What’s up with Weight Watchers?

When I have some downtime at work (usually late afternoon when all burn care has been done), I peruse websites like the New York Times in order to attempt to keep myself knowledgeable about what is going on with the world since it’s so easy to live in a bubble.  One of my favorite sections of the NYT website is the Health, Fitness, and Nutrition section.  Articles related to health?  Why not.  Over the weekend, I came across an article about the Weight Watchers program, as they completed changed their point system and many people are up in arms about it. 

Check out the article, Weight Watchers Upends Its Points System, if you’re interested in reading.  For those of you who are not looking to click over, the main idea is that fruits and vegetables, which used to have point values assigned to them, now have no points, and many processed foods are given a higher point value.  I don’t know too much about the point system,  but the article says that overall, people are given more points to eat during the week as well, and that in trials of this new system, people lost the same, if not more weight than the old program.

From what I understand, the Weight Watchers system states that as long as you stay within your point range, you’ll lose weight no matter what you eat.  “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie” was the idea, and although most people in the healthy living blog world know this is not true, it is a system that worked for many.  Here are some quotes from the article, as well as my thoughts on them.

A 31-year-old teacher from Midtown Manhattan who had barely touched a banana in six years wanted to know if she could really consume them with impunity. A small-business owner from TriBeCa wondered whether she was being nudged to part with that second (or third) glass of wine.

When I used to work at a breakfast/lunch place as a waitress, and I always thought it was ridiculous when women would come in and pick the banana out of a fruit cup because it had too many calories.  Now, I would like to state that I’ve never had any problems with my weight, to which I consider myself lucky, but I also have been running since I was 12, and although people may not think I pay attention to what I eat…I do.  (Hard to tell when I buy bags of candy…oops.)  However, I eat a banana with breakfast every morning.  If a day goes by without a banana, I feel weird!  And about the wine…I don’t know how often this person is consuming two or three glasses of wine…but moderation, people!  Alcohol is what gets a lot of people in trouble, as many girls in college would comment that they wanted to lose weight, but they didn’t want to give up going out two (or three….or six) days per week.  Calories add up!

The biggest change: All fruits and most vegetables are point-free (or free of PointsPlus, as the new program is called). Processed foods, meanwhile, generally have higher point values, which roughly translates to: should be eaten less.  In the new system, oranges are free, but eight ounces of orange juice cost three points.

Some describe the new program as “Michael Pollan meets Weight Watchers,” which, as far as I’m concerned, sounds like a great idea.  When people ask me about juice, I respond by saying, “juice = soda.”  You’re much better off eating an orange and getting the fiber than drinking orange juice.  I grew up drinking milk, and I rarely remember drinking juice.  (Don’t get me started on children’s nutrition…)  That being said, my dad drinks a small glass of orange juice each and every day.  Key word:  SMALL.  None of these 16 oz. glasses that some people pour for themselves.

“I don’t want to be forced to choose veggies. I do NOT like veggies or fruit,” one member wrote in an online discussion on the Weight Watchers Web site. “I feel like I am being forced to ‘diet,’ and that is what I DO NOT WANT.”

This comment is what first sparked me to write about this article.  Since when is eating healthy considered to be dieting?  If that’s the case, then I’ve been on a diet my entire life.  I would never consider myself to be on a diet…if I ever thought I should diet, it lasted for about six hours.  If this person isn’t eating fruits or vegetables, what are they eating?  And why don’t they like them?  There are ways to make produce delicious so people who previously thought they didn’t like them…will like them!  (That being said, I hate peas and cauliflower…but I do good otherwise!)  I believe that most people in America don’t know how to cook, especially healthy food, so they don’t eat it.  Also, isn’t WW a diet?  Sure, you can eat what you want, but you’re limiting your intake based on certain numbers.  Also, as I said above, a calorie is not just a calorie.

…points or no points, even fruits and vegetables had their limits. One Weight Watchers credo, she said — to eat until satisfied, not stuffed — remained firmly in place.

