Successful weight loss program or just another fad? This is the question I was sought out to answer by giving this program a try with a free week trial. Weight Watchers has been around for more than 50 years with over one million active users. It is a program that many of my friends and family have discussed with me. Since nutrition is my field of study, people are always asking for my opinion on the program.
What is Weight Watchers?
Rather than restricting certain food groups or outlining a strict calorie guideline, Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that assigns points to foods with a system called SmartPoints. Depending on the food, it can have anywhere from zero to 60+ points. Your allotted daily points is based on your body measurements and weight loss goal. Along with Daily SmartPoints, you get FitPoints for exercise you complete and extra Weekly SmartPoints as a cushion. The idea is that at the end of the week if you don’t go over your points allowed, you will lose weight.
I like the idea of points rather than calories because it can be a simpler concept for people to grasp. Most fruits, vegetables and lean proteins are zero points. These include foods like plain yogurt, skinless chicken breast, fish, bananas, beans and many more. This encouraged me to eat more of these foods, especially when I was running low on points. I found that some of my recipes like my Microwave Kale Chips, Cilantro Lime Shrimp Cauliflower Rice Bowl, and Grilled Lemon Chicken and Asparagus Salad are very low in points as they contained lots of healthy, zero point foods. Where you can run into trouble is overeating zero point foods, so it is important to still must be mindful of serving sizes: 3-4 ounces of chicken, 1 cup of yogurt, ¼ cup cooked beans, etc.
Other foods are ranked based on their nutrition and macronutrient profile. To give you some examples, one ounce of nuts is 5 points; 1/2 cup of brown rice is 4 points; and 2 tablespoons of hummus is 2 points–all pretty low in points. On the other hand, one Big Mac is 17 points; 1 cup of Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pie is 15 points; and a Snickers candy bar is 12 points. Also, to my Fourth of July disappointment, one Mike’s Hard beverage is 11 points. This just shows the extreme difference in points between more wholesome, natural foods and their highly processed, fatty, sugary counterparts.
I appreciated how Weight Watchers has recipes integrated into the app with the points already calculated on recipes. I tried several of their creations such as Apple Pie Oatmeal and Herb Crusted Grilled Salmon. Yum!
Like most all weight loss programs, Weight Watchers has both pros and cons.
Pros: Weight Watchers promotes a healthy lifestyle change rather than a strict diet leading to temporary results. It allows people to have flexibility in eating what satisfies them while also being conscious about making nutritious, low point choices. It’s an educational way for people to learn that most processed, convenience foods are typically not the best choice to nourish our bodies. Instead, users are encouraged to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and other healthful foods, which is definitely a plus. Users can also be motivated by features like personal coaching, in-person group meetings, and online support forums.
Cons: The program itself is not free and can be somewhat expensive if looking at purchasing it long-term. I also found that it gets pretty time consuming and tedious to track every little thing you eat all day, everyday. Luckily, since some foods are zero points you don’t have to worry about tracking those, but when you are eating out or cooking a new recipe–it can be tricky figuring out specific servings and ingredients. Even though zero point foods are encouraged, some of these foods could easily be over eaten and result in a greater calorie intake. Remember: no matter the dietary pattern, the key to weight loss is creating a calorie deficit. The freedom to choose anything you want to eat may be too tempting for some, and a dietary pattern with set guidelines on exactly what to eat might work better for these individuals.
Main Takeaways: I would recommend anyone who is looking to lose some weight to try out Weight Watchers for 7 days and see if it is a program that fits into their lifestyle. The key to staying healthy and successful on this program is moderation and low points preparation.