Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to count Weight Watchers PointsPlus

Since I've been back to counting PointsPlus (PP), I've gotten several questions about the program--how and when to use activity PP or weekly PP, calculating PP for recipes, etc. I don't work for Weight Watchers, nor am I associated with them in any way, but I know the program like the back of my hand, so I thought I'd write a post explaining it the best I can.

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.

Here is a page from my food log where I only at the minimum 26 PP (this is rare that I only eat 26 PP--usually, I use some of my weekly or activity PP as well):


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 :)

37 comments:

  1. Why does fruit not count in your points plus? While fruit is good for you, it obviously has calories. So why does ww deceive their members by saying any fruit has zero points? Do they have a clue over there at WW? I guess this is why so many people gain their weight back from WW dieting and how they make their money on "lifetime memberships". They don't teach properly.

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    1. Eh- I count calories regularly, and probably under count fruit and vegetables on the regular because at the end of the day- it's fucking fruit and vegetables. Vegetables have calories too, they're just minimal. It's not processed. It's natural. I'm not putting sugar or peanut butter on it. Unless you're eating a ton of other non fruit/vegetable food and then eating an insane amount of fruit, it's not going to matter. Ultimately, your salty with WW so go to them and ask that question. Deceive their members? Ugh, come on.

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    2. I find it so typical that it's always the "anonymous" users that have something bad to say! If you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all!

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    3. I have never done WW, only counted calories, but the idea behind their program is to make it sustainable long-term. It is more important for people to be successful in staying "on plan" than it is for that plan to be perfect. Having all fruits and vegetables be zero PP encourages members to make a habit of eating them, choosing the apple over the 100-calorie pack of cookies. How many people get fat because they eat too much fruit? Having something be "free" takes a lot of stress away from the whole counting points thing. And if you've used all your daily and weekly PP and are still hungry, you can munch on some carrots or a pear and not worry about it rather than thinking "I'm still hungry, this isn't working, anything I eat now will put me off-plan so I may as well have a couple of those cupcakes." I know for a fact that kind of "screw it" thinking comes into play for a lot of us who are trying to follow a plan. The zero-point fruits & veggies gives you a healthy "out" that doesn't make you feel like a failure and then want to quit.

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    4. Lisa, that explanation is brilliant! You explained it very well :)

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    5. I have lost 86 pounds on Weight Watchers, and find that counting fruits and vegetables as 0 points plus is VERY helpful. You don't overeat apples or carrots or bananas--you DO overeat chocolate and peanut butter and cookie dough. Obviously fruits have calories and sugar, but if you're not overdo-ing it, you're doing yourself and your body a favor with those nutrients, so WW is encouraging people to eat them. :)

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  2. Feel better now "angry colleen"? Do yourself a favor and do some research about "fruit" before you just mindlessly take what WW is saying as gospel. Or if you prefer, just believe everything they tell you and battle up and down weight loss your entire life. Ugh Come ON!

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    1. You've obviously got nothing better to do than to sit here and bad mouth everything that you're reading! -Get a life!

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    2. I do feel better, Anonymous, thanks. I don't follow WW. I never have. I struggle with up and down weight loss, and in the past disordered eating and exercise. Currently, I'm just trying to keep the 10-15 lbs off that is easy to gain as an adult American in an office job. I like what WW has to offer, though. It's not a fad diet. It's a way to learn about nutrition and balance. People don't get fat from eating too much fruit and vegetables. Many people who are struggling are doing so because they're not getting a properly balanced diet. So, WW gives you a plan that can work for everyday life. When all you think about all day is food and what you can't eat, it's nice to know that a cup of strawberries isn't going to derail your day, and you get to eat something that taste good! It also trains your body to want fresh food. You start to crave it, and processed food makes you feel like crap so you stop eating it. This is good! Encourage people to eat fresh fruit and veggies! It doesn't work for everyone, but Katie likes it, and it's worked for her, so I guess I don't understand why I'm the angry one when you're posting random rants about fruit on a how to calculate WW points. To be fair, I'm projecting my own frustrations on this blog. It frustrates me when people chime in on my diet when my diet works for me. Maybe you're doing the same. But Christ on a cracker....

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    3. Hmmm. I wonder how many WW points to count if I have a "Christ on a cracker."

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  3. I think Anonymous makes a good point, and Katie should refund whatever amount of money Anonymous paid to the RunsForCookies.com blog.

    Oh. Wait. You mean she didn't pay anything? She's just here reading because she wants to and hasn't paid anything? Well, then, that changes everything.

    If you disagree with WW, I bet they have their very own website and groups and meetings. Go there. But this blog is one woman's journey - what works for her and what doesn't - so the rest of us don't get a vote in what words she writes. We can either choose to read it or choose to not read it, but we don't get to control the words she chooses.

    And lastly, posting as "anonymous" pisses me off. For all we know, you're secretly a Jenny Craig group leader trying to make WW look bad. Or maybe you're a plastic surgeon who thinks everyone should have surgery, instead. How can we know? You're anonymous, remember?

