When I last embarked on a weight loss mission, I was surprised how hard it was to find a really comprehensive Weight Watchers vs Slimming World comparison. So I did the logical thing: created one of my own. And that’s what you’re reading right now.
First off, a bit of background. This is NOT a quickly thrown together article. I signed up to BOTH Weight Watchers and Slimming World. I downloaded the apps, bought all the recipe books, snacks and accessories, and fully committed to each of the plans to see how they worked for me.
In total (at the time of writing), I have lost 31lbs across both plans.
Here’s a quick spoiler for you: I consistently lost weight on both Weight Watchers and Slimming World. Both plans suggest you will lose around one to two lbs per week, and that rang true for me. My average is a solid 2lbs per week, with frustrating 1lb weeks and joyful 3lb weeks scattered here and there.
In this comprehensive Weight Watchers vs Slimming World guide, I take you through all the different elements of losing weight using these popular plans. For each part, I choose a winner between the two, and at the end, I pick an overall victor.
Before we begin, I should emphasise that both plans work, and both have their pros and cons. I would highly recommend reading this through, as you may find that the best fit for YOU may not marry up with the best fit for ME.
To kick things off, let’s take a look at the basics of the plans and how they work.
There’s rather a lot to take in when you join either Weight Watchers or Slimming World. In this section, I attempt to distill the basics of each of the plans.
It’s worth nothing that both diet plans started out with a group-based, in-person business model. In both cases, there are still local groups you can join in across the world. But there’s also the option of following the plans entirely online using the companies’ websites and apps.
The latter option is particularly popular nowadays, especially in the era of social distancing. For the purposes of this comparison, I used the online option for both diets.
An Introduction to Weight Watchers
Weight Watchers has been around since the 1960s, and has changed and evolved numerous times over the years. There have been lots of tweaks to the points systems and nutritional approaches. I’ve used Weight Watchers several times over the years, and experienced several different points systems.
The current Weight Watchers iteration is known as My WW. There are three variations of the diet plan, known as Green, Purple and Blue.
The key difference between these plans is the list of “Free Foods” you are permitted to eat without counting points, which come off your daily and weekly allowances.
- “Green” the option I mainly concentrate on here, is the “strictest,” with only most fruits and vegetables on the free list. However, this gives the highest allowance of points to use on the foods of your choice.
- “Blue” adds on some lean proteins and low fat dairy products to the free list.
- “Purple” adds carbs like potatoes and pastas. It’s actually awfully close to Slimming World’s approach! Due to the much more relaxed approach to free foods, you get far fewer points to spend on other foods.
When you first sign up, you are asked some basic details on your goals, and allocated a plan. If you’d prefer to switch to a different option, you can do so. I personally find the “Green” plan suits me the best, and it certainly feels the closest to the original Weight Watchers ethos.
An Introduction to Slimming World
Slimming World launched in the UK in 1969. More recently it branched out into the the US market in 2016. Like Weight Watchers it started out as an in-person service with people attending local groups, but it’s now possible to sign up and follow the program entirely online.
Slimming World’s diet plan is built on the foundation of a large list of “Free Foods,” which include almost all fruit and vegetables. You can eat these without any restrictions or – in theory at least – portion control.
It is, of course, important to note that you won’t lose any weight if you binge on the “Free” Foods.” You see this list of foods also includes plenty of carbohydrates such as potatoes and pasta – so it’s very much possible to overdo it!
Beyond the Free Foods, you have “Healthy Extras” which allow you to choose from a selection of dairy products and fibre-rich foods each day. (You’re allowed one from the fibre list and two from the dairy list).
Beyond that, you have “Syns.” These are foods that don’t appear on any of the lists and are broadly the things people consider as treats: bars of chocolate, bags of crisps and glasses of wine. You are given a daily “Syns” allowance for these indulgences.
