Weight Watchers TurnAround Program (Core / Flex Plans)

Weight Watchers TurnAround Program (Core / Flex Plans)

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Weight Watchers goes Low Carb and takes on the South Beach Diet!

Sep 15, 2004
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Pros:Shakes up the old program and does away with some of the points counting.

Cons:Did not excite me. Does not really address overeating issues.

The Bottom Line: Weight Watcher seems to be cashing in on the current low-carb diet craze. After the initial water weight loss typical on any diet, weight loss will probably slow a lot.

I’ve admitted before to being a diet junkie. Since having children and large pregnancies, I’ve found that weight is a bit more difficult to lose. No longer can I simply cut out a few calories each day and lose weight. Now, I need to focus and I need to put forth the effort.

As I’ve stated before, I’ve found great success with Slim Fast, Weight Watchers and the South Beach Diet. However, I get bored quickly. I’m fine while I am losing but once I reach plateau after plateau, I like to move on to a new ‘diet’ in order to shake things up. So, when Weight Watchers sent me a mailing several weeks ago announcing their new program, I knew I wanted to give the new TurnAround Program a try.

The New TurnAround Program
Let me just start by saying, under the TurnAround Program you still have the option of doing the Flex Points Plan but you now also have the choice of the Core Plan as well. Weight Watchers combines the two programs under the TurnAround program name but you do have to choose one plan and stick with it each week. The Flex Plan is still focused on counting daily points and using your 35 additional weekly points if you choose. The Core Plan does away with counting daily points. Yes, you heard me right, Weight Watchers now has a plan where you do not have to count points as long as you stick to your Core Plan foods. For the sake of this review, I’ll be focusing on the new Core Plan since Flex Points has been around for some time and deserves a review of its own. Since, you are reading this review, you are probably more interested in hearing about the new program anyhow. With the new Core Program, not only can you eat all 0 point foods if you wish, you also have the option of journaling up to 35 points a week and those are the foods you will not find on the list of approved foods. According to Weight Watchers, the Core Plan:

controls calories by focusing your eating on a core list of wholesome, nutritious foods without tracking. The list is comprised of foods from all the food groups: vegetables and fruits; grains and starches; lean meats; poultry; fish, and eggs; and milk products. We established the food list to provide eating satisfaction without empty calories. For that occasional treat, you can also eat foods outside of this list in a controlled amount.

The Foods You Can Enjoy Point Free
Yes, these foods are point free as long as you only eat them until you are comfortably full. You have nine categories from which to choose:

Vegetables and Fruits
All fresh, frozen or canned (without added sauce, fat or sugar) are point-free foods. If the vegetable includes ingredients not on the core foods list, it is not included i.e. pork and beans, vegetable juice, French fries, etc… All fresh, frozen or canned fruits are included but, again, they cannot have extra ingredients not on the core list i.e. extra sugar, dried fruits, sweetened applesauce, fruit juices, etc…

Any soup made with core foods is allowed i.e. vegetable beef, tomato, broth-based soups. Any cream-based soup is not allowed as a 0 point food.

Starches, Grains and Cereals
Potatoes, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice are allowed but have to be limited to one meal a day. Cereals consisting of puffed or shredded wheat, puffed rice and 100% bran with no extra sugar are limited also to one meal a day but must be eaten with fat-free milk or fat-free plain yogurt. Peas, corn, potatoes and other starchy foods are allowed. Oatmeal, popcorn, and a variety of grains are also included.

Lean Meats, Poultry, Fish, Meat Substitutes and Egg Products
Lean cuts of beef, lamb, pork and veal are allowed as long as you trim excess fat. The best cuts are from the ‘loin’, ‘round’ and ‘leg’. Ground beef, 7% or less, ground turkey and ground chicken is limited to one meal a day. Deli products and hot dogs are not allowed. Fish and shellfish are allowed but if they are canned, they must be packed in water, broth or tomato juice. Meat substitutes are allowed such as vegetarian burgers, tofu and dried beans and lentils. Eggs and egg substitutes are also allowed on this plan.

Milk Products and Dairy Substitutes
Fat-free dairy products are allowed. One notable exception is with fat-free yogurt. The only yogurt allowed is fat-free plain yogurt. Also, fat-free, sugar-free pudding is on the list of core foods. Weight Watcher smoothies and fat-free, sugar-free instant cocoa or any reduced-calorie dairy shake is limited to only one a day.

Oil, Condiments and Extras
Surprisingly, a number of condiments are included on the core list of foods including fat-free salad dressings, fat-free margarine, fat-free mayonnaise, ketchup, taco sauce, herbs, flavorings, lemon juice, sugar substitutes, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce and salsa.

