Weight Watchers (now branded as WW) has been around for over 50 years. And if you know even the slightest bit about the dieting industry, you’ll know that diet trends come and go in almost as rapid fashion as clothing styles.
And much like how fashion trends recycle and become popular again years later, so do some of these dietary trends (*cough* low carb, *cough* keto, *cough* intermittent fasting.)
How does WW remain top of mind for all of these dieting individuals who have failed time and again to lose weight or maintain weight loss?
Well, they adapt. Just like fashion.
We, as people, are fickle. We are also fairly impatient. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned coaching hundreds and hundreds of people to weight loss is that clients always want weight loss NOW.
And I do have to give sincere credit to WW for keeping the fickle public in mind and still being a name worth mentioning when it comes to weight loss programs that actually work.
I know people, right at this moment, who are succeeding on WW. To them, I say from the bottom of my heart, CONGRATULATIONS. Keep doing what you’re doing.
This article isn’t really for them (although it kind of is.)
This article is for everyone who has been psychologically screwed over by WW.
Let me explain.
I am one of a crowd of coaches in the health and wellness industry who feeds his family by a system of results that marries the concepts of calorie/food tracking, healthy habits and strength training.
I sell no supplements: no powders, pills, wraps, etc. I have no affiliation to any MLM service/product.
What I believe WW has done exceedingly well is take a rather complex concept like calorie counting and boiling it down to a point system.
It’s a flawed point system but I have to admit that it is far easier to count 23 points than it is 1300 calories.
And, no system (even mine) is 100% perfect and accurate.
As we are individuals, we all respond differently to different systems.
And WW knows this, which is why every few years, they change.
Sometimes the changes are dramatic (like this newest 2019 version.) The belief is that as science and research change, so should their points system.
I don’t disagree.
Here’s the first part of my rub.
WW historically has offered a support group. This has tremendous upside as having a community can be exponentially helpful when it comes to sustainable weight loss. I see this with my own closed community as well.
And within the support and the designated weigh ins, people learn how to “game the system.” A crafty enough person can play around with laxatives, diuretics, water, carbs and a host of other variables to “win” at weight loss on a given week and appear victorious in front of their community.
I’m not immune to those things and I know why they work. This does not teach someone how to eat. It teaches them how to play a game. And while I don’t believe for a moment that WW endorses this behavior these are the things that tend to happen when weight loss becomes a contest or a place where people feel the need to one-up others in their weight loss journey.
Another unintended consequence of WW is that there is now an emotional component to eating. This is something I’ve seen carry back to my first years of owning this business (since 2009.)
A person could take their given WW points and treat any day where they are below their points as a “Good” day. Conversely, any day where the same person was over by even one point is a “Bad” day.
Wrong. It’s just a day.
I’ve given speeches over the years where I’ve said half in jest, that WW is the perfect diet for Catholics because it’s riddled with guilt. That’s not a knock on Catholics. My father was Catholic and he was an exceptional human being. But if you’re Catholic, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
And since we’re on the topic of faith, this opens another door that WW has failed the public with. A nearly blind faith that a person’s worth is determined by their point system. And that if every other diet has failed them, then they go running back to their beloved point system.
Which is why so many people who have been such ardent followers of WW over the years felt so betrayed by the newest changes to the system. Many found that their points were reduced.
This is concerning.
It’s like being told you’re being given a reduction in pay for the same amount of work. It feels like a slap in the face.
What WW got right with the new point system is a focus on lean sources of proteins and vegetables. What they got wrong is they gave these foods a value of zero points.
This is concerning.
Every food has a calorie. And every calorie counts (right down to the unmeasured, unsweetened creamer you eyeball into your 4 cups of coffee each day.)
When you take a person who is near their allotted points and you to tell them that grilled chicken has no points (but 4 ounces DOES have 170 calories) what exactly are you showing them? Well, you’re setting them up to be in caloric maintenance or caloric surplus. That means NO WEIGHT LOSS.
