I love to eat. I always have. I’m one of those people who thinks about what I’ll have for dinner while I’m eating lunch. Over the course of my life, much of which was spent overweight, I’ve come to realize that food is my drug of choice. I eat when I’m happy, when I’m bored, but most of all, when I’m stressed. (I keep a bag of raw veggies at my desk for obvious reasons.)
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or in any way trained or expert in nutrition. These opinions and observations are mine alone, based only on my personal experiences.
Basics: Weight Watchers uses a system of points for accounting for the food you eat. Food points are a combination of calories, fat, proteins, carbohydrates and who knows what else. Certain foods (most fruits and vegetables, certain lean meats) are zero points, which encourage users to make those healthier food choices.
The program also counts activity points which, from what I can tell, are loosely based on the length of the activity and the intensity of the workout.
Each day you get x-number of points to spend/eat. You also get 35 extra points for the week which you can spend over the course of the week, or all in one day if you’d like. (Although I have to say, that would be one whopping day of eating.) Your activity points are factored in as well, so the more you work out, the more you can eat. (I like that part of it!) Also, Weight Watchers lets you count things like vacuuming and mopping floors as activity. (Not that I enjoy housework, but at least you get credit for it!)
Recently, Weight Watchers introduced its Freestyle plan, which increased the number of zero-point foods, including almost all fruits and vegetables (although alas no potatoes or sweet potatoes), chicken breast, turkey breast, eggs (yes, whole eggs), beans and more. At the same time, daily points limits were reduced to balance out the change.
I’ve been on the plan (pre-Freestyle and Freestyle) for about three months and have had some success. Here are my observations:
What I like:
I love the zero points on vegetables and chicken/turkey breast. That means if I eat a grilled chicken breast and some steamed veggies for dinner (no bread or potatoes), that’s ZERO POINTS. That means I can have a small dish of frozen yogurt for dessert and maybe a snack a bit later in the evening! And that makes me happy.
I love the Weight Watchers website. I can create my own recipes and play around with the ingredients to make the per-serving points workable for me. The mobile app has a scanner that allows you to simply scan a bar code while you’re shopping to find out the points values of that food! Very cool. So if I’m looking at two brands of bread and want to buy the one that’s lower points, it’s quick and easy.
This was my dinner a few days ago -- homemade turkey meatballs (made with 98% lean ground turkey breast), a small scoop of spaghetti with sauce and steamed broccoli. It was pretty yummy, if I do say so! (Eating "healthy" can be a challenge when you're married to a meat-and-potatoes guy like I am. I just have to make it work for me.)
I like that I can track my food in advance to get the day’s total and figure out what changes I might want to make before I actually eat the food. It’s a huge help with social events or dinners out. And you don’t have to count zero-point foods, so the new Freestyle plan means spending less time tracking food.
I like the points system. I have tried My Fitness Pal in the past, which is a really good option if you prefer a free site, but you have to watch calories, carbs, fats, etc., for each food. It’s too much for me. Weight Watchers does the calculations for me. (I don’t need added stress while I’m trying to lose weight!)
What I’m cautionary about:
"Free" fruits. As much as I love that I can eat fruit all day “for free,” I have a son who’s diabetic, and I know how much sugars are in fruits. I also so know that sugars are not great for us. They serve a purpose in overall nutrition, but too much is...too much. I love fruit, but I limit myself to one or two pieces of fruit a day. (When I first went on Weight Watchers back in 2008, fruits were not free.)
Tips to make it work for you:
One word: Planning.
Seriously, you can eat anything you want on Weight Watchers, but you have to plan for it and account for it. It does take effort, but for me that’s a good thing. Mindless eating is a perfect path to weight gain for me, especially because I use food as an emotional crutch. Weight Watchers forces me to pay attention to what I’m eating and to be purposeful about my choices. I won’t stay on the program forever – mostly because I’m cheap and don’t want to pay forever – but I hope by then I’ll have retrained myself to make better choices.
If you’re battling your bulges and are considering Weight Watchers, I hope this helps give you an idea about the program and whether it might work for you.
If you have a favorite program or system to track what you eat, we'd love to hear about it! I'm always looking for new ideas.
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. As you might guess, her food addiction finds its way into much of her writing, and she often eats vicariously through her characters, many of whom don’t have to Battle the Bulge. Lucky stiffs.
Learn more at leahstjames.com. Her days to blog here are the 6th and 22nd each month.