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Thursday, June 13, 2024

I am a Dietitian. Listed below are My Points with Weight Watchers.


This Weight Watchers assessment publish is an opinion piece primarily based on my experience as a dietitian. The quotes which can be bolded all through the piece are the real-life experiences of former Weight Watchers dieters.

Weight Watchers is undeniably one of the profitable industrial food regimen applications ever. Based in 1961 by Jean Nidetch, a housewife and mom, it has grown to develop into a food regimen behemoth with 4.6 million members worldwide.

Maybe in an try to shuck off its unhealthy food regimen juju amongst a big proportion of the inhabitants, Weight Watchers rebranded in 2018 as ‘WW.’ All of the sudden, Weight Watchers wished to leap on the wellness prepare, however most of us weren’t having it.

That’s as a result of WW was, and is, nonetheless a food regimen, and everyone knows it. You possibly can’t give folks a calorie *ahem* factors price range, have a main final result that includes weight reduction, after which say that you simply’re not promoting them a food regimen. 

And who can neglect Kurbo, WW’s try to suck youngsters into its orbit? The load loss app, launched in 2019, catered to youngsters as younger as 8 years previous, and was understandably met with outrage as a result of ‘weight reduction’ and ‘8 12 months previous’ ought to by no means be utilized in the identical sentence.

The Kurbo app isn’t out there anymore, however in 2022, the FDA issued a settlement order to WW for loopholes within the app, together with one which allowed youngsters to enroll with out parental oversight. The FDA additionally discovered that WW had used Kurbo to illegally harvest delicate well being info from kids. 

Now, below CEO Sima Sistani, WW is providing GLP-1 agonists as an alternative choice to its typical food regimen program. 

Comply with the cash, I suppose.

Learn my Xyngular GLP-X assessment right here.

WW conferences are actually principally on-line, and weekly weight-ins are nonetheless a part of this system. In case you do go to an in-person ‘workshop’ as they’re now referred to as, the weigh-ins are non-public, as an alternative of in entrance of your fellow WW dieters. 

I’ve heard from numerous individuals who had been placed on Weight Watchers as teenagers and adults, about how traumatizing these public weight-ins had been for them. 

Right here’s a couple of:

The day the weigher was aghast that I had gained 0.5 kilos was my final go to. She actually put her hand to her mouth in shock and requested me what occurred. I wished to say “I f**king ate, that’s what occurred”.

It was terrible. I used to be a child who didn’t perceive why my physique was “unsuitable” in a room full of fifty 12 months previous girls. It taught me nothing about diet, particularly as a result of that was the age of “fats makes you fats”. All the pieces was off limits and all I discovered was methods to conceal my consuming, lie about parts, be embarrassed about weigh-ins, and eat far an excessive amount of of all of the meals I used to be denied as a toddler as soon as I began to purchase my very own meals. I’m 43 and I’m simply now therapeutic my relationship with meals and my physique.

Is there analysis behind the Weight Watchers food regimen?

There are a few research right here, right here, and right here, that seem to indicate WW’s efficacy when it comes to weight misplaced and diabetes administration. Nevertheless, WW funded these research, and the outcomes are pretty unremarkable.

Do not forget that simply because one thing has analysis behind it, doesn’t imply it’s good analysis or that the outcomes had been clinically related.

Weight Watchers Factors

The Weight Watchers factors system is the idea of all their food regimen plans. It was launched in 1998. It then modified to Successful Factors, then Pure Factors, then Professional Factors, then Factors Plus, then Sensible Factors after which Freestyle. The variations between these are minimal: the WW Factors system appears to alter as typically because the wind blows, or no less than that’s the impression I’ve gotten. 

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The gist is that you simply get a sure variety of factors to ‘spend’ every day, plus an allotment of weekly factors to ‘cowl’ any ‘indulgences’ which may pop up. It’s also possible to ‘earn’ bonus factors for train, which I believe is totally ridiculous, because it makes train into one thing we do to ‘earn’ meals or ‘make up’ for consuming (each of that are disordered pondering), and it’s not how our our bodies work…in any respect. 

I took the WW quiz, which assigned me 26 factors a day. The questions had been principally centered on weight reduction, asking my present peak, weight, aim weight, intercourse, and age. The one medical historical past query it requested was if I’ve diabetes.

