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Weight Watchers – Old School vs. New Skool

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A Side-by-side comparison of the new vs. old Weight Watchers programs

A guest blog post by my wife, Andrea, who has 20 years of experience as a nurse and multiple half marathons under her belt.

I tried Weight Watchers about 3 years ago.  I wanted to get serious about eating healthy and losing weight.  I was looking to lose 15-20 pounds.  When you join Weight Watchers, you have the option of going to a real Weight Watchers center (brick and mortar) for weekly weigh-ins, or signing up for the online version.  I opted for the brick and mortar version because I wanted to be accountable to someone for my weight and also wanted to go to their group meetings.  The meetings are held weekly and led by an expert in the program.  It is basically a support group to encourage others in their journey, to share tips and tricks about what foods to eat and avoid, exchange recipes, laugh.  I had a membership for about 5 months, but these were the hardest months of the year (for me):  November through March.  It got me through the holidays and winter blahs very well, and I did lose weight (12 pounds).  However, I decided that the monthly charge (around $35) was a little high and that I knew enough at that point to go out on my own.  Of course, that didn’t happen as easily as I thought it would.  That’s why I find myself researching their new program 3 years later!

Let’s get the jargon down first

Under the Weight Watchers program, all foods are given a point value.  In the old system, these were referred to as “Points Plus” but in the new one, they are called “Smart Points.”  Everyone is assigned an allotment of daily points, and also an overflow of extra weekly points.  In the old program, points were given according to weight.  I was allowed 26 points, and 49 extra for the week.  Points have to be used very carefully.  For example, a slice of pizza can be 10 points, glass of white wine, 5 (now you know my weaknesses).  In the new program, daily and weekly points are still allotted, but they are determined based on additional factors:  resting metabolic rate, age, gender, height, weight loss goal, and weight.  I like this more specific number.  Both the online and sugar“brick and mortar” versions have an awesome app that is useful for tracking food and researching point values for food.  It also keeps your weight statistics and can be used to track fitness.  The extra weekly allotment is always in an increment of 7, so that it can be divided evenly in a week, if you desire to use them.

Another difference with Smart Points is that the value of foods has changed.  Some have gone down, and some up.  The big reason?  Sugar.  If a food has more sugar, you are going to pay for that in points.  In the old program, things like fat free yogurt or Fiber One bars would be only 2 points each.  Now, the points for these things are higher.  However, things like Greek yogurt and low sugar/high protein bars will be awarded less points.  I’m very happy to see that they are now taking a real look at sugar and the devastation it can cause.

Jargon, Part II:  “Fit Points vs. Activity Points”

Andee after a half marathon

The author is now trying to get back to this after a commercial break

In the old plan, exercise was classified under “Activity Points” and could be exchanged for extra food points.  For example, you could jog for a half hour and receive 5 Activity Points, which meant you could eat 5 extra points in food.  In the new plan, all users now have to set a physical activity goal of so many “Fit Points” per week.  These do not translate into extra food points, as they are calculated out at the beginning and expected to be followed daily.  One of the cool things I learned was that Fit Points can be linked to a Fit Bit!

Fruits/Veggies and Smoothies

One thing that both the old and new programs tout is that fruits and veggies are free, no points!  However, if you decide to blend a large amount of fruits and/or veggies (say for a smoothie or to juice), points must be calculated to account for the large number of calories taken in.  When I attended meetings 3 years ago, we were told to add points if we ate an excessive amount of fruit in any given day, due to the sugar content of fruit.  One of the beautiful things about Weight Watchers is that fruits and vegetables are filling!

Inner Strength and “Connect”

mental healthThis is sort of new.  Inner strength focuses on teaching people to engage in activities that keep them from eating or thinking about food.  It encourages people to try new things, take up new hobbies.  The “Connect” feature is part of the app and allows for social interaction via the internet.  While there were forums dedicated to this in the past, I guess there wasn’t one connected directly to the app, so this seems like a good idea as well.

So…

I may give it a whirl again.  It did work, and price has not increased substantially, plus they are currently offering some good deals.  Check them out at www.weightwatchers.com and let me know what you think!

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