Weight Watchers – what a great name for a diet plan huh? It’s genius in every way, to the tune of almost 3 billion dollars in fact.
The nearly 50-year old company is known for its famous points system and big name celebrity endorsements and is responsible for millions of fat pounds being shed over the years. But as you may have heard the company has switched gears a bit recently and updated its calorie counting system to a newer Points Plus system.
But are the changes for the better? And is Weight Watchers for you?
At first glance Weight Watcher seems like a fairly simple and straightforward eating regimen. While most conventional dieting requires user to count calories, Weight Watchers participants count points. The company provides a list of foods – each with a corresponding point value. Based on height, weight, age, and weight loss goals, followers are assigned a daily point allowance. It’s still calorie counting, just in disguise. And when you exercise or participate in activity you get to add more points, plus you get a certain number of “flex” points each week that allow some leeway with a cheat here and there.
One key area of criticism of Weight Watchers was the company’s belief that all calories were created equal. For instance, a diet cupcake and two slices of pizza might equal 23 points. If a person stayed on track with their points, the odd cheat was of no consequence. Junk food and generally unhealthier choices were assigned larger point values, leading followers to eat foods with lower point values. But there wasn’t much delineation between foods, carbohydrates, or other nutrients. An apple and a cookie might equal the same number of points for example.
Enter the new Point Plus system, which I view as a sliding scale. The half century company has wised up a bit and realized a calorie is not a calorie, and depending on sugar, fiber, and whether a food contains empty calories, it either penalizes the food with a higher point value, or assigns it a lower one if it’s considered more nutritious. So lower glycemic, high fiber foods will have lower values even if the total calorie content is the same as a box of candy. Makes sense in theory…
But remember the Weight Watchers program is famous for telling people they can eat anything in moderation, as long as they don’t go over on points. Well guess what, in the new “updated” system, fruits (sugar) are assigned a ZERO point value. So basically fruit is free food and calories, and you can eat as much as you want. Most vegetables receive the big ZERO too. Hmm…
Oh boy, I can feel the comments coming already. Truthfully I don’t care much for the Weight Watchers plan and never have?
Why? First of all, the point system is silly in my opinion. All the company has done is convert calories to point values and sell this as a program – to the tune of $40 per month. The daily point allowance? It’s just your daily calorie requirements again assigned a point value. Yes you get some help, and support group meetings are available, but I’m not sure you can’t find similar programs for free elsewhere.
But my biggest gripe with Weight Watchers is that the program as a whole lacks real nutritional education. Assigning points to chocolate cake, pizza, and burgers and telling people it’s okay to eat them as long as they don’t exceed their daily totals is not a good message in my opinion. It’s misguided and focused on body weight not health or the quality of the nutrients. And now telling people that fruit are ‘free’ calories? That’s crazy.
However I agree that you can’t argue with results. Millions of people have lost a lot of weight on Weight Watchers. But have they learned the “why” behind their food and diet? Do they know the basics when it comes to carbohydrates, proteins, fats, other nutrients, and their metabolism? I don’t think so.
Listen, Weight Watchers is certainly not the worst plan out there as it does raise conscious awareness of what people put in their mouths. And anytime that happens it’s a good thing and usually yields results. But because I feel the point system is a little pointless (ha) and that the system fails to explain the basic fundamentals of nutrition, I have to rate it…