Lately I keep hearing/reading about members of Weight Watchers who feel there is something wrong with eating Weekly Points. Maybe it isn’t exactly cheating, but they sort of feel that you shouldn’t eat them. That always bothers me when I hear or read that. That would be because I eat a goodly number of weekly points. Herewith, what I ate last week:
As you can see, I ate 39 of my 49 weekly points. That is fairly typical for me.
For those who aren’t WW members, if you are using the points plus plan you get a certain number of daily points to eat, plus another 49 points that you can eat whenever you want during the week. If you don’t eat them, they don’t carry over to the next week. WW points plus are based upon a formula that depends on the grams of fat, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber in food. Most fruits and vegetables are considered zero point foods and don’t count toward the daily or weekly point allowance.
While points plus don’t correspond exactly to calories, for me, a WW points plus usually averages to be about 38 calories. Your daily points vary according to weight, height, and gender. A man who weighs 300 pounds will be allocated much more daily points than a woman who weighs 170 pounds. The minimum for women is 26 daily points. If you multiply that times 38, you get 988 calories. That isn’t exact, particularly given the zero point food. However, I find that it is reasonably close. I count my calories as well as WW points and I have eaten exactly 26 points a few times this year. One time I ate 973 calories, another time 953, and another 988. I know that, for me, I got 26 daily points even when I was over 200 pounds. But as weights go up, people do get more points. And, men get more points. The point is that Weight Watchers has designed the program so that you can lose weight even if you eat your weekly points.
The important point to understand is that daily points are the minimum amount that WW wants you to eat each day. The problem is that far too many people think of daily points as the maximum that should be eaten each day. In fact, that is exactly backwards.
In addition to daily points, the Weight Watchers program provides for two different additional sources of points. First, everyone gets 49 weekly points. (Members who are using the Simply Filling Plan also get 49 weekly points for non-power foods). It doesn’t take much math to figure out that the difference between eating all 49 weekly points and eating none of the 49 weekly points is roughly about half a pound a week. Second, if you engage in physical activity you can earn activity points which can be eaten during the course of the week. (Example: The other day I walked 9503 steps during the course of the day. WW gave me 3 activity points for doing that). The true maximum you can eat each week are all your daily points, plus all your weekly points and all your earned activity points. In addition, you can eat zero point fruits and vegetables (to a reasonable amount).
Weight Watchers tells members that eating weekly points and activity points is optional. You can do it, but don’t have to do it. And, that is fine. I don’t think we should have to eat those points. I rarely eat all of my weekly points. On the other hand, I don’t really think we should go out of our way to try to avoid eating any of them. Weight Watchers lets us choose whether to eat weekly points first or activity points first. Like a lot of people, I eat my weekly points first. And, since I don’t usually eat all my weekly points, I almost never eat any of my activity points.
The problem comes when people think of themselves as being off program or having cheated or done something wrong because of eating weekly points. When I’ve pointed out that eating weekly points is perfectly fine, I often get the response of wanting to lose weight faster and feeling that the weekly points are there only for special occasions when you might otherwise overeat.
I think there are problems with this. First, and most importantly, deciding to not eat weekly points leads to too much rigidity. Take me for example. I get 26 daily points on Weight Watchers. I am supposed to always eat at least the amount of my daily points. Again, daily points are a minimum, not a maximum. If I don’t eat any of my weekly points and don’t eat any of my activity points, then I would eat exactly 26 daily points each day.
I don’t like the rigidity of that. I don’t want it to be evening and want a snack and have to eat an exactly 2 point snack so that I will get to exactly 26 points. What if I want a 3 point snack? Under the no weekly points reasoning, I can’t eat that 3 point snack. I have to either eat a 2 point snack that wasn’t my first choice or, even worse, go without and end up eating only 24 points for the day. And, that is certainly not on program.
Second, I think this leads to a diet mentality, rather than eating in a way you can eat for a lifetime. Who really goes around eating the exact same amount each day? During February, I averaged eating 1268 calories a day (which was 33 WW points plus a day). But, I didn’t eat exactly 1268 calories a day. My highest day was 1835 calories! My lowest day was 1025 calories. Imagine how unreal it would have been for me to try to eat exactly 1268 calories a day. That just isn’t conducive to long term eating habits.
Third, for long term weight loss success it is important to learn how to vary your intake over time. If you have an 1835 calorie day (that was 48 WW points!), then you need to adjust your eating after that. By eating weekly points and learning how to do that and varying your eating over the course of the week, you learn how to eat in a realistic way. Last week, I averaged 31.6 points plus a day (1198 calories per day). But, my highest point day was 39 points and my lowest was 27 points. And, I knew when I ate the 39 points that I couldn’t do that every day. I needed to adjust my eating for the rest of the week so that I didn’t eat more points than I had available. I usually eat an average of 31-32 points plus per day, so I am used to adjusting throughout the week. I usually end the week with 10 to 20 weekly points left (although some weeks I eat them all). But, any given day can be as few as 26 points or much more. Today I ate 41 points!
Would I have lost more over the past few months if I ate only my daily 26 points? Yes. I probably would have lost another half a pound or so a week. But, I would be miserable and wouldn’t be learning how to eat in the real world.
When I got to goal at WW, I ate every calorie I had available (at the time it was exchanges and not daily points and it was optional calories, not weekly points). Eating some of my weekly points will not cause me not to get to goal. But, not eating them could cause me to give up because I didn’t find the program sustainable. And, I don’t want to be faced with eating weekly points for the first time when I’m on maintenance. I want maintenance to simply be a continuation of what I’ve been doing while losing, just eating a few more calories. And, real people in the real world who aren’t on diets don’t usually eat the exact same amount of food each day. They have days they eat more and days they eat less. I want to lose weight while eating in the same ways that I will eat in the “real world” (i.e. the time after the weight loss is over).
WW Members: Do you eat your weekly points? Your activity points? Calorie Counters: Do you eat the same number of calories every day or do you eat within a range or an average?