Should I mention the fact that the same piece of grilled chicken has gone through phases of being 2 points and 4 points as well? The same 170 calories??
Let me slice this a slightly different way.
Let’s say I’ve been led to believe (not incorrectly) that I should be focusing on lean proteins and fruits and veggies for the majority of my diet. How could I construct a day’s worth of eating?
Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with spinach, side of unsweetened Greek yogurt and a banana. Total points: zero. Total calories: approx 350-425 calories
Lunch: Grilled chicken salad (4 oz chicken, lettuce, beets, tomatoes) and a side of blueberries/blackberries. Total points: zero. Total calories: approx 300-350 calories
Dinner: Baked salmon (4 oz) with a side of asparagus and corn. Total points: zero. Total calories: approx 300 calories.
What you see is an individual who played by the WW rules and has a zero point day with a “healthy” assortment of food but accumulated anywhere from 950-1075 calories.
What if they’re allotted 18 total points to play with for extra food??
What if it takes this person 1200-1400 calories a day to lose weight?
Do you know what that spells? S-C-R-E-W-E-D.
WW has not been able to solve the law of thermodynamics for it’s clients. No amount of anecdotal evidence can change laws of physics. If it could, we all would be making up the rules every time the game didn’t go our direction.
With almost frightening accuracy, I can tell you there is a strong correlation between a client’s inability to lose weight with how many times they have been in the WW headlock. They deny calories. They deny physics. And in turn, they are denied sustainable results.
This breaks my heart.
Because what I really want, and what this country undoubtedly needs from a company that has survived over 50 years in the diet industry is to do GOOD.
Which brings me to the icing on the cake for WW.
The newly launched Kurbo app for kids.
Now, we (as coaches) no longer have to JUST fear that WW clients will drag their children to WW meetings and start them on diets. Now, there’s an app to facilitate and encourage eating disorders at arguably the most impressionable age of a child.
Shame on you, WW. Shame on you.
As a parent, this also breaks my heart.
I understand the need for technology because I do ask my clients to embrace it if they’re willing. But to ask it of our children so they can lose weight? No, thank you.
Because I will tell you what I see. I see people who come to my business and they have been dieting for decades. Many of these people have cycled in and out of WW for much of their dieting “career” and they still haven’t been saved.
And I’m not standing on a soapbox. I haven’t solved the riddle. And neither have my fellow coaches who preach from the same pulpit.
We’re pleading with our clients to learn another way. A way that isn’t WW. And it isn’t because WW failed everyone. They didn’t. They bobbed and weaved just like a great boxer to stay relevant in the diet conversation.
What WW stands for isn’t wrong per se. But the legions of people who have valiantly followed them who have not succeeded are still unwilling/unable to let go of the WW machine.
And I’m tired of watching good people suffer because they were not taught effective eating skills.
Dieting is not, and will never be, easy.
And if you are someone who has been betrayed by the next modification of WW and are hoping and praying they don’t let you down again when they change again (and they will change), know that there are other skills that have to be developed.
No one wins in weight loss by shaming themselves to the finish line.
I offer some simple solutions.
-You can follow the WW point system if you so desire. I would encourage you to double-track and cross reference those foods within a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal, MyPlate, Lose It., etc. Make sure your accurate details have been logged: age, height, weight, gender and level of daily activity.
-Use exercise as a tool to get you to your goal but NOT the most effective or efficient way to get your desired weight off. It is too difficult for the average person to accurately know how many calories they burn during exercise and too many use extra energy expenditure as an excuse to over-consume food.
-Remove shame from your journey. Embrace the person you are as the best person you can be at this given moment. Accept that this person can still be sharpened, polished and improved on. We are ALL works in progress.
-Teach your children to eat for different goals. Teach them to eat to fuel effort. Teach them to be strong, teach them to be capable, teach them how to be worthy in the skin they’re in.
