Weight Watchers and the Anti-Dieting Age

I recently read a fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner called Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age. The article covers a lot of ground dealing with weight loss in general with some specifics about Weight Watchers.  It is a mixture of general information about weight loss in the current age, along with information about the personal struggle of the author.  Under the title of the article is written, “The agonies of being overweight — or running a diet company — in a culture that likes to pretend it only cares about health, not size.”  The author is the primary example in the article of the overweight person and Weight Watchers is the diet company.

The article starts with an anecdote about Weight Watchers in January, 2015.  At that time, Weight Watchers had started doing some new and really honest ads about weight loss with a marketing campaign, called “Help With the Hard Part.”  I loved those commercials as I posted way back then.  However, as it turned out, most people didn’t love them.  In fact, Weight Watchers had a terrible January, which is normally when it has its best sign ups. It turned out that people didn’t like hearing, well, honesty about weight loss and how it is hard.

Weight Watchers started looking into why people didn’t like the new approach. The article details what happened when Weight Watchers head of consumer insights started talking to people:

Benovitz got to work. She traveled the country, interviewing members, former members and people they thought should be members about their attitudes toward dieting. She heard that they no longer wanted to talk about ‘‘dieting’’ and ‘‘weight loss.’’ They wanted to become ‘‘healthy’’ so they could be ‘‘fit.’’ They wanted to ‘‘eat clean’’ so they could be ‘‘strong.’’

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2017 New Plan Materials & January Weigh In

I went to my first 2017 meeting today and received the new plan materials for 2017.

Weigh In

As I expected, I was up from my December 17 weigh in.  I weighed in at 144.2 pounds, up 1.4 pounds.  I expected this because I had just a terrible week from Christmas Eve until the 30th.  At one point I was up more than 5 pounds from where I was on December 17.  However, from New Year’s Eve on, I’ve done really well and this last week was great.  So, most of that up 5 pounds is gone, but there is still a little left. As a lifetime member at goal, I only have to weigh in once a month.  My official weigh in for December was at 145.6 pounds and I am still down 1.4 pounds from that.  Overall, I’m happy with December.

And, let’s put it all in perspective.  My first January weigh in while doing this blog was in January of 2014.  At that weigh in, I was at 185.8 pounds (and that was after losing over 20 pounds). In January of 2016, I was at 146.2 pounds so I am done 2 pounds from them. Yes, I had help from the tummy tuck but I am still happy with it given out surgery decimated so much of exercise for 2016.

Plan Materials

With the New Year, new 2017 plan materials were received.  Ongoing members received 4 new booklets.  While there are new materials there are no substantive changes to the plan.

The leader said that one of the complaints from new members was that they felt they received too much material when they first joined.  So, they received the Meet Your Plan booklet and during orientation would get the Eat Better booklet.  They will get the Move More booklet at week 4.  There is also a Shift Your Mindset booklet, but she didn’t say when they would get it.

Meet Your Plan Booklet – This booklet gives an overview of the plan and generally describes how Daily SmartPoints and Weekly SmartPoints work.  There is a list of the 100 foods that members track.  FYI, the top 5 are: banana, egg, black coffee without sugar, cooked chicken breast without bone or skin, and apple.

Then there is a section about tracking and about the value of meetings and the weekly booklet.  Then there are 3 pages about digital tools, tracking online, and Connect. Finally there is a summary at the end about SmartPoints, tracking, and online support.  One thing that I found interesting (maybe it was there before and I didn’t notice it) is that you can schedule a free Getting Started Call with a Weight Watchers coach to get a personalized introduction to the program.  This has to be done within the first 30 days.

Eat Better Booklet – This booklet is the heart of the food program.  Examples are given of foods for different meals and how to build a meal.  There are also several recipes.  There are a couple of pages of 0 or 1 point flavor boosters such as condiments  or small amounts of cheese or nuts.  Several daily menus of 30 points are given.  There is an everyday menu, protein lovers’ menu, carb lovers menu, and a vegetarian (includes dairy) menu.  There is a 2 page shopping menu and some tips for dining out.  The dining out section has a couple of pages of point counts for different types of fast food.  There is not a separate booklet or listing of foods except for the top 100 in the Meet Your Plan booklet and the few things list in this booklet.

Move More Booklet – This booklet focuses on activity. It gives reasons for activity and there is a quiz to assess your activity level.  Based upon the result, it tells you to check out activities marked either A, B, or C.  A is basically for those who aren’t exercising.  B is more people who engage in everyday activities.  C is for those already exercising.  Throughout the rest of the booklet, there are examples given of possible activities and each is marked with an A, B, or C.  There are a couple of pages of toner exercises.  There are examples given of ways to increase activity whether you are looking at A, B, or C activities.  Oddly enough, the booklet has a couple of pages of fast recipes.  Unlike past program materials that give a chart of how many FitPoints you earn doing activity, this one doesn’t give that information.  There is a brief indication that while Weight Watchers encourages “physical activity for its own sake, you also have the option of swapping earned FitPoints one to one for SmartPoints” once you’ve earned the equivalent of 3000 steps to account for everyday movements.

Shirt Your Mindset Booklet – This booklet focuses on the mental side of weight loss.  The mantra is: What you think determines how you fell and how you feel determines what you do.  I do think that is important, the booklet goes through a number of things that relate to thinking and feelings such as identifying thought, being self-compassionate, living mindfully, embracing happiness, etc.  In the Eat Mindfully section, there are a couple of pages of recipes.

