Weight Watchers PointsPlus™

I’ll start by saying that I had expected some catch some flack for being an RD and “supporting” Weight Watchers by learning about the new PointsPlus™ program and attending meetings myself. But I’ve thought long and hard about 1) learning about the new PointsPlus™ program at all, 2) attending, and 3) blogging about it for the world to judge. My recent weight struggles are related to a fairly recent diagnosis of PCOS and insulin resistance. But below you’ll find my thoughts on this all — good, bad, and ugly. Grab some popcorn and a beverage…this could be a long one, folks.

Firstly, I lost 75+ pounds on Weight Watchers. After Atkins and South Beach and several others had failed, Weight Watchers helped me at 190lbs and 14 years old when I was unhappy and leading a very unhealthy life. Weight Watchers is what lead me to wanting to become a dietitian and help others attain a healthier and happier them. In college, at 19, I lead Weight Watchers meetings. Helping inspire others to lose weight helped me keep my weight off and gave me the skills I needed in speaking with individuals both one-on-one and as a group. I truly feel that facilitating Weight Watchers meetings is what has me teaching college and loving it. So it’s no wonder as to why I will always be grateful to a program that lead me to where I am and who I am today.

It would be vain and insensitive for me to say that anyone wanting to lose weight should see a dietitian, and only a dietitian. While RD’s are the nutrition expert, seeing a dietitian is not realistic for most people, especially on a regular or semi-regular basis. While there are certainly weight loss programs lead by RD’s out there, they are far and few between, especially when comparing them to the accessibility and feasibility of Weight Watchers meetings across the US. As a professional in PREVENTION, I would never discredit a company such as Weight Watchers, who employs MANY Registered Dietitians and who has the common goal of helping overweight and obese individuals meet their weight loss and health goals. With epidemic proportions of overweight and obesity, how could I not support such efforts?

I would argue that Weight Watchers works for 3 very simple reasons:

1. Accountability. You go weekly, weigh-in, and learn tools necessary for calorie restriction, balanced dieting, exercise, and so on. And more than all of that, is seeing others on a regular basis who have the same goal as you.

2. Journaling. Weight Watchers has always emphasized food journaling. I blogged about food journaling on Friday and several of you commented that food journaling made you obsessive or fed (no pun intended) your ED behaviors. While I am not discrediting those points (they are very valid), I believe food journaling to be a reliable tool for self-assessment and accountability. Diet records are kept for a plethora of reasons and as a practicing dietitian, I heavily rely on patient’s food journals to help tailor nutrition education and stimulate behavior change.

3. Calorie restriction and healthy eating. If followed as designed, Weight Watchers provides a diet that is varied, flexible, balanced, and adequate. For those that don’t believe Weight Watchers gives you parameters with which to work, while providing the framework for a healthy diet, you are wrong. Weight Watchers builds their healthy eating guidelines off well-researched and well-published information regarding macro and micronutrient balance found in a healthy, balanced diet.

In reference to the new PointsPlus™ program, I believe there are positives and negatives. The major change from the Points™ to the PointsPlus™ programs is macronutrient composition. The new program is designed to be low-fat, high fiber, lower carb, and high protein. Generally speaking, if a food has more protein and/or fiber, the food will be lower in PointsPlus™. Similarily, if a food is high in fat and/or carbohydrate, it will be higher in PointsPlus™.

While I believe a higher protein diet to be helpful with satiety, most Americans consume plenty of protein each day. And while higher fiber foods are lower in PointsPlus™, carbohydrates overall cause a major jump up. Fat also causes PointsPlus™ values to be high. Just when we were starting to get the jest of “good” and “bad” fats, Weight Watchers is sort of going back in time to say that all fats should be strictly limited. With my 29 daily PointsPlus™, for instance, 1/2 avocado would run 6 PointsPlus™, 1 oz. almonds would run 4 PointsPlus™, 1 Tbsp peanut butter would run 3 PointsPlus™, and 2 tsp olive oil would run me 2 PointsPlus™. I could and would eat all of those foods throughout the day, however, they would account for nearly 52% of my allotted PointsPlus™ for the day, without providing much volume of food.

