As of Saturday, all Weight Watchers members are on the new Beyond the Scale Program.
And, some find that they hate SmartPoints. Other former members may have been considering rejoining Weight Watchers and are now giving that a second thought.
Before I go on, I want to make clear that I don’t believe that everyone has to pick the same plan for weight loss. We are all different. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. I know that I would be miserable on certain types of plans, so they aren’t for me. Choosing to go to a different plan if you hate Beyond the Scale is an entirely valid choice. For people who have historically liked Weight Watchers, however, I think that choosing a different plan might be better seen as the last choice to be made after working through the options.
If you hate SmartPoints, what to do? What to do?
Think About Why You Hate SmartPoints
The first step is to really examine what it is you hate about SmartPoints. If you don’t know why you hate it, it becomes hard to move forward.
Common reasons that I see for people not liking SmartPoints is that they hate the new website and mobile app, the program feels more restrictive, they run out of SmartPoints too quickly, and they don’t want to have to change how they eat. Personally, I think the website/app problems will eventually get solved. I think the program is a bit more restrictive, but not unduly so. I run out of SmartPoints more quickly, but still have some left at the end of the week. And, I have only had to make fairly minor changes in how I eat. For me, SmartPoints align very closely with how I personally approached eating before SmartPoints. So, the changes have been relatively easy for me to adjust to.
But, I also know that I am not everyone. So, let’s look at these points.
You are frustrated by the ongoing website and mobile app problems.
It appears that some people hate SmartPoints mostly because they are having problems with the Weight Watchers website or the mobile app. There is absolutely no question that Weight Watchers has had a lot of technological problems with the website and the mobile apps. To be blunt, I think the rollout of the changes to the website and apps has been horrible.
I understand those problems causing huge frustration. I have had some of those problems myself and so has my husband. Some things still don’t work properly. I still get sent to the wrong page, or get error messages, quite often. Entering food data into the online tracker is tedious and slow. In fact, everything seems so, so slow. And, I’ve seen reports from others of worse problems. I do not in any way minimize the seriousness of these problems. Weight Watchers needs to fix it and should be crediting people for the time it hasn’t been working right.
The important thing to realize, though, is that hating the website and app is not the same thing as hating SmartPoints or the entire Beyond the Scale program. I’m not saying that you are wrong to leave Weight Watchers over the technology problems, particularly if you feel you are not getting what you are paying for. I am just saying that the actual content of the new program is a different issue. While I have had a lot of issues with the new dashboard and mobile app, I try to separate my feelings on that from my feelings about the actual weight loss program.
The new program feels more restrictive.
That would be because it is a bit more restrictive. A point to think about, though, is how much that restrictiveness actually affects how you eat on a day to day basis and whether it is something you can adjust to. There are still no forbidden foods on Weight Watchers. I have seen some members say that they don’t like the new program because they can’t ever eat [insert food of choice here]. If that is how you are feeling, I would examine that thought for whether it is too extreme a statement. That is, if I suddenly see that a food has doubled in points from PointsPlus to SmartPoints, the immediate thought may be that I can never eat that food again. In reality, it may be that I can eat it, but (1) I will eat less of other foods so I can fit that food into my eating, (2) I will eat a smaller portion size, or (3) I will eat it less often.
I know that when I first saw how much nonfat frozen yogurt went up in points, I immediately thought that I could never eat it again. When I looked at it closely, though, I realized I could still eat it. My husband still eats Healthy Choice frozen yogurt several nights a week. I recognized that I could still go to TuttiFrutti occasionally, but would have a smaller portion. So, yes, the program is a bit more restrictive in that choices have to be made. The week I go to TuttiFrutti might not be the same week that I have a large piece of chocolate cake, but I could certainly fit in one of those choices in one week and then do the other the following week.
Perhaps this is easier for me because I originally got to lifetime on Weight Watchers exchange program. I had to fit stuff like cake, ice cream, cookies, and candy into something like 750 optional calories a week. If I had a large piece of chocolate cake, I wasn’t eating much other junk for the rest of the week. And, strangely enough, at the time I didn’t feel deprived. In fact, I was thrilled that Weight Watchers allowed the cake at all when many weight loss plans at the time wouldn’t allow foods like that. One of the problems on PointsPlus, in my mind, is that it allowed many of us to get used to being able to use most of our points on food that is isn’t the healthiest. Being restricted in how much we can eat junk and be on program can be considered by some to be a feature and not a bug. (And, yes, I eat my share of junk).
