Monday, February 6, 2012

Weight Watchers is Fools' Gold

          People always wonder how people lose weight on diet programs like Weight Watchers.  How can you “eat what you want” and still lose weight?  Well, in this blog, I’ll explain, and tell you why it works…and why it is terrible!

          Simply put, the Weight Watchers points system is another way of counting calories.  They are based on the well known fact that if you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight.  So, instead of having a certain number of calories per day for weight loss, it has been simplified to a certain number of Weight Watchers points.   If you don’t exceed your allotted points for the day, then you have eaten less calories than you burned, putting you at a caloric deficit which results in weight loss.  So that’s why you can eat “pizza, burgers, wings, beer, etc.” and still lose weight.  No matter if you eat eggs, apples, pizza, or cake all day, if you stay at your allotted point level for the day, you are still at a caloric deficit, so you will lose weight.  Sounds awesome, right?  Well, it is awesomely terrible!  And there are two major reasons why.

1.  Are you trying to lose weight or lose fat?
          There’s a reason why it is called ‘Weight Watchers’ and not ‘Fat Watchers’.  There is a major difference between losing fat and losing weight.  The loss of fat is from fat being burned and used for energy (P.S. – there’s no such thing as turning fat into muscle).  However, the loss of weight can be from the loss of fat or muscle mass (or water weight, but we won’t focus on that for this discussion).  Now, maybe some people want to lose muscle mass too, but I think it’s safe to assume that MANY people only want to lose fat and maintain or gain muscle.  If you are one of these people, Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, etc. is not the answer!  Since people have the ability to ‘eat what they want’, many of the food choices do not provide sufficient protein, healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for burning fat and maintaining/gaining muscle.  As a result, you will lose BOTH muscle AND fat.  If you workout regularly, you will also be extremely fatigued, sore, and stressed out.  You also won't be able to attain that lean, toned look.  

          Furthermore, if you give an unhealthy eater the option to continue to eat unhealthy, processed foods, how many of them do you think will choose more healthy, nutrient-dense options in these diet programs?  How many of them even KNOW how to make healthier selections?  Probably slim to none!  In fact, these programs give people more of an incentive to continue choosing the unhealthy, processed foods they are familiar with by “saving up points”.  For example, doing extra cardio to get more points to eat pizza.  Or skipping lunch in order to have dessert with dinner.  These programs do NOT teach people the principles of healthy eating in order to change their lives.  It’s all about the quick weight loss.  Then, once you lose weight, you have two options: 1) Get off their program, go back to your old ways, gain the weight back because you didn’t learn anything, then sign up again, or 2) stay signed up indefinitely.  Sounds like a lose-lose situation.

2.  Food quality is more important than calories!

          Secondly, since the emphasis is placed on points (i.e. – calories) and not on food quality, you are not improving your overall health.  Even if you are losing weight, do you think eating pizza, cake, and other processed foods is improving your overall health?  Yes, it’s true that the weight loss can improve your health, but it does not always equate to optimum health, especially in this case.  In many cases, the weight loss from these diet programs was initiated by going from terrible eating to bad eating.  That’s like saying, “I used to smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day, now I only smoke one!”  Yea…BUT, YOU STILL SMOKE!  It’s an improvement, but it’s still bad, and in the case of food, you are still at greater risk for modern disease such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney damage, heart attack, stroke, you get the point.  Why are you still at risk?  Because you still have not learned the principles.  In regards to overall health, FOOD QUALITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CALORIES!  So, don’t get yourself caught in this mouse trap.  Changing your eating habits is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE, not a 10-week program!  It’s time to give up those old, unhealthy, processed foods.  That’s the only way to both lose FAT and significantly improve your overall health.  If you need a starting point, click here

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"