FYI, unless I specify otherwise, the points I'm referring to is the OLD WW plan (Momentum)--not the new 2011 plan. Also, keep in mind that this is only MY OPINION.
Did you count WW points or calories to lose weight?
Both. When I first started losing, I was counting points because I had the materials at home already. I kept a paper journal to keep track of points used, and I used Sparkpeople to type in my recipes to calculate the nutritional info per serving (and I determined the points from that). After a while, I started counting points AND calories, and then eventually just switched to counting calories.
Were you a Weight Watchers member? Did you do the online program?
No, I was not a member, and no, I didn't do the online program either. I had been a member in the past (numerous times) and had only bad experiences with it (see below for that story), so I chose to do it on my own. I weighed in at home once a week and followed the WW program of counting points.
Why did you switch to counting calories instead of points?
As I lost more and more weight, my points values dropped (per the WW program). I felt like I was STARVING all the time, and so I decided to see how many calories I was getting while counting points. I discovered that some days, I was only getting 1000-1200 calories and others I was getting 1500-1600 calories, while eating the SAME NUMBER OF POINTS per day. It just depended on what food I was eating. You all know I have a love affair with nut butters, and one serving of nut butter was about 1/4 of my allotted points for the day, even though it was only 190ish calories! No wonder I was starving. I could understand if I was eating complete junk food, but nut butter is healthy--and I felt like I was being punished for choosing to eat it. So I started to count calories instead of points, and I felt much better.
I no longer felt like I had to eat a perfect serving of something in order to get a full point worth. For example, if 1 Tbsp. of jam was 1 point, I would always eat the full Tbsp., because 1/2 Tbsp. was also 1 point. But when counting calories, I could eat 1/2 Tbsp if I wanted and count just the calories--I didn't feel like I was getting gypped out of 1/2 point of food. If you think of it in terms of money, it would be like paying $1 for a large soda or $1 for a small soda--naturally, you'd want the large because you're paying the same price. Does that make sense? When I switched to counting calories, there was no manipulating the serving sizes to get the most bang for my buck, so to speak.
Do you recommend Weight Watchers?
There are positives and negatives to the program (in my opinion) so I will spell them out for you...
- Counting points is easy to keep track of in your head. When you get, say, 25 points per day, it's not hard to keep track of the math throughout the day. So if you don't like to write things down, this could be helpful.
- It's easy to memorize the number of points in your favorite foods, so you don't have to look up foods in a book or online forever.
- For someone who is used to eating complete junk, they will learn that choosing healthier foods will allow them to eat more than if they choose the junk. Weight Watchers also has guidelines that urge you to choose healthier foods.
- There are certain "free" foods (non-starchy veggies) that you don't have to count against your points. You can bulk up meals with veggies and not have to count them.
- When counting points, there really isn't a difference between healthy fat and unhealthy fat. WW tells you that you should choose healthy fat, but when calculating the points for a food with fat, the type of fat is not a factor. So if you enjoy foods with healthy fat, like avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, etc, you will feel like you're being punished for choosing those foods.
- It's easy to manipulate the program to get more food for the same number of points. You might learn that something with 40 calories is 1 point, but if you have a serving and a half, it is ALSO just 1 point. So naturally, you'd choose to have more.
- You can essentially live off of junk food--processed food with lots of added chemicals. WW encourages you to eat fruits and veggies and whole foods, but many people eat frozen dinners, packaged cookies, etc, and count the points for it. (This is also true of counting calories, not just counting points). For example, if a packaged muffin calculated to 1 point, you could have that or you could have an apple for 1 point. Naturally, if you like junk, you'd want to choose the muffin.
- You have to pay for the materials and/or the cost of being a member or using the online program. It can be expensive!
|A random day from my Weight Watchers food log|
To be fair, I will also post positives and negatives for calorie counting.
- You truly get what you pay for (in calories, that is). For example, if 55 grams of cereal is 210 calories, then you could shave a few grams off and have 50 grams for 191 calories. You cannot manipulate the system to get more for free ;)
- There are many FREE online programs that you can use to track calories--my personal favorite is Sparkpeople. I also like My Fitness Pal.
- If you are very honest with your food tracking, it WORKS.
- You don't have rules to follow or special "phases" to go through. You just weigh/measure your food and track the calories. Very simple.
- It's hard to memorize the number of calories in food items, and it's nearly impossible to keep track of calories without logging it (either on paper or online). Doing the math in your head is very difficult.
- There are no "free" foods, such as veggies. You have to count everything.
- Because calories are much more specific than points, you have to be very accurate when weighing or measuring your food. "Eyeballing" doesn't really work when counting calories.
