When comparing Weight Watchers vs Whole30 to find which one will fit your lifestyle best, it’s hard not to get caught up in the social media excitement around Whole30. Whole30 is a relatively new diet that was started as a spin-off of the Paleo diet. Whole30 has quickly gained acclaim over the last 15 years. However, it’s hard not to consider the history and longevity of Weight Watchers when comparing these two diet trends. Weight Watchers has been around almost 4 times as long - it was started 60 years ago!
And if you haven’t noticed already, Weight Watchers and Whole30 are vastly different. Just a few key differences are that one counts calories, and one doesn’t. One has off-limit foods, and one doesn’t. One is designed specifically for weight loss, one is not. This guide will show you the ins and outs of both so that you have all the info you need in order to decide what is best for you.
Weight Watchers vs Whole30: Comparison at a Glance
There are a few main differences between the two diets. Weight Watchers is mainly a weight management diet. You can expect to lose a significant amount of weight if you’re on Weight Watchers long enough. No food is off limits while you’re following Weight Watchers. However, all food is accounted for by using their daily Points system. It’s a version of counting calories, without actually counting calories. Weight Watcher's goal is to put the members in a calorie deficit by allotting them a certain amount of points each day. As long as they follow the points allotted, they should continuously lose weight.
Whole30 is seen as more of a “reset” elimination diet. You start by committing to 30 days of cutting out a list of foods. By cutting out these foods, the goal is to decrease inflammation in the body and lower food cravings. Some people do lose weight unintentionally because they are cutting out high-calorie processed foods, and by default, eating fewer calories through whole foods. But weight loss is not guaranteed, or even talked about that much. The major goal with Whole30 is to completely revamp your lifestyle and not allow you to continue eating unhealthy foods.
The Deliverables: What You Get
With Weight Watchers, you can expect a few different options. No matter what program you choose, you will get access to the Weight Watchers app. This app is where you log your food and activity, talk with a coach, join support groups, and more.
Weight Watchers App offers:
- food tracker
- barcode scanner
- recipes - already made and the ability to create your own
- activity tracker
- can sync with fitness wearable
- sleep tracker
- live coaching support
- access to an exclusive community
- weight tracker
You can sign up for workshops for local support, but outside of these groups, everything you need for Weight Watchers is in the app.
There is no app or “deliverable” for the Whole30 diet. You can start it whenever you’d like, and do it completely alone if you prefer, although Whole30 does not suggest that. All of the guidelines can be accessed for free on the Whole30 website. Some cookbooks can be purchased to help you make Whole30-compliant recipes, and there is an email list that sends you support weekly. Whole30’s biggest “deliverable” is their social media presence. You can follow along with a huge community and expect loving support throughout the entire 30 days (or more).
Weight Watchers vs Whole30: The Price
Whole30 is completely free. All guidelines are on the website, along with free resources such as an email list, and daily texts you can sign up for support. There are a few resources you can buy- like cookbooks. But there are tons of free recipes online as well. A journal and day-by-day guide can also be purchased as a means of support throughout the 30 days.
Weight Watchers can be as low as $10-12/month depending on the deal that they are running at the time. If you want the workshops included, the cheapest you can go with WW is $24/month for a yearly subscription. Without the workshops included, it’s $12/month for a yearly commitment and up to $23/month with just a month-to-month commitment.
Current 2024 WW Core Program (no workshops) prices are:
- 12-month auto-renewing plan for $11/month
- 6- month auto-renewing plan for $15/month
- Monthly auto-renewing plan for $23/month
Current 2024 WW Points Program + Workshops prices are:
- 12-month auto-renewing plan for $22/month
- 6- month auto-renewing plan for $30/month
- Monthly auto-renewing plan for $45/month
Weight Watchers vs Whole30: The Accountability
There is a variety of accountability within either program. Weight Watchers offers in-app coaching, local workshops, and support groups. Due to its popularity, there are also countless resources online (like this blog!). The in-app coaching is great for someone comfortable asking questions for help. You can simply message the coach with any concerns or questions you may have. The local workshops originally set Weight Watchers apart from other diets. These workshops help you by giving you face-to-face access to other locals going through the same journey as you.
Whole30’s version of accountability is a strong social media community along with countless free resources. This is a program though, that you must stick with yourself. Whole30 encourages you to start first by speaking to your friends and family about your health goals so that they know how to support you through it. The free social media community is a great way to lean into accountability as well, as it is vast but friendly. Cohort - a subscription to a community - is $119. It offers exclusive content, weekly lives with Whole30 HQ, lifetime access to the Whole30 slack channel, daily motivational video messages, daily texts, and personalized onboarding. So if you’re someone who is headstrong and sticks with a goal, you can do Whole30 completely free. If you’re someone who needs guidance and encouragement, you may pay a few hundred for all of the resources and accountability, but the price is comparable to other coaching companies.
