Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weight Watchers - the not so good

Weight watchers isn't a perfect program. I think it can be very effective and helpful, but it is better when you're aware of some of the potential pitfalls. Today I'm going to talk about the aspects of the program that I think could be improved upon. They include the weekly points, the avoidance of all fat, lasting foods and processed food.

When I first did weight watchers, it was when they had their 1-2-3 points program out. One of the key differences between this program and the later ones was how the points were divided. In that system, you had a point range for each day. You could bank points, but it was up to a maximum number - about 2 days worth of extra points. Now, you have a target for the day which would be the equivalent to the old minimum amount. Then, instead of having a range, you have a whole bunch of points that you can eat at any time during the week - split up or a little each day.

In my opinion, this sets people up for binges. Losing weight and keeping it off is about changing your way of thinking and creating new habits. This big number of points encourages people to slip into their old habits. To allow yourself a "treat night" once a week. To me, this is essentially game playing. I would think this system was better if there was even a maximum set to the number of weekly points that could be eaten in one day, but there isn't.

The next thing that I have a problem with is the how fat has been made the villain. Don't get me wrong, I know that it is best to have a diet low in fat, but there are good fats and bad fats. Fat also serves a purpose. The points calculation penalizes fat so heavily that it makes it tempting to avoid eating it altogether. But fat helps you to stay satisfied longer; it keeps your skin from drying out; it's needed so our bodies can absorb certain vitamins. In short, it's about moderation. It's not healthy to cut fat out any more then it is to cut carbohydrates or protein out. Although weight watchers doesn't specifically cut it out, I think the calculation used makes it very undesirable to eat.

The next area isn't so much something I think weight watchers is doing wrong, but something I think would be very beneficial for them to add in. A category for lasting foods. It's great that they have the filling foods category, but I think it would be that much better if they helped people recognize which foods will last. A salad full of fresh vegetables might fill you up, but you'll be hungry an hour later. Add some chicken breast and grated cheese to it, and it will keep you going for a long time. In short, all weight watchers has to do is focus on the importance of combining proteins with carbohydrates in every meal and snack.

The last area I would like to mention is the one that I think bothers me the most. The processed food that weight watchers itself sells. Despite bringing in their filling foods list, their meetings are packed with items that have limited nutritional value, are full of artificial sweeteners and don't come anywhere close to being on that list. Sometimes it's a little hard to buy the importance of unprocessed foods when their chocolate bars, pretzels and candies are in your face all the time.

Overall, I still think weight watchers is a good system. But, it isn't perfect, and as long as they are trying as hard to make money as they are trying to help people lose weight, it will stay that way.


  1. I've never been on WW, but I agree 100% with everything you mentioned. I am always skeptical of programs offering processed foods.

  2. I absolutely agree with you Karen. I do think it's good that the processed foods that ww sells aren't a required part of the program, BUT the very fact that they sell them endorses them.