On Weight Watchers, we first have a choice whether to swap FitPoints for food at all. Some choose not to swap at all. If we decide to swap FitPoints for food, though, we have an additional choice to make. Do we swap FitPoints before or after eating Weekly SmartPoints? We exercise that choice by going to settings and then choosing one of those alternatives in the Food section:
If we swap Weekly SmartPoints first, we first use our Weekly SmartPoints. If we eat all of them, then we start start to swap FitPoints (above the baseline) one for one for food. For example, if we eat all of our Weekly SmartPoints and have 5 FitPoints available and eat 3 SmartPoints of food (above our Daily SmartPoints), then the available FitPoints are reduced by 3 and we have 2 FitPoints left.
The other alternative is to swap FitPoints before Weekly SmartPoints. When you do this, any food you eat beyond your daily SmartPoints are first taken from available FitPoints. For example, if I had 5 FitPoints left to swap and went out to dinner and exceeded by Daily SmartPoints by 10, I would eat all 5 of my FitPoints and would eat 5 of my Weekly SmartPoints. Let’s say that the next day, I then ate exactly 30 SmartPoints (my daily minimum) and earned 8 FitPoints. My baseline is that I must earn 3 FitPoints before additional FitPoints are available to be eaten. This is shown both on the page where I set up swapping and on the My Day page by mousing over the orange circle with an i in it.
Note that the baseline does vary from person to person, so check and see what yours is. Anyway, if I earned 8 FitPoints, normally 5 would be shown as available to swap. But, if I have eaten, all my FitPoints and all of my Weekly SmartPoints and then earn more FitPoints, the Weekly SmartPoints are first refilled. For example, in the example above I have 0 FitPoints left this week and 23 Weekly SmartPoints. I get 28 Weekly SmartPoints each week. If tomorrow I earn another 8 FitPoints and eat exactly 30 SmartPoints, My Day would then say I have 0 FitPoints and 28 Weekly SmartPoints left. If I earned 9 FitPoints, though, it would then show that I have 1 FitPoint and 28 Weekly SmartPoints left.
It is up to each of us to decide whether to swap and, if so, whether to swap before or after Weekly SmartPoints. There are advantages and disadvantages of each choice. Back during PointsPlus I swapped PointsPlus before Activity Points and I carried that choice over when SmartPoints started. But, starting this week, I am swapping FitPoints first.
Reasons to Swap FitPoints After Weekly SmartPoints
One reason I think I mostly always swapped Activity Points after Weekly PointsPlus was that that was the default. I knew I could change it, but most of the time I just stuck with it. I guess I sort of thought that was the way I was “supposed” to do it. I remember that I did switch to swapping first for a week or so, but soon switched back. I think part of it was that, at that time, counting Activity Points was more difficult and I was afraid of doing it wrong and over counting.
Honestly, at the time, I rarely ate all of my Weekly PointsPlus so it didn’t really matter if my Activity Points were correct or not. Since I didn’t eat my Weekly PointsPlus I never even got to my Activity Points. I had the fear, particularly before I had an activity monitor, that I would over estimate my Activity Points and would end up eating too much.
By the time SmartPoints started, of course, I had a Fitbit so I wasn’t that worried about incorrectly estimating FitPoints and I used a heart rate monitor to be even more precise. But, initially, Weight Watchers started the new Beyond the Scale program saying that we should exercise for its own sake and not really to get the reward of food. And, the default was to not swap FitPoints. I decided to swap but set it to swap after Weekly SmartPoints.
If we decide to swap FitPoints, there is perhaps a case to be made to minimize the importance of swapping FitPoints for food by only doing so if you run out of Weekly SmartPoints. For me, all during PointsPlus I rarely ever actually swapped Activity Points for food because I almost always had some Weekly SmartPoints left.
