I've heard very mixed reports about Weight Watchers (WW). WW do target the average person - not people who are sports orientated. Sure their methods may work for some (most diets will work for some), but after speaking to someone who tried WW for herself, I really started to question the methods that they employ.
They really take a very superficial approach to nutrition - a point system. Okay it's simple and that's great as an introduction to weight loss, I agree. But for long-term sustainability and general health you really need to understand nutrition on a slightly deeper level.
The mention of sugar, carbs, protein, vitamins, glycemic index (and so on) is enough to scare most away. It seems confusing and completely overwhelming at first...but it is really very straight forward. When I initially joined a gym, I didn't have a clue how a carbohydrate differed from a protein. I now know first-hand that some basic understanding goes a very long way.
A lot of the diets that are available take advantage of the lack of nutritional education amongst the general population. Rather than explaining the basics - many diets will resort to employing simple 1-2-3 plans to lose weight in the short term. These plans deviate from the science of nutrition and tend to provide an alternative quick-fix plan. Once the client deviates from the 1-2-3 plan, the long-term sustainability of weight loss becomes a task and a half.
So anyway back to WW. I was speaking to someone who undertook this program and was very concerned about the methods she was explaining to me. I haven't looked at this program in any great detail, so this information is based purely on what she has told me.
On this points system, she could consume UP TO 16 points per day. A glass of wine was X points, a piece of bread was Y points, some meat was Z points and so on. This works on the basic "calories in versus calories out" theory which I explained in the course I'm publishing:
LESSON 101 - Fundamentals to Weight Change
As far as this person could tell me, calories in versus calories out was not explained at all, adding to the confusion of nutrition itself. Calories in versus calories out really isn't rocket science after all.
Now she further explained that she had a limit of 16 points per day. But she could eat less than that if she liked. She could eat 14 points, or 10 points, or 2 points or none at all. Okay I couldn't believe this and I asked her again, "Based on your understanding of the program, you can consume NO points at all and that's allowed by the program?" And she said yes. I cannot stress highly enough how important it is to eat.
She mentioned that there was a strong emphasis on plant foods - particularly vegetables which I think is great. However there was no explanation of and differentiation between carbohydrate, protein and fat. This is where I really dislike the program as a personal trainer.
When you are losing weight, it's simple - just consume less calories than what you expend. But what many of us often undermine is our general health. Yes, losing weight in a healthy manner (typically if you are overweight or obese) will aid your general health phenomenally. However care should also be taken to ensure that you consume a balanced diet. A balanced diet consists of carbohydrate, fat and protein. Using a points system - you cannot differentiate between these nutrients. Ultimately you could consume a diet primarily consisting of carbohydrate with negligible protein or fat which could have some consequences to your health and wellbeing. This, I find is of particular concern. I listed the benefits of each macronutrient in another lesson:
LESSON 103 - Macronutrients in Detail
Finally, I was advised that points could be saved up. So if she only consumed 14 points on one day, she had 2 points left over for another day. Consider this - based on her understanding, for a week straight she only consumes 8 points worth - leaving a total of 56 (8x7) points left over. That's a pretty big binge session...imagine what that's going to do for the metabolism!
At the end of period with Weight Watchers, this person did in fact lose over 10kg on Weight Watchers. This was a big achievement and there was a very big physical difference. However that was 12 months ago. Since then she has gained the weight back. I asked her why. She admitted to me that the point system was too hard to follow when she left Weight Watchers. It was too hard to go out to a restaurant, consume a meal and know how many points that meal was worth. Foods in the supermarket don't have point values and she finds it too hard to keep track of everything.
I asked her if she would prefer to have some basic nutritional knowledge so she can understand nutritional labelling. She said yes. Finally, I asked her, do you have any intentions of returning to Weight Watchers? She said no.
Ultimately it comes down to the individual. In my opinion, the biggest problems associated with a point system program such as Weight Watchers are:
- Lack of nutritional education
- Long term sustainability
- Too much emphasis on weight loss, undermining the importance of general health & wellbeing
For further reading on the topic, I suggest you have a read of a couple of articles I published:
Fad Diet, Fad Result
Yo-Yo Dieting - No-No Dieting
Also for an introduction on the topic of nutrition, I strongly suggest that you go through the Amino Z Course - Introduction to Physical Freedom.