However, the new PointsPlus™ program continues to issue Activity PointsPlus™ which are earned for performing physical activity, as well as a Weekly PointsPlus™ Allowance of 49 PointsPlus™. While I would argue that many people use both sets of additional PointsPlus™ for “discretionary” calorie foods (alcohol, sweets, etc.), they should, for the most part, be used on wholesome, nutritious foods such as avocados, peanut butter, nuts, and heart-healthy oils, for example.

This would be a good time to mention that MOST fruits and vegetables are “free” foods on the new program, meaning they have a 0 PointsPlus™ value. On the old Points™ program, a banana had a Points™ value of 2 and most fruits had a Points™ value of 1. While these Points™ numbers are low, many people received only 18 Points™ per day and felt they were “wasting” Points™ spent on fruits. In an effort to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, most fruits and vegetables no longer “cost” any PointsPlus™. I believe this to be a very positive change, so long Weight Watchers continues to educate on hunger and satiety signaling and portion control. Just because fruits are a “free” and wholesome food, doesn’t mean we need 22 cups of watermelon in a day! At the end of the day, calories are calories regardless of their source and in order to produce weight loss, a calorie deficit must be made.

The higher protein, lower-carb change has its pros and cons. What I would encourage Weight Watchers members to take into consideration is the quality of carbohydrate they are consuming. Low-carb tortillas, for example, are often packed with preservatives and unnecessary ingredients. I would urge people to not always go for the lowest PointsPlus™ item, and to consider the wholesomeness of the food (check out ingredient lists!). Just like with healthy fats, consumers are beginning to find value in whole foods that have not been overly processed. Consumers and Weight Watchers members alike should continue selecting foods that are closest to their natural state without a laundry list of 9-syllable ingredients.

As for exercise, don’t do what I did years ago: exercise to eat more. As tempting as that is, food should not reward workout efforts. While properly fueling and replenishing is important, Weight Watchers members should avoid exercising in order to over-eat, or to compensate for over-eating. Activity PointsPlus™ should, for the most part, be used appropriately for wholesome, nutritious foods. And please don’t get me wrong, if you exercise, you do require more calories, even for weight loss. However, when you rationalize that exercise = splurge, it’s not reinforcing healthy changes for a lifetime.

Similarly, Weekly PointsPlus™ Allowances are meant to be used.  It has been a long-standing belief that if you don’t eat your Weekly PointsPlus™ Allowance, you will lose weight more quickly…but that is not always the case. The body can be finicky when it comes to weight loss and under-fueling the body can lead to plateaus and under-nutrition. Listen to your body, eat mindfully, and consume a healthy, balanced diet — the numbers work themselves out.

And when you meet your goal, stay there. That’s the hard part…the part I find most difficult. For those like myself who have been overweight since childhood, we are designed at the molecular level to re-gain weight. As humans, we stop making fat cells by early adulthood but we never lose these fat cells throughout life. The more fat cells the body contains, the easier weight gain will be.  The cells are always there, waiting to store any access calories as adipose (fat). This is why childhood obesity provides such a scary glimpse into the future.

I hope this has been helpful and enlightening for many of you. If you’ve made it this far, thank you. While my blog is a recording of my life and my thoughts, I would appreciate any negative comments be left unsaid. It is no secret that I have in the past, and will probably always struggle with my weight. Thankfully I now know why, in part, I struggle more than others. But as a 25-year-old woman, I see a family in my future. Not tomorrow, and probably not next year, but sometime…and I want to be as healthy as I can be when bringing a baby into this world — a baby that will hopefully not have to fight obesity from such a young age as I did.

Some of you may find the above makes me more “real”…others may fault me for being dietitian who struggles to maintain a healthy body weight. But this is me, and I am proud of every bit of me — chubby, fluffy, or perfectly lean 😉 It’s taken me years to get here, and I plan to continue loving and appreciating myself just as I am.

Lots of love,

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42 Comments

Filed under PCOS, Uncategorized, weight loss, Weight Watchers

42 responses to “Weight Watchers PointsPlus™

  1. Rachel Palmieri

    Thanks for your thoughts on the new WW! I definitely agree that WW is ignoring the good fats and it bugs me. I would love to eat half an avocado on a regular basis but I’ll starve the rest of the day because for 6 points, I can have something else that actually fills me up! But overall, I think WW improved upon their last program. And, at least in my meetings, they are stressing that we eat fruit until we are satisfied, not until we’ve consumed a rain forest of bananas!

