Keto Versus Weight Watchers

keto versus weight watchers

The keto diet and Weight Watchers (WW) are two of the most popular diets in the world. They are both backed by credible scientific studies about weight loss results, but that’s where the similarities end. In Weight Watchers, you count points, but in Keto you count carbs.

While keto followers avoid sugar to maximize fat burning and gain additional health benefits, Weight Watchers claims that users can eat the foods they like and still lose weight.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the research findings on each diet, their similarities and biggest differences, as well as their pros and cons. 

What is a Keto Diet?

Keto (ketogenic diet) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is thought to increase weight loss and provide health benefits. On a ketogenic diet, up to 75% of a person’s daily calories come from fat.

The keto diet has gained a lot of popularity recently, and I’m sure you know some people who are “going keto”.

What is the Weight Watchers Points System?

The Weight Watchers Association is a commercial weight loss program that uses a point system where each food has a point value and members earn a certain number of points per day. The WW system is a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet.

Similarities Between Keto and Weight Watchers

Both WW and keto require you to count something, whether that’s food points or nutrients.

Health Benefits

Losing weight, no matter what you do, can reduce the health risks associated with being overweight or obese – such as high blood pressure, heart attacks and cancer. Diabetes risk may be reduced by two types of diets.

Early studies suggest that a keto diet may help lower blood sugar (glucose) levels and avoid blood sugar spikes, which may help prevent or control type 2 diabetes. Small studies in 2017 and 2018 found a decrease in hemoglobin A1C levels, a measure of long-term glucose control, in people with prediabetes or diabetes who followed a ketogenic diet.

Several studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets in general can improve heart disease risk factors by increasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood and lowering triglycerides.

In a 2013 study of overweight or obese participants, adherence to WW was associated with a 10-month delay in the onset of diabetes compared to those receiving standard care. A 2016 study found that WW helped adults with prediabetes achieve lifestyle changes associated with diabetes prevention.

Weight Loss Effects

Both WW and keto topped U.S. News’ ranking of the best diets for rapid weight loss. However, WW led the overall ranking of best weight loss diets (tied with the other two), while keto ranked about in the middle.


In Keto and WW, there is room to make healthy food choices among the foods allowed. However, it is also possible to become obsessed with the amount of keto carbohydrates or WW’s food points at the expense of nutritional diversity.

Differences Between Keto and Weight Watchers

But beneath the surface, keto and Weight Watchers are two entirely different diets.

  • Hunger and cravings: One of the superpowers of ketosis is that it automatically reduces your appetite, which means you can potentially lose weight without counting calories. Weight Watchers can also be used for weight loss, but it doesn’t address hunger as effectively as keto, which is why you have to track points.
  • Food selection: There is one major restriction on the keto diet: most people should eat less than 30 grams of carbs per day. In contrast, WW is less restrictive because it allows you to eat any food (although unhealthy foods do cost more points).
  • Simplicity and ease of use: Keto is simpler and easier and is absolute. You have to count and limit carbs, but there are no points, meetings or other requirements to achieve ketosis and burn fat.
  • Weight regain: Evidence shows that most people who follow the Weight Watchers program regain at least some of their weight loss within two years. On the other hand, many studies suggest that ketosis may keep the weight off permanently.
  • Cost: Keto is free, all you need is a little time to educate yourself. But the Weight Watchers organization requires a paid subscription in order to stay active in the program.
  • Support: The Weight Watchers has built-in support. However, you can also find or make your own keto diet support group (free!) using social media or with your friends and family .
  • Health benefits: There is no doubt that fat loss through the Weight Watchers can improve your health. But so can other diets. Because keto reduces carbohydrates and raises ketone levels, it offers unique health benefits not found on any other diet, period.

Pros and Cons of Keto and Weight Watchers

Pros of Going Keto

Here are some of the positives of a ketogenic diet.

