Which lifestyle program should you join?
From our perspective, you have two options:
- If you want to count calories, track your food intake, weigh your macros, lose weight fast and have a higher risk of weight regain, you can consider MyFitnessPal or WW. In our opinion, WW might be the better option as they have more educational resources and support from coaches that can be motivating.
- Suppose you’d like to lose weight sustainably, be supported by a UK-registered dietitian or nutritionist, and follow a program trusted by the NHS and backed by scientific evidence published in the British Medical Journal. In that case, Second Nature might be the better choice.
Lifestyle programs can provide a helpful structure for your health journey when you feel out of control with unhealthy habits.
They can also be a great way to join individuals going on the same journey, which can be incredibly motivating.
Everyone is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a weight management program.
It ultimately depends on what suits your individual needs and what fits into your lifestyle. Some people want rigid rules and a quick fix, whereas others like more flexibility and a long-term lifestyle change.
To save you some tiresome research and help to answer some crucial questions, this guide compares two popular lifestyle change apps: MyFitnessPal™ and WW. We’ve included comparisons to the Second Nature program.
MyFitnessPal and WW are calorie-counting programs
MyFitnessPal relies on you logging food and exercise. Through logging exercise and meals, MyFitnessPal calculates the number of calories consumed and burned to try and help you achieve a calorie deficit (where you’re taking in less than you’re using up).
Counting calories and logging them in the app works well for some people. However, this can lead to obsessive tendencies and isn’t sustainable in the long term for others.
WW and Second Nature take a more holistic approach to weight loss but differ in their features and coaching support.
Like MyFitnessPal, WW focuses mainly on counting calories through their SmartPoints system. This is despite WW’s marketing as a sustainable weight loss and wellness program.
Is WW a strict crash diet?
WW uses a points system called SmartPoints to identify foods based on their calorie, sugar, protein, and saturated fat intake.
For example, foods high in sugar and saturated fat will be high in points, whereas most fruits and vegetables are 0 points and considered ‘free foods’.
You have a personal points target based on your current weight designed to help keep your intake lower, put you in a calorie deficit, and lose weight.
WW claims this approach is better than calorie counting and has no adverse psychological effects that people can experience when becoming obsessive about calorie counting.
However, dietitian, nutrition writer, and food psychology expert Abby Sharp delivered a scathing review of WWs new program on YouTube titled “Dietitian Reviews Weight Watchers (YEP, IT’S STILL REALLY REALLY BAD)”.
You can watch the full video here, but here’s a quick summary of Abby’s analysis:
- The new WW is “just expensive calorie counting”.
- The points system on WW to create a ‘food budget’ is unnatural.
- The ‘rolling over’ of points might mean people intentionally restrict themselves too much to then binge at the weekend.
- WW promotes restriction and binging cycles common in people living with patterns of disordered eating.
- WW demonises natural, healthy high-calorie foods like Brazil nuts. If you were to enjoy 28g of Brazil nuts, you’d use up half your SmartPoints for the day.
- The points system doesn’t help you identify the quality of the foods you’re consuming. Instead, it mainly focuses on a reductionist approach to calorie density.
The risks of calorie-counting and strict dieting
Strict calorie restriction risks putting your body into what’s known as ‘metabolic adaptation’. This is essentially a starvation response by your body when energy intake is very low.
This triggers a cascade of events designed to encourage you to eat more and continue to store fat. You might feel lethargic and hungry, and your mood might also experience a dip.
Because of this starvation response to strict dieting, Second Nature has taken a different approach – one where you determine what level of intake works for you, and surprisingly, it can lead to more weight loss in the long term.
Second Nature’s approach: Indulgent but supports weight loss
In 2022, the NHS published data in the British Medical Journal from the National Weight Management and Diabetes Prevention program, where five providers delivered weight loss services in the UK.
Interestingly, WW was one of the five providers in this national program but was removed due to poor results.
The results showed that after 12 months, Second Nature was more than twice as effective as the four other providers.
How does Second Nature’s approach work?
We approach nutrition and healthy eating differently. We don’t count calories, track macros, weigh food, or assign strict targets on your intake.
We provide you with evidence-based guidance on a balanced diet and teach you to understand what your physical and emotional drivers for eating are to reach your weight loss goals.
We also provide tools, such as our hunger scale and mindful eating techniques, that help you tune into your physical hunger cues and manage your food choices.
Alongside this, we help you build healthy habits that you can enjoy for a lifetime to help you maintain a healthy weight.
Our feedback inbox is filled with people like Jo, who lost over eight stone to achieve a healthy body weight on Second Nature after following our nutrition guidelines and receiving the support of our app and health coaches.
The difference is that members of Second Nature learn to love food again. They’re no longer restricted. They’re liberated.
If you’d like to join over 150,000 others who’ve joined Second Nature, lost weight and kept it off, then click here to take our health quiz.
Otherwise, keep reading as we look at other key differences and similarities between MyFitnessPal, WW, and Second Nature.
Did you know?
Second Nature was the first-ever digital behavioural change program commissioned by the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. It continues to be part of their weight and type 2 diabetes management service.
Trustpilot is a platform where consumers can leave reviews, and scores reflect overall customer satisfaction.
|Score||1.8 / 5
|2.1 / 5
|4.8 / 5
Want to make losing weight feel easier?
