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!"


Karma said...

While I agree with parts of this, it is not entirely true. I started weight watchers a year ago, and I have to say it works if you utilize the WHOLE program. It is not only about counting calories, but eating healthier. It taught me to be more accountable for what I eat, as well as drink. You learn very quickly that you can't eat mcdonalds every day and feel full or healthy. It encourages balanced consumption if followed correctly. It will never be a quick fix but I think it can make people more aware of a need for better habits as well as lead them down a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Personal Training Software said...

Thats true we need to eat to live, but I have seen most of the persons will have giant food and feel not able to walk at all. If we have the good food and do exercise then our body will be fit and healthy.

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Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! One more issue I have with WW is the overly processed, nutritionally void products they push to their clients in the name of "health". I am sure people can use this program in a healthy way, but that is more about their own personal choices in utilizing the program than how the program is marketed and pushed.

Anonymous said...

I have to respectfully disagree. First of all, not all commercial diets are created equal. Nutrisystem is a low-glycemic diet that mirrors the very suggestions you made, i.e. "Each meal should consist of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and a fruit/vegetable." On NS you don't count calories or points. I've been on NS for 9 months now and can attest it works, has taught me portion control and also what the good foods are to eat. I changed my lifestyle and have lost 100 pounds so far. I eat lean proteins, complex carbs, healthy fats, veggies and fruits every few hours and drink about 125 oz a water a day on average, plus workout 6-7 days a week. Even when I'm not eating the NS foods, I make healthy choices and still lose weight.

I have friends who have lost 100+ on WW (and kept it off!) and eat pretty much the same way I do. So while yes, one could cheat on WW and still be under the allotted points/calories, those people likely aren't going to be successful in the long-term. If those cheaters aren't willing to change their lifestyle, yes they'll end up fat again. I have heard firsthand way too many success stories on NS and WW to discount their worth as a viable weight-loss tool.

Laura Slusher
(I know Jacq and take her classes, feel free to ask her about my weight loss)

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