I suppose people are envisioning people eating wheelbarrows of fruit…because they now can!  Well, that’s silly.  The idea behind life in general is to eat until you’re satisfied…not stuffed, which is clearly what America struggles with.  That, and eating foods that are highly caloric and therefore don’t fill them without eating a lot of it.  While I have no scientific evidence to back this up…I’m pretty sure no one is overweight from eating too many fruits and vegetables.  Just saying.

my overall thoughts

I applaud Weight Watchers for attempting to get people to focus more on eating fruits and vegetables (less processed foods in general) rather than packaged foods.  I’ve never eaten a frozen dinner in my life (outside of a couple frozen pizzas which left much to be desired), and I think it’s important for people to learn to eat healthy rather than simply looking at points.  It’s about a bigger picture, although I applaud anyone who tries to reach a healthy weight.  Like I said before, I’ve never been in a position where I had to diet to maintain a healthy weight, and I can only imagine how difficult it could be.  However, I also watch what I eat, eat healthy, and keep my treats in moderation.  (Except around the holidays…CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!)  I’ll be interested to see how people react to this overall and what results the over one million people who use Weight Watchers will see.  Hopefully a turn for the better.  :)

What’s your opinion on the change in the point system?  Do you think it will lead to a healthier America?  I know I’m preaching to the choir in a sense, but I’m interested to hear what you think!


We all know that being active is part of a healthy lifestyle, and I’ve been doing my part to get in some chilly runs!  Monday after work, it was snowing, so I got to do a snow run in Central Park!  It was fabulous and I could count the number of other runners on one hand.  :)  So peaceful, I love it!  No matter how tired  my legs are after work, I love getting out there, especially when the snow is falling in the park…just like a movie!  Short and sweet:

Monday, December 13
3.73 miles in 30:22, avg pace of 8:08

Last night was a run with the Sasquatch crew…I missed them at the start due to some timing issues, but I ran into the along the east side and got to finish up a cold run with them.  Fabulous.  The temperature read 21 degrees…that’s kinda chilly!  The key to staying warm is to keep moving…the second you stop, you’ll be cold!

Tuesday, December 14
7.17 miles in 57:04, avg pace of 7:58

Sounds good to me.  Off to do some Christmas shopping…Thanks for reading!

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  1. says

    It seems that setting points to 0 for veggies and fruits is common sense to begin with. People should know that eating fruit and veggies is perfectly ok while eating bowls of ice cream is generally bad for you. I don’t see the breaking news in WW setting veggies and fruits to 0 points when that’s the way most healthy eating people eat to begin with. Seems like they knew about this all along and were saving the “idea” to make another burst of cash.

    Just my .02. 😛

  2. says

    That is really interesting…I had no idea they changed. I agree with you and I think it is awesome they are promoting more fruits and veggies rather than just saying all calories are equal. I can’t imagine having to live on a point system though…thank goodness for running.
    Great runs so far this week. Have a great day!

  3. says

    Like you, I think it’s awesome that they are changing the point system. You read my blog, so I am sure you know my food philosophy.

    I can’t imagine having to keep track of points. THANK GOOD FOR RUNNING. LOL.

  4. says

    wow, I totally agree with your thoughts on this new system and reactions to the comments. I knew they changed but hadn’t taken the time to read into it and I LOVE these changes! My Mom has been on WW for probably about 10 years now and she’s changed her lifestyle but I’ve always thought that they promote packaged goods far too heavily. Great post!!
    p.s. I also eat a banana with breakfast every day and do not feel right if I don’t get it in. I’ll eat one before we go out for brunch even!

  5. ida says

    It’s funny that people are so upset about the change because the new program lets people eat more. They still have to eat their points for the day, and they can have all the fruits and veg they want. I think people just don’t really understand the new plan. Its great that WW is pushing produce rather than processed foods.

  6. says

    I lost about 65 lbs on WW back in the day, and the reason I had to stop using WW (I will probably always struggle w/ my weight, even as a runner – damn you people with the great metabolisms!) was the emphasis on their processed fake foods.

    I still regularly have to track what I eat, but moved away from the points system due to the weirdness – and the emphasis on weight loss over healthy living (I had my WW leader actually tell me to stop exercising so much so that I would lose weight faster – right…..)

    The new system is intriguing, though. I would like to say that WW does tout themselves as NOT a diet (because a diet is not sustainable) but as a lifestyle change, which I think is the best way to lose weight. A diet implies that you only have to change the way you do things for a certain period of time, and then it’s over – which sets yourself up for failure. So – although I disagree with the woman from the article who was grousing about how eating fruits & veggies constitutes a diet, I would like to say that WW should NOT be a “diet” other than in the most strict definition of the word. :)

  7. says

    I did weight watchers, briefly, a few years ago, and I hated it for the very reasons you’ve pinpointed. The old system used to incentivize you to eat artificial foods. For instance, two pieces of weight watchers bread with pam cooking spray, fat free american cheese (aka plastic), and some fat free margarine was a 1 point grilled cheese sandwich. With no ingredients that were recognizable as food. The most common add-on people told me about to this “meal” was low sodium tomato soup – again, overprocessed “vegetables” being lower in points than real ones.