WW, you need to up your game. The rest of us are trying to pick up the pieces you left behind. And we’re holding you responsible for damaging the psyche of millions of people over the last 5 decades who did not succeed in the program that you cannot consistently stand behind.
7 thoughts on “Weight Watchers Has (Almost) Ruined You”
I am a former WW Leader. (Now, I believe they’re called “Coaches”.) I attained my Lifetime status – but, as you described, I played a game every month. When it was time to weigh in to keep my job – I’d go for a 3 – 5 mile run and drop 3#. How insane is that? I have been disillusioned by WW for many years. I saw it depart from caring for its members – to watching the bottom line on the stock market. I was constantly told my product sales were too low. Well, if you don’t believe in a product, you can’t sell it. One of my teams called the WW bars “WW crack”, because you were simply replacing one addiction with another.
Long story short, I agree with EVERYTHING you wrote.
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Thank you for the message Francie. It was many feelings similar to this that inspired the writing of this article. I appreciate you reading it and I hope you’ve found a healthy path 🙂
So amazed/dismayed at the 0-point “free food” of the new WW system. It is such a false conception of what food is. Dumbfounded when I talk with friends on this system, not losing weight, but convinced what a good system it is:
“Do you track zero point foods?
“Now, foods like skinless chicken and turkey breast, fish, shellfish, eggs, peas, corn, beans, nonfat unsweetened yogourt—and of course fruits and veggies—all have a SmartPoints value of zero! That means you do not have to weigh, measure, or track them.”
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Thank you for reading Etana. I know the new system works for some but I just saw too many gaps in it not too dive further into the comparison against calories. Like everything, I am certain that WW has strategies for a workaround but I also know many people share your sentiments and mine about where it could all go wrong.
I haven’t been on here in a while. Laila mentioned this and I read it. I cannot agree with the basic premise that it is about “gaming” the system or point “shaming.” That has NEVER come from ANY of our leaders or brought up by members at our meetings. We groused when SmartPoints was introduced, but both of us lost more weight which really excited Laila and I got more “Free.” We eat a mixed bag of foods, SOMETIMES (but rarely) buy 2 Point “crack” … we were probably two of your problem children, Francie. We just check the points for different snacks at stores. The WW program works amazingly well while still having us eat “normal” foods (sorry, Marie Osmond). By the way, scrambled eggs are NOT “zero points.” Because of our deep-set habits, I believe there needs to be some kind of structure – some plan (Points?) to get us to make better choices in what we eat. WW. And I will say that the group huddles are always good, even when talking about those tough weeks and challenges of family picnics, and – yes – that almost always comes up. My doctor has been pleased with my results and he has always been supportive of the WW format and helping to refocus on a healthier lifestyle. One last question: What is your alternative? What is the better way of achieving a better doctors check up?
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Doug, thank you for reading the article and your insight on how WW worked for you. While I do have an opinion and made it known in the post, I also did my best to be mindful and respectful of those who HAVE succeeded on whatever manifestation of the system WW had out at any given time. I do believe that throughout the company’s tenure there has always been a system that worked for “someone” or clearly, WW would no longer exist and credit must be given to that. My issue is less about those who found a way to succeed and more a way to stand behind those who “failed” on a given system. Something another coach and I were discussing was the reality that it’s not just a WW issue. You could nearly remove “WW” and “point system” from my article and swap in almost any other dietary methodology and have almost an identical concern. Like any business, I think some WW groups do it “right” and some don’t but that comes from the feedback I’ve received from clients of mine who became disillusioned with the company at whatever point in there respective journey. To your last question, I believe (and will always believe) that the alternative is what works best for you, your lifestyle and value system. If WW serves that purpose, nothing could make me happier. For others, it may be calorie counting, veganism, ketogenic, diet du jour, etc. The amazing thing about options is that everyone will find one that serves them best. I try to educate for those alternatives where clients desire. I congratulate you on your success and very much hope that your doctor sees your health continually improve. 🙂