    Oh, one last thing. "Angry Colleen" I like you. You're sassy.

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    1. Well said, John and Colleen! There isn't one perfect solution to a healthy life...if there was...trust me, we'd all be on it! Everyone has to walk their own path and find what works the best for them and their goals. And "Anonymous," here's a tip: Judging others will definitely not burn those pesky calories!

      Keep on keeping on, Katie!

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    2. Hey, don't judge all of us that post as "Anonymous" - some of us are just weird about being on the interwebs.

      -Different Anonymous Person. (DAP?)

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  4. Yeah what he said!! ☝ ☝ ☝ ☝ ☝ ☝

    But on a serious note... How many WW points is "Christ on a cracker"? Just put some ZERO point fruit on it & I bet its delicious! LOL 🍇🍎🍍🍒🍉🍓🍌 mmmmmm zero points never tasted so good!!! Silly little rabbit!

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  5. Thanks for the explanation Katie. I was wondering what the numbers on your log meant. Are PP the same as points used to be? I haven't done WW in a few years-- did they change the algorithm? Did the point counts for foods change when they went to PP?
    BTW I really like how you've managed to incorporate it into your life, tweaking it to make it work for you. When I get too rigid about things, I tend to give up in frustration.

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    1. Thanks, Maryann! Yes, it's important to note that this explanation is for the PointsPlus program, which is different from the old Points. Points are calculated by using the calories, fat, and fiber in a food; PointsPlus are calculated by using the carbohydrates, fat, fiber, and protein. On the Points plan, you are given fewer daily and weekly Points, and fruit is not "free".
      I originally lost weight on the Points plan, but then in 2012, I started doing PointsPlus to get back to goal. I prefer the PointsPlus plan, but either one will work!

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  6. To misinformed anonymous, first if all you're wrong for criticizing someone else and what works for them. I have been on weight watchers and the first time was back in the late 80s. Me heb they changed their program this time do that most, not all, fruits and veggies had zero points they increased the points of other foods so as to encourage eating healthy free snacks while other food points went up. If you take the points and convert them to calories then if you're earing a balanced diet like they teach you'll be in the right calorie range. No one got fat off of only fruit and veggies, unless you're adding a shit ton of other foods to them. There is no deceiving on WW part. It's a proven fact that unfortunately about 80% of people who lose weight will gain it back. It's an endless lifetime struggle for most. The CDC even encourages programs like weight watchers because they're not gas foets of prepackaged processed food that can sit on your shelf forever but learning to eat for life using a balance of food. You can have your "cheat" foods but as long as you stay on plan you will lose. People don't gain 100lbs overnight or in a week and they sure as hell won't lose it in a week either. It's a process. No one forced you into this site so to come on here and criticize how one person chooses what works for them is ridiculous and cowardly (anonymous). Take your WW and other frustrations elsewhere bc there is no need for negativity here. This site is written by a very inspiring women who opens herself up to us daily. If you don't like it...read something else and leave your negative attitude elsewhere. I'm going to go have a Christ on a cracker, I'm hungry and don't feel like adding any points yet,think I'll have it with some fruit. ;)
    Oh and Maryann, WW has updated their points so if you like the plan I suggest you get the most updated version. It's worth the investment.
    Ok, my rant is over.

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  7. Katie, you are awesome and inspiring -- and I read your blog because I like it not because I'm trying to lose weight (I'm a former binge eater who now is normal weight and an intuitive eater). I'm with the others who posted here about Anonymous--you are a cowardly jerk who is criticizing someone who generously shares her life journey with us. Go away, and if you need to criticize, at least put a face and a name to it.

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  8. Oh, my, this is not at all what I intended this post to turn into! LOL. I understand Weight Watchers is not for everyone. I happen to really like the program, and I know a lot of others do, too. I just wanted to explain how it works, in case it was confusing to someone who was thinking of doing it or who just wanted to understand what I've been writing about lately :)

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    1. haha I was going to comment & then I saw this so then I HAD to read why you needed to post it. Oh boy. I think it's fantastic, as usual, that you share what works for you. WW can be done in a thousand different ways, which is why so many of us use it. I think it's really important to talk about the need for personal choice, interpretation, and flexibility. Bc for most people who've struggled with weight/eating, any time things get too confined and rigid it is game over. But I love WW! :)

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  9. Did you count regular Points back in the day? The last time I was on Weight Watchers was 2008 and I really liked the regular Points system. I lost the weight and kind of doing a "maintenance mode" the past couple of years without really counting any points. I put on some weight recently however and would like to go back to counting Points. But the Points Plus confuses me so much! I have the old regular Points calculator. Just wondering which version you preferred?

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    1. Yes, Amanda, I did the regular Points plan (I think it was called "Flex" then) in 2009-2010 when I lost the weight. After putting 25 pounds back on in 2011-2012, I started the PointsPlus plan, which brought me back to goal. I prefer the PointsPlus plan, because of the "free fruit" (when a banana is 2 Points, and a WW brownie is 2 Points, it's very hard to make the healthier choice! haha). But honestly, either plan works! If you prefer the Points plan, and you have the stuff for it already, I'd use that. I was really confused by PointsPlus at first, too! It was like learning an entirely new program. But now it's pretty simple. Good luck!

