One Response to The Paleo Diet Vs. Weight Watchers

  1. Denver Tarring October 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I would estimate that the self proclaimed experts on how to lose weight fast aren’t actual health experts at all, and that is a big part of the problem. You see, anyone who knows the human body well will tell you that although you can learn how to lose weight fast, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a healthy thing. It can be quite dangerous, and many times the weight loss is not sustainable. But still, you to get frustrated and would like to get instant results, and unless I figure out how to lose weight fast right now, I will not get the kind of attention I want there. I know it sounds sad. Perhaps I should really be looking at treating my vanity issues.