Second Nature uses science to help you make healthy choices, ensuring they stick in the long run. Join the 150,000 people on a Second Nature journey today by taking our quiz. We use your quiz answers to tailor our advice and support on the programme, to ensure you lose weight and keep it off.
|Money back guarantee||Full refund if cancelled within 14 days. After this point, any charges non-refundable.
However, a termination fee of $49.95 applies if you cancel during a Commitment Plan.
|There are no refunds for termination or cancellation of the premium service.||Full refund if cancelled within 14 days. After this point, any charges non-refundable.|
|Clear breakdown of costs||✓||✓||✓|
|Clear cancellation policy||✓||✓||✓|
|Length of program||All plans ongoing||Monthly and yearly premium membership available||Ongoing subscription (minimum 12 weeks)|
|Easy to cancel||✓||✓||✓|
|Easy to include family||✗||✗||✓|
|Dietary approach||Low calorie||Low calorie (calorie counting)||Lower carb|
|Caters to vegetarian||✓||✓||✓|
|Caters to vegan||✓||✓||✓|
|Vegetarian/vegan recipe section||✓||✓
(Meals and Recipes are limited to premium members)
(nutritional supplements are available to be purchased, here)
(Minerals and nutrients can be tracked within the food diary)
(Other than Vitamin D)
|Tailors the plan around diabetes||✗||✗||✓|
|Tailors the plan around other health issues||✗||✗||✓|
(for meeting / meeting + digital plan)
|Access to a qualified nutrition specialist||✗||✗||✓</span style=”color: #000000;”>*|
*Second Nature coaches are all UK-registered dietitians or nutritionists. This means they have completed university-accredited degrees to gain this professional title.
However, coaches are not registered in the US, so they don’t meet the regulatory requirements to be considered US-registered dietitians or nutritionists.
|Exercise videos in app||✗
(Free exercise videos available on YouTube without signing up)
|Recipe videos in app||✗
(Free recipe videos available on YouTube without signing up)
|Makes you take numerous body measurements||✓||✓||✗|
|Tracks water intake||✓||✓||✓|
|Tracks custom habits||✗||✗||✓|
|Education of nutrition science||✗||✗||✓|
|Requires calorie counting||✓||✓
(Via Smartpoints® and Fitpoints®)
|Food diary feature||✓||✓||✓|
|Meal planning tool||✓||✓||✓|
|In-app journaling tool||✗||✗||✓|
MyFitnessPal is within the Under Armour Connected Fitness™ portfolio and connects to Under Armour Map My Run for Exercise tracking.
When programs provide price plans in different formats, it can be hard to compare prices accurately.
To make this easier, we have calculated the price of monthly basic price plans on each program to show you how costs compare (as of December 2022).
On the surface, MyFitnessPal and WW have a lower membership price than Second Nature.
However, Second Nature is the only program offering access to registered dietitians or nutritionists. On the WW program, your coach is a previous member, and MyFitnessPal does not offer a coach option.
Registration to a professional body requires a nationally recognised nutrition or dietetics degree.
Weekly face-to-face sessions with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be expensive ($40-$100/hour). We have added a column representing this to compare costs (Weekly Nutritionist – WN).
Monthly digital subscriptions:
|Access to a qualified nutrition specialist||✗||✗||✓||✓|
|The same personal coach throughout the program||✓||✗||✓||✓|
|Price||$21.95 / month||$9.99 / month||$60 / month||$350 / month|
If you were to opt for the Weight Watchers® face-to-face group meeting plan, it would be more expensive.
Pricing for MyFitnessPal is based on the $9.99 monthly premium price. If you commit to a 12-month subscription, the monthly cost decreases. But note that refund cancellations are not available.
Example nutrition query response
Nutrition is a significant part of any weight loss journey. Therefore, it’s essential to receive accurate and reliable nutrition advice.
We asked each program a common nutrition-related query to see how the information provided as an answer compares.
Q: Are eggs bad for your cholesterol? Should I avoid them?
Answers from MyFitnessPal are computer generated; therefore, MyFitnessPal does not answer your direct question. It however does link you to an article within the knowledge base.
“Protein is found in a variety of foods: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and even grains.
From a dietary perspective, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and soybeans are complete proteins; that is, they provide all of the amino acids required by our body.
Other protein foods like legumes, some nuts and seeds, and grains, don’t provide adequate amounts of the essential amino acids by themselves but can when eaten in combination with other foods and as part of a balanced diet.”
Full article on Protein by MyFitnessPal can be read here
“There is no need to avoid these, you can go to the gov website and get the correct information on this”
Second Nature’s answer:
“Eggs are a rich source of dietary cholesterol. It was previously thought that cholesterol-containing foods increase blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and strokes.
However, this is not the case, as dietary cholesterol is poorly absorbed from the digestive system. If cholesterol is absorbed, the body will produce less to balance out (and prevent blood cholesterol levels from rising).
Therefore, you do not need to be restricted unless recommended to do so by your GP/Healthcare professional. Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet, providing good quality protein and containing vitamins and minerals.”
Take home message
- When choosing a weight loss program, it’s essential to consider what would fit into your lifestyle and help you achieve your goals.
- MyFitnessPal and Second Nature are online and app-based programs, whereas Weight Watchers® has an optional face-to-face meeting plan.
- Second Nature is the only program where you get a registered dietitian or nutritionist personal health coach.
- Customer support is available on the Second Nature program and Weight Watchers, but only Second Nature health coaches are qualified to answer nutrition queries.
- Customer support is extremely limited on MyFitnessPal; most of the time, your queries will be referred to the existing knowledge base by bots (computer-generated replies).