My Thoughts on the Materials

It is a little hard for me to assess the materials like a new member would do.  But, I will try. In comparison to past years, these materials seem skimpier.  There is no long list of foods with point counts. [Edit: Per the comments, apparently they do still hand that book out to new members.  They didn’t give a new copy of it to existing members.]  There is no chart of how many FitPoints you earn for X minutes of activity.  For me, none of this would be a problem.  Before I got back to goal, I was a monthly pass member with access to both meetings and online tools.  Looking up foods online or using the calculator on my phone was fine.  My Fitbit syncs with Weight Watchers and gives me my FitPoints.  And, if I am not using it for whatever reason, I can search for an activity online and record the FitPoints.

Things are now more difficult, though, for the meeting only member (or the member who has access online but doesn’t want to use those tools).  You can still buy a book that has the SmartPoints for various foods.  And you can buy a calculator that will calculate SmartPoints. I don’t know if there is any way to calculate your FitPoints earned except online.  Maybe that chart is in the paper tracker?  I don’t know since I don’t get a paper tracker any more.  If anyone gets a paper tracker this week, look and let us know in the comments.

Again, I understand this since I do everything I can online.  Still, I would prefer it is they still had the more extensive list of points in paper form and I think the Activity booklet should give the chart showing how to calculate FitPoints earned.

I like the Mindset booklet.  I honestly think that this is a very important part of weight loss.  So many people want to focus on the food plan, but I think that if you don’t get the mindset right then the food plan doesn’t matter.  Of course, having a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss.  But, there are many food plans or ways of eating that will lead to a calorie deficit.  But, having the right mindset and mental and emotional outlook is also key to getting to that calorie deficit and keeping it going.

Overall, I do believe that thinking influences feelings and that influences our actions.  And, if we change our thinking we can change our feelings and then our actions.  I do agree with this. And, this is the essence of Cognitive Behavioral Theory which works on changes thinking to then change feelings and actions.  I strongly believe that this is helpful for many people and I think it has clear application to weight loss.  In particular, I enjoy Judith Beck’s writing (daughter of the founder of CBT), particularly her book The Beck Diet Solution.

Weigh In and Weight Watchers 2017

Two topics for this post. Another December weigh in and a little preview about the Weight Watchers program for 2017

Weigh In

As a lifetime member at goal, I only have to weigh in at my first Weight Watchers meeting of the month.  Until my surgery, I went to meetings most every week but didn’t often weigh in except one time during the month.  I haven’t done so since January.  But, sometimes, I do weigh in more often.  Today, I weighed in because (1) I’ve had a good two weeks and like to reflect that in a weigh in and (2) I didn’t want my last 2016 weigh in to be the December weigh in which reflected a lot of the bad choices I had made in November.

I weighed in today at 142.8 pounds, down 2.8 pounds since my weigh in 2 weeks ago.  Now, for me, that is a huge loss even spread over 2 weeks.  Once I got to close to (and then within) a normal weight range losses were usually well under a pound most weeks.  This weigh in puts me back exactly where I was at my weigh in on October 29th.

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Weight Watchers Updates My Day Page

Weight Watchers has updated the browser My Day page to look more similar to how it looks on the mobile app.  I had started hearing about the change a week or so ago*, but it hadn’t changed for me.  Today, it  finally changed.  If you are a member and it hasn’t changed for you, keep trying every day.  I think they may be rolling it out in stages.  There are now 3 tabs:  Weight, Food, and Activity.

The Food Log

The default seems to be for food:

ww-food

First, I will say that the page is much cleaner looking without a lot of extraneous information.  They got rid of the big pictures and the right hand column for Helpful Info that was never very helpful to me. [Read more…]

Weight Watchers Fresh and Anything Else New?

This is the time of the year when the mind turns to whether there will be anything new at Weight Watchers.  Historically Weight Watchers has typically made program changes in early December and often rolls out other new things around the same time.

Last year, we had the major Beyond the Scale program as well as SmartPoints that debuted in early December.  In addition, there were other new things such as the changes to the website and to the mobile apps.  Also, Weight Watchers debuted home delivered meals with Chef’d last November.

So, what is in store for this year?  I am often asked if I think Weight Watchers will make changes to SmartPoints.  Typically, Weight Watchers only does major changes every 4 or 5 years and occasionally does minor ones as needed.  Given that, I never expected any major changes to SmartPoints this year.  While I think some tweaking is warranted, I don’t expect to see it.  And, the rumor I heard was that there will be no changes to SmartPoints itself.  Now, that is rumor and I have no way to know whether there will or will not be changes.  But, if I had to bet, I would expect no changes.  Now, there could be minor changes particularly to things that aren’t SmartPoints. So there could be changes to apps, or the website, or to messaging and so on.  In past years, during PointsPlus there were years there were no changes to PointsPlus but there was a change of emphasis as to what was discussed during year.  I would expect to see some sort of things like that, but I have no information.

However, I have heard about  Weight Watchers Fresh.  I got this information from a member on a message board.  And, this is not a rumor since there is an actual website giving out the information.  I will say up front that this appears to have limited availability and is not available in all states at least based upon information on the website. [Read more…]