Preventing Diabetes With Weight Watchers

How the Popular Lifestyle Program Supports People With Prediabetes

Window of the Weight Watchers Store

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Weight loss is a key component of type 2 diabetes prevention in people who've been diagnosed with prediabetes. It's not always easy to get started though, especially if you've never dieted before.

Here's where Weight Watchers (rebranded as WW in 2018 to reflect an expanded focus on healthy living) can come in. The well-known weight-management program is designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a recognized diabetes prevention program. It also offers a dedicated curriculum for managing prediabetes, the Weight Watchers Diabetes Prevention Plan (PDD), several times a year.

If you've been recently diagnosed with prediabetes, your doctor likely has recommended that you shed some excess pounds and get more exercise. Here's why: Losing just 5 percent to 7 percent of total body weight can significantly lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.

Weight Watchers can help you do that, and more, research has found. In one study, the basic Weight Watchers approach to diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle was found to be highly effective for helping people at risk of diabetes lose weight and improve both blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Benefits of WW for Prediabetes

Weight Watchers was not designed for people with prediabetes or diabetes (in fact, it was developed more than 50 years ago, before either of these health issues were a known concern). However, the scientifically-based approach to dieting the program has evolved into has features that in many ways make it ideal for starting—and sticking to—a way of eating (and living) that supports both weight loss and an overall healthier lifestyle for warding off type 2 diabetes in people who are at risk.

Simple Ways of Tracking Food Intake

Rather than have members count calories, WW uses a system in which an individual food is assigned a point based on calories, saturated fat, sugar (cutting down on sugar and other carbohydrates is vital for managing diabetes), and protein. This system is designed to optimize nutrition as well as weight loss. Members can track points manually, on the website, or by using the WW app (available for iOs and Android phones).

Slow, Steady Weight Loss

The number of points an individual on Weight Watchers is allowed per day is personalized based on height, weight, age, and gender. The goal is a healthy and maintainable loss of no more than two pounds per week, which for a variety of reasons is considered optimal for most people. This could be particularly helpful for people with prediabetes for whom keeping blood sugar levels steady is important.

Multiple Sources of Support

A diagnosis of prediabetes can be scary, but WW members never go it alone. A hallmark of the program is weekly workshops (formerly meetings), facilitated by a trained Weight Watchers Guide, at which members can share their experiences, celebrate their weight loss victories, and provide support and inspiration for each other. There also is a members-only social community, as well as personal coaching that's available 24/7 on the WW app.

A Focus on Fitness

Exercise is a vital component of prediabetes management. Not only does Weight Watchers encourage members to move more, exercise is factored into the program—also in the form of points: Specific physical activities are assigned point values. Based on how hard a member does a given activity and for how long, he or she may accrue enough points to allow for a food indulgence.

WW Guidelines for Preventing Diabetes

Being on Weight Watchers does not require eating—or avoiding—specific foods: You can eat whatever you like, as long as you stay within your individual points parameters.

If you have prediabetes, you may also need to keep an eye on your carb intake, however. Although Weight Watchers doesn't have a system for counting carbs, it does provide guidelines for making smart food choices for members who have prediabetes (as well as type 2 diabetes).

Weight Watchers Tips for Eating Well With Prediabetes
What to Eat What to Limit Tips
Plenty of fresh veggies, including leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.), asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes as well as fresh fruit Starch vegetables such as potatoes, plaintains, parsnips, pumpkin, squash, beans, and legumes Be aware of portions; so you don't have measure everything,  learn how to estimate by sight
Lean protein (skinless chicken or turkey, lean ground beef, fish and shellfish, egg whites, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, tofu) High-carb foods like baked goods, white bread and pasta Try not to eat too much of any one type of food: Variety is iimportant
Whole grains, including wild and brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet, and buckwheat noodles Sugary beverages such as fruit drinks and sugar-sweetened soft drinks Never skip meals
Adapted from Weight Watchers website; see citation in source list

A Word From Verywell

Although Weight Watchers is a proven, effective, and smart way to prevent diabetes, the program isn't free. Fees vary depending on how you want to follow the program (by attending workshops only, as an online member, or with the help of a personal coach, for example). However, membership sometimes is covered by health insurance, so if you're interested in joining, check with your employer or provider to first.

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