Atkins and WW — formerly Weight Watchers — are two well-established, popular weight loss programs.
While both plans are intended to help you achieve long-lasting, sustainable weight loss, many important differences set them apart.
This article offers an in-depth comparison of WW and Atkins.
Get started with either program here
Here’s an overview of how each program works.
WW is a weight loss program originally founded in the 1960s.
The program uses a point-based system, assigning foods a certain number of SmartPoints based on their nutritional value and giving users a specific number of points to spend each day.
Some foods are considered ZeroPoint foods, meaning that they don’t count toward your daily budget of SmartPoints.
Members can keep tabs on their daily Smartpoints budget by tracking their food intake and physical activity on the WW app.
There are three WW plans available:
- Purple: offers the lowest number of SmartPoints with 300+ ZeroPoint foods
- Blue: offers a moderate number of SmartPoints with 200+ ZeroPoint foods
- Green: offers the highest number of SmartPoints with 100+ ZeroPoint foods
WW also has several membership options to choose from, including:
- Digital: includes access to the app, which provides meal planning tools, recipes, guided workouts, and community support
- Digital 360: includes access to the app, plus live and on-demand events, videos, and podcasts from Digital 360 coaches
- Unlimited Workshops + Digital: includes access to the app and unlimited in-person or virtual workshops
- 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital: includes access to the app and individual sessions with a WW coach
The Atkins diet is a popular low carb weight loss program.
The program offers several plans with varying amounts of net carbs, which is calculated by subtracting the grams of fiber from a food’s total grams of carbs.
The plans include:
- Atkins 20. This plan, which is the most restrictive, is recommended for those hoping to lose more than 40 pounds (18 kg). It’s divided into 4 phases, with the first phase cutting net carbs to just 20–25 grams per day.
- Atkins 40. This plan offers more flexibility for those who want to lose less than 40 pounds (18 kg), with 40 grams of net carbs permitted per day.
- Atkins 100. Designed for those who want to maintain their weight, this plan allows you to consume up to 100 grams of net carbs per day.
In addition to its diet plan, Atkins offers prepared meals and snacks to simplify meal prep.
Typical menus for each program are outlined below.
Unlike many diets, WW doesn’t ban any foods. Instead, it encourages you to make healthy choices by selecting foods with a low number of SmartPoints.
Each WW plan includes a specific list of ZeroPoint foods, which don’t count toward your SmartPoints budget. These foods are generally low in added sugar but rich in important nutrients like fiber and protein.
Some of the foods encouraged on WW include:
- Fruits: apples, oranges, berries, melon, peaches, and pears
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, and asparagus
- Lean proteins: chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, lentils, and tofu
- Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, oats, and couscous
You can include other foods in your diet as long as they fit into your daily allotment of SmartPoints.
Although your diet may differ slightly depending on which Atkins plan you select, here are some of the foods that the program encourages:
- Meat: beef, pork, lamb, and veal
- Seafood: salmon, trout, mackerel, and cod
- Poultry: chicken, turkey, and duck
- Non-starchy vegetables: asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, and tomatoes
- Dairy: full fat milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt
- Nuts: walnuts, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, and macadamia nuts
- Seeds: hemp seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds
- Healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
Atkins also offers a selection of fully prepared meals, bars, shakes, and snacks. Frozen meals from their menu include cheesy chicken risotto, beef teriyaki stir-fry, and shrimp scampi.
These items are available on the company website or at a variety of retailers throughout the United States.
Here’s a breakdown of how much each program costs.
The price of WW depends on the specific plan you select.
- Digital: $20.95 per month
- Digital 360: $29.95 per month
- Unlimited Workshops + Digital: $44.95 per month
- 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital: $54.95 per month
Most plans offer a discounted rate if you opt for a 3- or 6-month membership. Keep in mind that each plan tacks on a $20 starter fee for your first month.
You can follow the Atkins diet for free using the information outlined on the company’s website.
In fact, the company even offers free tools to help you stay on track, including shopping lists, meal plans, carb counters, and access to an online community.
Optionally, you can purchase one of the many books on the Atkins diet for more detailed instructions.
Premade meals and snacks are available for an additional fee. Frozen meals range from $3–$5 each, while Atkins bars and shakes typically cost $1–$2 per serving.
Research suggests that both WW and Atkins increase weight loss.
Several studies have found that WW may aid weight loss.
For example, a review of 39 studies noted that people who used WW for 1 year achieved 2.6% greater weight loss than a control group that received printed health information or fewer than 3 sessions of counseling (1).
Similarly, another study in 1,269 people revealed that participants who followed WW lost twice as much weight over 1 year as those who received self-help materials and brief nutritional advice (2).
While those who used WW regained some of their weight after 2 years, they still maintained greater weight loss overall than the control group (2).
In addition to promoting healthy eating, WW encourages members to engage in regular physical activity and create a positive relationship with food, both of which may benefit long-term weight loss.
Research suggests that the Atkins diet may boost weight loss as well.
One review of 10 studies compared 7 popular diets and found that Atkins was most likely to result in significant weight loss after 6–12 months. Plus, 75% of the studies indicated that Atkins may be effective for long-term weight loss (3).
Studies have also found that low carb and ketogenic diets — which closely resemble Atkins — may bolster weight loss.
Here are some of the other benefits that each program offers.
WW is simple and easy to follow. Unlike many other programs, it lets you create your own custom menu and enjoy your favorite foods in moderation.
You can also choose from several plans with varying degrees of flexibility.
For example, the Green plan is a good option for those who prefer more guidance and structure, while the Purple and Blue plans — which offer more ZeroPoint foods — are better for those who want a bit more wiggle room.
WW also offers membership plans that provide personal coaching or group workshops, which may be ideal for those who benefit from additional social support.
Plus, it encourages other healthy habits like establishing a set sleep schedule and engaging in regular physical activity, which can help you maintain your weight loss.
The Atkins diet is associated with several health benefits beyond weight loss.
The Atkins diet also provides clear guidelines, which may be useful for those who prefer a more structured program. Furthermore, the company offers varying levels of carb restrictions, making it easy to find a plan based on your goals and preferences.
It’s also one of the most budget-friendly diets available, as it doesn’t require any supplements or subscription plans to get started.
Here are some of the drawbacks to consider with each program.
Although many people enjoy the flexibility that WW offers, it may not be the best choice for those who prefer more structure and guidance.
If you select a plan with a lower number of ZeroPoint foods that requires you to track your intake of SmartPoints more carefully, the program may be somewhat time-consuming.
Additionally, since the program doesn’t eliminate any foods, you could technically eat numerous unhealthy foods that are high in added sugar, sodium, or fat while still staying within your SmartPoint budget.
Finally, WW can be relatively expensive depending on which plan you select and how long you stay on it.
The Atkins diet eliminates many healthy food groups, including nutrient-dense ingredients like whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables.
Depending on which plan you choose, you might also find that it’s too restrictive or difficult to follow.
Additionally, the Atkins 20 plan may be unsuitable for older adults, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or those with certain medical conditions. That’s because it’s too restrictive in calories and nutrients (9).
Ketogenic diets, including the Atkins 20 plan, may also cause flu-like symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headaches, and fatigue when you first get started — though these typically resolve within a few days (10).
WW and Atkins are two popular diets aimed at increasing weight loss.
Atkins is a low carb diet that provides detailed guidelines and doesn’t require you to purchase any products or membership plans.
Meanwhile, WW is more flexible and easy to follow, with options available for extra social support. However, it’s more expensive than Atkins.