The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Examination of "Weight Watchers."

I've decided to start a diagnostic style review of popular diets, and what better way to start than with King Weight Watchers?

One of my good friends that I've been working with the past month asked me what I thought about Weight Watchers. At first I thought "It sucks." But, then I realized that I didn't really know what it was or how it worked and that my opinion on it was based on no real experience or knowledge of the actual program. That's not fair, and although I think the basic counting macro system is superior, I figured I'd see what the program entailed.

Most of the people who live in this age of commercialization of fitness and nutrition have heard of weight watchers and have seen people who have used and had a lot of success with weight watchers. I'm not here to say weight watchers sucks or whatever, I'm gonna give you the facts, the benefits, and then give you my opinion that comes from my own experience and personal bias with nutrition.

Warning: I tried to be thorough with my investigation of this diet and it's system, but if I have misspoken or do not know all the facts, let me know in the comment section below.

So, let's begin...


 What is Weight Watchers?

Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that breaks down foods into a point system. The amount of points a food is worth is based on it's calorie, fat and fiber nutrient content. The old system of weight watchers primarily focused on overall calories, meaning it didn't matter where your calories came from, where as now it's based more on the way your calories are used (Macros, bro) and is determined via a formula. Here is an example.

"Now, if you are still following the old Weight Watchers Points Plan, you can figure out how many points you are allowed each day answer these questions and add your score:

1. Gender:
Female- score 2
Male- score 8
A nursing mom- score 12

2. How old are you?
17-26- score 4
27-37- score 3
38-47- score 2
48-58- score 1
over 58- score 0

3. What do you weigh?
Enter the first two digits of your weight in pounds.
(for example, if you weight 198, you will add 19 to your score)

4. How tall are you?
Under 5’1- score 0
5’1-5’10- score 1
Over 5’10- score 2

5. How do you spend most of your day?
Sitting down? score 0
Occasionally sitting? score 2
Walking most of the time? score 4
Doing physically hard work most of the time? score 6

Just add all of your scores together and that’s your daily points allowance.

Additionally, you are allowed an 35 more “fun” points per week, if you wish to use them."

And apparently THIS calculates your points on the new system.

I calculated my points with this shiz, and for the first equation I got 34. For the second calculator I got 45...whatever that means. I guess I'll wreck all of these treats real fast...

The Protocol

Weight Watchers basically uses this points system to create a calorie deficit (the only way to truly lose weight) via diet (you can also use exercise to get more points.) If a person stays within their allotted weekly points they will lose weight, just like if a person eats below maintenance calories, they will lose weight. Their success is dependent on tracking their point (calorie) intake. Lying about what you're eating and not being honest with your tracking will cause you to not lose weight. Plain and simple.

"Once a member reaches his or her goal weight, he or she starts a maintenance period. For the following six weeks, the member gradually adjusts his or her food intake until the member no longer loses or gains weight. If, at the end of six weigh-ins during the maintenance period, the member weighs in within 2 pounds of his or her goal weight, he or she becomes a "Lifetime" member. A Lifetime member may attend meetings free of charge as long as he or she weighs in at least once per calendar month and, at any weigh-in, does not weigh more than 2 pounds more than his or her goal weight. If the member weighs more than 2 pounds over the goal weight at a weigh-in, he or she will be charged the weekly fee for any meeting he or she attends (but not for skipped meetings) until he or she again obtains a weight within the target range. As long as a Lifetime member weighs in each month and stays within the target range, there is no fee for attending meetings, and the member may attend for the rest of his or her life. Unlike new members, Lifetime members are never charged a registration fee, even if they regain weight or fail to weigh in every calendar month."

Who is Weight Watchers?

"In the early 60's, Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch began inviting friends into her Queens home once a week, to discuss how best to lose weight. Today, that group of friends has grown to millions of women and men around the world who use the products and services of Weight Watchers to lose unwanted pounds. After that first Queens meeting, an estimated one million people, from Brazil to New Zealand, come together each week to help each meet their weight-loss goals at Weight Watchers meetings. And now, Weight Watchers is reaching others via the Web at"

This is the list of people on their scientific team who have formulated the system.

"Weight Watchers isn't a medical organization and we can't give you medical advice. We strongly urge you to consult with your physician (or primary health-care provider) before starting any weight loss plan. We also urge you to get periodic medical checkups."

You've also probably seen numerous celebrities become the face of weight watchers through the years, often times their results ranging from great to average.

These people are obviously not founders, but have probably some financial Incentives to speak positively of this diet, and since the honor system is in place, you have to take it for face value. 



