WW, formerly Weight Watchers, unveils new myWW+ program with more personalization, support amid COVID-19
WW International, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, is doing a reset.
The weight-loss and wellness company rolls out a new comprehensive program Monday focusing not only on food but activity, mindset and sleep, company officials shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
The Oprah Winfrey-backed company's new myWW+ comes with a more personal approach that can help with stress eating and lack of sleep, which have hit not only weight-conscious consumers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They want more support, they want more motivation, they want more inspiration but they want what they need,” WW President and CEO Mindy Grossman told USA TODAY. “And they want a certain amount of personal accountability.”
The program is an upgrade of the myWW program that launched last November with three customized color-coded plans simultaneously.
The food plans – green, blue and purple – aren't changing with myWW+ but the app has new tools related to food such as a meal planner and "What's in your fridge" to help members find recipes for the ingredients they have.
"This is the first time we have a significantly new tech-driven program innovation focused on all of our pillars that we know have a measurable impact on weight loss and wellness success," Grossman said, noting the personalization is backed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
WW, reported its third-quarter results Oct. 29 and ended the quarter with 4.7 million subscribers, which Grossman said was a record for closing the quarter.
'Power weight loss success'
Another new feature is the personalized "Weekly Check-in" on the WW app that provides a holistic view of progress. It creates a progress report and then a plan for the week by suggesting "actionable" goals.
Dr. Gary Foster, WW chief scientific officer, said the more a member uses the app, the more the program is personalized to them.
"It's easy enough to say eat less and move more," Foster said. "But we know that people do better when they're part of the community that we can certainly provide and when they're given really practical, actionable science-based strategies."
WW provides a community with both in-person workshops and virtual workshops on Zoom, which rolled out in March amid the pandemic after the company's physical studios temporarily closed. The virtual workshops are continuing and in December, WW will add an unlimited workshop subscription option.
“We’re a behavior-change company and weight is an endpoint," Foster said. "But the way you get there is through making behavior change."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stress during an outbreak can change sleep and eating patterns, and Psychology Today says, "We often start to eat (or not eat) in a conscious or unconscious effort to suppress or soothe negative emotions."
Oprah and WW
Oprah Winfrey, who has been candid about her weight struggles, said what clicked for her with WW was the daily accountability and that no foods are off-limits.
“It’s the most sensible, the most accessible because you can eat anything, you just can’t have everything, which is kind of like life,” Winfrey told USA TODAY in January before she and WW kicked off "Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus” tour in Florida. "So I love this idea of being able to make my own decisions about whether or not I’m going to waste my points."
The "queen of all media" became a spokesperson for the company in 2015 after becoming a member herself and purchasing 10% of the company.
Winfrey, 66, said as you age, health becomes everything.
“The older you get you just want things to be as in order and in shape as possible,” Winfrey said, adding her blood pressure and blood sugar levels have stabilized along with her weight. “Healthy for me is the new skinny. You are never going to see me trying to fit into a pair of jeans to suit anybody else again.”
WW and Winfrey wrapped up the nine-stop tour March 7, less than a week before Grossman and officials decided to close studios and transition to virtual live workshops. In May, Winfrey and WW started a free four-week virtual event to talk about health and wellness amid the pandemic.
More about myWW+
The new plan has a focus on key wellness elements. Here's what is part of the update:
Food: New meal planning tools, such as “Meal Planner” and “What’s In Your Fridge” allow for customization based on "what they want to eat throughout the week based on their eating preferences, time restrictions and the foods they have on hand."
Activity: WW says a redesigned activity experience gives members a new way to view and understand daily activity, weekly goals and progress over time. There are on-demand equipment-free workouts through in-app content from FitOn and Aaptiv.
Mindset: WW now provides its "science-backed mindset techniques in bite-sized audio sessions via new 5-Minute Coaching" with techniques "rooted in cognitive-behavioral, acceptance-based, and positive psychology sciences." Categories include Manage Eating and Help for Stress.
Sleep: Members can track sleep manually or synced through a wearable "to get tailored advice and learn practical, science-based strategies to improve sleep habits."
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko