Yes, it is that time of year right before any program changes roll out for the upcoming year. Usually they come out the first week in December. At the last meeting we got a booklet for a charm coming out which mentions that you should come for the meeting the week of December to get the charm “and to get some great news about your plan!”
So what do we know? At this time of year, it often isn’t a lot. We do know Weight Watchers trademarked WW Freestyle. While I don’t know for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that as the new program name.
But, the big news is that program changes rolled out in the United Kingdom this past Sunday. There, the plan will be called Weight Watchers Flex. While there is no guarantee that the United States program changes will be the same, in recent years, the changes have been the same or similar. You can get some hints about the changes by going to the UK Weight Watchers website. But, even better, Good Housekeeping in the UK has summarized the main changes.
The big changes talked about in the article deal with zero point foods. In addition to the foods that were previously zero point there are some really big additions to the zero point list: “eggs, all fresh fish and seafood, skinless chicken and turkey breast, fat free plain yogurt, beans, peas, sweetcorn, lentils and tofu.”
Yes, I will emphasize it again. All of those foods are now zero point in the UK, so I expect to see the same change in the United States. There is a reason that last week’s meeting topic was about the virtues of eating beans. Often meeting topics right before plan changes kind of foreshadow the possible changes. Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch. That is, I expect that daily points will now be lower to accommodate the greater amount of zero point foods. But, that may well be a fair tradeoff. [Edit: 11-14-2017 – Julie in the UK in the comments says he her daily points went down to 23 from 30. That seems fair enough.]
The other big change talked about in the Good Housekeeping article is the ability to rollover up to 4 points per day. Currently, for example, the minimum daily point allowance is 30. If I eat 28 instead, I can’t roll over the two uneaten points. With the new plan, I would be able to roll over unused daily points up to a maximum of 4 per day. I really like this. Years ago, in one of the early points programs it was like this. You got a certain number of points per day as a maximum and could roll over a certain amount per day. I liked that a lot.
I never liked the inflexibility of having a specific minimum of daily points with no rollover. I felt it led to people trying to eat exactly that number. So many people want to eat exactly 30 daily points without ever eating a weekly point and without ever eating less than 30 points. I just don’t think that is flexible enough for the long term. So, I love the idea of being able to roll over unused daily points.
So, those are 2 main changes in the UK talked about in the Good Housekeeping article: Lots more zero point foods and the ability to rollover some unused points. What is apparently not being changed is how smart points are calculated for non-zero point foods. Again, there could be differences between the program in the UK and in other parts of the world. That said, based upon past experience, I would expect it to be very similar here.
So what do I think? I am cautiously optimistic. Lots more foods are zero point, mostly foods that provide a lot of protein and don’t have a lot of sugar or saturated fat. I know that for me currently, I usually eat about 3 to 4 points each day of the foods that will now be zero point. I expect I will lose more daily points than that. But, here’s the thing. Some of those foods I would eat more of if they were zero point. I love beans but don’t eat them that often due to points. I rarely eat corn. I love salmon but tend to not eat it that often due to its relatively high point count for fish. So, I will eat them more.
The challenge will be to eat them instead of other things that have points, not in addition to what I am already eating. So, I might eat beans with a meal instead of rice. Or maybe have some corn in my salad instead of croutons or cheese. But, portion sizes do matter. Zero points is not zero calorie.
I also think that this will encourage more healthy eating habits for me. I sometimes backslide a little into eating too much junk food. It is within my points and so “fine” in a sense but really isn’t the ideal way to eat. I think this will encourage me to focus more on the healthier less processed foods.
Once the new program arrives in a few weeks, I plan to follow it very strictly for at least a couple of months to see how it goes. I really do recommend that for most of us. Changes in program are often jarring. Some years there are huge changes (like when Smart Points started). Other years have little to no changes (like for 2017). I think this change is kind of in the middle. It isn’t the huge change of Smart Points since how points are calculated does not apparently change. But, I can see it resulting in some major changes in eating habits for many of us. The article from Good Housekeeping quotes Weight Watchers as saying that the results of the new program changes “are the best we’ve ever seen for a Weight Watchers programme in a clinical trial.” That alone makes it worth trying. The key, though, is to try it for long enough. I know that for me I will likely want to increase my consumption of some zero point foods and decrease some of the other foods that I eat. It may take a few weeks to adjust and figure out exactly how much of that I need to do. So, I will definitely give it the time needed to really try it and see how I like it.