So, on Saturday, I finally officially transitioned to Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale program since that is my normal weigh in date. When I did that it recalculated my Activity Points since last Sunday to FitPoints. So, how many FitPoints did I earn over the last 7 days?
36? I earned 36 FitPoints? OK. That is good. Weight Watchers assigned me 9 FitPoints a week as a goal, so 36 is fine. Except, well, this wasn’t a totally stellar week for activity. I tend to not walk a lot of steps on non-exercise days. I live in a one story house, spend a lot of time at my computer and work from home. My step counts can be really low when I don’t go out and make a real effort to move a lot.
Fitbit tells me how many calories I burn each day. I know it is an estimate, but I think is reasonably accurate. I have a low resting metabolic rate (1120 a day when I had it tested a few months ago). If I don’t exercise, I may not break 1300 total calories burned in a day. So, I know I have to do a lot of walking or other exercise to even break 1400 calories a day burned.
Daily FitPoints Earned This Past Week
Here is what I saw when I looked at it daily:
Sunday – My husband and I took a walk outside in our rather hilly neighborhood for about 30 minutes. That was my only formal exercise. I got 5 FitPoints for that! Fitbit says I burned 1393 calories for the day, 144 of them during the walk.
Monday – I did 20 minutes on the elliptical at the Y, 32 minutes strength training (personal training session) and a total of 2771 steps during the day. I earned 10 FitPoints for this! I don’t still have access to how many Activity Points Weight Watchers told me I earned at the time, but I think it was 5 for the day. Fitbit says I burned 124 calories during the elliptical, 224 during strength training and 1551 calories for the day. It was a pretty good day, but my step count outside of exercise was really low.
Tuesday – I was a sloth. I did nothing. I walked 3025 steps during the day. Big deal. But, I earned 3 FitPoints for that? Fitbit says I burned only 1318 calories that day.
Wednesday – I had a personal training session at the Y. I did 8 minutes on the elliptical (32 calories burned) and 31 minutes strength training (181 calories burned). My total step count for the day was 3181 and I earned a total of 8 FitPoints. Fitbit says I burned 1451 calories that day.
Thursday – I did no formal exercise. I was away from home most of the day, but only walked 3081 steps. Despite burning only 1302 calories for the day (per Fitbit) I earned 3 FitPoints.
Friday – I was even more of a sloth. I ran a few errands, but they didn’t involve much walking. The rest of the day I was mostly at my desk. I’m embarrassed to say that I walked only 1810 steps. Despite this near comatose day, I managed to earn 2 FitPoints!
Saturday – I went to the mall with my husband to do some shopping. It was raining outside so we did a 30 minute brisk walk in the mall. That actually got my step count (as of the time I took the screenshot above) to 6039 steps, with 5 earned FitPoints. It actually just went past midnight as I was writing this. I ended the day at 6495 steps and that increased my FitPoints to 6 for the day.
The result is that with that late earned point, I earned an astonishing 37 FitPoints for the week!
How FitPoints Differ From Activity Points
When I first saw that Weight Watchers was changing from Activity Points to FitPoints, I really thought of it as just a change in name. I thought it was sort of make the 3 F’s thing work. At the meeting last Sunday, my leader referred to F3 Food, Fitness, Fulfillment.
So, OK, new name that starts with an F and goes with Fitness. I did notice in the materials we received at the meeting that you earn FitPoints more quickly than Activity Points. Examples given in the book included a 1 Activity Point walk that earns 2 FitPoints and a 5 Activity Points Zumba class that became 9 FitPoints. I didn’t really realize how big the increase was until I saw how many FitPoints I earned last week.
I think that part of this reflects the fact that Weight Watchers wants to give you incentive to move by having you quickly see how added movement earns you FitPoints. If you have to exercise 30 minutes to get 1 or 2 points, that isn’t as exciting as getting 5 FitPoints. And, even little increases in movement will get you more FitPoints. So, I get that increasing the rate at which we earn FitPoints can help with motivation.
Still, I wouldn’t have thought I would earn 37 points for what I did last week! I think part of it is that for the steps part of FitPoints, there is no longer a baseline. In fact, in an article about Fitness on the Weight Watchers sites it is stated that you:
Earn FitPoints for your activity — whether you’re walking, bowling, or paying with your kids — as soon as you start moving.
That phrase “as soon as you start moving” is telling. Back in the day (before activity monitors), there were basically 2 ways to get Activity Points. The typical one was that you did your activity and based upon your weight and intensity level and duration a certain number of Activity Points was given. A lot of people still track activity that way.
There are 2 major flaws with this method. First, people are often really bad at gauging intensity level. Some people were very shocked when they got an activity monitor and found that the calories they were actually burning during some of their activities were closer to being low intensity than the high intensity they were recording. The second problem is that people vary in their activity during the rest of the day. If I have a day like Friday where I don’t burn a lot of calories just in my everyday life, then my overall calorie burn for the day may still be pretty low even if I add on half an hour of exercise.
