The Weight Watchers Points System
What It Is, How It Works, How Well Does It Work?
By Jackie Wicks PEERtrainer Founder
The Weight Watchers Points System is a useful and easy to learn tool for someone who wants to lose weight long term. Even if Weight Watchers is not a long term fit for you, you will find great value learning their approach to portion control and group support. You will learn the power of daily "self-monitoring," which is a technique that helps you be accountable to yourself each day.
The system is very simple- it assigns point values to portions of foods. Foods high in fiber and low in fat and calories have low point values. And vice versa. You can eat a lot of them each day and lose weight. A Starbucks Muffin might be worth between 6 and 10 Points. If you eat one of those, your day is probably blown. Fruits and vegetables now have no point impact, so you can eat a lot of those and do great for your day.
Once you get your motivation lined up, you are ready to start their program. You can do this either in person or online, you are assigned a target daily point value that you need to reach each day. If you follow their goal for you, you are highly likely to lose weight, especially if you have just started the weight loss process.
We have created a free cookbook to help you increase your fruits and vegetables. Get the cookbook here by entering your email. This is a $14 value and the guide contains 50 easy to make recipes that taste great:
When you follow the system you are 1) incentivized to eat high fiber, low fat foods, and 2) you learn portion control. There is a reason Weight Watchers is worth billions of dollars as a company. The Points System is one of the main reasons, along with their focus on "Filling Foods", group support and recipes that help you lose weight.
Who Is The Weight Watchers Program Right For?
We have seen that Weight Watchers can be a good tool for people just starting the weight loss process. Understanding what proper portions are can be very difficult, and can take a long time. Additionally, learning to identify, buy and prepare new foods and recipes can be very tough. Don't ever feel badly if you find yourself struggling in these two areas-- you have a lot of company!
That said, if you already have some experience losing weight, and have started the "yo-yo" cycle or you have started plateauing, it is critically important to make some new shifts in your diet. There is a good deal of new research that shows a link between yo yo dieting and a build up of "juvenile plaque" in the bloodstream.
If you are experiencing these fluctuations and you already know the basics of Weight Watchers or weight loss, we have created an in-depth guide to get you beyond the yo-yo or plateau. Portion control can only take you so far, and really represents a "Stage 1" of the weight loss process. The entire weight loss process can be very complicated and often frustrating, and at PEERtrainer we find that it really helps people to break down the process into identifiable components.
"Stage 2" of this process involves making some permanent choices and shifts in what you eat, and going beyond the small adjustments that are appropriate for the first stage. When people make these shifts, a sense of relief can set in. We have recently published an easy to follow system and guide for making these shifts, and you can download it here.
Why The Focus on High Fiber and Low Fat Foods?
Foods high in fiber tend to be plant-based foods. Foods high in fat tend to be animal-based foods. The traditional American diet consists of extremely high levels of animal protein, dairy, and low-fiber processed breads. Some studies have shown that Americans consume 93% of their daily calories from non-vegetable sources. As a result, we are the most obese people on the planet and have the highest levels of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis in the world. Cultures that have high levels of calorie consumption from vegetables have much lower rates of obesity and disease.
It has not been proven that consumption of animal protein leads to cancer, but there are literally hundreds of studies that show that high levels of fruit, vegetable, greens and bean consumption lead to weight loss and reduced levels of life threatening diseases. As you change your diet to include daily fruit, vegetable, green salad and bean consumption, you will have more energy, feel fuller and lose weight. If you eat enough raw and cooked vegetables each day, you will find it difficult to maintain your previous weight. The key to this is bringing your dairy and animal protein consumption to very minimal levels.
How Does Exercise Factor Into The Weight Watchers System
Weight Watchers used to have something called the "Flex System" which was introduced to factor exercise into the equation. This is a good thing of course, exercise is good for you. With the Flex system, different exercises were assigned negative point values. The effect was that you were incentivized to exercise. The company recently rolled the Flex program into the new Momentum Program, and is no longer available as a standalone option. But there is still an emphasis on incentivizing exercise.
Is Weight Watchers Worth Paying To Learn?
If you have the money, absolutely. Go to a Weight Watchers meeting for great in person support. You will be assigned a target daily Points value that is customized for you, and they will help you design a long term plan to lose weight. For about $50, you'll be able to get started, and it is well worth the money, especially if you do not know the basics of portion control and calorie counting. If you are 25 pounds or more overweight, you will find the investment of a small amount of time and money well worth it.
