Weight Watchers Freestyle rolled out today in the United States.
The UK version, called Flex, rolled out two weeks ago. I posted before about it. For the last two weeks, I’ve been trying to follow the new program based upon the UK information. So far, I have been very happy with it.
Of course, until it rolled out officially in the United States, we couldn’t be sure if it was going to be the same. But, now, we can be sure. I had previously set my weigh in day to Sunday so I would get it on the app and on the browser today. I think if you are not set to Sunday that it will change for you on your weigh in day, but I am not totally sure.
Anyway, the main points:
How SmartPoints are calculated hasn’t changed. The formula for SmartPoints when you use nutritional information has not changed. If a food (or an ingredient in a recipe) is one that has SmartPoints, it will still be calculated the same way. So a piece of bread won’t change points. A piece of cake won’t change points. A steak filet won’t change points, etc.
A lot more foods are now zero points and are not required to be tracked. The broad categories that are now zero points that weren’t before: skinless chicken breast and turkey breast, 99% fat free ground chicken breast and turkey breast, tofu, all fish and seafood, eggs, corn, beans, lentils, peas, fat free unsweetened yogurt.
Daily SmartPoints target is reduced by about 23%. If you were at the minimum of 30 points, your new daily target is 23 points. For me, my weekly points did not change. I don’t know if they changed for anyone else.
You can rollover up to 4 unused SmartPoints before day. So, if your target is 23 and you eat 19 or less you can rollover 4 points to the next day. Those points must be used that week so you can’t rollover points on the last day of your Weight Watchers week. The rolled over points are added to weekly points. Note that if you end up during the week with negative weekly points, the rolled over SmartPoints can refill your weekly points to get you back to (or closer to) positive.
To get a blue dot, you need to be at -10/+5 of your daily target. So for me, I get a blue dot if I eat between 13 and 28 SmartPoints in a day.
Here are the materials we were provided:
To go over each one.
Weight Watchers Weekly – Of course the weekly is focused on the Freestyle plan. The main points being made are that more foods are zero points so less need to measure and track. Plus, you can now rollover points to have more flexibility. Right up front, they do a question in the weekly of whether you can still lose weight if you eat all of want of the zero points. The Weekly points out that the zero point foods are less likely to be overeaten and that their research says members can eat these foods without tracking/measuring them and still lose weight. The point is also made to eat zero point foods until satisfied, not stuff.
Introducing WW Freestyle – This is the primary booklet describing the program. It has a general overview of the WW program. It does give a list of the zero point foods It says to get the complete to check online or the Pocket Guide. And, hmm, I just realized I wasn’t given a Pocket Guide. I will have to ask about that next week. The bunch of materials I was given was rubber banded together. I wonder if the Pocket Guide is smaller and they forgot to give it separately.
Eat What You Love – I loved this booklet. It gives food ideas and is full of a lot of recipes. There are several that look really appealing. While it is a good start for new members, I think it is also great for those of who have been there awhile.
Enjoy! grocery and dining out guide – One interesting part at the beginning is an FAQ. It talks about zero points and how rollovers work. It answered how to use Freestyle when Dining Out. Basically, it says use the zero points list as a starting point and to then add in ingredients with SmartPoints values. What I have been doing if the restaurant has nutritional information but is not on the WW app is that I take that information then back out the nutritional information for zero point foods, and then calculate the points. The grocery and dining out guide does have points value for some grocery and restaurant items.
Online or on the app, of course, you can get point totals for a lot more branded foods or restaurant foods. I would caution you, though, to check and see carefully if something might really need to be adjusted. I’ve noticed foods from some restaurants have been adjusted. Ancho Salmon at Chili’s was 15 SmartPoints and is now 7. But, other restaurants haven’t changed even though the food clearly contains zero point foods items. I think part of the reason may be that the manufacturer hasn’t provided the information to Weight Watchers that it needs to make the adjustment. On those, I will conservatively make the adjustment myself.
Shift Your Mindset – This is basically a behavioral book and focusing on how thinking can affect your feelings which affects your actions.
Do What Moves You – About the virtues of activity. I didn’t really notice anything all that new in the last two books. The leader did mention in the meeting that FitPoints haven’t changed.
These are the main points I got from the meeting beyond the basic description of the changes:
- This is an upgraded program to SmartPoints. Change is good. The data showed that weight loss jumped when people did the new program. The leader said she had been following it, I think, a little over a month and that she has lost 6 pounds (which is super good for a lifetime member at goal). The changes are data driven. The program is based upon nutrition and behavioral modification. It is still SmartPoints…but tweaked.
