Pros: Promotes behavioral changes to eating/exercise, easy to follow, Eat what you want in moderation
Cons: You won't see rapid results; sometimes seems more focused on women
I never dieted in my life. Fortunately, I always stayed around a size 10 -12, throughout high school and college, and after the birth of both my children. My blood sugar was always low, so dieting never seemed like a viable option for me. I noticed last spring that my size 12s were getting snug. One day, I went to buy new clothes, and the 12s I tried on were too tight. I could not believe it. Buying size 14s seemed defeating so stopped buying clothes (which I loved), and started buying more shoes, handbags and makeup. I refused to buy more clothes until I lost it.
I spoke to a friend who just joined Weight Watchers in late May. We both met a colleague at a conference who lost 60 pounds on the program and looked amazing. She invited me to attend the next meeting. I joined, paid a $30 registration fee and dues (which are $11 per meeting, with some occasional discounts or free meetings) and got "weighed in" on a digital scale. The results are confidential when you weigh in (they never announce your weight), you stand on a digital scale and the only person that can see your weight is the group leaders. However, when someone loses weight, people cheer or they receive rewards. (They never say what you weigh, gain, or maintain, but they celebrate losses). The leader met with me to go over the program, portions, etc. after the meeting.
After the first week, I went back weighed in and lost 3 lbs! I was so excited it gave me the encouragement to keep going. Weight Watchers sets realistic goals. The first goal is 10% of your starting weight. After that I lost more to hit the 20 pound loss, then five more, etc. After 4 1/2 months on Weight Watchers, I lost 31.5 lbs and I went from a size 12 or 14 to a size 6 or 8 (and the 8s are now loose).
Membership: Meetings and online
The membership requirement is that members must weigh in weekly. For those who dont feel like they need to stay and hear the 30-45 minute meetings, Express Meetings are available (weigh, get literature and go), or members can opt to join online (which offers a 24/7 community with newsletters, online message boards and chat-rooms). My experience is with the meetings (regular and express). At the weekly meetings, will have a private weekly weigh-in. (they will announce good losses during the meeting, but weight is confidential, along with gains or maintains). Each week, you receive materials on the program. You also receive gold stars for weight loss, ribbons for hitting key goals, goal key rings, etc. Although it may sound silly, I was proud when I earned my rewards! As a member, I also get free coupons, recipes, DVDs occasionally and lots of support. I listened to success stories (and set backs) that made me laugh and cry, but kept me motivated to succeed. According to Weight Watchers, over a million people attend one of over 44,000 weekly Meetings in 30 countries each week!
How Weight Watchers Works:
You weigh in every week and you are given a member weight loss booklet to bring with you every week to keep track of your weight loss. You get booklets for every week that includes tips to focus on, different recipes and different "point" foods. I read all of my books and keep some of the really important ones in my laptop case for travel. I highly recommend going to the meetings, because there are a lot of websites that give weight watcher advice (not owned or affiliated with weight watchers online) that are contradictory to the books and program, outdated or urban legends. Following the weekly booklets helped me as much as the meetings.
The Meal Plan: Points and Flex Points
While many popular diet programs limit carbohydrates, Weight Watchers does not restrict carbohydrates as a whole to the same extent that other popular diet programs do (although it does make a distinction between "good" and "bad" carbohydrates in meetings and booklets). Weight Watchers continues to operate on the principle that healthy, long-term weight loss is accomplished by counting points, calculated by calories, fat and fiber.
Every member is assigned a daily points target. I was assigned a daily target of 20 points, which is for participants less than 150 lbs. Points are higher based on weight. For example, members who weigh 350 pounds or more should eat 34 points' worth per day.
Partial list of Target Values:
Body weight, Target value
Under 150 lbs, 20
Weight Watchers' latest plan uses Flex Points in addition to your daily target. Each week, members are allowed 35 FlexPoints, which can be used to splurge (in moderation of course) on special treats, parties or dining out. On some days, 20 points did not seem like enough, so I would deduct the extra daily points from my FlexPoints (I would average 22-24 points on some days). Flex Points are like a savings account to use when you need it.