If You Want To Get A Greater Comfort Level Before You Buy, Try A Free Assessment Tool!
If you think you might want to join Weight Watchers but want to get a greater comfort level before you pay you can do a free personal "assessment". The link takes you a short quiz where you will assess your odds of following any weight loss plan, including Weight Watchers.
It might be that you are apprehensive about going to an in-person meeting, so they offer an online version of Weight Watchers. If cost is an issue but you still want some level of help, PEERtrainer offers a free daily weight loss coaching newsletter that guides you through key fundamentals. We also offer a guide on how to choose the right weight loss support programs that will help you decide if something like Weight Watchers is a fit for you.
If You Are Interested In The Weight Watchers Points System, You May Be Interested In The Following Articles:
The Weight Watchers Momentum Program
This is a brand new offering from Weight Watchers that is designed to address one of the key criticisms of the program, that people often feel hungry on it a lot. The Momentum Program helps dieters identify specific foods that are healthy and also help them feel full. There are different programs for men and women. Combining the quality food focus of the new Momentum program plus counting points will definitely help you get started on your diet. If you want more detail on the Weight Watchers Momentum Program click here.
In November 2011, Weight Watchers adjusted their points system to help people choose higher quality foods. As we mention in the beginning of this article, the most important effect of the Points System was to help people eat higher quality foods. Prior to the introduction of this update, it was possible to follow the system by eating not so healthy food. The reviews on the Points Plus program have been mixed. There is a more focused discussion on the new Weight Watchers Points Plus Program here.
The Filling Foods List
This is a new part of the Weight Watchers Momentum Program that helps to identify foods that will help you feel full and lose weight. Foods like hummus and avocado are emphasized for example, and foods like dairy and meat are de-emphasized. The key is finding foods that you personally like, and their program helps you focus on that right away. The only way you will stick to the program is if you enjoy that- and they focus a great deal on that.
Is It Hard To Get Started or Get Back On Track?
At PEERtrainer, we understand the specific challenges people face in
their quest to lose weight. You might be doing great on Weight Watchers for three weeks and then you are "ambushed" by a social event. Maybe you find yourself eating at night and know that is the one thing that trips you up. Or your friends and family might not have the same commitment to overall fitness and health, and you find your self constantly tripped up. In situations like these, you know exactly what you need to do, but you find yourself continually back at the same place.
PEERtrainer has put together The Point Of No Return Program to deal with situations like these, and help you develop the skills you need to get you to the "point of no return", where you feel empowered to deal with daily challenges. If you feel like you are not ready to start Weight Watchers, this program will help you get there. And if you are having a hard time sticking to the program or going to your meetings, this program will help.
Weight Watchers Meetings-- Group Support and Behavior Modification
One of the reasons Weight Watchers is so successful is that their system and formula is based on proven, scientific principles. Key to this is the idea of "behavior modification." One can diet and reduce their calorie intake on a temporary basis, but it is only through changing one's behavior and habits long term can you lose weight on a more permanent basis. But change is difficult, as most of us know well, and key to fostering long term behavior change is group support. When one is engaged in a difficult task like losing weight, you need others to help you. And most often your friends and family are not up to the task. And you would not want to put that burden on them. That is where Weight Watchers Meetings come in. You go once a week, weigh in, and get the support and advice you need to keep following through. The meetings are extremely popular.
Is It Hard To Stick To The Points System?
It can be difficult for many people to stay on or adhere to the system. The Weight Watchers Points system, like most diets, basically boils down to a 1200 calorie diet. What makes Weight Watchers better is their focus on fiber. With fiber comes increased odds that you will eat more fruits and veggies. It is only by eating enough vegetables that you will feel full on a calorie restricted diet. It makes sense if you think about it. Vegetables have minimal calories but a lot of bulk. They fill you up. Additionally, vegetables and especially green vegetables, contain high levels of nutrients. When your body gets the nutrients it needs, you feel more full. That is one of the reasons people eat so much on a traditional American diet. That diet contains very few nutrients, so your body is screaming for more and simply tells you to keep eating in an attempt to get them. If you eat large servings of vegetables at each meal (even Breakfast!!) your odds of sticking to the Weight Watchers system go up. Even if you overshoot your points, but it is a result of non-animal calorie sources, you are going to do great.