  • You’ll see a rapid weight loss initially. Almost everyone who does keto initially loses weight because when you eat carbohydrates, your body holds on to water weight. Often, people lose up to 10 pounds in the first week or two. Granted, it’s only water weight, but sometimes this rapid weight loss is the motivation you need to keep going.
  • For many people, keto reduces their hunger. There is some strong research, coupled with the experience of a large number of people, that keto foods can reduce hunger. If you struggle with persistent true physical hunger (as many of us do), keto can help.
  • Keto does work for most people if followed correctly. There is some debate, but in general I think it’s safe to say that for most people, if you follow it correctly, you will lose weight.
  • Keto is not magic. While there is a little bit of increased calorie burning, mostly ketosis comes into play because people are eating less. There’s a lot of talk out there that when you’re in a ketogenic state, your body burns calories like crazy. Well, it’s not. People in ketosis do seem to increase their calorie burn a bit, but it’s about 50-100 calories a day. That’s not nothing, but it’s not like you’re burning calories like a mad man either.
  • You get to eat some foods that were previously restricted, like butter, bacon, and heavy cream. For me, this is the fun part of keto. I cook my food in butter and eat my salads with lots of full fat ranch dressing. It feels weird and a little scary, but it’s also delicious.

Cons of Going Keto

Here are the downsides of eating a keto diet.

  • Keto is restrictive. Keto is very strict. It is more strict than paleo, it is more strict than low carb, and it is certainly more strict than WW. You don’t eat fruit at all, you severely restrict bread, pasta and rice. You even restrict vegetables, which makes me feel weird.
  • Keto is hard to maintain long-term. This is where most doctors and nutritionists have a problem with keto. Aside from restrictions on healthy foods, at the end of the day, few people can maintain it.
  • Keto might not be healthy. It’s controversial, but eating too little fiber and too few vegetables and fruits isn’t healthy in the long run. There is also some controversy about whether a state of ketosis is healthy for certain health conditions, such as low thyroid.
  • You might go keto and then eat too many calories and not lose weight. When I did keto, even though I followed it strictly, I didn’t lose any weight. It really doesn’t matter what diet you follow – if you eat too many calories, you won’t lose weight.

Pros of Weight Watchers

These are a few of my favorite benefits of WW.

  • You can eat any food you want. WW is not restricted. You can eat ANY food as long as it fits within your daily points target.
  • Weight Watchers is more balanced. The point system and zero-point foods are calibrated in a way that encourages you to eat healthier foods, which for many of us is a much wider range of healthy foods than we typically eat.

Cons of Weight Watchers

I love WW but it’s certainly not perfect. These are some of the downsides of the WW points system.

  • You can eat too many carbs or junk food. I think most experts can agree that the standard American diet is pretty crap. We eat a lot of carbs that provide calories, but no nutrition, which is not very healthy. While the WW customized program tries to change this, you can still eat a pretty junk diet and be on the WW “program”.
  • WW might be too low fat. WW really encourages a fairly low fat diet the way their system is set up. I think we may see a change in WW in this area as more studies show we need more fat. It certainly helps to eliminate hunger.
  • You can eat too many calories and not lose weight. You can eat zero food all day, but that’s not zero calories. You can binge on low portion foods and still not lose weight on WW.

Which is Better for Weight Loss?

Both WW and Keto diets may help you achieve short-term weight loss. Which diet is better for you depends on your individual needs.

WW may be a better option if you:

  • value the flexibility of eating any food you want
  • find the built-in structure and support of the WW program necessary to keep you motivated
  • are fine with the cost of subscription

On the other hand, keto may be a better option if you:

  • have type 2 diabetes or other blood sugar management concerns
  • find it easier to make healthier decisions when your food options are limited
  • are OK dieting independently or building your own support network

The Bottom Line

Keto and weight watchers are two very different types of diets. WW is a structured paid eating plan based on moderation, portion control and the WW SmartPoints system. It provides built-in social support at all paid levels of the program. Keto, on the other hand, is a low-carb, high-fat diet designed to put you into ketosis, thus making it easier for you to burn your own stored body fat for energy.

Both diets are effective for weight loss, but one may be better for you than the other for many reasons.

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