  2. Thanks for the review. It was very informative!

  3. Very good points. I’ve never done WW but I do think it sounds like a pretty solid program.

  4. My sister lost thirty pounds on WW a few years ago, and loved their program! I’ve been wondering about this new one– thanks for the explanation!

  5. Awesome post! I’ve been curious abt WW, but never tried it. I think it’s great that you put your struggles and personal feelings into the posts. We are all only human, and every BODY is different. As a mother of 2 girls, one being stick thin and the other being over her ideal weight, I’ve learned that metabolism and genetic make-up play a huge part in weight. Your struggles with weight in the past have probably made you a much better dietician and teacher!

  6. I’m a big advocate of WW – helped me at my heaviest a year or so after graduating college and starting work. I was shocked and amazed how changing my diet alone (I still didn’t exercise) could help me lose weight. Crazy eye opener!! I just did the online version, but it was great. Even that quickly taught me lessons about good and bad foods…but mainly portion control. At the time (and maybe still now), I even said that we should have had a WW-esque class in high school. Never was I taught helpful things about food. You know the pyramid and the food groups, but we never went through the practical application. If I decide to get serious about losing weight again, I will definitely be back at WW’s door. Great post!! 🙂 Boo to any of those negative people. Have a good day ;)!

  7. Liz

    Thanks so much for your review of the Weight Watchers program! It was interesting to see your thoughts. My mom has had success with the program but I have always stayed away because I felt like it was difficult to eat protein and healthy fats. It is dissapointing that they still haven’t addressed healthy fats. I do think that having most fruits and vegetables be zero points will encourage people to eat them.

    I have always felt that the way I treat my body is not reflected in how it looks. Despite my efforts to eat well and stay active, I have always struggled with weight. I truly believe that some of us just have to work harder. The fact that you are so honest with your struggles is what drew me to your blog in the first place. Keep doing what you are doing and always remember that weight is only one component of overall health.

  8. Loved your WW review, Nicole! I have to say, from what I know about the changes the program I am happy to see (most) fruits/veggies aren’t counted as points. I remember when my mom has been on it (off/on for the past 15 years or so), she really ate a lot of the WW processed snacks…which of course did nothing to hold her over most of the time. I love the focus on real food and I love your outlook on it all, too!

  9. Wow – the new program seems confusing! I did try it once, but got all tied up in the counting. I agree heartily with the point about eating non-processed food – relying on packaged or processed food can’t be sustained forever. I think it’s amazing that you are real and out there – I find it much easier to take advice from someone who can empathize.

  10. I wholeheartedly agree with you Nicole. I am not a dietician…but do have some nutrition training, from my years studying to become an RN. I was feeling a bit like WW was taking a step back, when they deemed CARBS=BAD ( and athough they dont say it outright, that’s the message) and ALL FATS=BAD as well. Personally, I have always felt as humans, we were meant to eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet. We are not carnivores exclusively, and I agree its true most Americans eat plenty of protein. I never subscribed to the whole low carb way….of course, I think carbs need to be healthy ones, but I don’t understand why this plan sort of discourages whole grains now. ( although I will admit I have been using some low carb tortillas since this new plan started…and i haven’t done that in the past) I also think increasing the point value on an avocado just dosen’t make sense to me. On one level, I sort of feel betrayed by ww. But on the other hand, I was never forced to eat only 18 points….I only got down to 22. I am sorry for those ppl on WW who think or thought that eating baked chips everyday was a healthy way of eating or having a ww ice cream bar everyday was fine….but that isn’t and never was me. But who knows? I lost a decent amount of weight on the old ww plan (36 pounds) but have yet to see significant loss on this way….but I have only given it 100% this week, so I guess the jury is out. Time will tell.

    Anyway….excellent review. I might link this up to one of my own blog posts. Thanks!

  11. I don’t know what comments were said, but I see nothing wrong with you attending weight watchers meetings. As dietitians, we are still only human. I struggle with my weight and eating at times just as anyone else does. To me, I think that can only make us better RDs since we can relate to a patient’s struggle. I can’t wait to read more about your journey.