Understand that there is no magic weight loss bullet, and think of Weight Watchers as an excellent tool among many tools that you can fuse together. This approach is called Diet Fusion. where you might do Weight Watchers and another diet like Fat Smash or Dr. Fuhrman at the same time.
The Three Most Important Things About The New Weight Watchers Momentum Plan and System:
1) Excellent Recipes and Food Ideas. longtime WW members are saying that the company has done a TON in this area. There is much more choice and quality.
2) Much More Focus On Healthy Foods. They used to focus simply on low calorie and point foods. Now they place a high priority on healthy foods and they do this through great recipes that people want to do.
3) More focus on the psychology of weight loss. You can see an example here with this weight loss readiness assessment. Basically you have to want to lose weight, and this test helps you find out how much you really want it.
How Long To Do Weight Watchers?
Once you know the Points System, and understand what your daily targets are, you will have a good grasp on the basics of the system. You can go to their weekly meetings, which cost roughly $13 per week, and get support from their leaders. Some leaders are very helpful and motivating, other leaders are less so. Many people swear by their Weight Watchers weekly meeting. and go for years. But the key point of the meetings is support. And there are many lower cost alternatives to Weight Watchers and different ways to get the support you need to follow the Points system.
What are Some of The Drawbacks of the Weight Watchers System?
Many people argue that Weight Watchers encourages or enables the continued eating of junk food. Weight Watchers works because of its focus on portion control, and high fiber low fat approach. But recent scientific work is pointing to this being an incomplete approach to losing weight. It is only through a nutrient rich approach to eating can one lose weight permanently, and Weight Watchers has no way of incentivizing people to choose whole foods over processed foods. Weight Watchers also sells a line of processed foods that really do not provide optimal nutrition. ***August 20th, 2009 update- Weight Watchers appears to be working to steer people away from these processed foods and towards healthier foods. We will update this page as we get more data points on this important issue.
The Cost of Weight Watchers
The costs vary through out different parts of the country, but I think they only vary by a few dollars:
Joining fee-$35 (online$25)
seniors-62 years and students 22 years old-$20
weekly fee-traditional fee-$13
seniors and students-$11
How Many Weight Watchers Points Per Day Am I Allotted?
You'll need to sign up to get your exact daily points target that meets your own needs and profile. It costs roughly $50 for the first month with all the sign up costs. If you are looking for a structured weight loss program, PEERtrainer offers something that is only $1 for the first month. This page (click here) includes a 15 minute video where we explain how this program works and what you really get for $1.
The Importance of Social Support and Self-Monitoring
Group and peer support is a highly proven method for losing weight and getting healthy. It is one thing to learn how to lose weight and eat more healthy, it is another thing to put this into practice on a consistent basis. Friends and family are of limited use because there is only so much burden they can bear. Getting the support of an anonymous group of people each day can make the critical difference. Self-monitoring is the other method, backed by volumes of research, that is highly correlated with weight loss success. You keep a log of your food, exercise, goals and thoughts. When you do this each day it keeps you accountable to yourself, and brings this aspect of your life to the top of your mental agenda. When you are writing each day, you are thinking about the things you write about. This begins to change how you think and facilitates better decision making. When you make better decisions, and have a broad support network, you are very likely to lose weight for the long term. When you do both these things, the odds of success increase dramatically.
A free, online resource that facilities both social support and self-monitoring in an easy to use (and anonymous format) is PEERtrainer. You sign up, start or join small groups and teams. You log your food each day, and the others in your group see your log and provide support, motivation and accountability each day. It is like a virtual support group available on the internet whenever you need it. It is highly effective and has been featured in The New York Times, Fitness Magazine, Womens World and Business Week.
PEERtrainer Is A Powerful Online System For Weight Loss Support
PEERtrainer has some fundamental similarities to Weight Watchers- both approaches view group and peer support as the most important factor to long term weight loss success. Some people on PEERtrainer go to weekly meetings and log every day on PEERtrainer. Others only count their Points on PEERtrainer. Still others find new approaches that build upon the Points system. The key is finding what works for you, and being in an environment that encourages you to explore all your options.
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