One of the oldest diet plans is once again soaring in popularity. It's not your mother's diet plan anymore.
A revamped program is winning customers back in big numbers. Weight Watchers International says 1.5 million people attend weekly group meetings. The company says attendance was up 18-percent last year.
This, despite a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that people assigned to the program for free lost only an average of seven-pounds after two years in the plan.
So what's behind the Weight Watchers come back? In 1997 the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson joined as a spokesperson and the company switched from pushing prepared food products to a new plan called winning points.
No food is off limits with the new plan; each food has a points value based on fat, fiber and calories. For example an apple is one point and a three once serving of chicken breast is three points. Members are given a daily points range based on their weight, about 20-25 points on average.
Members can also save up points for special occasions by exercising. Winning points gets good marks from dietitians for encouraging a variety of foods and exercise. Plus Weight Watchers is reportedly cheaper than the other top commercial diet plans. Last year Fortune Magazine found it costs $12 to lose a pound on Weight Watchers, compared with $45 for Nutri-System and $50 for Jenny Craig.