    I actually did a market research study wherein I tested this new program for a few weeks. It is SO much healthier. You’re not only encouraged to eat fruits and vegetables but to eat lean protein. My only criticism is that carbs are fairly high in points, which is good for most of the public but doesn’t work well for a runner’s diet (then again, you make up “activity points” for running that help mitigate against the extra points of carbs).

  8. says

    What I always found amusing was the use of the word diet. Everyone is on a diet. “food and drink regularly provided or consumed” – Websters
    The question is really what you put into your diet. I read the article too and found that veggies comment so ridiculous. Don’t people feel good after eating fruits and vegetables? I do.
    I’m really happy about the WW update as my mother also subscribes to it, but they really should focus on food education or something before someone starts the program.
    Bananas? You’re Bananas! I eat them so often my coworkers call me monkey. During races I eat 2 beforehand.

  9. says

    Yes, I like this change. I think people should eat food that God gave us Freely from this earth. that includes mostly fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, etc. It provided nutrients for us for years! Not this man made junk all the time. I think people need to think about food in a whole new perspective. And moderation is key, you are right!

  10. says

    So much I’d like to respond to, but in the interest of brevity, here’s what I have to say to the person who doesn’t like fruits or vegetables: GROW UP! Honestly! I guess I understand liking or disliking a food, but you cannot be an adult and say you don’t like fruits or vegetables. Sorry. Shop around and stop relying on chicken and bread. So, I guess WW is doing a small part in trying to get people to eat vegetables. My approach is probably to coarse.

  11. says

    I could nod my head a million times in agreement. Since you are also a nurse you most likely work with a majority of females and the topic of weight/dieting/exercising is usually in pretty heavy discussion at lunch time. I always feel inclined to say what I feel, (but never do because I always keep most of my opinions to myself), about all the girls that complain about weight loss but are ALWAYS eating frozen processed microwaved foods or my favorite… 100 calorie packs of crackers/cookies and don’t want to exercise. Um, HELLO guys! I don’t know how they aren’t starving all the time!!! Not to mention we take care of pediatric cancer patients and I don’t exactly understand how they don’t see the correlation between an overly processed lifestyle and cancer! Okay…jumping off the soapbox:)

  12. Susan says

    I’ve been going to WW for two years and this summer reached lifetime status. As far as the emphasis on process/WW foods that a couple commentors mentioned, it really depends on the leader. Even before the change WW emphazied “filling foods” over unhealthy snacks, but it’s up to the leader to steer that conversation. I’ve heard that some leaders push the fake stuff, while others emphasize that those are options in a pinch. Luckily mine takes the latter view.

    As far as the whole banana thing, I had no idea until our meeting when the plan was introduced, just how much angst was caused by bananas. I too eat them all the time.

    Susan — to your point about no one getting no one being overweight from too many fruits and vegetables — of course. But point of emphasizing “eat until your statisfied, not stuff” is to create good habits across the board. If you’re stuffing yourself with fruit you may also be more inclined to stuff yourself in general.

  13. says

    such an excellent post. and i am definitely on board with the new guidelines. whole foods > processed. i say that even as i am on the way to a cocktails & cookies xmas party . . . i might need WW by the end of this season!

  14. Don says

    Nice Article, seems like people are upset that the program is not absolute anymore, before as long as you were under a certain number you were fine, now it’s more common sense, I’m sure you’ll have people that will eat the allocated points and then have lets say 5000 calories of fruit and veggies and wonder why they don’t loss weight.

    Always amazed at people that say they don’t like any veggies or fruits, I mean I can not eat bananas (I know not the common theme here) but love tons of other ones.

  15. says

    I don’t mean to sound like a judgy mcgee, but that one comment you highlighted just doesn’t make sense. As you pointed out….WW is a diet…so if yo’re on it….shouldn’t you be eating fruits and veggies/other healthy food?

  16. says

    i think WW has made some good change, mainly making fruit and vegetables 0 points. you made a really good point about calories not being equal. that is something i always try to emphasize when counseling. to some people, eating vegetables may seem like a diet to some people after eating the standard american diet for so long…but i really do feel that america has lost sight of the true meaning of REAL food vs. processed products from the food industry.

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