Fine, but I still run out of my SmartPoints too quickly, and I’m eating healthy foods.
Some foods went up in points, but they aren’t the foods we think of as being high in sugar or saturated fat. I’ve seen some people saying they are running out of points, but it isn’t because of eating junk food. I believe them.
I’ve noticed this with some days. There are times that I eat 3 or 4 things and each one of them has gone up a point or two. In isolation, each increase is not a big deal. A food that was 5 PointsPlus is now 6 SmartPoints. The increase seems small. The food isn’t terribly unhealthy, but has gone up just a little bit. The Indonesian Peanut Saute with Chicken that was a total 15 PointsPlus is now 16 SmartPoints. The potstickers appetizer went from 5 PointsPlus to 6 SmartPoints. The Kind Bar I ate went from 6 PointsPlus to 7 SmartPoints. A turkey Subway sandwich went from 7 PointsPlus to 8 SmartPoints. Chicken sausage went from 5 PointsPlus to 6 SmartPoints. And, on and on. Each small increase isn’t much, but if every food you eat during the day goes up one point, then it adds up quickly.
This is an area where learning the new point counts helps a lot and doing some planning to mitigate the increase can make a big difference. For example, the Indonesian Peanut Saute with Chicken went up 1 SmartPoint. But, it could have been worse, The noodles and sauce, without the chicken, actually went up 3 points! But, the chicken went down 2 points. So, the net increase was only 1 point. Had I picked another protein that simply stayed the same, the net increase would have been 3 points. By choosing chicken, I cushioned the blow.
The problem of running out of SmartPoints quickly, while eating regular foods that aren’t junk, is one that can be largely solved through planning and making tweaks to food choices. I’ve found that this is often a matter of making relatively small changes. For example, I went out to lunch at The Counter the other day, which is a place I consider a SmartPoints bargain.
My husband beforehand told me he wasn’t sure we could go because he had calculated his meal would be 31 SmartPoints! I had calculated mine and it was 16 SmartPoints. We were both having a chicken burger in a bowl with a side of turkey chili, but his points for his meal were almost twice that of mine. So, I started looking at his meal closely. There were just lots of little ways that his meal was more than mine. One example was that I had 0 SmartPoints sliced red onions on mine. He had the grilled red onions for 3 SmartPoints! And, it sort of went like that throughout the entire meal. He kept his chicken at half a pound (I ate 1/3 pound), but he changed the sauce he was eating and ditched the grilled onions. By the time he was done, his meal was only a few points more than mine.
Those of on Weight Watchers using PointsPlus mostly knew the points structure backwards and forwards. We knew what was a good use of points and what wasn’t. Now, a lot of those numbers have changed. There is a learning curve, but once that has been mastered I think most of us will find that we don’t run out of our SmartPoints too quickly.
I keep seeing reports of people saying that they have run out of daily points early in the day. I find that on days I don’t eat out, I struggle to get to 30 SmartPoints. Part of that is the face that I carefully plan what I am going to eat and try to make changes that really don’t make much difference in the meal (giving up grilled onions to save 3 SmartPoints is a little change and one that I wouldn’t even really notice). The other part, though, is that I don’t eat a lot of high sugar or high saturated fat. So, the points I eat under SmartPoints is only a little higher than what I ate under PointsPlus.
If you do eat a lot of high sugar/high saturated fat, then you may run out of points quickly even if you try to make small adjustments as you go along. For you, large adjustments may be needed to stay within your SmartPoints goal.
I don’t care. I don’t want to make any changes to what I eat. I don’t like change. And, one of the things I liked about Weight Watchers is that I could eat whatever I wanted to (healthy or not) and would lose weight if I stayed within my points.
This is a fair point. If you are happy with what you are eating and you are losing weight (or maintaining your goal weight), then it is perfectly natural to not want to change. To you, nothing was broke so Weight Watchers didn’t need to fix anything. You may justifiably feel that Weight Watchers is imposing on you a different way of eating that you didn’t sign onto when you joined Weight Watchers.
The reality is that change can be tough for anyone. But, Weight Watchers does have reasons that it changes it program. And, part of that reason is to keep up with the science on weight loss and healthy eating.
