I like to keep a handwritten food journal, but I also use etools (the online version of tracking). When you first join WW, you are assigned a particular number of PP to eat per day (your PP "target"); this number is based on your height, weight, sex, age, etc. The minimum PP target is 26, which is what mine is. The PP target is the minimum number of PP we should eat per day.
On top of the daily target, everyone is given a weekly PP allowance of 49--these 49 "extra" PP can be used any time during the week. My week starts on Wednesday, and ends on Tuesday; therefore, I get a new set of 49 weekly PP every Wednesday. If any are unused by Tuesday night, they are gone--they cannot be carried over to the next week. The weekly PP can be used all at once; spread throughout the week; or not at all. It's completely up to the us how and when to use them.
Finally, there are Activity PP. These are not "given" to us at the beginning of the week; rather, they are earned throughout the week by doing exercise. The amount of Activity PP earned depends on the person's sex, weight, duration of exercise, and intensity. For example, I might earn 4 PP for a 3-mile run. The Activity PP earned can be used for food, just like the weekly PP or daily target PP. They don't *have* to be used; it's up to us how and when to use them.
As part of the PointsPlus system, Weight Watchers has recommended "Good Health Guidelines", or "Healthy Checks" on the app:
Drink 6+ cups of water per day (some other liquids count)
Consume 2 dairy servings per day
Eat 5+ servings of fruits/vegetables per day
Take a daily multivitamin
Consume 2 tsp. of healthy oils per day
Get 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
I admit, I don't follow these; but I wanted to make sure to point them out.
Food is assigned a certain number of PointsPlus, based on the number of carbohydrates, fat, fiber, and protein that food contains. When you eat, you calculate the PP you consumed, and then subtract it from the number of PP you are "allowed" per day.
To calculate the PointsPlus in a food item, you can use the calculator on etools (or use this free one online). You can calculate the PP in a recipe by one of three ways: 1) Enter the ingredients into the etools Recipe Builder, if you have etools; 2) Add up the carbohydrates, fat, fiber, and protein in the entire recipe by looking up those nutrition facts (using labels or a food database), then dividing each by the number of servings. Use the nutrition info per serving to plug into the PP calculator (or the free one I linked above). 3) Use the PP calculator to calculate the PP in each ingredient in the recipe, then add up the PP in the entire recipe, and finally, divide that PP number by the number of servings.
There are a couple of exceptions to calculating the PP in food items: 1) Most fruits and vegetables are considered "free"--ZERO PointsPlus; 2) Alcohol. If you try to figure out alcohol by the nutrition fact label, it won't be accurate (it will probably tell you that it's 0 PP, and while I wish that was true, it's not!). These have to be looked up, but as a general rule of thumb: light beer (12 oz) is usually 3-4 PP; regular beer is usually 4-5 PP; wine is usually 1 PP per ounce (minus 1 PP total--so a 5 oz glass would contain 4 PP, an 8 oz glass would contain 7 PP, etc); liquor is usually 4 PP per 1.5 oz shot.
Food tracking is kind of like balancing a checkbook--you start with your target PP as the balance for the day, then "withdraw" from that target as you eat throughout the day. When your balance gets to 0, you can either stop eating for the day, or you can take a little from "savings" (your Weekly PP or Activity PP).
It is up to the individual whether we choose to dip into the Activity PP first or the Weekly PP first. Personally, I like to use the Weekly PP first, and then when I run out of those, I start dipping into my Activity PP. The Activity PP don't have to be used on the day they are earned; they can be used any time during that current week.
I list the foods eaten, and then in the first numbers column, I write how many PP that particular item "costs". Then I keep a running balance on the right. My total PP was 26 for that day. The numbers at the bottom show Activity PP earned that day (and then the balance for the week is in the right column); the Activity PP used that day (again, balance in the right column); and then Weekly PP used, and the weekly balance (in this case, it was still 49 PP, because I hadn't yet used any).
Here is yesterday's food log, where I used some weekly PP:
When the balance got down to 0, I took 7 PP from my weekly allowance, bringing that balance to 42.
There are a few Weight Watchers "rules" that I change to fit my needs (for example, I don't do the "healthy checks", even though I probably should; I find when I try to do that, I get overwhelmed and it makes me quit altogether). Also, when I use just a touch of something--say, a squirt of ketchup on my eggs, or a splash of cream in my tea, etc--I don't count it. Even when I was losing weight the first time around, I wasn't completely perfectionist about a few extra calories here or there, and it never hindered my weight loss. I think it's important to make the program work for ME, so that I stick with it.
I find counting PP easier than counting calories, because you don't have to be so precise with measurements, and the fruits and veggies don't have to be counted at all. It's also easy to keep a basic tally in my head how many PP I've consumed that day; when counting calories, it's hard to remember the bigger numbers. Anyway, I hope this post helps explain counting PointsPlus a little better :)