While there are obviously some similarities between Weight Watchers and Slimming World, there are big differences too. Slimming World doesn’t require you to count and track nearly as many points. There’s also an emphasis on filling up with a lot of carbs which, in theory, keeps you away from the snacks.
Does the approach work? You’ll have to read on to find out!
Weight Watchers vs Slimming World: Pricing
Both Weight Watchers and Slimming World are sold on a monthly subscription basis. It’s worth noting that there are almost always introductory offers available. For the purposes of this article, we concentrate on the STANDARD pricing, which is what you will be paying after any promotional period ends.
As Slimming World is primarily UK-based, we’ve concentrated on UK pricing here. If you’re located elsewhere, this pricing can vary.
Weight Watchers Pricing
Weight Watchers is available as either a “Digital” membership, or “Workshop + Digital.” The latter gives you access to “in person” workshops, either via local groups or online over Zoom.
As you can see from the screenshot above, promotions rather muddy the waters of exactly what Weight Watchers costs. However, at the time of writing, the UK price is £13.95 per month for “Digital” or £22.95 per month for “Workshop + Digital.”
Slimming World Pricing
Slimming World is priced rather differently. You have a choice of three packages when you first sign up to the online service. You sign up for the first three months in one go.
The fundamental difference between “Bronze,” “Silver” and “Gold” is what you get in terms of “goodies” when you sign up. “Bronze” is entirely online content; “Silver” gets you seven issues of the Slimming World magazine; “Gold” also gets you a couple of introductory books.
For those who don’t enjoy reading from a screen, it’s worth paying for “Gold” for the “Food Optimising” book that teaches you all the basics of the plan. You still get access to this but it’s arguably much more awkward to constantly refer to PDFs in the early days.
After your initial payment, Slimming World’s standard online cost is £20 (or €25) per month.
If you wish to join an in-person group, these cost £9.95 per week for the first week, and £4.95 per week after that.
Weight Watchers vs Slimming World: Which is the Best Value?
Once you set aside the many sign-up promotions, Weight Watchers’ online My WW service is cheaper than Slimming World. The lowest cost option costs £13.95 per month vs. £20 per month for Slimming World.
As such, Weight Watchers wins on cost. However, it’s worth noting that neither diet scores particularly highly on making it completely clear on what you’ll end up paying.
WINNER? Weight Watchers.
As I explained at the start, I’ve personally used both diet plans and successfully lost weight on both too. I should emphasise that what I say in this section is my own subjective view. Things that appeal to me may not appeal to you, and my “normal” eating habits may well be different to yours too.
Weight Watchers does feel like being on a diet. However generous your allocated points allowance seems, the reality check soon arrives when you find out how many you need for a chocolate treat, or even something simple like a jacket potato.
On the “Green” plan, my preferred option, you need to keep track of the points in almost everything you eat, beyond the majority of fruits and vegetables. This does make it all feel quite regimented. However, the trade-off for this is that you can always be confident you’re accurately following the plan.
You can expect to spend a lot of time over the first couple of weeks looking up points, weighing things, and coming to terms with the fact that 30 grams of breakfast cereal really isn’t that much!
Slimming World feels way more relaxed. The inclusion of things like pasta and potatoes on the “free” list means you can have quite a lot of meals without touching your “Syn” points at all. However, the “Healthy Extras” take some getting used to in the early days.
There are also “Speed Free Foods” which theoretically allow you to lose weight even faster. You should expect to spend a lot of time consulting the instructions while you get used to all the technicalities.
The reality check you get when you start looking up the “Syns” is much the same as when you check out your favourite chocolate bar on WeightWatchers. You can certainly get through your “Syns” quickly. One quirk of Slimming World is that you get notably more “Syns” if you’re male. That meant I felt like I had a fair bit of scope, but I’ve no doubt I’d feel deprived of treats with the standard female allowance.
WINNER: Draw. Both diets have a learning curve and require you to do some weighing and tracking. Since I lost an equal amount of weight on both plans, it seems only fair to mark them equally here.