The other method back then on activity was using a pedometer. Weight Watchers gave you two options. You could count your steps just during formal walks (or runs) and then input the steps and get told the Activity Points used. The other option was to track your steps the entire day. If you did that, you would input your steps for the day but you had to meet a baseline before you got Activity Points. If I recall, I think my baseline was somewhere around 3500 steps. That is, I wasn’t earning any Activity Points for the day if I only walked 2000 steps. I had to get to about 3500 to earn anything.
When Weight Watchers came out with the ActiveLink activity monitor, it was treated more like a pedometer. That is, you had to have a baseline of activity before you earned anything. You couldn’t just exercise for 30 minutes and then sit around the rest of the day. Well, you could, but you wouldn’t get any Activity Points.
One way that FitPoints differ from Activity Points is that there is no baseline. You start earning points from step 1. This is how I earned 2 FitPoints on a day that I walked only 1810 steps. It looks like you are getting about 1 FitPoint for each 1000 steps walked (rounded up)! Weight Watchers does assure you that it isn’t double counting daily steps recorded on activity monitor with those walked during a tracked activity.
Why It is Risky to Eat FitPoints
Back in the old days when we earned Activity Points (that is, until a week ago), the big draw to earning Activity Points was that you could eat them. That is, you could swap one Activity Point to obtain an additional PointsPlus. So, if you were running low on Daily and Weekly PointsPlus you could always just earn some Activity Points.
And, many people did eat their Activity Points. In fact, you could chooses whether to eat them before eating any Weekly Points or whether to eat them after. I chose to eat them after Weekly Points. As a result, Activity Points were mostly irrelevant to me since I rarely ate all my Weekly Points anyway. But, there were a few weeks where I did eat all of my Weekly Points and ate some or all of my Activity Points.
It was fairly safe to my weight loss to do this. See, while it seemed like you were trading Activity Points 1 for 1 with PointsPlus, it really wasn’t quite that simple. On average, a PointsPlus was worth roughly 40 calories. The general rule of thumb was that people figured out that to earn an Activity Point you needed to roughly burn about 80 calories. So, if you had earned 5 Activity Points, you had burned about 400 calories in exercise. You could swap those 5 Activity Points for about 5 PointsPlus, which was about 200 calories of food. The beauty of this was that it meant that even if you had said you exercised intensely when it was really moderate, there was a bit of a mechanism built in where you weren’t hurt too much. Maybe you didn’t burn 400 calories to earn your 5 Activity Points. Maybe you only burned 300 calories. Since you were only trading them for 200 calories worth of food, though, it wasn’t really going to hurt you that you had gotten your intensity level wrong.
That built in safety valve no longer exists with FitPoints. And, that is important to know if you plan to eat your FitPoints. Weight Watchers actually recommends against eating your FitPoints. The default now is that you won’t swap them. But, you can change that in settings. Certainly, some people really need to do that. If you are an intense exerciser, you may really need to eat some of your FitPoints because your energy needs are higher. (Note that most of us are not intense exercisers). Also, if you are on maintenance and you are still losing weight when you don’t want to do so, then eating FitPoints would make a lot of sense.
For the rest of us, eating FitPoints is dangerous. On the 4 exercise sessions where I received FitPoints for using the elliptical or weight training I received an average of 1 FitPoint for every 41 calories I burned. On Friday I burned only 1291 calories for the entire day, but earned 2 FitPoints from just daily walking around (pitiful amount that it was that day). If I ate both of those FitPoints that day plus my 30 daily SmartPoints, I would be in real likelihood of not having a calorie deficit that day.
If I ate all 37 FitPoints I earned last week, that could really lessen (or obliterate) my weight loss for the week. I did not have that great a week in terms of calorie burn. The idea of me eating 37 FitPoints is ludicrous if I want to have a loss.
While Weight Watchers recommends against us eating our FitPoints, we are allowed to change our settings to swap them. And, when we do we swap our FitPoints we swap them 1 for 1 for SmartPoints. And, you now earn FitPoints much more easily than you earned Activity Points. During formal exercise, I burned closer to 40 calories for each FitPoint earned, rather than 80 calories for Activity Points. And, as for steps, I earned a FitPoint for about every 1000 steps, with no baseline.
I’ve seen countless people say that they intend to eat their FitPoints despite the Weight Watchers recommendation. In some instances, that is fine. In other instances, it may be risky to do that. I know that some members are having a hard time adjusting to SmartPoints and have seen some of their foods go up in points a lot. When that happens, it is tempting to get more points through swapping FitPoints. I understand that. I would be inclined to do it myself if I ran out of points. But, I think some caution is in order given how easy it is to earn FitPoints as compared to Activity Points. Personally, if I ever eat any of my FitPoints, I think my most prudent course of action would be to eat no more than one-third to half of them given how easily they are earned.