  12. Thanks for all the WW info! I love your approach and honest thoughts you share. Don’t ever stop that girl!

  13. This is such an informative post, Nicole. You were very thorough in your review of WW and I really learned a lot! I’ve never done WW but after reading this I think it sounds like they have a pretty good plan!

  14. Thank you for reviewing this point system and giving your input. I, too, have always struggled with my weight and it is always so difficult to determine if a program like this would help or cause more issues than it solves.

  15. As someone who found great success on Weight Watchers in the past (and had to battle people who told me it was a bad program) I really appreciate everything you wrote here.

    When I went to my first meeting I knew so little about how to really eat healthy. I’m sure that’s the case for most people who show up at their first meeting. And I think after you put aside counting points and all that, the core of the program is how to live a healthy life. Even after I left Weight Watchers and stopped counting points, everything I learned stuck with me.

    I guess I just think it’s great that there’s a program out there that puts an entire healthy lifestyle into perspective and addresses the issues in a way that a person like me can understand and apply to her life.

    RD or not, I think it’s awesome that you’re checking out the new program. It gives you the opportunity to critique it and use what works in your own life. I have no idea what anyone could find to criticize in that, but I guess some people can always find something!

    Thanks again for being the kind of common-sense sort of healthy person that makes people want to get healthy themselves!

  16. Being a WW member myself, I loved reading this post. I really took to heart what you said about choosing foods wisely….thank you for that!

  17. This was really information–thank you for taking the time to write this! I learned several new things and it makes me like you even more for being open about your struggles. I lost about 40 lbs on the previous WW program and gained it all back plus with thyroid problems. I’ve been working on loosing, but I’ve also changed to a more healthy, natural, and mostly vegetarian diet and WW had bothered me b/c of the reliance on processed foods. I’m still not sure if I want to jump back on board, but this has given me more food for thought. Thank you for sharing your struggles–it makes it seem more real for me that even with healthy eating, the weight doesn’t just fall off. I can easily forget that others can struggle with the same things. Good luck and keep posting about this!

  18. Thank you so much for always sharing your experiences so honestly and wisely – you are such an incredibly RD both because of your knowledge base and because of the wisdom you gain and are willing to share from your personal experiences! I always feel so enriched and enlightened and informed after reading your posts – thank you! I’m also happy to be able to forward this post to several friends who are part of the WW program – thank you again!

  19. This was a very informative post! And I think it’s great that you share your first-hand experience with the program! I’m sure people who consider joining the program will find your thoughts very helpful!

  20. Jessica

    I’m an RD in SWMO and I have gone to Weight Watchers for as long as I can remember. I don’t feel bad about it. I have been able to maintain my weight and lost all my baby weight using this program. For me it’s just the right accountability for me and being a dietitian it reinforces healthy habits I already have. And it does give us a way to relate to our patients that weight loss or eating changes are never easy. Way to go! I enjoy reading your blogs.
    Jessica

  21. Rachel

    Thank you for your feedback on the new program! My husband and I need to lose weight, and have been struggling with the best way to go about it. WW was on top of our list, and after hearing your feedback (feedback from someone who is a RD and knows what they are talking about, as well as someone who has gone through the program), I think this is the best way for us to go about losing the weight. Thank you!!

  22. Thanks so much for posting about this Nicole! I’ve actually been wondering a lot about these new changes and found this post to be super informative. You’re the best!

  23. This was a great review. While I have never officially joined WW I have studied their previous points program and I have read up as much as I can on the new Points Plus program. While I agree it does have some flaws (as in all carbs are bad or all fats are bad) I think overall they are trying to improve the program by focusing on high fiber. I think their thought process is to get people to take a look at their carbs and focus on making a choice for a carb that is higher in fiber (which often will be a more whole grain).

    I agree completely that they at some point need to figure out how to allow for good fats such as avocados, nut butters and olive oil.

    Overall I think WW is a great program, we have way to many people that are completely clueless about food and the daily percentages our body needs of fat/protein/carbs. I believe they overall educate people to choose healthy proportion sizes, plan for foods and journal. As people begin to make those conscious efforts they in turn begin to learn about good fats, high fiber/carbs and adequate proteins.

    Oops, sorry I just realized I hijacked your comments a bit, sorry. It was a great review and even more great hear from an RD their perspective on it.