Here are some results of research done on Weight Watchers and other commercial type diets. Click the links to find the full information.

"Results suggest that, in the absence of other considerations and at current market prices, Weight Watchers and Qsymia represent the two most cost-effective strategies for nonsurgical weight loss."

"These results suggest that participation in a commercial weight loss program may be a more effective means to lose weight and maintain weight loss."

"A third of all patients who were referred to WW through the WW NHS Referral Scheme and started a 12 session course achieved ≥5% weight loss, which is usually associated with clinical benefits. This is the largest audit of NHS referral to a commercial weight loss programme in the UK and results are comparable with other options for weight loss available through primary care. "

My First Impressions.

The Weight Watchers website does not give a lot of information up front about what all is entailed with the program. Everything leads you to a way to "sign up" and basically a check out sign. It's a business, so "no duh," but if I'm gonna sign up for something I'd like to know what protocols are going to be asked of me before I commit my money and my food life to it. For the majority of my information I had to turn to other sources including testimonials and "how to" videos in order to find out what all is entailed with said dietary plan.

I'm not a huge fan of people jumping blindly into programs, which I know many of us do (including myself) because research is pretty inconvenient, especially when a program is not completely transparent. So, if you are considering doing Weight Watchers, double check the facts I'm posting and do some basic google searchers yourself.

The Pros

Accountability and Community

"The support system for Weight Watchers Online is a message board where members can post support and share advice. The message board (but not the other support tools) is available free of charge to the public; in an attempt to limit access to the essential plan information to its members, Weight Watchers prohibits the posting of Points or PointsPlus values for foods on the boards."

This is one of the basic foundations why most hyper popular diets work, they build up a sense of community and thus accountability amongst its participants that grows to be a clan of sorts. People want to do what their friends do and do it better. They see their friends lose weight and they want to do it too, only better, so they will keep to it, or they will go the extra mile. And, if they slack on it they will feel guilty and hop back on the horse because (hopefully) they receive encouragement (and mild amounts of social pressure) to do so.

On a psychological note, the meetings can be helpful to people who have a very emotional attachment to food. To ME, it kind of reads like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, with leaders and testimonials and the like. For some individuals this may be necessary, because their food addiction is comparable to alcoholism. A testimony from this writer even described it as "Weight Watchers is like AA for fat people."


As a guy that has written a bunch about macros and calories, I understand that it can get a bit confusing and that there is a big learning curve. Weight watchers has more or less come up with a formula that simplifies it enough to keep fairly true to the dynamics of food while keeping the math and the tracking simple. It seems that things don't get into the triple digits. You could almost calculate all of your points on your fingers and toes if you're a small enough girl.

Semblance of Freedom

One of the things that Weight Watchers preaches is the idea that you can eat "whatever you want" and still lose weight! So, people don't have to dread their everyday food practices and can look forward to sweet treats, bigger meals, and "dirty foods." They even have a buffer for extra points (35 to be exact) that you can do whatever you want with. Meaning you can drag it out through the whole week or blow it on one big day of extra indulgence.

Online and Convenience

The fact that they have stream lined everything into a cohesive online network is very nice. People don't like to have to search, probe, and fuddle with things when it comes to food. God knows I've been so pissed off at some of the inconveniences of dieting at times that I've nearly said "FUCK IT' and set up a small rental apartment in a mcdonalds booth. A large database, lots of products, and enough "how to's" and trouble shooting videos on the web to basically make it idiot proof. (no offense.)

"Weight Watchers’ eTools is a Web-based service for members that includes access to support materials and tracking tools. The service is available for an additional fee for members who pay as they go, and is included in the fee for members who opt for the recurring "Monthly Pass" membership plan. In some areas Weight Watchers meetings are operated by a locally franchised organization rather than by Weight Watchers International."


The Cons

It's a business

The issue with fitness as a business is that their incentive is to get quick hard cash results. It's not concerned for your health or your long term success, it's concerned about getting results that will stimulate business and to continue to make money from you. It doesn't make them evil or bad and it doesn't make their practice less effective, it just means that they have to approach everything from that angle. Obviously that's not the incentive of every individual associated with the company, and there are plenty that are passionate about helping people lose weight and find balance and happiness, but when a paycheck is involved, you should be mindful of some things. Having looked through a dozen or so testimonials, I've seen many that quit due to the financial aspect, gained back the weight and then rejoined to lose it again. This is a cashiers dream when it comes to running a program. They make more from your failure than your success. Again, not saying that they want you to fail...but they have no financial incentive other than your glowing review...which you will give if the system worked for you, but you won't speak negatively of it when you gain it back because it was "your fault" because you quit. It works out for them in both scenarios.