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Related elements equivalent to exercise stage, historical past of an consuming dysfunction or different severe diagnoses, weren’t talked about. To their credit score, I attempted to enter a weight that was too low for my peak, and acquired this message:

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As a dietitian, my essential problem with WW is the factors system. I consider that it encourages disordered pondering and habits round meals for many individuals. 

Right here’s my Weight Watchers Private Factors assessment.

It encourages ’banking’ of factors (aka energy, who’re we kidding right here), and categorizing meals as ‘good’ and ‘unhealthy.’ Sure, all meals can match, but it surely’s human nature to not assume that approach when offered with an choice (aka zero level meals) the place they’ll eat extra for much less. I additionally see this system encouraging followers to ‘recreation’ the system.

That is one thing that was echoed in a few of the feedback I acquired from folks:

I did lose 80 kilos however I gained all of it again as a result of it didnt assist me to decide on ‘higher meals’ it helped me to seek out methods to nonetheless eat what I wished. So apart from parts nothing modified for me. I suppose it gave me a false sense of getting management?

Whereas WW itself doesn’t outwardly promote “synthetic meals” you possibly can are inclined to lean in direction of a few of them as a result of they had been decrease in factors. I additionally didn’t assume they promoted more healthy choices on a regular basis: Skim milk and 0 fats yogurt had been 0 factors, however I had been taught that you simply wanted the fats to blunt any insulin spikes and the fats would additionally enhance your satiety. I discovered it very tough to remain inside the factors and eat wholesome and left after 3 months.  I determine there was no sense in being smaller if I wasn’t additionally getting more healthy.

Every meals’s factors are calculated primarily based on its vitamins. Positive, greens and fruits have low factors values, however there are extraordinarily bodily nourishing and satisfying meals which can be greater in factors. Avocado, nuts, oatmeal, and candy potatoes are a couple of of them. 

The present WW program has greater than 200 zero-point meals, which sounds superb till you understand that it really isn’t, for causes I’m going to clarify.

WW tells dieters to not overeat zero level meals, however if you happen to’ve been given a factors price range to remain inside, there’s a definite attract to stuffing your self with zero level meals with the intention to ‘afford’ the inevitable multi-point binge.

All of this turns consuming right into a math equation, which can result in consuming meals that you simply don’t need simply to suit into your factors price range, or not consuming as a lot as you want due to the factors. Conversely, it’s possible you’ll eat simply to fulfill your factors price range when you’ve got factors left over (which most likely by no means occurs). This could mess up your inner starvation and fullness cues.

Right here’s why I don’t advocate having a calorie aim.

It additionally promotes satiety OVER satisfaction. Quantity consuming, or consuming giant volumes of low-calorie meals to fill the abdomen so that you don’t eat different, higher-calorie meals, is a disordered behaviour.

In case you go over your factors price range or eat the ‘unsuitable’ meals, this will result in guilt and disgrace, one thing that perpetuates the food regimen cycle.

Individuals should observe their level consumption, which could be triggering for anybody who’s predisposed to, has, or has had an consuming dysfunction. That is doubtlessly a big phase of the inhabitants, because the prevalence of consuming issues themselves (NOT together with disordered consuming), in keeping with this 2019 research in JAMA, is 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 7 males.

We additionally know that prevalence of consuming issues peaks once more in girls round center age, in keeping with this 2023 research and others. In 2018, a report by MRI Simmons discovered that 85% of WW dieters had been girls, and 43% of these girls had been over the age of 55.

WW could say they’re all about well being, however what I see mirrored within the quite a few WW factors teams on Fb, is just about the alternative.

In case you can’t eat meals with out swapping out elements for lower-calorie selections, and you’ll’t eat with out counting or monitoring, please know that this isn’t what relationship with meals seems to be like. It removes all flexibility, pleasure, and peace from consuming. Not good.

This system makes use of ‘coaches’ who lack in-depth, related diet coaching. Their solely {qualifications} are that they’ve reached their aim weight with WW and maintained it for no less than 6 months. 

Clearly, this isn’t sufficient coaching to advise folks on their diet. Vitamin and the psychology behind meals selections are complicated. Unqualified folks can doubtlessly do hurt once they contain themselves in different peoples’ relationships with meals and consuming.

Learn my Noom assessment right here.

As with most diets, many individuals shed some pounds initially with WW as a result of they’re consuming fewer energy than they had been beforehand. That is simply basic math. Nevertheless, the psychological exhaustion that outcomes from counting factors and overthinking every little thing you place into your mouth could cause a lot of these folks to surrender. I don’t blame them.

