With Weight Watchers’ new SmartPoints, I keep seeing some variation of the following: Weight Watchers is now a diet that isn’t sustainable for the long haul. You can’t eat like that for a lifetime. Weight Watchers is no longer a lifestyle, but a restrictive diet. Is this true? Or, to broaden it beyond Weight Watchers, is “healthy eating” so restrictive that it can’t be followed for a lifetime? I put “healthy eating” in quotes because different people mean different things by that term.
I am not asking whether the new Weight Weights plan is good or bad, or even whether it is healthy or not. My question goes beyond Weight Watchers. Is changing how you eat in order to eat a healthier diet necessarily so restrictive that it can’t be sustained as a permanent lifestyle? In addressing that question I use Weight Watchers’ SmartPoints as an example, but the question replies to any “healthy eating” plan.
For those who don’t follow the new SmartPoints plan, it is part of the Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale plan. Food is assigned a SmartPoints value based upon the amount of calories, sugar, saturated fat, and protein in the food. This goes beyond simple calorie counting because sugar and saturated fat increase the SmartPoints value of a food while protein decreases it.
To give an example: 150 calories of skinless turkey breast is 1 SmartPoint. 150 calories of sugary Coca Cola is 10 SmartPoints. This is important because you are assigned a certain amount of SmartPoints that you can eat each day and each week. If I get 30 daily SmartPoints to eat, I have used 1/3 of them if I have 150 calories of Coke. The result is that, while I am allowed to eat any food, the points penalty for eating something high sugar or high saturated fat heavily discourages eating very many of those foods.
Essentially, the new plan is encouraging us to eat much less sugar and saturated fat, while encouraging the eating of more lean protein. It is treating other carbs and fats in a neutral fashion. By doing this, Weight Watchers is encouraging what it sees as healthier eating. [Read more…]