This is the first of three posts about how many SmartPoints to eat. This post will mostly discuss Weekly SmartPoints, the next will be about FitPoints, and the third will be about those who find it hard to reach their minimum Daily SmartPoints.
Ever since Weight Watchers went to a points system, I have seen and heard Weight Watchers members who said they only ate their daily points. They didn’t eat weekly points at all (or activity points when those were available). And, if they did somehow eat some of their weekly points during the week, they seemed to feel that they had “gone over” on their points and had somehow done something that they shouldn’t do.
Almost two years ago, I made this post where I pointed out that daily points are the minimum that Weight Watchers want you to eat daily. They decidedly are not the maximum points that we should eat.
But, that was then. And, now Weight Watchers has a new Beyond the Scale program, and members are eating SmartPoints not PointsPlus. Does what I said about PointsPlus and weekly points still apply? At that time, I discussed in my post why I always did eat some of my weekly points. In fact, there were times I ate every last one of them.
I had three basic points that I made in that post. And, I think that those three points still apply. However, because of how SmartPoints distributes points, I think it is easier now to eat Daily Points only on some days, while reserving Weekly Points to only limited days during the week.The first point that I made in 2014 is that to eat exactly at your minimum daily points really promotes rigidity in eating. Think about it. It is really hard to eat exactly the same amount of SmartPoints each and every day. You have to be super rigid about what you eat. I get 30 Daily SmartPoints (the minimum amount). What if I have eaten 28 SmartPoints and I get hungry? I could eat a single bag of Kay’s Cinnamon Almond Cookie Bites (3 SmartPoints), but that would take a Weekly SmartPoint. If I don’t want to eat any SmartPoints I can’t do that. Or, worse, I do eat a Weekly SmartPoint and feel like a failure.
Well, I could instead eat a Weight Watchers Jalapeno Cheese Stick. But, that is 1 SmartPoint so I am still under my Daily SmartPoints (I will talk in a later post about whether it is OK to just eat 29 SmartPoints). If I want to eat exactly my Daily SmartPoints and not one point more or less, then neither choice works for me. I have to go find something that is exactly 2 SmartPoints to eat. That gives me very little flexibility at all.
Which brings up the second point that I raised in when discussing PointsPlus and Weekly Points. That kind of eating promotes a diet mentality. That isn’t how real life is. That is the epitome of a rigid diet. It would be really difficult to eat the exact same number of SmartPoints each day for a lifetime. Do I want to try to eat 36 Daily SmartPoints each and every day for the rest of my life (the default I would get on maintenance)? No. I want something that is more realistic and flexible.
Which then leads to the third point I made. When looking at weight loss from a lifetime perspective, it was important for me to learn how vary how much I eat each day. I needed to learn how to handle it when I have a day that I eat 50 SmartPoints. I needed to learn how to adjust the rest of my week to allow for that without going off track entirely. Practicing that skill while losing weight is valuable in learning how to maintain weight loss.
Of course, the argument against eating any Weekly Points is simple. Over time, I will lose more weight if I eat only my Daily SmartPoints and eat no Weekly SmartPoints. In general, that is true for many of us. But, here’s the thing. Lots of us can do a great job at losing weight. At least for a while. But, there tend to be two problem areas. First, it sometimes doesn’t last. There comes a time when we overeat and then find it hard to get back on track. We try and try to get back on track, but fail. And, before we know it, most or all of what we lost is back on us. I’ve been through this time and again. What I have learned is that the more I try to eat close to the minimum and the more I make Weight Watchers a rigid diet, the more likely I am to go off track and then to have trouble getting back on track.
Of course, some people don’t have that problem. They have the second issue. They get to goal eating little or no Weekly Points by eating in a very rigid fashion. Then, they realize that they can’t stand doing that forever. So, they start loosening up. But, they have no practice in learning how to eat out with a big calorie day and then having to adjust for the rest of the week. They haven’t learned how to incorporate treats in their eating. They start trying to learn how to do this on maintenance and, sometimes, the results aren’t what they wanted.
Many of us have gotten to goal or lost a substantial amount of weight, but we regained. For me, it was important for me to learn how to manage real life eating before I got back to goal. I had to learn how to manage my weekly points over the course of a week so I could eat in a flexible after I got to goal. I couldn’t learn how to do that if I never ate any weekly points.
All of that was true with PointsPlus. It is also true with calorie counting plans. Most calorie counting sites I’ve seen want to give you a single rigid daily calorie goal (premium MyFitnessPal lets you set daily goals that vary each day. I wish it would let you set an overall weekly goal). And, it is true with SmartPoints.
But, there are a few things that are different on SmartPoints with regard to Weekly Points.