I’ve seen many individuals in my apply who’ve achieved Weight Watchers years in the past, however nonetheless see meals as ‘factors.’ That is problematic, as a result of it causes them to concern meals and second-guess every little thing they eat. It completely takes away that connection between how they really feel and what they select to eat. 

 I nonetheless know what number of factors some issues are many years later. The weekly weigh ins had been so worrying and the straight up meals obsession was so dangerous.

The factor is, these folks typically return to WW repeatedly, as a result of of their thoughts, it ‘labored’ as soon as for them, in order that they’re going for a second, fourth, or eighth kick on the can. It hardly ever has a cheerful ending, however that’s what food regimen applications like Weight Watchers need. 

Repeat prospects. Lifetime devotees. Folks turning into depending on figuring out the factors of every morsel of meals earlier than they permit themselves to eat it. Blaming themselves for his or her ‘failure’ on a food regimen that’s made to fail anyhow. 

Sound acquainted? Lots of you who’re studying this can recall having these experiences with WW. I’m sorry.

I joined many occasions and by no means made aim weight. Because of being on WW I continued to drink espresso and tea black, don’t put butter on greens and restrict fats. Nonetheless I’m heavier than I ought to be.

I work out usually, stroll lengthy distances and usually really feel responsible about not having my weight down. This month I flip 68.

I’ll say that I’ve joined WW so many occasions that I actually misplaced rely. I by no means reached the aim weight that THEY set for me and at all times felt like a failure each time I left as a result of it was my fault for “being so weak”.

My greatest takeaway from WW was that each one of my price as a human being was tied to a quantity on a scale, and all meals had numbers as effectively, which by God Had To Be Stored Below The Restrict.

There was not solely a complete disregard for diet but in addition for the enjoyment and pleasure of meals too.

I attempted ww and did lose 30 lbs which has come again after I finished. I’ll say it made folks panic a couple of 0.3lb achieve, get obsessive about which model of hummus is 1 level vs 1.5, too centered on the minutia, not an total wholesome sustainable long run weight upkeep resolution. Any program will work whilst you work it, however you shouldn’t want a program in case you are really studying the talents and habits for wholesome dwelling.

I additionally acquired feedback from followers who stated optimistic issues about their time with WW.

Issues like, it gave them construction and taught them about portion dimension. That they’ve misplaced weight and saved it off, for essentially the most half. That they benefit from the neighborhood, and that total, it was a optimistic expertise.

Does Weight Watchers work? Effectively, each food regimen will ‘work’ for somebody. And by ‘work,’ I imply losing a few pounds and KEEPING IT OFF.

I acquired 173 feedback, 6 messages, and 15 emails about WW.  Out of these 194 items of correspondence, 9 had been supportive of WW. 4 had been so-so, and the remaining had been adverse.

181 out of 194 had been so-so or adverse, or 93%. This isn’t a scientific final result, but it surely’s fascinating to see the break up. I really feel as if it’s in step with what I’ve heard from folks over the previous 24 years I’ve been a dietitian.

Irrespective of how WW places it, it’s nonetheless a food regimen. 

Oh hey, how about we simply EAT?

Folks won’t ever cease desirous to shed some pounds, and as a dietitian who helps intentional weight reduction the place acceptable, I completely perceive. Nevertheless, I believe there are higher methods to shed some pounds than to topic your self to WW or one other industrial food regimen program.

Weight Watchers, if you happen to’re listening, listed here are my suggestions:

Eliminate the factors in favor of a extra intuitive eating-style program. Folks will likely be mad at first, however within the long-run, it’s a more healthy solution to see meals and consuming. 

In case you’re really focused on peoples’ well being and total wellness, cease making weight reduction the first aim of your program.

Get some kind of upkeep help, as a result of a number of folks complained to me that you’ve got none.

Monitor the WW teams on social for disordered behaviour, and FFS, ask related questions in your onboarding quiz.

Use certified well being professionals as coaches. You’ve gotten the cash. Simply do it.

Who am I kidding…WW won’t ever change their methods. We will hope, although.

SHAMELESS PLUG: if you happen to’re struggling along with your diet and relationship with meals, I can assist! I’m taking 1:1 purchasers now. I’m dearer than WW, however you could possibly get protection for my providers when you’ve got non-public insurance coverage. Right here’s the hyperlink for extra info and to request a session.

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