If you caught my summer preview post you probably picked up that one of my downtime goals is to lose some weight, not to be skinny or pretty or anything, but to be more comfortable traveling and sight-seeing. I decided to take advantage of a deal and try Weight Watchers, which is for some reason calling themselves “WW” in an attempt to rebrand themselves as a lifestyle as opposed to a weight loss plan. I’m not joking, I had to call into customer service about an app problem, and the agent said “thank you for calling double-u double-u” like I didn’t know I was calling fucking WEIGHT WATCHERS, but that’s only part of the story.
I’ve been using the plan for about a month and a half, and while I have been able to lose about 5 pounds, I’ve discovered some issues that might be something you would want to know about if you were considering some help in this kind of endeavor.
The basic idea of WW is the same as it’s always been: you get a set of daily points based on your gender, current weight, age, and a few other attributes. In addition to these points that reset daily, you get a set of weekly points that give you a little wiggle room on the daily or help with eating out or splurging that would take you way beyond your daily allotment. If you exercise you can also earn FitPoints, which you can choose to use to bolster your balance, or avoid using altogether to help boost your weight loss.
These were in place when I used the program in 2006 to lose almost 50 pounds. What was nice then was that it was relatively easy to gauge how many points an item was worth. The general rule of thumb was that 50 calories roughly worth 1 point, with higher fiber or protein values bringing the point value down, while higher fat values increased the average. Plus there were guidelines about what you should eat: dairy, servings of fruits and veggies, a basic amount of water, and you could check these off and work them into your day.
I have watched the plans slowly change over the years. First everything you ate had a point value that you had to track. Then fruits and veggies became zero points, and how your daily points were calculated changed. Then what a point meant changed, requiring the purchase of a point calculator or you could use the app/website. And then Oprah came on the scene, talking about how much she loved bread and cauliflower pizza dough and the plan changed yet again to include about 200 zero point foods, expanded to include fruits, veggies, seafood, boneless skinless chicken breast, 99% fat free ground turkey/chicken, and eggs.
At first I was kind of excited by the large number of things I could eat that I didn’t necessarily have to track. But something about it nagged at the back of my mind – how could we just call these things zero points when they have nutritional value and calorie content? So I started using the plan and discovered a few things very quickly.
First, this plan bases point values on saturated fat, sugar, and protein. Calories aren’t even used, nor is fiber. At first this made sense to me given the current research on sugar consumption and trans/saturated fats. What didn’t make sense to me was how 230 calories of M&Ms could equal 12 points, 30% of my daily allotment. I know none of this is an exact science but gosh that’s…that’s aggressive. The commercials love to say that it’s such a flexible plan, you can eat anything! Which I guess is true, you COULD eat M&Ms, but the point structure sure as shit is gonna scare you away from doing that.
Which leads me to my second point: ALL IS EGGS. Holy shit, every WW recipe, community recommendation, whatever uses 9782347263847239 eggs. I am convinced that anything you could ever do with eggs has been discovered by current WW members trying to stretch their points as far as they can go. And the pictures of these recipes – god it looks like an eggplant shat out a terrible skillet scrambler in the most terrible nightmare diner. “Look at this amazing meal, and so tasty!” Bullshit Carol.
And third. You think Facebook or Instagram is a nightmare? Well then come on over to the “Connect” section of the WW app or website. WOW. If it isn’t people posting side by sides with the after picture filtered so hard that Barbies (holy unrealistic skinny waist batman) and anime characters (HUGE EYES WOW) would be jealous, it’s men paying to use the app to pick up chicks or EVERYONE IS CHRISTIAN AND PRAYING FOR EACH OTHER PRAISE JEEBUS. I have seen more juuuuuust almost naked pictures of people than I ever saw anywhere else, especially dudes leaving their junk just out of view. It’s a festering pit of everything weight loss/lifestyle changing shouldn’t be, but exists in WW.
So this week I started using the free app MyFitnessPal alongside WW to see how they compare. The thing I like about MFP is that you can set different nutritional goals. Does your doctor think you need more protein? You can set that daily value and track towards it. Need to lower your sodium intake for blood pressure or other reasons? You can set that limit too. It takes the weird point calculation system, simplifies it, and makes it very individualized. And it tracks with Fitbit, which is a plus for me.
My reasoning for losing this weight is not to get super skinny, but to be in better shape and be more comfortable in a plane seat. I said at the beginning that I wasn’t going to compromise my happiness or foods I enjoy to reach this goal, I was going to exercise more to help bridge the gap and just eat smaller portions. Only a month and a half on WW made me feel like I was in an egg cult that was slowly brainwashing me away from bread and cheese. That’s not the goal here. So I think I’m going to call it on the WW experiment and stick just to MFP. I shouldn’t have to pay $13 a month for something I can get for free that’s more about what my body needs.
Don’t get me wrong, Weight Watchers used to work for me. I felt like I could eat what I wanted and I learned how to balance things I needed to eat with things I wanted to eat. I honestly don’t think the program is that kind of positive force anymore. If I were you, I would find a doctor you trust, a nutritionist that’s more about health than skinny, and an app you don’t have to pay to use before you try to become baptized by the egg masters. Skip WW, it’s not worth it.