Weight Watchers' reinvented program Beyond the Scale includes FitBreak app

By Jonah Comstock
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Weight Watchers has unveiled a new program called Beyond the Scale, which includes a new app called FitBreak. According to a recent Weight Watchers earnings call, the new program is partially a reaction to a perceived loss of business from free fitness apps.

"Weight Watchers is a plan that works," CEO James Chambers said on a Q3 call. "It is science-based, proven in a multitude of clinical studies and enjoys a strong brand position in consumers' minds rooted in efficacy and trust. This has never changed. Yet, despite this large unmet need and our leading brand position, we have struggled to attract members in recent years. Why? What has changed? Over the last few years, as the world appified and activity monitors experienced significant increases in penetration, our competitive frame shifted dramatically and we were competing for consumer attention with new competitors in new ways."

Chambers said the company has been pursuing a strategy to compete with new digital weight loss offerings since 2013. They've responded by integrating activity trackers into their app and they've concluded that today's weight loss customers are more interested in healthy food choices and increased activity than in "dieting and restriction".

"We have responded to this consumer reality, developing what is perhaps the most significant program innovation in our company's history," Chambers said. "Our new product strategy reflects this more holistic mindset as we expand our purpose from weight loss alone to more broadly helping people lead healthier, happier lives. With our launch next month, we will be unveiling a whole new Weight Watchers."

The new app, called FitBreak, will encourage Weight Watchers members to be more active. Members will get a personalized activity goal within the app. The app will also encourage the user to take "FitBreaks" throughout the day, composed of 70 different options, delivered in the form of one minute videos, for adding activity to their routine. The app also integrates with the existing Weight Watchers app. That app has been redesigned, and includes a new feature called Connect, a social tool for connecting with other members.

In addition to FitBreak, the Beyond the Scale program replaces traditional Weight Watchers points with SmartPoints, which more accurately reflect the different nutritional value of different foods -- rather than controlling just for quantity, the new point system will promote healthy food choices. It will also add more personalized goals for members.

The new system is in the midst of being tested, Weight Watchers says, in a six-month clinical study. After three months, they've seen a positive trend in weight loss, a reduction in food cravings and increases in stamina and flexibility. Oprah Winfrey, who announced in October she had joined Weight Watchers and its board, has been personally using the SmartPoints part of the plan since August.

Over Thanksgiving, a number of Weight Watchers users complained online about problems with the company's current app, BuzzFeed reported. Speaking with BuzzFeed, the company attributed some of these problems to ill-timed migration issues connected to the launch of the new program.