I’ve written about my love/hate relationship with Weight Watchers in the past. After struggling to lose weight on my own, I decided to join again. I’m in my tenth week since I joined and I’m down 10.8 pounds. That’s great right? It is for me. I feel so much better, clothes fit better, I feel more in control in general. All should be well. It’s not though. Last Sunday they rolled out their new Smart Points program. Despite an enormous amount of technical difficulties, I was able to start tracking in the new app. I assumed this meant that the change to the program was largely superficial as it generally is each year. Every December they make some sort of change to keep things fresh, and encourage new enrollments. Rarely is it anything big that requires you to purchase all new materials. It’s usually just cosmetic and small tweaks. The last major change they made was their switch from Points to PointsPlus.
As it turns out, it wasn’t a small change, it was a huge change. One of my biggest complaints about WW was that it was too easy to lose weight by eating a lot of processed foods. I felt that members could live on pre-packaged dinners and still lose weight, and I knew that was the goal that WW had for it’s members. So, when I heard that SmartPoints would steer people away from that I was excited. But the thing I love about WW is that I’ve always been able to work it into my life. I’ve never felt like I was on a diet, or that I couldn’t find a reasonable choice in a difficult situation. Kids want ice cream? OK, they can get a sundae, but I can still make it work with a small cone. I also liked that WW worked for me as a vegetarian. People often think that vegetarians are stick figures who need to eat more, but vegetarian’s can make a lot of unhealthy choices and still avoid meat. WW helped me be a better vegetarian.
This article gives a breakdown of all of the changes that come with SmartPoints. They sound fantastic right? Well let me put it into perspective from my day on the plan so far. I eat nearly the same foods all the time. I do that partly because I like them, and partly because I like not having to really think about meals. They work for me, and while there are variations, I can use my day as an example because it’s usually very similar. Since rejoining, I’ve only gained one week, and lost all of the other weeks at a reasonable 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. So, PointsPlus was working for me. I’d use my daily points every day, about 1/2 to 2/3 of my weekly points, and none of my activity points. On PointsPlus I had 29 daily points, and 49 weekly points. With SmartPoints I have 30 daily, and 42 weekly. Apparently I’m lucky, because some people have almost no weekly points.
So let’s get to my food today…
Breakfast – Nearly every day my breakfast consists of 1/2 cup of rolled oats (not instant, just plain oats), 2 Tbsp’s of raisins, 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and one medium apple.
Snack – I usually have a piece of regular string cheese as a snack
Lunch – I make a big batch of soup that includes kidney beans, pinto beans, corn, diced tomatoes, onions, a bell pepper, mushrooms, and some spices and eat a serving for lunch. I also had the generic equivalent of a Fiber One brownie. I know that fruit would have been a better choice, but I felt like this was a small treat and not much harm in the overall scheme of my day. Again, it’s why WW has been working. I could have that without guilt.
Snack – I often have veggies and hummus, but got busy and had another piece of string cheese.
At this point on PointsPlus I would generally have about 10 points left for dinner. I felt like I could probably make some improvements to those meals, but overall that was a good day before coming into dinner time. It’s a far cry healthier than I used to eat for sure, and still let me have a little treat. So where am I on SmartPoints with these foods? I have 3 points left for dinner. Yes, 3 points! I ventured over to the WW Facebook page to see what others are saying and not a lot of people are happy. This is especially true for vegetarian members. Lean protein went down in points. So now you can eat chicken and tuna all day, and still have lots of room for your tiny 4 point brownie. But if you don’t eat meat, you’re kind of screwed. Beans went up, rice went up, quinoa went up. Meat substitutes went down, but I don’t really consider them a better choice than beans. All of the foods that were delivering a consistent weight loss are now out of budget for me even though they’re really not unhealthy. Sure, I could drop that brownie, and I’ve been wanting to give up dairy so the cheese could go. But neither of those things are awful choices that I should feel bad about making. However, eliminating them would have meant a 10 point savings in my day on SmartPoints. The responses from Weight Watchers to comments about the plan have all been that you can eat more lean protein, and still fit the higher point things into your plan. That’s true if you eat meat. Tuna is now 1 point per serving. But beans are now 3, so there’s no tweaking for me.
Weight Watcher’s biggest draw has always been that it is something you can work into everyday life. I spoke to a co-worker whose wife has lost a lot of weight on PointsPlus. He said once a year she eats a piece of cheesecake around Christmas while she shops with her mother. That piece was 11 points and something she could plan for and work into her plan easily. On SmartPoints it’s now 27 points and more than eliminates her weekly points, as she has far fewer than I do. This means she either eats it anyway, and cuts into her whole week in a major way, or she opts not to eat it, and feels left out of a tradition.
One leader I spoke to said that in test groups people have lost more weight on this plan than any other. I totally believe that, but I don’t believe that it is at all sustainable. There are people in this world who eat perfect, and a processed food never touches their lips. But for the majority of people who seek out a program like WW this is not something they can do, or they wouldn’t be there. They need something that helps them make better choices, while still allowing them to feel like they don’t have to give up every food they’ve ever enjoyed.
In an effort to not be totally negative, I’ll reiterate that I like the fact that they’re trying to steer people towards whole foods. I also like that they’ve changed how they look at activity. They want you to set goals with that as well, but not necessarily exercise just to earn more points for food. They’re also really trying to take the focus off the scale, and move towards an overall feeling of wellness.
But let’s be honest, people walking in that door almost always need help learning how to make livable changes. I don’t think SmartPoints will help them reach that long term. I’m struggling with where I should go with the program from here.
Have you tried SmartPoints yet? What do you think of the changes?