The Weight Watchers Program has an Activity Points element where you swap activity points and eat more points as a reward for exercising. (Based on your weight, activity level, and amount of time exercising). Exercise plays a vital role in overall health and the Weight Watchers program recommends a minimum of 20 minutes a day of activity. (Even if you have not exercised much prior to Weight Watchers, start out doing something, such taking walks or bike riding and increase your time spent on the activity).
Light activity points = weight x minutes x .000232
Moderate activity points = weight x minutes x .000327
High activity points = weight x minutes x .0008077
If you like easy math like me, use the points calculator to determine your activity points.
Celebrate Small Victories
What I like about the program is they motivate you to progress like and don't focus so much on your target number as much as small victories which I found to be helpful. For example, I think I would have failed if I set 30 lbs for myself. My first goal set by WW was 10% of my body weight, and then I lost more to reach 20, then 5 more, etc. To me it's like housecleaning. If you told me to clean my whole house, it's too overwhelming and I would put it off. If you told me to do a room at a time, I can deal with that.
Non Scale Victories
Sometimes you have victories that have nothing to do with the scale movement that week, since you are improving your health and our body. My biggest personal reward was trying on and wearing a pair of size 6 Ralph Lauren pants (They are so cute, and I would have never had the nerve to try that style on before, since they are low waisted. I loved them so much that I purchased a cropped pair yesterday). Ice cream, cheesecake, candy and fast foods don't seem as appealing to me now. Nothing tastes as good to me as wearing a size I never imagined I could wear. I was convinced that I could never be smaller than a 10, since I never was before now. That is empowering to me. Pigging out doesn't really excite me as much as feeling good about myself again.
Most Weight Watchers members love the Points method because it is easy to follow, and no food is forbidden, provided you stay within your recommended range of Point. However, I was really concerned about lunch time at work and keeping my points down. I used to either skip lunch or eat vending or fast food at my desk, since my corporate office is on Pacific Time (Im on Eastern Time) and I usually have conference calls or meetings during lunch time hours. I now pack fruit and veggies with me daily and I keep a large bottle at my desk to refill with water and bring bottled water, as well. However, Im not always as diligent on daily lunch packing. When I eat out, I know most of the restaurants that I can get by with 5-7 points for lunch. To avoid skipping or junk munching when I cannot get out, I went to the grocery store and purchased several of Weight Watcher Smart Ones frozen dinners because they were all portioned out and easy (the points are listed on the box) and put them in the freezer at work in case I could not get away. So, I am not recommending a daily intake of frozen meals (even low fat frozen meals are high in sodium), but I used these meals as an "in case of emergency break glass" lunch. I ate frozen dinners for lunch when I could not get out of the office, just so I maintained portion control and I avoided temptation at the vending machines. My favorite frozen dinners are the lasagna (6 points), the spaghetti (5 points), shrimp marinara (3 points) and Chicken Enchiladas (6 points). My favorite Smart Ones Desserts are the 1 point Giant Fudge Bars and the 2 point sundae cups. They are satisfying. (I am not a big cake eater, but prior to WW, my idea of happiness was a pint Ben & Jerrys ice cream.) I also purchase bars at the WW meetings called Just 2 points. My favorites are Chocolate Crisp and Banana Toffee.
Weight Watcher's Good Health Habits Long term success with weight watchers isnt just about points; its about making smart decisions about eating and exercise. I learned so much from the weight watcher meetings, but the good health habits changed my thought process toward eating. I keep these habits in mind when I shop, and as a result, my husband inadvertently lost almost 25 pounds along with me by changing the way we shop for and prepare food.
1. Portion Control -Portion control is as critical to weight Watchers as the points. My first weight watchers meeting was all about portions, and I admit that I was overwhelmed thinking I could never remember all of the measurements. Now, its a daily habit for me. (For example, a fist measures whole fruit, a thumb tip to base measures 1 ounce of meat or cheese, a cupped hand 1- 2 ounces of nuts or pretzels, palm measures 3 ounces of cooked meat, fish or poultry). Accurate measuring helps eliminate mistakes that can cost you in terms of points (invest in a scale or measuring cups if you dont already own them). Use the plate method by dividing your plate into quarters. Fill ? with a protein filled dish, ? with a grain based side dish and ? with a 0-1 point vegetable or fruit. Use small plates and bowls, which is psychological for me, but helpful.
