Everything online about Weight Watchers sounds like a commercial. Let me tell you the truth about it without all that sugar coating.
Why I Stay With Weight Watchers Even Though I Have The Points Program Memorized By Heart:
It’s not about the Points. If I could follow the program by myself, then calorie counting would have worked for me. Points is actually more complicated than keeping track of calories, yet it’s the first program where I was able to keep the weight off.
It’s not about the Core Food List. There is no magic food list that would have worked for me. I tried limiting my intake of food before. I did lose weight, but I gained it right back when I “fell off the wagon.”
It’s not even about the Tools For Living. They are very powerful and helpful parts of the system, but the first time I read them, they were useless to me. It wasn’t until I sat through several classes describing their use that I was able to use them.
The meetings and the accountability are the one thing that have kept me on track week after week. I suggest finding a leader that you love. Go to the same class every week. Get to know the people at the class. Be honest when you say how you’re doing. Participate in the class. You can’t replace the accountability that you will receive when you attend the same class at the same time with the same leader EVERY week.
The Flex Points Program:
There have been three patents registered to Weight Watchers concerning the Points Program. Here are the links to the publicly recorded information about the Points Program:
- U.S. Patent 6,040,531 Dated 07-18-97
- U.S. Patent 6,436,036 Dated 08-20-02
- U.S. Patent 6,878,885 Dated 04-12-05
According to these documents, this is the formula used to calculate the Points value for a food:
Points = (Calories/50) + (Fat Grams/12) – (Fiber Grams/5)
How many Points you are allowed each day depends on your weight. Here is what is listed in the patents:
Less than 150 pounds = 18-25 Points
150 to 174 pounds = 20-27 Points
175 to 199 pounds = 22-29 Points
200 to 224 pounds = 24-31 Points
225 to 250 pounds = 26-33 Points
Over 250 pounds = 28-35 Points
This differs in the patent versus the amount that they give us in the class. There is an intricate Flex Point System that can be tailored to your needs with the help of your leader. The way it works in the class:
Less than 150 pounds = 20 Points
150 to 174 pounds = 22 Points
175 to 199 pounds = 24 Points
200 to 224 pounds = 26 Points
225 to 250 pounds = 28 Points
250 to 275 pounds = 30 Points
275 to 300 pounds = 31 Points
300 to 325 pounds = 32 Points
325 to 350 pounds = 33 Points
Over 350 pounds = 34 Points
You are allowed a total of 35 Flex Points that can be used in whatever quantity you desire each week. The two methods are essentially the same except that the new Flex Points program allows you 7 more Points a week. I personally preferred the previous system where you Bank Points to save for special occasions.
These are harder to calculate. The calculation is based on perceived exertion. Light, Moderate and Heavy. They base the levels on sweating and breathing levels, which leaves asthmatics and heavy sweaters in a strange conundrum.
In January 2005, Weight Watchers released recommendations for Activity Levels based on Heart Rate:
They use the typical calculation for Maximum Heart Rate:
Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Age
They state you can calculate your activity levels based on the following:
- Light is about 40-54% Maximum Heart Rate.
- Moderate is 55-69% Maximum Heart Rate.
- Heavy is equal to or greater than 70% Maximum Heart Rate.
I used much more vigorous percentages in my estimations, so this bit of news made things much easier for me.
Once you’ve calculated how much time you’ve exercised at a certain activity level, here is the registered calculation for Activity Points:
Light Activity Points = Weight X Minutes X .000232
Moderate Activity Points = Weight X Minutes X .000327
Heavy Activity Points = Weight X Minutes X .0008077
You can add Activity Points into your total for the day. The Flex Points plan states that you need to use the Activity Points on the day that you use them. The older plan used to let you Bank a maximum of four Points and save them for up to a week.
The Core Plan:
You can choose to follow the Flex Plan or the Core Plan. The Core Plan does not require a food journal or recording the Points values of your food. It does require that you eat from a limited list of foods that have a low risk of abuse.
You are supposed to eat these foods until you feel satisfied, not full. That’s a pretty fine line for me, so I have never followed the Core Plan. You are also allowed 35 Flex Points a week to fit in foods that are not on the Core Food list. Those items need to be tracked in your food journal.
The Eight Good Health Guidelines:
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Choose whole-grain foods whenever possible.
- Eat two servings of low fat dairy every day.
- Eat two teaspoons of healthy oil every day. Healthy oils are: olive, flaxseed, canola, safflower and sunflower.
- Eat two servings of protein a day.
- Limit refined sugar and alcohol.
- Drink at least six glasses of water every day.
- Take a vitamin pill every day.
This is the best aspect of the program. There is a weekly meeting in addition to the weigh-ins. The leaders are instructed on the class that they will teach each week, so the meetings are very similar from one leader to the next. The most important thing, however, is finding a leader that you like and respect. Each leader adds their own personality to the classes that they teach and getting a leader who is a good fit will help you greatly.
The accountability of weighing each week in front of someone who isn’t there to judge you, but there to help you through this process is incredibly helpful. Sometimes the people who mark my weight feel like they are just trying to rush me along with the rest of the crowd. I make sure that I weigh in with my leader, not the other people, even if I have to wait. She is better able to see my progress and work with me when there is none.
Tools For Living:
There are a whole collection of Tools For Living that help you through uncomfortable situations during the weight loss process. I’ve seen similar tools in books like The Thin Commandments and The No Fad Diet, but having the teacher there to help you use them is much better than just reading about them.
There are classes throughout the year that focus on each of the Tools For Living. There isn’t a tool that I haven’t found myself using at some time or other during this long journey. They are even helpful for goals and situations other than weight loss.
There is an intial fee to start and then a weekly fee after that. It differs from state to state. In Utah, the fee is as follows:
Registration and First Week Fee = $35.00
Weekly Fee until week #9 = $10.00 a week
Weekly Fee week #9 and future = $ 8.00 a week
They give a $1 a week discount if you pay for 10 weeks at at time: 10 weeks = $70.00
I find this worth every penny. Seven dollars a week is nothing compared to what I earn in health and peace of mind. Considering how inexpensive healthy food is compared to processed food, I more than pay for my weekly membership by eating healthy.
Weight Watchers also has an online program:
It costs $16.95 a month unless you sign up for three months, where you get a savings for the longer program.
Weight Watchers is a healthy program that has helped me get the weight off and keep it off. Even when we were dead broke, we scraped together enough money so I could go to my meetings every week. It was that worth it to me.
Weight loss is your responsibility. Don’t think that you can just follow the Points and get the full benefit of Weight Watchers. Having this information isn’t the secret. The secret to being able to lose weight and keep it off is commitment. If you are willing to set aside just one hour and $7 a week, then you are on your way to getting to goal.
If you’re not willing to set aside the time and the money, then you’re not committed. You might as well not waste your time trying to lose weight. Just stay at the weight you’re at and let yourself be happy about it.
Update 11-17-05: Added the Weight Watchers article about Heart Rate and Activity Exertion Levels.
Update 11-27-05: Added the link to the Weight Watchers Online program.