- You can eat tons of junk food and lose weight, if you're counting the calories, which makes it harder to make healthy choices. There is no "reward" for making healthy choices.
|Random day of calorie counting on Spark (hopefully it's readable)|
Overall, I think Weight Watchers is a great program for people with a lot of weight to lose (you get enough points that you won't feel like you're starving). It teaches you healthier foods to eat, and encourages you to eat them. It definitely WORKS, if you follow the program. However, for someone with less weight to lose, I think counting calories is better, because you can make sure you're getting enough calories. (Like I said, I was not getting nearly enough calories when I was down to 20-24 points per day).
I also think Weight Watchers is a good program for people that don't like to write down their food intake, because it's easier to track points in your head than it is calories. However, if you tend to be a bit of a perfectionist (like me) then you'd probably like counting calories better. For someone who is just starting to lose weight, all the numbers of calories can get confusing; so counting points might be less overwhelming.
Why didn't you go to the meetings or do Weight Watchers online?
As I mentioned before, I'd had nothing but bad experiences at the WW meetings. I also tried the online program for 3 months, and wasn't impressed. I'll spell all that out for you here...
Meetings--When I was fat and joined WW, I felt like the only thing they cared about was my money. I think it was about $11 per week that I had to pay. The meetings consisted of a weigh-in (which was done just before the meeting, and it was private (they don't announce your weight or anything); and a 30ish minute meeting where the leader would pick a topic to discuss. I never once felt like the leaders or the receptionists truly cared about whether I lost the weight, as long as I paid my dues.
The first 5-10 minutes or so of the meeting was simply the leader handing out stickers to members that reached a milestone or members that just had a good week and wanted to acknowledge that. The meetings, I felt, were usually dominated by one member who insisted on talking about herself and her problems/successes the entire time. I found it really annoying to hear a member go on and on about how she doesn't like vegetables and never will and that means she'll never lose weight, etc.
The leader would try and talk about a topic for a few minutes (I remember at my first meeting, the topic was BLT's--bites, licks, and tastes--and how those can add up and be bad for your weight loss. I never really learned anything at the meetings, because it just seemed like common sense to me (I think I've gone to a grand total of about 25 WW meetings in my life, at about 4 different WW centers).
The worst experience with going to a WW center was just recently. In January 2011, I went in to buy the new materials for the 2011 program. I was only about 130 pounds at the time, and a small size 4. The receptionists were SO RUDE to me, and one even made a snide comment implying that I really didn't need to be there. (She had no idea that I'd just lost 120+ pounds). Then they told me I wasn't allowed to buy anything unless I became a member, which I thought was really stupid. Again, it was all about the money for them! I'd been buying 3-month food journals there for over a year, and suddenly I wasn't allowed to buy that unless I became a member?! Registration happened to be free that week, so I "joined" for one week just to buy the new materials. The receptionists were
Online--I did not feel that this was helpful AT ALL for someone that isn't familiar with the program. Thankfully, I already knew the program like the back of my hand when I
What do you think of the new (2011) Weight Watchers program?
I tried the new program for 2 weeks, and I actually ended up gaining weight on it. I thought it would be fun to try something new, and it was, but I quickly found that I hated the new program. While I'm not a vegetarian, I eat that way a lot of the time--and I found that most of my favorite vegetarian dishes were LOADED with points. Not because they were "junky" but because they usually contained beans or lentils of some sort, and maybe starchy veggies. The new points system calculates the points values based on carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber. Carbohydrates play a big role in it, and since beans and starchy veggies have a lot of carbs, I (again) felt like I was being punished for choosing those foods.
I was used to eating quite a bit of fruit (I love fruit!) and fruit is a "free food" on the new program. So I didn't cut back on my fruit intake at all, and I think that contributed to the weight gain that I had. I wasn't eating a TON of it--maybe 3-4 pieces of fruit per day, one of which was a banana. Again, this was an attempt to get people to make healthier choices. I am very knowledgeable about health and nutrition, so I like to make my own decisions and not feel punished for it. That is why I like counting calories vs. points.
Another thing that I wasn't crazy about with the new program is that it is hard to estimate points in a food. With the old program, I could pretty accurately guess the number of points in just about anything--but with the 2011 program, I could be off by many many points.
So, I hope this has answered your questions about me and Weight Watchers. I don't want to come off as too cynical about the program, because it definitely CAN be a great program for some people. It certainly helped me to lose weight in the beginning. As I progressed into healthier eating, I just found that WW wasn't for me. However, even now, sometimes I'll count points instead of calories if I'm going to have a super busy day--if I don't have time to calculate my calories, I just add up the points in my head to stay accountable.
Update (1/16/2013): I decided to give Weight Watchers another chance in September 2012, by joining their online program. I did really well with it, and surprisingly enjoyed the program this time around, so I joined the meetings with just 5 pounds to lose. I reached my WW goal weight, and am now a Lifetime Member!