A little over a year and a half ago, my dear wife made the decision to join Weight Watchers. Me, being the thoughtful husband that I am, decided to join with her in order to be supportive of her journey. Truth be told, I was in need of losing weight too as I was a power lifter who could, and was, consuming everything under the sun to fuel my weight training. I truthfully needed to do this as much as she did, although I was strong as an ox, my blood pressure was beginning to get elevated, my cholesterol and triglycerides were jumping out of bounds, and I had a constant problem with acid reflux.
My lovely bride and I joined Weight Watchers under the Smart Points plan in place before Free Style was enacted. Before I go any further, I want to say, this article is not in any way, shape or manner meant to run down a program that I actually had great success under. If I had joined all by myself instead of with my wife, and if I had never interacted with any of the good folks on Weight Watchers social media “Connect”, I would have maybe one contrary issue with Free Style. I actually loved it when it first came out as the weight was just rolling off of my body. My only issue was even after reaching goal, I could not quit losing weight.
Now, despite my great success on this seemingly wonderful weight loss program, I was watching my dear wife flounder on it. As I watched her flounder, I was also reading sad posts daily on Connect, and realized that she was not alone in her struggles. There are a good many others out there, like her, who work totally within the parameters of Free Style, who have such issues with losing weight, they have a name for themselves. They refer to themselves as “Turtles”. So the question arises, if as a couple we are eating essentially the same foods during meal times, and we are both earning our Blue Dots, how is it I am easily losing while she was not losing anything at all? We are both faithfully following the guidelines as set forth by Weight Watchers in order to lose weight which should lead us both to healthier lives, except it was not working for her.
I know the first thing which probably comes to mind for at least a few of you is that I am an athletic male while she is not. While that sound reason could come into play to at least some extent, it is not enough of a reason for the difference in our ability to shed body fat. I weight train and hike, therefore, I eat a lot more than she does. This being the case, it could be easy for me to remain too heavy also. If your spoon moves faster to your mouth than your feet can carry you on a run, you are going to remain over weight. You can not outrun a bad diet.
After watching Loraine, and following hundreds of people on Connect who also follow the Weight Watchers dietary plan according to how it is laid out, the big difference between her and I, and the hundreds of “Turtles” I have watched on Connect, is they all still consume simple carbohydrates, and added refined sugar. While added sugars do not pass my lips into my digestive tract for any reason, the consumption of added refined sugar in meals and desserts is absolutely allowed under Weight Watchers Free Style program. Weight Watchers allows their members to eat poorly as long as they track their food and do not exceed their allowed points for the day.
From the Weight Watchers web site:
- Our program also has over 200 Zero Point foods you never have to portion or track.
- Spend your personalized Smart Points on any food you like.
Here in lies a huge problem, and those two, or at least similar, statements are made more than once by Weight Watchers. There are no zero calorie foods on their list of 200 plus zero point foods. There may be a few exceptions with artificial sweetners, but as for solid foods, all have a caloric value. To tell one they never have to portion or track is either mis-leading at best, or lying at worse.
No matter what you have been told, or believe, weight management is a matter of calories consumed verses calories burned. Some people can follow the Weight Watchers Free Style plan, earn their Blue Dots, and remain under the calories they need just to maintain weight. These people find success in weight loss. This is how it is supposed to work theoretically. However, many people earn their Blue Dots with poor food choices and then fill up on Zero Point foods which can very easily place them in a caloric surplus where they either can not lose weight, or they end up gaining weight. you can read about this every day on the Weight Watchers social media “Connect”.
Every human has a Basal Metabolic Rate which determines the total amount of calories their bodies require in a day just for basic functions. Activities other than basic human functions require even more calories to fuel the body. Let’s say the average woman requires 1800 calories a day to maintain her weight. A simple reduction of 500 calories a day, seven days a week will result in one pound of fat burned. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories, you must reduce your calories by this amount each week in order to lose one pound of fat per week, there is no way around it. Period.
