Monday, April 11, 2016

The New Weight Watchers

Last Fall, WeightWatchers revamped their weight loss and control program from PointsPlus to SmartPoints. Unfortunately, rather than adequately preparing their existing members for the change, they chose not to have a transition period. This may have gained them a lot of publicity and perhaps new subscribers.

In a nutshell, the changes they made were:
  1. Basic points calculation returned to a calorie based formula rather than fat/carbohydrate/protein formula.
  2. Penalty points (which are added to an item's point value) changed from being based on just fat to being based on saturated fat and sugar.
  3. Bonus points (which are removed from an item's point value) changed from being based on fiber to being based on protein.
  4. Activity Points became FitPoints and now had an added daily and weekly goal which you have to achieve before you can draw from them.
Some folks out there have crunched the numbers and come up an an approximation of the formula.

Because of the changes, many foods have a higher points value. (For example, Star Wars breakfast cereal was 3 points and is now 5 due to the sugar penalty.) On the other hand, some lean protein foods have a lower points value. Because of the point value changes, individual daily point targets were updated.

For me, I was a bit disappointed that they chose to do this right before Thanksgiving. Facing the portion control issues folks have going into America's eating season of Thanksgiving to New Year's is bad enough, but then having to deal with a changed program makes it all that much tougher. Beyond that, they had issues with the app and website during the roll out. It was enough for me to "fall off the wagon" so to speak. I didn't really jump back on the wagon until the 2nd week of February -- just after I had returned from my mother's funeral in Hawaii. On my weigh-in day on February 8, I clocked in at 228.4 pounds. I put on a few pounds when I visited Hawaii, so that's where I mark my start.

So, has it worked for me? Absolutely! In the nine weeks that have passed since getting back on the program, I've lost 17.5 pounds. At just under 2 pounds a week, that's a good weight loss rate without being unhealthy. Some weeks I lost more than others, but I have lost weight every week.

So, what tips do I have?

Log your food before you eat.
This helps in a couple of ways. First, it means that you've tracked your food intake, and that's the most important part of the points system. Second, it makes you think about what you're going to choose to eat. Maybe you'll decide to pick something healthier because you realize that first choice has too many points. Maybe you'll reduce the portion size. Maybe... you get the idea.

Use your weekly points.
Under the old PointsPlus, there were days where I would find myself short of the daily points target. At the same time, I'd find that if I used my weekly points, I'd not lose and sometimes even gain wait. This put me into a plateau between 225 and 230 pounds. Now, I have not encountered an issue in using up my daily points. In fact, every week I've used up all of my weekly points and still lost weight. This leads into...

Track your activity.
The daily/weekly FitPoints target encourages you to get moving. However, you need to track that. You don't need a FitBit or other tracker (but if you have one, the data can be imported into WeightWatchers and used for tracking.) At the bare bones, track your steps with a pedometer or a pedometer app. WeightWatchers recommends the built-in Health app on the iPhone or the Google Fit app for Android based phones. Because I don't keep my phone in my pocket all the time, I use Personal Trainer: Walking for my Nintendo DS (it tracks both overall steps and periods of active walking.) Note that WeightWatchers suggests that if you log more than 3,000 steps per day, you should track your active walking instead of your steps. Once you reach your weekly FitPoint goal, any extra points you earn can be added to your weekly pool (though it gets tracked separately.) This is how I was able to use up my weekly points allowance and still lose weight.

Anyway, I hope this makes sense. Ask questions if you have them.