Weight Watchers vs Whole30: The Process
To begin Weight Watchers, you have to fill out a detailed questionnaire via the website about your lifestyle, activity, diet history, age, weight, and goals. This allows the algorithm to give you a personalized diet plan. The plan will automatically be set to lose 1-2 pounds a week, but you can adjust that if you want it to be more aggressive or even a bit slower. With Weight Watchers, you can get started tracking your food and activity right away. Weight Watchers has a points system for their food tracking and it will give you a certain amount of points for the day. You can eat whatever you’d like as long as you stay within your allotted points for the day. WW offers a ZeroPoint food list (with over 200 foods!) that encourages you to choose healthy foods. By focusing on these foods, your weight loss journey will be significantly easier. They reduce hunger and give you plenty of healthy nutrients.
The Whole30 Process
Whole30 does take a bit of planning to start. You need to read the guidelines on the website and plan out a grocery list so that you’re set to start on the date that you want. Most people cannot jump right into Whole30 with the foods they already have in the fridge and pantry. Whole30 eliminates quite a lot of foods, so it takes getting a plan together of what you’re going to eat throughout the weeks to start. It’s also suggested that you buy the journal, and the Day to Day guide so you know what to expect, as well as sign up for the newsletter for extra support. Once you’ve started Whole30, you can expect something different every week.
Days 1-7: Adaption. You may experience headaches, fatigue, crankiness, and cravings. This is typically the hardest week.
Days 8-14 Adoption. You may experience digestive issues such as bloating and gas as your body gets used to these new foods and tries to rid the body of inflammatory food.
Days 15-21 Smooth Sailing. You will experience non-scale wins like more energy, better moods, less bloating, fewer cravings, and more.
Days 22-30 Home Stretch. Meal prepping and cooking are second nature by now, but beware that you do not end your program early. Whole30 cautions that many people feel “28 days is just as good as 30” but they suggest finishing the full 30 days.
Weight Watchers vs Whole30: The Success Rate
As stated before, Whole30 isn’t known as a weight loss diet. However, on the Whole30 website, they do claim that 95% of people lose weight and improve body composition throughout the 30 days. If someone implements the guidelines for longer than 30 days, it’s possible to maintain the weight loss. But since Whole30 doesn’t track calories, there is always the possibility of re-weight gain. The goal of reducing inflammation has a 100% success rate if you follow it properly for the entire 30 days.
Weight Watchers sets your initial diet to lose 1-2 pounds a week- as long as you are consistent and accurate. Only about 11% of people are successful with keeping weight off long-term on any diet, so Weight Watcher’s maintenance plan is a fantastic option for those looking for long-term success. This “maintenance” phase once you reach your goal weight in the app will lowly add calories back into your diet so that your metabolism adjusts well without gaining fat back. This extra effort helps WW members keep the weight off long term. The majority of WW members have been following the program for over 2 years without actually dieting the entire time.
Whole30 Time Frame
Whole30 is typically used as a reset diet, in which people follow it for 30 days, and then work back towards their regular lifestyle. The original goal with Whole30 was to quickly detox the body from inflammatories, such as sugar, to show you how it can feel to eat in a very healthy way. Whole30 has been known to completely dissolve food cravings, aches, pains, and more. However, you will find that most people end up going back to their old food habits because they don’t find the restrictiveness of Whole30 to be sustainable. There are a few that have adopted the Whole30 diet as their new lifestyle, and follow it to a T. But it can be hard to be so strict long term, especially if you enjoy going out to eat with friends and family. Social media has made it popular for people to do the Whole30 “reset” every January and every September.
Weight Watchers Time Frame
Weight Watchers entices you to stick with the program as long as you can by providing a cheaper price for the longer you go. They also have a “maintenance” diet in place so that you minimize weight gain. The members that follow their calorie deficit over a few months, then head into their maintenance phase with Weight Watchers can expect to lose a significant amount of weight without re-gaining it. The maintenance diet slowly introduces more calories back in after the calorie deficit, which revives the metabolism, and allows someone to maintain a low weight. Whole30’s “maintenance” phase after the 30 days is called “Food Freedom” and the guidelines help you slowly introduce foods back into your diet. Again, weight loss or gain isn’t a priority here, as calories are not accounted for. Foods like rice and dairy are slowly brought back into the diet, so you can identify any foods you are sensitive to.