Nonetheless, if Weight Watchers has changed the plan enough that it no longer fits into how you can eat and be happy, then it is totally reasonable to look around and see if there is another weight loss method that you would like better. Put it this way: If Weight Watchers had come out with a plan that required me to eat a diet of no more than 10% fat, I would be looking elsewhere. I don’t want to eat that kind of diet, and I wouldn’t feel compelled to do it just because Weight Watchers was using the plan. And, I have researched enough about healthy eating that I personally feel that I can be healthy eating more than 10% fat. Obviously, each of us has to figure out what works for us, both from a weight and a health standpoint.
At the same time, if the problem with the new plan is that lots of foods you were eating almost doubled in points or went up by a lot (more than 1 or 2 points), then that may be a sign that you are eating a lot of added sugar and perhaps a lot of saturated fat. If so, then it may be worth looking at why Weight Watchers might want to discourage those foods.
If you hate SmartPoints because it is new and different and you haven’t learned it yet, that is different than if you, to be blunt, just want to lose weight by cutting calories while using most of your points to eat a lot of added sugar or junk food. On the other hand, maybe you feel that you are eating in a healthy way, but you still feel the new plan is too restrictive.
What you decide to do about hating SmartPoints may really depend on what it is you don’t like about it. Once you have seriously thought about why you hate SmartPoints, an option would be to:
Try SmartPoints for awhile
Most Weight Watchers like something about Weight Watchers. For me, I think the meetings are what make Weight Watchers special. I would want to try almost any plan for awhile to see if I could adjust to it. I would personally be inclined to try it for about 4 weeks. I think it would take me that long to really learn a new plan and to get a good feel for the results that you can expect. The problem with trying it for only a week or two is that I don’t feel I would really get a good picture of how I would do on the plan. The scale does not always cooperate. Sometimes, a loss shows up a week or two later than you expect. Sometimes, you have a good loss and then stall out. Trying it for 4 weeks gives me time to really learn the plan. (Even though I like the plan so far, I consider myself still in the trial stage).
During this 4 weeks, I would follow the plan really strictly. I’ve heard some people say they will try out the plan by eating like they used to eat on PointsPlus and seeing what the results will be. I think that may be OK for the first few days, but not longer than that. I feel I get the most value by trying to learn the plan and adjusting my eating to the plan. In other words, I want to give a good and sincere effort.
If it will make it easier, I don’t think there is anything wrong with eating some of my FitPoints. I caution that FitPoints are easily earned so I personally am not likely to eat more than about 1/3 of them (if I need them at all). I suspect that as people transition to the new plan and get used to it, they may find less and less need to use them.
Modify the Program to Work for You
Some people won’t like what I am going to say here. They are Weight Watchers purists and think that any deviation from the plan means that you aren’t following Weight Watchers. I, on the other hand, see Weight Watchers as a tool to help me manage my weight. There is no Weight Watchers police that will come to my house if I deviate from the program.
I think it is OK to make some modifications to the program to make it work better for me. So, on PointsPlus, I often didn’t meet the Good Health Guideline for dairy. Drinking milk or even the Weight Watchers Smoothies tended to disagree with me. I could eat some cheese and I did that but usually not enough to get to the required servings. I went and read about dairy and researched it enough to feel that – for me – that was not a guideline that I needed to meet every day. So, I didn’t. Others may feel it is important to have that dairy everyday, but I felt OK dialing it back a bit. That was a modification to the program that it more livable for me. And, I lost 61 pounds and got back to goal weight.
My husband is lifetime at goal. He enjoys the Weight Watchers meetings a lot. Even though we don’t have to go to a meeting every week, we usually do. But, he did not track for the first 68 pounds or so of his weight loss. He kinda, sorta loosely counted his PointsPlus in his head. However, he did pay a lot of attention to what he was learning about healthy eating in the meetings and he applied that to his diet. He only really tracked when he got stuck on a plateau 4.4 pounds away from goal. That got him off his plateau and he made it to goal. Some people might say that he didn’t follow Weight Watchers at all. I would say that he followed it in his own way.
Of course, I don’t think we should kid ourselves when we modify the program. The area that I don’t ever modify is how many points a food has. Doing that can result in seriously overeating. The SmartPoints value of our food and our daily and weekly SmartPoints goal are meant to work together as a whole. If you decide that what is now a 12 point frozen yogurt should be counted as 6 points like it was on PointsPlus, then you may end up seriously overeating if you still want to count 3 ounces of chicken breast as the 1 point that it is on SmartPoints.