Many people on the Weight Watchers program have serious eating disorders, such as “B.E.D or, Binge Eating Disorder”. Again, this is something commonly discussed on “Connect”. When one has a true eating disorder, does it make any sense to tell them they do not need to portion or track any type of food, even if it is a healthy one? I personally beg to differ with anyone who says they do not need to portion or track these foods. For example, it is easy to earn a Blue Dot each day by eating low nutrient, high calories treats. You can have people who do this by let’s say, Sally drove down to the local Dairy Queen and used her smart points on a soft serve ice cream dessert after consuming a meal of high carb, high fat, high calorie hamburger and fries with a large Coke. Sally could have easily have consumed 1800 calories which may be her total daily requirements and then fill up the rest of the day on zero point foods. This is totally within the scope of Free Style as it is laid out. This is how many, if not most, of their members understand it to work. They earned their Blue Dot and should still lose weight, right?
Did I mention I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn?
So, Sally ate junk as she is allowed to eat anything she wants under the plan per Weight Watchers own words. She earned her Blue Dot for the day and then because she got hungry a little later in the evening she decided to enjoy zero point foods such as 4 ounces of skinless boneless chicken breast for 110 calories. Then as a side dish, she had a half cup of pinto beans for another 103 calories, two boiled eggs with salad greens and vinegar for another 170 calories. And then for dessert, Sally decided to enjoy another zero point food, plain fat free greek yogurt, for an additional 80 per 5.3 ounce serving. These zero point foods total 463 addtional calories on top of the 1800 Sally consumed earlier during the day for a total of 2,263 calories for the day. Now, what if she had another serving of fat free greek yogurt and an apple between breakfast and lunch too? They are zero points and do not require to be portioned or tracked. yet could add an additional 160 calories for a total of 2,423 calories for the day. Seems she might be over her requirements a little bit, would you agree?
If Sally requires 1800 calories per day or 12,600 per week in order to maintain her current weight with no loss, how much over would she be if she ate junk for her 23 smart ponts a day and then filled up on zero point foods as in the example.? If this was her typical day, then her weekly total would arrive at 16,961 calories for the week which is 4361 calories over her BMR requirements. A single pound of fat equals 3500 calories, therefore Sally should expect that despite earning her Blue Dot and being faithful to how Free Style is laid out, she should gain about 1.25 pounds during that week. This is basic human biology and there is no way around it. The plan can be easily manipulated which keeps their members floundering.
Another major issue with Weight Watchers is their Fit Points and how they can be earned in order for the member to be able to eat additional food. You can earn Fit Points even by simply doing house work such as running your vacuum cleaner your carpet, etc… Listen here, I am no rocket scientist, but if you were not working your heart pushing that vacuum cleaner with enough intensity in order to burn fat before, you damn sure are not going to now, just because you can earn points in order to shovel down more food. If your activity is going to mean anything in regards to burning body fat, then it is a must that your heart rate become elevated for at least 20 minutes or more. It takes 20 minutes of moderate activity with an elevated heart rate in order to just burn through your glycogen stores before your body can or will begin to burn fat for energy. Fit points can be great for those who are athletic, but it makes zero sense to award someone the additional points to continue nothing more than they were doing while becoming obese in the first place. If house work did not get you fit and trim before, you had damn sure better not use it as a justification to eat more food now just because you “earned the points”. I challenge anyone to tell me where I am wrong in this fact of basic human biology which should have been learned in at least 8th grade Junior High School Biology.
I had great success with Weight Watchers FreeStyle. I am athletic and I am well versed in nutrition. However, this program attracts those who are not athletic, those who do not have a well rounded knowledge of nurition, and Weight Watchers panders to their sensitivities by allowing them to continue eating the foods which made them obese in the first place. You are not going to give a recovered alcoholic a beer, you are not going to give an ex-smoker a cigarette, why in the hell would you give someone with an eating disorder permission to still eat a jelly donut? Weight Watchers is a multi-million dollar, publicly traded entity, with the educated and trained staff who should know that this plan is unworkable for so many of their members while still collecting anywhere from $20 to about $45 a month from these individuals. This makes me wonder if they truly care about helping their members to a healthier life, or are they just another corporate entity getting rich off the weak.