2. Five Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a day This was so helpful to me in many ways. Most vegetables (other than corn and potatoes) are zero points and fruits are usually 1-2 (depends on the size). My blood sugar levels are better than they have been in years by planning my meals to include fruits and vegetable. I bulk up main dishes with extra vegetables to get my five daily servings in.
3. 2-3 servings of milk products - Calcium rich products can promote healthy weigh loss. Every morning, I have skim milk with my grain cereal (3 points) and include a 2 point non fat latte or chocolate soy milk later in the day. (skim milk, soy milk, yogurt are good choices that are typically low point choices)
4. Grains Grains are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, so check ingredient labels. (Oatmeal, wheat tortillas, brown rice are good choices)
5. Protein Youll need more than the 2 daily milk servings to keep your strength up while on the program. Pick lean cuts of meat or add dry beans in salads or entrees. (Meat, poultry, soy products, fish and dry beans are good choices)
6. Simmer down on fats, sugars, and alcohol. Avoid ingredient lists that are high in sugar, corn syrup, saturated fats, etc. This was the hardest habit for a former daily Mountain Dew drinker like me.
7. Water - Drink 8 glasses of water per day. My most successful weeks were when I drank a lot of water. If you can, drink half your body weight in water each day, because fat cells supposedly hold more water than other fat cells in the body.(To determine the number of ounces of water you need per day, divide your weight by two to determine ounces. For example, a weight of 130 is 65 ounces of water, which is 8 glasses.
8. If you bite it, write it Bites, licks, and tastes count toward points. Cream in coffee counts. Crumbs count. You are only slowing progress and cheating yourself by not recording points accurately. Use the weight watcher journal daily. It also helps you keep track of good and bad weeks to see what made you (or didnt make you) successful. Any time I hit a weight loss plateau, I would review my better weeks to see what I ate. I purchased the Weight Watchers electronic points calculator due to convenience (it calculates water, milk, vegetables/fruit, activity points, and computes food points, and I carry it in my purse), but I still write down what I eat to keep me on track.
Make smart choices when dining out
I purchased the Weight Watchers Dining Out Companion book when I first joined, and it was a good investment for me. The book lists point values for over 60 popular chain restaurants, with 2,000 entries, along with low point ideas for dining out which I find very helpful.
Remember, any salad can be higher in points in restaurants due to the extras, but if you ask for things to be left off (i.e., removing the cheese, nuts and dressing) you can get your vegetables without using up all of your points. Dinner Rolls can add up to 3.5 points each (without butter) so if you eat two or three, it can take a lot of your daily point range!
I was so proud to achieve the Lifetime member status! As a Lifetime Member, I have the lifetime membership number I can use and don't have to pay unless I go 4 pounds over my goal. I got to add 4 points extra to my daily intake (which equals 28 extra points per week). I have to check in monthly, which I will absolutely do (I actually go every 2 -3 weeks to buy the 2 point bars and to keep motivated). I want to continue to feel good, and I've changed my lifestyle to do this, so I'm not about to give up and gain it back!
According to Weight Watchers, average lifetime members who follow the maintenance phase of the program for at least six consecutive weeks and aren't more than 2 pounds above their target goal at the end of that period maintain 84% of their weight loss two years after completing the program; half maintain 100%. I am committed to maintaining 100%, being fit and healthy, and wearing more single digit pants!
Commitment and effort are the key success factors to this program (or any weight loss program for that matter). I think many people are interested in weight loss and exercise, but will have only marginal success unless they are truly committed. I had to commit to a healthier lifestyle and honestly track my points in order to be successful.
Although this is my overview of the program, I highly recommend that you join Weight Watchers if you want to lose weight (either meetings or the online version). The program really works when you do it correctly, so I do not recommend attempting it on your own. There are so many behavioral changes I learned from Weight Watchers that I would not be able to get in my own. I now have nutritional and exercise strategies incorporated in my lifestyle. I learned so much as a member, and it was worth every penny spent on membership. As a member, you get you food lists, booklets, point calculators (you can purchase the electronic one that I bought for $20), weight tracking, point tracker journals, recipes, etc. If you are interested in joining meetings near you or online, go to weightwatchers.com.