For Weight Watchers members, tools that make losing and keeping weight off easier, plus plenty of community support, are absolutely critical.
A new iPad app, the Weight Watchers Kitchen Companion, is designed to deliver both, by combining interactive, hands-on help with low-cal, healthful at-home cooking (from menu planning through shopping and preparation) and providing simple ways to share recipes.
There are two versions of the app on iTunes: One that's free/open-access, but more limited in functionality, and the full-featured version. The latter has been added to the suite of resources available to Weight Watchers Online subscribers ($47.90 for the first month, $17.95 for each month thereafter) and is also part of WW eTools, which are included in the membership fees for consumers who opt to attend traditional meetings. Online subscriber-members now number more than 1 million, according to WW.
Both app versions offer access to the latest 10 featured recipes (all recipes show "point" counts per the daily points system at the heart of the newly launched PointsPlus WW program) and the ability to save up to 10 favorite recipes, create custom shopping lists, get step-by-step instructions for recipes in the online cooking view, use an online cooking timer embedded in the recipes, watch videos on cooking techniques, share recipes with friends by email or Facebook, and browse through recipes in book view.
The full/paid version also offers access to thousands of WW recipes (including collections recommended by the editors), complete shopping/ingredients/equipment guides, more cooking primers/ techniques videos, use of the WeightWatchers.com Recipe Builder (for creating and editing recipes -- for instance, to reduce the number of "points" consumed by switching ingredients), and the ability to send your recipes to your WW "plan manager," a tool for tracking food consumption and activity and exercise levels.
Obviously, iPad owners can use these functions on the go (as in checking points in a recipe while food shopping), and WeightWatchers.com editor in chief Theresa DiMasi reports that Android-compatible WW app launches are planned for Spring 2011. However, she explains that the thinking behind launching Kitchen Companion first on the iPad was that its large, color graphic display makes it ideal for actually being used in the kitchen while cooking.
"While members of course eat out, and we provide them with ample help to make the right choices in those scenarios, we know that cooking at home facilitates success with the program -- and we also know that many people today don't know cooking basics," DiMasi notes.
WW began offering online tools/memberships about 10 years ago, and has been steadily building/enhancing the offerings since, according to DiMasi -- who notes that while the tools provided for men and women are largely the same, there are separate content areas and editors for the genders, to ensure that topics are relevant.
The WW online community area offers the ability to form groups, share challenges, swap recipes, read about hot message board topics, and create your own blog/read others' blogs (organized by topics like cooking, food, health, fitness, family and love/life. A newly added "What's New" blog, authored by WW staff, offers the latest news about site updates, tool enhancements, special events and tips for getting the most out of online subscriptions.
WW launched presences on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace about a year-and-a-half ago. Fee-based tools and content can be accessed through these, while open-access features include some content (such as a tab devoted to spokesperson Jennifer Hudson, with a blog, videos etc.), along with the usual posting/sharing abilities, offers and quick links to find local meetings or sign up online to become an online or meetings-inclusive member. Facebook fans/likes now number more than 438,000.