And, the idea of thinking about exercise as something you simply do for good health and not to get a food reward on the surface sounds reasonable. There is this whole idea that many have that food should be seen as primarily fuel and that we shouldn’t reward ourselves with food. And, of course, there is the risk that someone exercising can overeat. That is, if I burn 200 calories in exercise I do myself no favors if I use that as a reason to eat 400 extra calories after get home.
Even if we get past that, eating FitPoints after Weekly SmartPoints, for most people, probably means we eat fewer FitPoints than if we eat them before Weekly SmartPoints. Therefore, there is less chance to go wrong. If I am eating FitPoints first, I need to be absolutely sure I am properly recording my FitPoints. Of course, many members do not have an activity monitor and must manually record FitPoints. That is fine, but it is easy to get it wrong. It is easy to think something was intense activity that was really moderate activity for some or all of the time. You may not get the exact amount of time correct and so on. To an extent an activity monitor does reduce that type of error.
On the other hand, if you are going to eat FitPoints you have to be mindful to watch and make sure that no exercises are being double counted. I’ve had problems with Weight Watchers, for example, double counting some steps and FitPoints. If I am swapping FitPoints after Weekly SmartPoints then that kind of error doesn’t matter on most weeks if I don’t eat all my Weekly SmartPoints and don’t even get to the FitPoints to eat. If I am swapping FitPoints first, though, it behooves me to be really careful that Weight Watchers has properly awarded me FitPoints. (In my case, if I see an error, I keep a spreadsheet with the correct numbers).
Another advantage of eating Weekly SmartPoints first is that it is more straightforward. We are given our Weekly SmartPoints at the start of the week so it is easy to see them going down as we use them. With FitPoints we earn them throughout the week. So, we can face the situation like I am in now. In the screenshot above, I have 0 FitPoints and 23 Weekly SmartPoints left. Actually, that is based upon my pre-tracking for Thursday. I am going to eat lunch out tomorrow and I have already pretracked for tomorrow and have it set to eat 35 SmartPoints tomorrow. Dinner and evening snacks are already recorded because I am reverse tracking where I record today’s dinner and evening snacks tomorrow. I have pretracked my breakfast and lunch out. Assuming I stick to that plan, if I earn 8 FitPoints tomorrow, after my baseline it will refill my Weekly SmartPoints to 28. Some members don’t really find that intuitive and get confused by it.
And, of course, if I don’t even get to my FitPoints most weeks because I don’t eat all my Weekly SmartPoints then I don’t have to even worry about or care about FitPoints. Back in the Activity Points days before I had an activity monitor, I rarely even recorded them.
Based upon the above, you might think that there was no real case to be made to swap FitPoints first. And, my sense is that most people who swap FitPoints swap them after Weekly SmartPoints.
But, in reality, I think think there is a case to be made to swap FitPoints before Weekly SmartPoints.
Reasons to Swap FitPoints Before Weekly SmartPoints
I have mentioned that I used to almost never get to my Activity Points because I rarely ate all of my Weekly PointsPlus. That made my Activity Points irrelevant. But, is that really the best thing? Shouldn’t I want my FitPoints (what used to be Activity Points) to be relevant? And, if I swap my FitPoints before Weekly SmartPoints will that give me more of an incentive to earn more FitPoints?
Yes, of course, exercise does lots of good things for us. And, yes, I perhaps “should” want to exercise just for the benefits of it or even for the sheer enjoyment of it without regard to any reward I get to eat more food. But, is that “should” really true? In the real world, most of us do lots of things because of some of the tangible benefits we get from them. Most of us don’t do our jobs just for the love of the work. We might like our work and get satisfaction from doing it, but we still want to be paid.