  24. I completely relate to you Nicole!

    I’m an RD working in Chicago and I actually lost weight in college through WW. I’m not ashamed to admit it! Just because we know WHAT to do to eat healthier doesn’t mean it’s easier for us or we have some kind of magical will power! I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life too and that is a reason I got into dietetics. 🙂

  25. Loved reading this post! I am going to link to it tomorrow – and I am another person who lost 70 pounds on WW in 1999 – we both know it works! 😀

  26. Weighting For 50

    I’m on ww at the moment, and loved your thoughts and insight on the program. Glad to hear the pros and cons from a professional! Have a great week!

  27. Great post Nicole. Thanks for the review on the new Weight Watchers program. I had heard bits and pieces but good to hear from someone who has your experience. Keep up the great work!

  28. Good informative post! I think the new program is pretty good and will be helpful for many people to lose weight and keep it off.

  29. Thanks for sharing Nicole! No one coud fault for being so honest – don’t worry! 😉

    Love ya!
    Georgie

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  32. Great post Nicole. It takes a lot of courage to write posts like this. This is what makes you a fantastic blogger. You’re so..CANDID in this post! It’s great. ANd, I needed the Weight Watchers review, so thanks 🙂 I agree that most people can’t afford an RD, at least they can’t afford one for constant follow-up, so programs like this are sometimes more feasible. I’m glad they’ve changed their rules, they sound much better, in my opinion.

  33. BJ

    I just joined a WW at work program, and am trying to figure this whole thing out! 🙂
    I’m a little confused tho, by your sentance :
    “Generally speaking, if a food has more protein and/or fiber, the food will be lower in PointsPlus™. Similarily, if a food is high in fat and/or carbohydrate, it will be lower in PointsPlus™.”
    Shouldn’t it be the high fat/carb food is higer in points, and not lower?

  34. Awesome review. I agree completely. I lost 57 lbs on WW in 2002 (online). I still have my online membership. I am flirting with the new plan. I love that fruits are free now (I always ate them anyway). But like you, I like my nuts and avocados, and I’m not a big protein eater.

    Keeping it off is tough. Losing those 5 lbs I gained over vacation is very hard, because it will come off fast but the habits don’t stick.

  35. Ammie

    Thank you for your perspective. I’m a current WWer, was on the old program and transitioned to the new. I found the transition relatively painless and am enjoying the new plan tremendously! Thanks again.

  36. I really appreciate your thoughts on the Weight Watchers program. I have recently started Weight Watchers online, and I love it so far. I certainly want to make sure that I am chosing a healthy lifestyle, and you have clarified some things about the program that will allow me to use my WW points more wisely.

  37. I’ve bookmarked this post as there were a lot of great points I forget when doing my own weight loss thing. If I didn’t already have something that worked this post would have convinced me to try WW!
    (It works when I stick to the plan…lol)

  38. Thank you for being so honest, Nicole. I hadn’t familiarized myself with the new WW system, so I’m glad you’ve spurred me to learn more about it. I recall learning in one of my classes that WW is actually one of the best weight loss programs out there for helping people lose weight AND keep it off.

    I’m glad WW has helped you, Nicole – and now you are helping others by being a professor! 🙂

  39. Great post Nicole! I admire your honesty and see nothing wrong with a RD attending a WW meeting. Also, thanks for explaining the new point system. Your review was very helpful!

  40. Thank you for your honest and informative review. I agree with so much of it! When I did WW, one of the things I never understood was why my friend’s nutrition-void 100 calorie snacks were the same as my banana. Crazy. I think WW needed an overhaul, as painful as that may be. So much has been learned about nutrition since the inception of the Points program years ago.

  41. I think WW is the best weight loss program out there because it really teaches people how to eat properly! I think the PointsPlus program sounds great because I love avocado! and nuts! I think it’s great that you are doing WW and just having that support team once a week will help tremendously! Good luck!

  42. Meme

    Thanks for posting this because I was also curious on the new Weight Watchers program. I love your blog and especially your recipes! I really appreciate that you write your opinions (and grade) with the nutrition facts. You do a great job, and I bet you are a fun teacher! I’m a RD as well and love reader other dietitian’s blogs 🙂
    Keep up the great work!

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