- Stop eating when comfortable, not stuffed. This was reiterated in the meeting more than once (and is in the materials). Don’t get stuffed on zero point foods.
- She said that research showed that people want less tracking. But, people need tracking. So, this is meant to be more flexible. The gist seemed to be that the new zero point foods are less likely to be overeaten so less need to track. But, some foods are more likely to be overeaten so tracking is more needed for them.
- She stressed that you can get a blue dot for -10/+5 of your daily target. It was very clear that you don’t have to meet your daily target. You can only rollover 4 points, but it is fine to eat below that. The recommendation is not go below -10 from your daily target. She stressed don’t eat only zero point foods. That is a diet and not the kind of lifestyle change that WW promotes.
- There was a lot about the rollovers. My perception of the meeting members were that they were more excited about the rollovers than the zero point foods. And, I sort of understand that. The zero point foods come with a daily target reduction. The rollovers are just purely good news.
- She again mentioned the concept of embracing change. I thought it was a very positive message.
- She mentioned that on the app and on the computer there will be cards that will take you through the program. This will last for 28 days. I saw it on the app, but not the computer. Maybe there it is the link to the description of Freestyle.
I’ve been following the program for 2 weeks. I tracked both the “old” program and this “new” program. I also counted calories. I liked this program a lot. In fact, so far, I’ve liked it better than any other program I’ve been on. Just a few comments:
- I never earned many blue dots on the old program (and really didn’t care). For what its worth, I earn blue dots about 5 or 6 days a week on this program.
- It is easier for me to stay within my points than it was on the old program. On the old program, I would often be within my calorie goal but I would be either way under on my daily points or really high. Since I couldn’t rollover any unused daily points, I sometimes ended the week out of weekly points and in the negative. Because of the rollovers, I found it much easier to stay within my total weekly points on the new program.
- I am eating in a healthier way and am more satiated. I don’t eat beef at all and eat pork maybe once or twice a month. So, relying on chicken/fish is easy for me. But, in the past I was not eating 7 points of day of foods that are now zero points. I was more at 3 or 4 points a day. Since my daily points are down now, I am eating more of the zero point foods. Not so much chicken and fish. I already ate that a lot. But, I am way more likely to eat beans or corn, for example, than I was before. Overall, my diet is healthier.
- Eating out is way easier. When I eat out now, most of the time I really try to make the centerpiece of my meal something zero point. For example, one time I went to Chili’s and ordered Ancho Salmon with corn. Before that would have 25 SmartPoints. Now, it is 11 SmartPoints. Big difference. I didn’t always eat zero point foods when I ate out, but doing it for at least part of the meal really made a huge difference.
- 23 daily SmartPoints is more than enough if I eat a goodly amount of zero point foods during the day. If I don’t eat zero point foods then that 23 points is a lower calorie amount than I usually eat. But, it is really easy to throw in some zero point foods.
- My overall calories for the weeks I was on the new plan were lower than in past weeks. I was a little worried about the zero point foods and whether I would eat too much of them. It turned out that I did have days where I ate a lot of zero point foods and I ate higher calorie. But, at the same time, there were days where I ate fewer of them and I ate lower calorie. These last two weeks, I focused mostly on staying within my points and didn’t worry about calories (but I did record them). Doing that, I found that my overall calorie count was fine when I looked at the week as a whole.
- I find this program very flexible, while still encouraging me to eat in a healthy way. I know not everyone will like it. There is, as usual, a bit of a learning curve to it. I encourage Weight Watchers members to try it for a couple of months before making a final decision. That goes for me too. I am happy with it now, but we’ll see how I feel at the end of January.
- Be patient. Learn the new program and try it for a long enough time to make sure you are really following it. The leader said that her first week on the program, she gained weight. She overdid the beans. I do think that there is some trial and error to this. Some learning of how much you can eat of the zero point foods and still lose weight. Some learning of how to add in more of the zero point foods so you can manage the lower daily points. This will be easier for some people than others. And, it may take more than a week to figure it out. Patience!
Oh, yes, one more thing:
There were a couple of new snacks. These are 2 points. They don’t have artificial sweeteners, but do have a little sugar. They are low point in part because a stick has 7 grams of protein which is quite a lot for a snack like that. The receptionist said they were really good, so we’ll see.