Weight Watchers App vs. Slimming World App
Both Weight Watchers and Slimming World have mobile apps, and you can also access the full functionality on their websites.
Broadly, the apps offer a matching set of features:
- The ability to record your weight as you progress.
- Search facilities for foods and ingredients to check the points or “Syns.”
- Tracking features for what you eat so you can stay on plan.
- Ways to log exercise / physical activity.
- Social and community features.
The Weight Watchers MyWW App
The MyWW app is very refined and intuitive. Its food database, which is the thing you’ll use most often, is well populated, whether you’re looking for the points in a snack, a recipe or an ingredient.
This is helped by the fact that the community can add pointed products which means that the majority of things you search for are already present. If not, you can input nutritional information from the product packaging and calculate points yourself.
The activity features are really well integrated too. Weight Watchers has partnerships with Aaptiv and FitOn, so you can access both video and audio-led workouts and know exactly how many “FitPoints” you will get if you complete one. This does really help you to stay motivated to exercise, and I found a couple of audio workouts that I enjoyed and was motivated to complete regularly.
Recipe searching is strong too, with recipe suggestions appearing when you search for specific foods. That said, despite the huge library of recipes, I did begin to feel that I was seeing them again and again after a few weeks.
There are lots of community features too, including access to support and what feels like a trimmed down and bespoke version of Instagram for My WW members. I did get involved with this in the early days, but soon started to think that if I was going to share photos of my meals I might as well do it on Instagram itself.
The Slimming World App
If I’d used Slimming World first, I’d probably have been quite happy with the Slimming World app. Unfortunately, when compared to the MyWW app it feels like a serious downgrade.
First off, there aren’t nearly as many foods in the database, leaving me to have to guess “Syns” or find something roughly equivalent.
The usability also isn’t as good. The Weight Watchers app does simple things in the background that you take for granted. If, for example, you want to log what you ate, it will automatically select the most likely meal time based on the time of day. But if you start logging breakfast later in the day, it will assume the next item you key in is part of that meal. It’s a simple thing, but it saves a bunch of time when you’re in and out of the app multiple times each day.
By comparison, I often felt like I was wrestling with the Slimming World app. There were similar annoyances with the website, with a separate search functions for ingredients and recipes, which kept annoying me.
The activity tracker is super-basic as well, with none of the features Weight Watchers includes to encourage exercise.
WINNER: Weight Watchers. Slimming World’s app is competent but feels almost primitive by comparison.
I cooked a LOT of recipes from both Weight Watchers and Slimming World. In both cases I found plenty of inspiration, both from the books, which I purchased several of, and the apps and websites.
Every week, I produced a menu plan, complete with the points or “Syns” pre-marked.
I cooked plenty of very enjoyable meals on both diets, and none that were a complete disaster. But there were a fair few that were a little uninspiring and mediocre. This is diet food after all.
Weight Watchers recipes tend to divide equally into big hits and rather bland and dull dishes that never make the menu plan more than once. They typically have fairly compact ingredient lists, and despite some sometimes sketchy instructions usually turn out as expected.
Slimming World recipes are often more exciting, but the cost of that is that they’re fussier and often have more ingredients you need to buy. As with many things on Slimming World, there’s often a focus on “fakeaways” and dishes that aren’t intended to feel like “slimming food.”
This tends to work with a varying degree of success. I’m not a fan of the unnecessary use of sweeteners, and they do pop up in quite a few Slimming World recipes. And while I made some very tasty meals on Slimming World, one pattern I did find was that recipes for four often didn’t scale down well to feed just my wife and I, with sauces often evaporating into nothing.
WINNER: Draw. Weight Watchers recipes are a little more consistent but also not generally quite as interesting. You’ll find plenty of hits and misses for both diet plans.
Books and Magazines
While I was comparing Weight Watchers vs Slimming World, I found that digging into their respective books and magazines was a good way to stay motivated and seek recipe inspiration.