You may partake of coffee and tea (both with no sugar), diet soft drinks, club soda, unsweetened seltzer and water or mineral water point free throughout the day.

Some things to remember
Weight Watchers only asks a few things of you should you choose the Core Plan. Only eat these foods when you are hungry and stop eating when you start to feel full. If you need to have that piece of cake for desert or that butter on your potato, you are allowed to eat up to 35 points of non-core foods each week. You may also use your daily exercise points for those extra foods but only after you’ve been on the program more than two weeks.

Didn’t I say Something about the South Beach Diet?
I’ve had pretty good success on the South Beach Diet although I admit to tiring of the program. When I heard Weight Watchers was developing a low-carb program, I was intrigued and anxious to give it a try. Yes, I’ve found the Weight Watchers Core Program and South Beach Diet have many similarities. Both ask you to avoid fatty foods. Both promote lean meats, eggs, veggies and healthy oils.

Differences between the South Beach Diet and the Core Plan
Most notably, the potato is no longer vilified. Even in the second and third phase of the South Beach Diet potatoes are treated like the enemy and to be avoided whenever possible. Fruits are also strongly discouraged. With the Core Plan you are welcome to enjoy one potato a day and all the fruit you enjoy. Another notable difference is the strictness of Phase One on the South Beach Diet. Although, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose at least 8 lbs in the first two weeks of the program, not many foods are allowed and you quickly tire of eating the same foods. With the Core Plan, you do not phase into food groups. They are all allowed from the onset of the program. Also, with the South Beach Diet you are limited to healthier cuts of meat (i.e. chicken breast). With the Core Plan most meat, if the fat is trimmed will be acceptable (can eat the whole chicken if you so desire!).

What I liked about the Core Plan
One of my first purchases was the Weight Watchers Shopping Companion. The guide lists many of the products found in your local supermarket. If the product is included in the 0 point food groups, you’ll find a checkmark listed next to the name. You’ll also find the amount of points per serving for those doing the flex plan or if the food is not a core food. I thought this guide, purchased for $8.95, was well worth the price. I liked that I could enjoy full portions and I never once felt hungry while on this program.

What I did not like about the Core Plan
I started back on Weight Watchers one week before the new program was launched. I spent that first week doing the Flex Points program and lost 5.4 lbs that week. I then started the Core Plan. The next morning, I went to zip up my jeans and noticed they felt tight. I stripped, hopped up on the scale and found that I was up almost 2 lbs. Now I know that daily weight fluctuations are a fact of life, but I felt very bloated that next day. The next day, I was still weighing more and feeling bloated. I had been eating fat-free refried beans and plenty of fruit. I suspect that the increase in fiber was to blame and cut out those foods. I also started counting points again to make sure I was not eating too much. By the end of the week, I ended up losing 1.4 lbs. Although I am normally thrilled with any loss, I did not have that ‘thinner’ feeling I usually have will losing weight. I also found that if you have one splurge, you can easily use up all of your 35 extra points for the week.

Some Problems I found with the Core Plan
First of all, Weight Watchers encourages you to eat only when hungry and stop when you are full. For many folks, the reason they are on a diet or ‘lifestyle change’ program is because they have a problem controlling food portions. Chances are you are not going to overindulge in watermelon and brown rice but controlling food portions may still be a problem with this program. Also, I’m not crazy about incorporating the “fat-free” foods into this diet. I am also not sure about the long-term effects of sugar substitutes. Weight watchers staff and leaders were asked to try out the new program for about a month or so before the program was released to the public. I asked several folks who have been on the program for more than a few weeks what they thought (off the record, of course). They all agreed that they had a decent weight loss the first week but they were not entirely thrilled with their results from about week three on. I also found it easy to not journal at all that week and no matter what program I do, I always do better with journaling. I think journaling should still be a major focus of the new program.

Overall thoughts about the new Core Plan and the larger TurnAround Program
After only a week, I have realized the new Core Program doesn’t thrill me. True, I lost almost 1 lbs but usually when I start a new program, I lose quite a bit more. I do like that the new Turnaround Program includes both the Core and the Flex Points programs. After all, who does not like a choice. I’ll be going back to the old Flex Points program for now. Who knows, I may shake it up and do one program one week and the other program the next week. For some folks, the Core Plan may be the shakeup their body needs to start losing weight again. For me, the Core Plan is just another average weight-loss program trying to take advantage of the current low-carb diet fad.

Recommend this product? Yes

Approximate Monthly Cost (US$) 48
Food Variety Restrictions A somewhat varied menu
Restrictiveness of Portions Several hearty portions

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