In modifying, I let my weight loss and my health be my guide. Both of these are important to me. If I am losing the weight I want to lose with my modification, then I know that I’m not using the modification simply to eat more calories. But, I also look at health. This is somewhat more difficult to do. Eating in a way that is bad for my health may not show up as quickly or easily as gained weight shows up. This is where I need to look at nutrition, look my health, consult with my doctor, and take care that I am eating in a way that enhances health rather than hurting it. If am uncertain if a change is healthy, then I am more likely to simply not modify the program. The decision as to what is healthy for you should be based upon your personal health and consultation with your own doctor.
OK, you’ve done all the above and still hate SmartPoints. At that point, then I think one of the two options below makes sense.
Change How You Think About the Program
You’ve tried the program. You still miss being able to eat the way you ate before. None of the modifications you make to the program solve that problem. You still want to count that frozen yogurt as 6 points and not 12. You liked being able to indulge on Weight Watchers and think you can’t indulge often enough on the new program. Leaving Weight Watchers for something else looks like a real option.
And, it is. But, another option is to change how you think about the program. More to the point, it may mean changing how you think about food and, thereby, changing how you eat. I know this can be done because I did it.
When I went back to Weight Watchers 5 years ago and seriously committed to it again, I honestly didn’t really want to change what I ate. I mostly just wanted to lose weight by eating less of those foods. I knew that I would need to do that forever, but I really didn’t plan to make major changes in what I ate. Five years later, I’ve really changed what I eat.
I was going through the mobile app the other day checking the foods I entered before. I either needed to delete the foods or put in the missing nutritional information to get the SmartPoints value. What I found out doing this was that there were so many foods that 4 or 5 years ago I ate all the time, that I now no longer eat at all or eat very rarely. This is mostly because I got more interested in nutrition and I wanted to eat healthier. I also realized that for true maintenance for the long term it would be so much easier to do it if I quit eating so much junk food. I am still not perfect at this (by far, I’m not), but I have gotten so much better.
This is why SmartPoints has not been that big an adjustment to me. I reduced my consumption of high sugar a long time ago. Rarely do I ever eat more than 30g of a sugar in a day. Often, I am at less than 20g. I am almost always under 20g when I don’t include the sugar in fruits and vegetables. Yesterday I ate 37 SmartPoints. I ate a total of 25g of sugar and some of that was from vegetables as I had a large salad at Panera. There was time that I ate way, way, way more sugar.
To be blunt: If you are eating a lot of added sugar or a lot of junk food or a lot of saturated fat, then it might worth thinking about whether Weight Watchers might have a good reason for wanting to discourage that kind of eating. And, if you do that, then maybe you will make the choice to think that the new program is meant to encourage healthier eating and will embrace the opportunity to learn how to make that change.
I know. I know. You don’t have to. But, it is an option.
(To be clear, I am not saying that everyone who hates the program eats high sugar or junk…the above is meant to be an extreme example. I know that there are many people who hate SmartPoints and don’t eat high sugar or high saturated fat. The above is directed to people who are more like I used to be. I did used to eat a lot of sugar and I was resistant to changing it. I have totally been there. I just want to put out there that changing one’s way of thinking is an option).
Quitting Weight Watchers
Quitting Weight Watchers, or not rejoining, is an option. For Weight Watchers members, I think that trying the program and trying to make it work for you is perhaps worth doing if you have had success with Weight Watchers in the past. Change is always difficult. And, I really do think this program is a major change. Adjusting to that change takes time. I think that if you’ve loved Weight Watchers before, particularly if you like the meetings and the accountability from the meetings, it makes sense to try to navigate the changes and make it work.
But, if you have done that or don’t want to do that, then it makes sense to go elsewhere. There are a lot of weight loss options out there. To be clear, there are a lot of healthy weight loss options out there. For long time weight loss and successful maintenance, we are unlikely to succeed if we are miserable with what we are eating. If following Weight Watchers really makes you miserable, then you are unlikely to be successful for the long haul, no matter how good the program is. In that case, it is perfectly reasonable to find another way of weight loss that you can follow and maintain on.
My personal caution is to think about not only short term weight loss, but to really look at the health and nutrition aspect and maintaining for the long term. Even so, Weight Watchers is not the only healthy weight loss plan out there. If Weight Watchers no longer meets your needs, it is totally reasonable to find another option that you like better and that works better for you.