Really there’s not a huge amount to choose between them. Both companies offer a small range of recipe books and a monthly magazine.
When it comes to the books, I’d say that the Weight Watchers titles have rather better production values and feel more like good quality books. But the recipes are a little “samey” and perhaps less inspiring than those in the Slimming World books.
The magazines both offer a mixture of recipes, weight loss stories, and other inspirational content. How inspiring each issue is is generally down to how many of the recipes grab your attention.
WINNER: Draw. Both Slimming World and Weight Watchers offer good books and magazines to get stuck into.
Snacks and Ready Meals
As well and books and magazines, Weight Watchers and Slimming World both have a range of snack foods and ready meals.
Let’s talk snacks first: The main thing Slimming World offers is a range of chocolate / cereal snack bars called HiFi bars. These count as a “Healthy Extra” or use just 3 “Syns.” They are FANTASTIC, with a taste and texture that doesn’t feel like a diet food. I got through stacks of them and was very impressed.
Weight Watchers offers FAR more variety when it comes to snacks, from crisps and other savouries to chocolate bars and biscuits. Some of these are great, and they certainly makes following the plan easier. I bought a cupboard full, so I could easily grab a two or three point “something” when the urge to snack struck.
However, it’s fair to say that Weight Watchers snacks are hit and miss. They’re also often very (artificially) sweet, which certainly helps them scratch an itch but doesn’t always appeal. One big fail was their plain chocolate bars, which seemed very appealing at just a few points each, but were inedibly bitter.
Conversely, the Weight Watchers protein bars are great – two points each and very filling.
The “hit and miss” theme continues when it comes to both Weight Watchers and Slimming World ready meals. Let’s face it, ready meals aren’t always that great at the best of times. Add in the fact they have to be low calorie and you can’t expect very much.
I bought lots of the ready meals to try out. While the Weight Watchers ones were often bland and uninspiring they were…OK. A couple were worth a repeat purchase, such as the chicken tikka masala. While it was far from exciting, genuine Indian food has extremely high points values on WW, so it scratched an itch here and there.
Slimming World ready meals are huge. As I’ve said, SW likes to fill you up with carbs so you don’t snack, and these meals were often bigger plates of food than I’d feed myself when I’m not dieting.
Unfortunately they’re just not very nice. Think large economy class airline meal that can your house smelling like the plane does after the food has come around.
I wish I could be more positive than this. Slimming World has obviously put a lot of thought into its ready meals, delivered through a partnership with Iceland. But having tried them all with an open mind, I still retain a considerable stock of them in my freezer and I just can’t see myself eating them. They don’t lack flavour, and some are OK, but – no – they don’t feel healthy, look healthy or smell healthy. I’m not a fan.
WINNER: Weight Watchers – but with a “notable mention” for Slimming World’s HiFi bars.
When comparing Slimming World vs Weight Watchers, you’ll notice that both sell themselves as lifestyles more than diet plans (allegedly).
But once you get into the detail of what’s on offer, Weight Watchers provides WAY more to motivate you to exercise, and lays it all out for you in an actionable way.
If you sign up to Slimming World Gold, one of the books you get is about ramping up your physical activity. But it’s not nearly as easy as the gamification of completing an online workout and immediately claiming your “FitPoints” for it.
The reality is that I end up doing more exercise on Weight Watchers because it feels like there’s far more incentive to. I found myself taking long Sunday walks in order to smash my FitPoints target the day before the counters reset.
In fairness to Slimming World, the theory is that you can still expect to lose weight regardless of if you make exercise part of your strategy. But I feel like they’re really only nudging you in that direction and not actively encouraging you.
WINNER: Weight Watchers.
Slimming World has an online notice board where you can post your food pictures and status updates, the same as the My WW “Connect” section in the app.
Both plans also give you access to lots of articles, and continually provide new seasonal recipes. There’s plenty to dive into and be inspired by regardless of which you pick.
