Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why I Hate (and Like) Weight Watchers

As I recently said, I’m back on Weight Watchers.


This isn’t the first time I’ve done WW and I’m really having mixed feelings about it. The first time, I did the online version. No good. Seriously, if you are planning on using the online version, go to Nutrition Data, Livestrong, FitDay or some other online calorie counting tool and save yourself the monthly fee. Plus, you can easily find all of the information about Weight Watchers, such as how many points to eat and the formula for calculating those points, with a quick google search. And whatever you do, avoid the WW forums at all costs… well, unless you like bashing your head into a wall.

So after my craptacular experience online, I decided to give meetings a shot. I even enlisted Jason to go with me. Yeah, I lasted through 3 meetings with 3 different leaders and gave up.

Why I Hate Weight Watchers

1. It’s a diet.

I don’t care what the commercials say about Weight Watchers being a lifestyle change and not a diet. It’s a diet. Any program that restricts calories is a diet. Period. “Stop dieting and start living.” Indeed.

2. Points are a fancy word for calories.

The difference between Weight Watchers and most other programs is that WW counts Points, not calories. They claim it’s easier to count to 20 than 1200, but either way, good luck remember how many Points you’ve eaten unless you track throughout the day. But if you’re tracking throughout the day, what’s the difference? Computers have calculators.

3. The formula for Points is arbitrary.

Points take into account fat and fiber. Food high in fat is higher in Points; food high in fiber is lower in Points — prompting you to select high fiber, low fat foods. But there’s really no science behind their formula. It seems like they just picked some random numbers and threw them together.

4. Fats are punished.

As I explained, foods containing fat have higher Points than foods without fat — even if it’s healthy fat. Even though WW suggests eating healthy oils, you’re going to have to give up a big junk of your daily allowance for that handful of peanuts. Plus, foods high in fat already are higher in calories, so basically, the fat is counted twice. Of course, the European version of WW only counts saturated fat, not total fat, but us Americans are still in the 90′s “fat is bad” mindset.

5. Not all fiber is equal.

Yes, fiber makes you feel fuller longer and um, helps things along. But only naturally occuring fiber. Adding Metamucil to a food does absolutely nothing than make you need to poop. Go to the grocery store and look at how much food has added fiber. I’m sorry, but fiber doesn’t belong in yogurt. Eating what is essentially a candy bar with 10 grams of added fiber isn’t going to help you lose weight.

And get this… I once went to a WW meeting where the leader suggested taking a fiber supplement with junk food so that the junk food would be lower in Points. Obviously, it’s okay to eat a quart of ice cream as long as you chase it with fiber powder.

6. Weight Watchers products

At the grocery store, you’ll find everything from candy to bread with the Weight Watchers logo on it. Look at the ingredients list. Do you really want to eat that crap? Why would WW encourage you to eat a piece of fruit candy instead of actual fruit? Why do they mass market TV dinners instead of encouraging you to cook yourself? Because it’s a business. And like most businesses, if you’ll buy it, they’ll sell it. Weight Watchers yogurt, Weight Watchers snack cakes, Weight Watchers ice cream. It’s all fake food with fake fiber. I would rather enjoy a REAL piece of cake every now and then instead of eating their processed snack food.

7. Weight Watchers allows too few calories

Okay, this one is just my opinion here, but WW restricts calories a bit too much. A target of 18 – 20 Points a day isn’t unreasonable. Let’s add in another 5 Flex Points a day. That’s about 1250 calories a day (assuming you eat no fat.) Most nutritionists will agree that 1200 calories a day is just too low. Plus, it’s practically impossible to get any decent amount of nutrition when you are ALMOST starving especially if you are eating WW processed crap.

8. WW isn’t for athletes

Again, my opinion here, but Activity Points are flawed. Let’s say I go out for an easy 10 mile run. Weight Watchers gives me 6 Activity Points (about 300 calories) even though I burned over 1000. A pre-run snack, a mid-run gel, and a post-run recovery drink and I’m already over my points allowance that I earned. Granted, most people on WW aren’t doing that sort of activity, but it’s still a flaw in the program.

9. A little too touchy feely

If you haven’t read Such a Pretty Fat, you should. Jen Lancaster describes it perfectly. I’m not really into sitting in a room with 10 other women discussing our feelings about birthday cake.

Why I Like Weight Watchers

Okay, so despite all of my complaints, I’m still giving it another go because I’m having very little luck on my own and it comes highly recommended for breastfeeding women. I’m really worried that I’m not going to be eating enough, but I’ve decided to give it 3 weeks and see how I’m feeling.

1. Eight Healthy Guidelines

Despite marking all sorts of processed crap, WW promotes eating fruits, veggies, healthy oils, dairy, etc.

2. Support system

This is why WW is so popular, I think. You sit in a room with 10 other people with the same goals as you — to lose weight. While the meetings are a little uncomfortable for me, the group atmosphere encourages you to keep coming back.

3. The Core Program

The Core program encourages eating a wide variety of healthy, real food without counting Points.

4. You can eat anything.

This is a plus and a drawback at the same time. You can eat anything you want, as long as you still within your Points target. The bad thing part – you can eat 20 Points of cotton candy, 20 Points of pizza, 20 Points of celery, etc. The good part — if you really want that ice cream, you can eat it as long as you have Points for it. Of course, if you follow the 8 healthy guidelines, you’re much less likely to spend a days Points on a bag of chocolate.

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