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  10. Since vegetables are 0 points and you seem not to consume enough of them... Why not? Wouldn't you feel fuller if you grabbed some raw vegetables when feeling, as you say, "snacky"? Or adding a salad or vegetable soup or plain steamed vegetable to meals? I would be so hungry eating what you eat and I am a small person exercising less than you are.

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    1. If I liked raw vegetables, that would be the perfect solution for when I feel like snacking! But in all honesty, I just don't like them. I do mix vegetables into a lot of the dinners I make. Stew, for example--I use very little meat and lots of veggies, but I don't write it out that way on my planner. I eat the vegetables I enjoy.

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    2. I'm the same way. I really wish I loved raw veggies, but I just don't. I try to use a lot of them in cooking as well.

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  11. I liked your comment about "using a touch of something" and not counting it. I used to be so meticulous about counting every single little thing (I count calories and macros instead of WW points), but I had to remind myself that the dash of cream in my coffee is not what makes me gain weight.

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    1. I used to be pretty meticulous at first, too, but it was exhausting; finally, I decided not to count the little dashes here and there, and I continued to lose the weight. It makes the program easier, so it works for me :)

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  12. Ugh! Google ate my post! I'm curious about your statement about liking WW because you don't have to be precise with your measurements of food. That seems a really important part of WW - always has been for me because portion control is my big problem! I LOVE healthy food, but I can eat a truckload of it!! Do you measure your meals? I noticed that you don't included measurements, but maybe you just don't record. I think readers who don't understand the program would be curious just how much egg whites, potatoes and cheese you get for 5 pts! Also, I am a big advocate for filling up on healthy, low point foods. If you want to pump up the volume, I highly recommend roasting veggies. I think I'd eat a shoe if it was roasted. You can just use a bit of Olive Oil, and add all sorts of wonderful spices. Roasted broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, etc. are so tasty!

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    1. I do love roasted veggies! I used to eat an entire head of cauliflower in a day when I was losing the weight, because I was hooked on it ;)

      What I meant by not having to be so precise was mainly in comparison to counting calories. When counting calories, every gram of food matters. But in counting PointsPlus, 8 grams of peanut butter is the same number of PP as 12 grams of peanut butter. Also, when eating out, it's easier to estimate the portion sizes and figure out PP; but with calorie counting, it could be off by a LOT. I do think it's important to measure/weigh out portions (I still weigh out everything, even though I can eyeball portions really well). This month, I've been trying to be a little more specific on my food log, but in general, no--I don't write the exact amounts down, because the food log is usually just for my eyes only ;)

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    2. Thanks! I now better understand what you meant. :) Now I really do want some roasted cauliflower - I love to make it with ancho chili powder, cilantro and lime and it is sooooo tasty!

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  13. I don't get the scolding of Katie for tweaking a plan to make it work for her life especially since she's been at this a few years and is probably well aware of what works for her and what doesn't. She is slim, beautiful and has her head on straight, I'm pretty sure she's got this without reproachful demands that she eat more vegetables or saying that fruit has horrific amounts of sugar. We're all individuals and adults, not every plan and rule is going to work for every person, that's why it's called a lifestyle. If I see someone who is healthy, happy and doing something that works for them, why would I question their methods? People need to get some punk rock spirit in their lives and not get so hung up on "rules". Katie, just like Kendrick Lamar, you keep doing you.

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  14. Hi!
    Katie you are fantastic!
    My question is about activity points. I am a runner and right now I'm running about 25 miles a week. How can I calculate the activity points earned? I don't have a heart rate monitor.
    Thanks!

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    1. Thanks Lauren! Here is a free Activity PP calculator online: http://www.exercise4weightloss.com/activity-points-calculator.html

      Another general rule of thumb is to take your calories burned and divide by 80, then round UP to the next whole number. This is the method I like to use, because I get an accurate calorie count from my heart rate monitor. But since you don't wear a HR monitor, the calculator is your next best bet!

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  15. Is there a way to calculate what your PP target should be, without joining WW?

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    1. Yes! You can find pretty much anything with a quick Google search ;) Here is a free calculator to determine how many PointsPlus you get per day: http://www.exercise4weightloss.com/ww-allowance-calculator.html

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  16. Thank you so much for this awesome post! I've wondered how the new system worked and think I'll try it! I've been counting calories for years (and had lost 60 lbs and was finally able to run my first half-marathon in July!) but over the last year I've slowly put on about 18 of those pounds back and just need something new to do to jump start that "excited" feeling about losing weight again - this just might do it! ;) Thanks again!

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  17. As usual, you ROCK, Katie! As always, hanks -- whoops, that should be thanks-- for sharing your journey with us!

    I wonder how many PPs trolls have...
    -Martine

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)