Also, seeing that they have changed their format from the old brand to the points plus, it gives them another means to completely re-haul the system whenever "new" science becomes available. Which, usually means new investments on your part. So, they could potentially pull the rug out from under you. Not saying that they will, but they have the ability to do so.

Lots of people are repeat offenders

This means that people yo-yo diet with this program. People join and quit, rejoin, requit, etc. This is fine and dandy, and everybody hops on and off diets (it's human nature), but when you want to hop back on this diet or group, it comes with a receipt, so there isn't a strong incentive to join and might actually cause people to not rejoin the diet. This also means that the success of this diet isn't bullet proof and it's nothing special that keeps people happy, fit, and skinny or whatever. It's a formatted diet that still requires you to eat less at the end of the day then your current body and our social constructs wants you to.

Paying for group therapy

If you're paying for the full membership, you're more or less paying to be a part of a club based around addiction. For my money, if I was going to spend anything towards this it would be for therapy, one on one with a trained professional, and then I would supplement it with free meetings with people who have eating disorders to understand that others suffer from it too and I'm not alone. However, if you don't feel your illness is that severe and you don't need that degree of treatment, these meetings should be fine enough...but if you're constantly cycling back and forth from a weight you're okay with to one that you hate, you're living in a fucked up roller coaster ride...which brings me to my final point.

You don't walk away with a better understanding of nutrition.

A lot of people who stop using weight watchers gain back their weight. Sometimes lots of it, sometimes all of it, sometimes just a little of it. But it's a very consistent thing amongst people who leave. What that demonstrates to me is a lack of lasting education and a bandaid type solution to a problem that needs some books and a few stitches. Meaning people aren't facing their problems and aren't finding great solutions to fix their problem.


My Conclusion

Overall, I don't think there are too many negatives to Weight Watchers on a basic diet perspective. If you stick to it, you will probably lose weight. However, you can do all the things that you can get from weight watchers for free. Myfitnesspal has a huge database of calories from all sorts of foods (including weight watchers brand stuff), there are literally thousands of calorie/BMR calculators online, and you only need to check your local ads for groups who talk about their weight loss goals. Forums, chat rooms, all sorts of stuff to help you out.

Although I do like that this diet has an "exit strategy" with a means of finding something resembling maintenance calories for yourself, it has it formatted in the manner of weight watchers points...meaning you're dependent on their system to keep yourself at "maintenance weight."

Along those lines, I guarantee a person's maintenance points are a lot less then what they started (because of mass lost), meaning that they are going to be living in a pretty mediocre food life in order to stay at their new weight. Why? Because they probably aren't doing or haven't done anything to increase their metabolic capacity (building muscle.) Which, isn't really the place of most diet programs, but then again, weight watchers isn't exactly conducive to understanding how to build more muscle via diet (high protein, moderate to high carb, moderate to low fat intake...which seems like common sense if you just say it like that, but requires a little more finess) So, if you're okay with just losing weight but you're not too specific about how you'd like to look at the end of the weight loss phase or that you might not get to eat a bunch of food to maintain, then this shouldn't be a big deal. This is why it seems to be popular with people who don't have specific goals, but are just looking to "lose weight." Not to put down this goal, I too was once in this place. I used the basic calorie in vs. calorie out style programming religiously for months to achieve the majority of my weight loss results, it was only when I got down to a pretty decent healthy walk around weight that I was able to play with the specifics. I feel that most people who have made the plunge to change their life by taking charge of their diet want to do so to achieve fantastic results, and although losing 100lbs is incredible and quite the feat for anybody to accomplish, a person could still be left with wanting even more at the end. For a person to achieve that next level, they need to know very well how they came about their current body and what variables they can change to get their next level of results. For me, weight watchers is not the ideal system for this to happen. You'll have to learn an entirely different means of tracking your food: Calories, Macros, Carbs, Fats, Proteins, know, what everybody uses in the professional world.

And Finally, To me, weight loss should be a free venture. Your success should not depend on your purse, and your entry into a group should not be contingent on a variable as little as 2lbs. I can lose 4lbs in a day and gain 8 over night with as little of a difference as the amount of water I drink the day before, doesn't make me out of control over my dietary practices or an emotional eater. I'm overly anal about what I eat if anything.

And if you need a celebrity for this lifestyle, why not give Ol' Yeargain a try?

You can get this, too! Only $6.99 per second of consultation.

Just fuckin with ya...Until next time, 

Lift big, sing big, and look great doing it.

The Opera Bro


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