I have noticed one thing this week as I have been eating my FitPoints before Weekly SmartPoints. I have definitely felt more of an incentive to earn more FitPoints. If it is close to the end of the evening and I just need a few hundred steps to earn an additional FitPoint, I get up and walk around the house until I earn it. This afternoon I went out for a walk where I earned 6 FitPoints. One thought I had before going was that I still wanted to refill some of my Weekly SmartPoints that had been used when I ran out of FitPoints. I had this idea that it would be cool to end the week with 28 Weekly SmartPoints left. That is, eat only my FitPoints this week and eat none of my Weekly SmartPoints. Based upon what I have planned for the rest of this week (through Friday), I think I have a shot of reaching that.
And, that is the thing. If I know I am going to be able to eat my FitPoints (beyond my baseline) then I have an incentive to earn more FitPoints. It has been sort of a game this week to try to earn more FitPoints. I find it motivating to me.
There is something else that I think is really important. When I get the “reward” of more food by earning FitPoints this is something very different from, say, eating an ice cream cone as a reward because I did X that wasn’t related to activity. In the latter situation, the ice cream cone is a reward for doing something that isn’t related to the calories I’ve burned. I can see the objection to that.
With FitPoints it is different. FitPoints are earned by engaging in activity that burns calories. When we are more active, we can actually need more fuel for our body. Now, I am not a runner. I mostly walk or use an elliptical or do weight training. That kind of thing. But, imagine someone who is a runner or who does intense exercise. That person needs to eat more food to fuel their body.
By the way, I reject that idea that we should see food only as fuel to the body and that exercise should only be its own reward. That is a grim way to look at the world. Food does many things for us. Yes, it is fuel for the body. But, it is also something that gives us pleasure and is part of our social relationships.
So, it makes sense that someone who is burning more calories may need to eat more than someone who is very sedentary. And, the more I burn more calories then the more I may need to eat some of them.
Now, about this point, you might be thinking that if I don’t eat my FitPoints then I will lose more weight than if I eat them. To a certain extent that is true. For example, if I earn 20 FitPoints above my baseline in a week and don’t eat any of them and don’t eat any of my Weekly SmartPoints then over time, I will lose more weight, than if I ate all 20 FitPoints every week.
But, a big part of this is psychology. To not eat any of my FitPoints or Weekly SmartPoints I would be limited to eating 30 Daily SmartPoints each day. I would probably lose weight doing that. But, I would find it hard to sustain. Some people can do that each and every day. I can’t.
I do better eating at least some of either my Weekly SmartPoints or my FitPoints. And, this week, I am finding that swapping FitPoints first is incentivizing me to be more active and to earn more FitPoints. Maybe that means I am not sufficiently dedicated to activity for its own sake. But, I don’t care. I am doing better eating FitPoints first.
And, I am overall eating less food. The past couple of months I have found that I am most weeks eating all of my Weekly SmartPoints. In fact, some weeks I have eaten all of my Weekly SmartPoints, all of my FitPoints and gone into the red (I am going to be doing a post in a few days about why I think that has been happening).
With Weekly SmartPoints, they were just there to be used and I would eat them and then eat whatever FitPoints happened to be there. If I went beyond that, it was usually so late in the week I couldn’t earn enough FitPoints to catch back up. This week, I have found it much easier to see when I needed to earn more FitPoints because I would see that I had none left and was starting to go into the Weekly SmartPoints. That has made it easy for me to adjust my earning of FitPoints throughout the week. I am not sure that I will end the week with 28 Weekly SmartPoints left, but I think I will be close. That means I will doing much better than I have been doing lately. By eating FitPoints first I am seeing more clearly the connection between how much I eat and my activity. And that is a good thing.
I am not entirely sure if I will continue swapping FitPoints first, but so far I really like it. It really seems to tie how much I eat to how active I am being and that seems to make a lot of sense to me. And, it is changing my behavior so that I move more. And, I feel safer in what I am eating. With the baseline being established, I feel that eating my FitPoints is “safe” for weight loss particularly if I am not eating most of my Weekly SmartPoints.
Obviously, what works for each of us may differ. If uncertain as to what way to go, I would suggest trying each alternative for a couple of weeks and see what work for you.