Obviously you have the option of adding in “real life” meetings on both diets to, but it’s not something I chose to do so I won’t comment on that here.
WINNER: Draw – both plans offer extensive community features.
How Did I FEEL on Weight Watchers vs. Slimming World?
This section is a really important one, and the headline is that I felt WAY healthier on Weight Watchers. That said, it also feels more like you’re on a diet, which could be a notable disadvantage for some.
The fact is that despite their similarities, Weight Watchers and Slimming World are very different diets. Once into the flow of Weight Watchers, I tend to feel JUST full enough most of the time, and generally quite energised and, well, healthy.
On Slimming World I feel a lot more “up and down,” and that applies to both my weight and my mood. It’s all very well to be “allowed” to fill up on filling simple carbohydrates, but feeling full isn’t the same as feeling well. The Slimming World ready meals are a case in point: On the lunchtimes when I ate one I felt too full, and not with good nutritious food!
The irony is that Slimming World does encourage you to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. But in the real world, there’s a strong possibility you will fill up on carbs if you’re allowed to. On Weight Watchers, you tend to eat much more fresh produce because that’s what’s on offer.
When I’m on a diet I tend to weight myself a LOT. I feel it teaches me a lot about how my body is working. On Slimming World my weight fluctuates far more from day to day, although the overall weight loss from week to week tends to end up very much in line with Weight Watchers.
WINNER: Weight Watchers. Your mileage may vary, but my mind and body are much happier when I choose Weight Watchers vs Slimming World.
Before I conclude, let’s take a look at who I declared the winner for each section:
As you can see, for me at least Weight Watchers has emerged as the winner. It is, without question, my favourite of the two, and this analysis shows why.
However, I really should emphasise that that doesn’t mean it will be the best choice for everybody. I tend to eat pretty healthy food even when I’m not on a diet. As such, the more diet-like Weight Watchers recipes appeal to me. Some people may baulk at the idea of eating rather a lot of chickpeas, beans, chicken breasts and tomatoes! If that applies to you, Slimming World’s “fakeaways” and much more carb-heavy recipes could be a better fit.
I should also mention once again that I lost weight equally on both diets. They appear to work just as well as each other, so if the Slimming World method appeals to you more, there’s no reason to believe that Weight Watchers is inherently “better.”
But it’s definitely better for me, and will be by “go to” choice next time I need to lose some weight.
Weight Watchers Pros and Cons
- Great app that makes it easy to track food AND exercise.
- Built-in fitness and mindfulness workouts that make it feel like more than just a diet.
- A wide range of “pointed” snacks and meals to make snacks and light meals easy.
- Consistent weight loss.
- Following the plan “feels” healthy.
- Does feel like being on a diet – some meals, such as Indian takeaways, seem truly off-limits.
- Recipes can get a bit “samey” and some are rather bland.
- Constant evolution of the Weight Watchers plans mean you have to keep relearning when it changes.
Slimming World Pros and Cons
- Helps you lose weight consistently without feeling deprived or hungry.
- No limits on foods like pasta and potatoes.
- Delicious “HiFi” snack bars.
- Good recipes that don’t feel like diet recipes.
- Limited resources to encourage fitness.
- Ready meals aren’t very appealing.
- Easy to sabotage your weight loss if you binge on “free” foods.
- App and website could do with improvement.
Weight Watchers is Best For:
- People who are willing to put a bit of work into losing weight.
- People who already enjoy healthier food choices and want to learn about portion control.
- Those who enjoy (and are motivated by) fitness apps.
Slimming World is Best For:
- People who want to lose weight without feeling like they’re on too much of a diet.
- Those who don’t enjoy “healthy” foods and want to discover healthier versions of their usual food choices.
- People who don’t cook much and are used to eating ready meals.
While You’re Here:
- Read my article on Weight Watchers tips.
- Find the amazing Slimming World Hi-Fi bars here.
- Take a look this Slimming World Free Foods book on Amazon.