“Weight Watchers made me gain weight!” You would be surprised how many times I have heard this statement. Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that focuses on sensible eating habits to promote slow and steady weight loss. The entire program revolves around “counting points,” and as long as you stay within your recommended daily allotment of points, you should lose weight every week. Points are now calculated using an equation that factors in a food item’s total amount of calories, fat and fiber. Generally, the higher the fiber content and lower the fat content of a product, the lower it will be in points. Fruits and veggies are considered “free points,” so they are unlimited on the meal plan. No food is considered off-limits as long as you count your points for the menu items consumed.
The program was launched in the 1960s by housewife Jean Nidetch, who had lost weight and recruited the help of her friends to help her keep the weight off. Since then, the methods have observed quite a few changes, but the basic principal of community support and consistent accountability remains solid.
I am not here to bash Weight Watchers. In fact, you can’t ignore the fact that it consistently tops the charts of “best weight loss plans” because many people are quite successful with it. I simply want to inform readers that it is not the right meal plan for everyone and if it didn’t work for you, here’s why:
Calories In vs Calories Out: This is based on the most basic principle of weight loss. In order to lose the pounds, you must reduce the amount of calories you eat and increase your activity level. With Weight Watchers, the total calories you need to consume a day equals your determined amount of points allowed. As you achieve weight loss milestones, your points goal will decrease. I have had several patients state that they are at the lowest level of points, exercise every day and still cannot lose a single pound. Does this sound like you? If so, that’s because more and more we are learning that the type of calories one consumes plays a very important role in metabolism. Another factor may be that you are not getting enough protein or enough fat on the limited amount of points/calories. Plus, it’s never fun (nor a good idea) to starve your metabolism in order to achieve weight loss!
Too High in Processed Food: Since Weight Watchers is such an established corporation, they have their own line of products from cereals to cheese to ice cream novelties. They list the point value on the front of the packages and make it extremely convenient for the on-the-go Weight Watchers participant. Even though these food items are low in calories and perfectly portioned, it still does not negate the fact that they are very processed and contain an astounding amount of chemicals and preservatives in them (just like all of our processed foods)! Sometimes, in order to lose weight, our bodies need to focus on nature’s ingredients and cut out the ingredients that are added in at a factory.
Too High in Carbs: When I have evaluated eating plans that follow the Weight Watchers methods, I often note that it is quite saturated with items like whole wheat bread, low calorie cereals, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, brown rice, beans, 100 calorie portions of popcorn, baked chips and crackers, pretzels, fat free yogurt, skim milk and perfectly portioned sweets. What do all these foods have in common? Carbs! Sometimes, our metabolisms do not respond well when our diets are too high in carbohydrate intake. High carbohydrate food items can cause blood sugar spikes, insulin spikes and leave you hungry and feeling deprived all day long!
Again, I want to reinforce that Weight Watchers is not an all-things-terrible meal plan. It has certainly helped thousands of individuals achieve a healthier lifestyle. I am just reinforcing that it is simply a meal plan. Not all meal plans work for everybody; just like vegetarianism and the vegan lifestyle are not right for everyone. If you have tried Weight Watchers or any other meal plan and feel you were not as successful as you should have been, please consider contacting your Springfield Clinic dietitian. It is our job to find the best meal plan that will work for you and your metabolism!