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 WW.
- Suppose you’d like to lose weight sustainably, be supported by a UK-registered dietitian or nutritionist, free yourself from the yo-yo dieting cycle, 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.
Weight management 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: WW and Second Nature
WW is a calorie-counting program
WW (Weight Watchers Reimagined, formerly Weight WatchersⓇ) considers food, activity, sleep and mindset to help you lose weight. The programme is based on the WW SmartPointⓇ system and is available in either digital or face-to-face format.
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.
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 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.
|Money back guarantee||Full refund if cancelled within 21 days. After this point, any charges non-refundable.
However, a termination fee of $49.95 applies if you cancel during a Commitment Plan.
|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 are ongoing||Ongoing subscription (minimum 12 weeks)|
|Easy to cancel||✓||✓|
|Easy to include family||✗||✓|
|Dietary approach||Low Calorie||Lower carb|
|Caters to vegetarian||✓||✓|
|Caters to vegan||✓||✓|
|Vegetarian/vegan recipe section||✓||✓|
(nutritional supplements are available to be purchased here)
(other than vitamin D)
|Tailors the plan around diabetes||✗||✓|
|Tailors the plan around other health issues||✗||✓|
(for meeting / meeting + digital plan)
|Access to a coach with expertise in nutrition||✗||✓</span style=”color: #000000;”>*|
|Weekend support available||✓||✓|
*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.
(Free recipe videos available on YouTube without signing up)
(Free recipe videos available on YouTube without signing up)
|Tracks custom habits||✗||✓|
|Education of nutrition science||✗||✓|
(Smartpoints® and Fitpoints®)
|Food diary feature||✓||✓|
|Meal planning tool||✓||✓|
|In-app journaling tool||✗||✓|
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 digital price plans on each program to show you how costs compare (as of April 2021). All admin fees are included in these prices.
Both programs include access to a coach throughout the program. However, qualifications vary.
With WW, coaches are past members who have been successful in the program rather than nutrition professionals. With Second Nature, your coach is a nutrition expert.
Another option to get support with your diet would be to have private sessions with a registered dietitian.
Weekly face-to-face sessions with a registered dietitian can be expensive ($70-$100 per session). We have added a column representing this to compare costs, labelled weekly registered dietitian (WRD).
Monthly digital subscriptions:
|Access to a coach with expertise in nutrition||✗||✓||✓|
|The same personal coach throughout the program||✓||✓||✓|
|Price||$21.95 / 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.
Example nutrition query response
Nutrition is a significant part of any lifestyle change. 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?
“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 highly nutritious, providing good quality protein and containing vitamins and minerals.”
Take home message
- When choosing a weight management program, it’s essential to consider what would fit into your lifestyle and help you achieve your goals.
- WW and Second Nature are both online and app-based programs, which is perfect if you’re always on the go.
- WW focuses primarily on diet and calorie counting using a points system which may not be sustainable in the long term.
- Second Nature takes a more holistic approach to achieve weight loss goals and uses behaviour change techniques to help you change your lifestyle.
- Face-to-face meetings (available with WW) work for some people more than others, depending on your motivation.
- Second Nature provides education in nutrition science, allowing you to make informed decisions and develop a healthy relationship with food in the long term.