What’s Wrong with Weight Watchers?

(awesome alliteration, eh?)  (hee – I slay myself.)

Since I can’t talk about running, and it’s not time for shoes (although really, is it ever not time for shoes?), I decided to talk about WW.  I think I mentioned that I quit, even though I have 10 pounds to go.  Maybe my issues were with my particular leader/meeting – but there are definitely issues that transcend just that experience and are a problem as a whole.

I think WW does a great job of motivating people to change their lives without dieting – to look at healthy eating & exercise as a way of life, and not just a short term bandage for the problem of being overweight.  I can’t say that WW didn’t help me lose the 65 lbs that I’ve lost.

However, I think they fail in two specific areas:

1) With athletes (and by athlete, I mean those people who are earning more than the recommended 28 Activity Points each week)

2) With lifetime/maintenance (those that have reached their goals)

Point 1:  Although you are allowed to eat your activity points on the day that you eat them, and are encouraged to earn these activity points every day (aim for 7/day), there really isn’t (that I’ve found) a way to talk about how excessive athletic output might lead to a weight-loss plateau, what to do about that without decreasing the amount of activity you are engaged in, and how to adjust points if you are an athlete.

My leader, and resources I’ve found on the web have all said the following things:

1) To break through a plateau, you need to exercise more.

2) There is no need to adjust your intake based on your output, because that’s built right into the system (because you can eat your Activity Points).

However, when I spent a couple of weeks simultaneously tracking both calories & points, I realized that 20 points (which is my allotment) is about 1000 calories/day.  That means that those who get the 18 points are only allowed about 800-900/day.  Of course, you get your additional 35 points/week, which if spaced evenly would put me at 25 points/day – on days when I’ve tracked both points & calories, that’s often closer to 1400 calories.  A respectable amount.

WW Points are calculated using calories, fat & fiber content.  One thing they overlook is protein content – which is key for those who are active – because you could be eating all your points, and doing well, but because you’re not getting enough protein, you’re burning muscle & not fat.

I think that WW almost gets it right for the very active, but it’s easier for me to track calories and monitor my protein, fat & fiber on my own (as well as calcium & sodium) than to try to figure out of my point intake is enough.  And really, if I run for 1 hour & 38 minutes, I think I should be able to use those 12 APs today AND tomorrow – because it takes a while to rebuild your stores – and when I get into my long weekend runs of 13, 15, 20 miles – I don’t think that should be a problem.

2) I am not lifetime, nor am I in maintenance, but the people (all one of them) that I know who have gotten there have really struggled.  Part of the problem is with the leader/meetings.  We do WW at work, and they are 17 week sessions.  They are all the same.  When my friend reached lifetime, she wasn’t given the maintenance materials, and never had any support.

There aren’t special maintenance meetings that one can go to – that wouldn’t be cost effective, would it?  A bunch of non-paying members don’t need their own meetings.  Lifetime members can go to in-person meetings for free as long as they weigh in once a month and are within a certain range of their goal.  But, they don’t get a reduced e-tool package, so those that did WW primarily through the online portions are pretty much in the exact same boat.

One theory that was presented (and not by me) was that WW doesn’t do any lifetime/maintenance support because their business model needs people who have successfully lost weight with WW to fail at maintenance & then come back & start again.  I know people who have reached lifetime multiple times and after a while have come back to WW when the weight creeps back up.

Part of this is personal responsibility – we need to be responsible for the choices we make and to realize that for a large number of people weight is something that will always be a struggle, but only we are ultimately responsible for whether or not the weights stays off.  It’s hard, though, if you’ve gone through the support and then suddenly are without.  And WW is a business, first & foremost.  I’d be interested in how many people do WW & never gain any weight back at all.

So, in conclusion, I’m doing better by just following my own program, although WW certainly helped the two times I needed it most (although I’ve never gained weight back, just had long, long, long, long plateaus….which both times have coincided with extreme physical activity & training).

And, if you made it to the end, thanks for reading my WW rant.  If you have your own experiences you’d like to share – feel free.  If you think I’m a crack smoker, let me know.  If you have a magic pill that will let me get rid of this last 10 pounds, which I think is obscuring my wonderful ab muscles, email me.

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