First, we all get fewer Weekly SmartPoints. On Points Plus, everyone got 49 weekly points. Now, the number of Weekly SmartPoints varies, in increments of 7, based upon weight, age, height and gender. The minimum is 14 and the maximum is 42. I get 28 Weekly SmartPoints. I get 4 more daily points than I got on Points Plus, but 21 less weekly points. The net difference is 7 more points available over the course of the week, but it is distributed differently. So, more of my total points available each week goes to Daily SmartPoints. This isn’t true for everyone, by the way. My husband (lifetime, at goal) gets the same number of Daily SmartPoints I do (which seems weird since he is male and much taller than me). But, he gets 42 Weekly SmartPoints. His net each week is 7 points less than what he got on Points Plus. Of course, SmartPoints are calculated differently from PointsPlus so the two aren’t comparable.
For me, I have in general found that it is far easier to eat only 30 Daily SmartPoints than it was for me to eat only 26 PointsPlus. On PointsPlus, I rarely had a day that I ate exactly 26 PointsPlus. However, most days that I didn’t go out to eat, I wasn’t much above that. It might be 28 PointsPlus or 30, but it usually wasn’t 26. And, frankly, if I tried to eat exactly 26 PointsPlus, I was usually not very happy about it. It wasn’t enough food for me.
Now, I find that I often can eat 30 SmartPoints and I am very satisfied. I am currently on Day 6 of my Weight Watchers week. Here are my SmartPoints recorded to this moment.
Note that I have 18 of my 28 Weekly SmartPoint left. I have eaten only 10 of them this week and may not eat any more (or I might). I ate 7 of them last Saturday, on a day when I ate out. I ate another 3 on Sunday, when I ate at home. I have only eaten out the one time this week.
What I find is that on SmartPoints, it is really easy for me to stay within 30 SmartPoints when I don’t go out to eat or don’t decide to have a major treat. In fact, I have the opposite problem. It is sometimes a struggle for me to get to 30 SmartPoints (I will talk about that in another post). I do have an advantage over many people eating SmartPoints. As you can see from my SmartPoints estimator, saturated fats and sugar both contribute double their calories to the SmartPoints value, while protein contributes only 20% of its calories to SmartPoints. This works out well for me. I don’t eat beef so that lowers my saturated fat. I don’t eat much added sugar. I really pay a lot of attention to nutritional information on the processed foods that I buy. And, I usually am careful when I eat out (not always, I ate 50 SmartPoints in one day last week). I also try to eat a fair amount of lean protein since I want to build muscle. The result is that most foods I eat haven’t gone up in points value from PointsPlus and some have gone down. On PointsPlus, if I didn’t go out to eat, I usually ate 30 or less PointsPlus in a day. So, sticking to no more than 30 SmartPoints in a day is not taxing to me.
So, yes, it is easier for some people (depending upon eating style) to stick to their Daily SmartPoints. On the other hand, I don’t really make that a huge goal for me. Last Sunday, we didn’t go out and I ate 3 Weekly Points. Those exactly correspond to the 3 SmartPoints square of dark chocolate that I ate. I didn’t feel a failure for doing it. I didn’t think I had gone over my SmartPoints. I have seen people post on various places that they went over their points, but they weren’t allowing themselves any weekly SmartPoints or FitPoints. Some of them thought it was OK to eat Weekly SmartPoints while eating out, but it was bad to do it on a day they didn’t eat out. I don’t think that. I think it is perfectly fine to eat Weekly SmartPoints on any day of the week. I don’t aim to not eat them, but I find that I often don’t go above 30 or only go above by a small amount.
Now, there are members who do find it difficult to stay within their Daily SmartPoints allowance. And, that is fine. This is why we have Weekly SmartPoints. It is OK to eat them. And, it may work out to eat some FitPoints (more on that in a later post). If you are miserable on a day that you eat whatever your daily minimum is, then it is perfectly fine to eat some of your Weekly SmartPoints.
For me, the time that I almost always want to eat some of my Weekly SmartPoints is when I eat out or when I have a major treat (such as the apple pie I had around Christmas). Again, this is also part of why we have those Weekly SmartPoints. And, some foods are so high in SmartPoints that it is really impossible to eat them just from Daily SmartPoints while still getting good nutrition from your other foods. A Cinnamon Crunch Bagel from Panera is 17 SmartPoints. If I eat that, then I am left only 13 Daily SmartPoints. If I want to have good healthy meals for the rest of the day, then I probably want that bagel to be largely eaten from Weekly SmartPoints. It is true that I can’t eat that bagel every day. I don’t have enough SmartPoints to “afford” that food every day. But, honestly, it is not a great food for me to be eating all that often. I can eat it, just like I can eat apple pie, or chocolate cake. I am limited in how much of them I eat. And, if I try to do it from Daily SmartPoints only, my nutrition is likely to suffer. I find it far better to have that kind of treat from Weekly SmartPoints.
Weight Watchers doesn’t require us to eat Weekly SmartPoints, but it does design the program so most us still lose weight even if we eat all of our Weekly SmartPoints. Remember, we are trying to learn how to eat for a lifetime. It is OK to eat those Weekly SmartPoints. You can certainly keep track of your weight loss and you may end up feeling that you don’t want to eat all of them. That is fine. But, don’t think of it as cheating if you eat the very points that Weight Watchers has given us to eat.
Remember, Daily SmartPoints are meant to be the minimum points to eat each day, not the maximum.