The Weight Watchers Food
No food is off limits when following Weight Watchers. As long as you fit the food into your daily points, you can eat it. However, Weight Watchers does encourage you to eat healthier foods by having a list of “zero-point foods.” These foods can be added to your daily meals without adding to your daily points. They also penalize you by making “unhealthy” foods very high in points, so that you eat less of them. Weight Watcher’s ZeroPoint Foods focuses on lean meat, non-fat dairy, vegetables, and fruits. They are foods such as:
- Protein- chicken, ground turkey, eggs/egg whites, tofu, white fish, shrimp
- Carbs- oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa
- Fats- none
- Vegetables- broccoli, spinach, brussels, green beans
- Fruits- berries, apples, bananas, citrus
- Dairy- non-fat Greek yogurt, non-fat cottage cheese, fat-free cheese
Foods that are high in Weight Watcher points:
- Protein-sausage, bacon, anything fried, hamburgers
- Carbs- processed foods such as cookies, crackers, pastries, pizza, and cakes
- Fats- butter, oil, nuts, seeds
- Vegetables-anything fried
- Fruits- fruit juice, dried fruit, jelly
- Dairy- full-fat yogurt, heavy whipping cream, ice cream
The Whole30 Food
Whole30’s main goal is to cut out all inflammatory foods that may cause your body aches, pains, swelling, and more. While on Whole30, you must cut out the following:
- Added sugar, whether it’s real or artificial. This includes honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, and more.
- Alcohol - off limits in any form, even if used for cooking.
- Grains - this includes items like wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, and all gluten-free pseudo-cereals like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat.
- Legumes - peanuts, beans, and all soy, like tofu. There are two exceptions: green beans and some peas.
- Dairy - all dairy is off-limits, even nonfat Greek yogurt. There is one exception: clarified butter or ghee.
- Carrageenan or sulfites - these are additives in processed foods.
- SWYPO - This is one of the biggest Whole30 rules, and it stands for “sex with your pants on”. You cannot recreate “whole30 approved” baked items. Examples are pancakes, tortillas, or ice cream. Even if all of the ingredients are Whole30 approved, you are not allowed to recreate a food that you could “binge” on.
Weight Watchers vs Whole30: The Reviews
The only negative review that consistently shows up against Whole30 is that it’s not realistic or sustainable. But it’s also not about sustainability. It’s a 30-day elimination diet to show you what you may be sensitive to. The food freedom reintroduction is designed to show you how to incorporate more foods that you love, while also highlighting foods you may be allergic to. It’s how many find that they are in fact, allergic to dairy. The goal of Whole30 is to find how to fuel your body in a way that makes you feel your best.
Over the 60 years Weight Watchers has been around, they’ve amassed amazing reviews, leading a great number of people to sustainable weight loss. The main complaint is how hard it is to cancel the subscription. Weight Watchers clearly states the policies on canceling right below the signup information. And they even provide a number to call to cancel when the time comes. It may take some effort, but canceling is doable, so the negative reviews can be debated.
The Newest 2024 Updates
Whole30 has introduced a “plant-based” version for those who don’t eat meat. A lot of the guidelines are still the same, with the addition of two new ones. No animal proteins and no animal fat, like clarified butter or ghee, which is allowed on the traditional Whole30 program.
Weight Watchers is taking advantage of the popular weight loss medications. You have the option to apply for the WW prescription medication program. The goal of this new program is to offer weight loss medications to their members who meet the criteria. Weight Watchers states that healthy habits and medications together can provide a powerful long-term solution for the obesity epidemic. You can take a quick quiz on the WW website to see if you qualify for their new GLP-1 program.
|No tracking amounts, just the elimination of a list of foods.
|Chat access to a coach and can pay for in-person support group
|Guidelines, PDF resources, cookbooks, and books provided online
|Videos in the app or on the website
|Can see success often within the 30 days, but long term is not sustainable for most
|Can see success long term with continued support
|No tracking amounts, just elimination of a list of foods.
|Off Limit Foods
|Alcohol, dairy, grains, carrageenan, sulfites, legumes, added sugar
|No foods are off limits, but high- protein, low-calorie foods are encouraged via the ZeroPoint food list
|Clinical Weight Loss Medications
|Offered if you meet the criteria
Weight Watchers vs Whole30: The Conclusion
Whole30 is a fantastic option if you’re looking for something short-term, that will “reset” your body after a lot of inflammation. This is why January and September are the most popular times to do a Whole30. After the holiday food and drinking, January is the perfect time to dial in your diet and eliminate inflammatory foods.
If you simply need a structured diet that can take you through a weight loss phase as well as a maintenance phase, Weight Watchers is the way to go. You can have as little or as much support as you need through the app and the 24/7 coaching access. Their new clinical program is also a great way to go if you meet the criteria and you’ve tried all the other options. Weight Watchers is a great way to slowly change your lifestyle - adding in healthier foods and more exercise - without it feeling unrealistic.