Popular Diets Reviewed: Weight Watchers

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • My first memories of Weight Watchers date back to grade school when my mom and her friend Katie would try out new Weight Watchers recipes. I especially remember their brownies, and I remember them being very good. Over the years, the Weight Watchers program has changed quite a bit, but has remained as popular as ever.

    However, their current plan, which involves counting points instead of calories or exchanges, has been around since the late 1990’s. While the points plan has gone through several phases since it’s inception, and now includes a flex plan and core plan, the basis is largely the same.
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    The Flex Plan
    The points system is a simple way to count calories using smaller more manageable numbers. Food items have a points value that is determined using fiber, calories and fat. Participants on the flex plan are allotted a baseline number of points they can eat per day, based on age, weight, gender and baseline physical activity level.

    Participants are also given a weekly allotment of extra points that they can eat throughout the week. Once on the program for a few weeks, participants are also given information on how to increase their daily points limit through exercise.

    To help participants determine the points value of a food item, they are given a point finder, which reminds me a slide ruler. Using information on the food label and the points finder, you can easily determine the points value of any food item. For the items without a food label or multi-ingredient foods, they provide an alphabetical list of foods in their welcome packet. You can also purchase a more comprehensive food guide from program centers as well as a dining out booklet that lists the points value of foods at many chain restaurants.

    The Core Plan
    The core plan requires participants to utilize a hunger scale to help them determine when to stop eating. This plan can be a bit more difficult for people who eat very fast or eat mindlessly but provides more freedom than the flex plan.

    Under the core plan, participants can eat unlimited quantities of certain foods that are low in fat and high in fiber and are also allotted a certain number of flex points to use through the week on other food items. Participants on this plan focus on getting back in tune with their body’s hunger signals. While participants must pick one plan and stick with it through an entire week, they can switch between programs weekly.

    Despite the large selection of Weight Watchers products sold in grocery stores, this program does not include prepackaged foods. You can eat anything you want as long as you don’t exceed your daily points limit. However, the program does encourage participants to eat high fiber, low fat foods. They also encourage all food groups and stress healthy oils.

    Participants are encouraged to record every food item eaten and it’s points value in a food journal and are also encouraged to attend weekly meetings for information and support. The program also has a comprehensive website with online food diaries, food lists and points finders as well as recipes and support boards.

  • My Thoughts
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    I am a big fan of the Weight Watchers program. I think it is very affordable and easy to follow. It also encourages a well-balanced diet. And over the years, the points program has done an even better job of stressing the importance of eating foods from all food groups. With two different plans, the program is able to meet the needs of an even broader range of people. And it also gives participants another option when they start to get bored or feel the need for change.

    The plan also encourages regular physical activity and the support from weekly meetings provides many benefits to participants from food ideas and coping mechanisms to the benefit of knowing you’re not in it alone. With the addition of the online etools, the program is now easier than ever to follow.

    * Grade A. This program encourages all food groups, stresses the benefits of a well-balanced diet and encourages physical activity. It also promotes the importance of lifestyle change over dieting.

    * Popular Diet Rating System

    A: This diet meets accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It recommends food from all food groups with an emphasis on healthy choices within each food group.
    B: This diet meets most accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It emphasizes healthy foods but does not include food from all food groups.
    C: This diet only meets some accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It does not differentiate between food choices in each food group and therefore does not emphasize healthy foods.
    D: This diet does only meets one or two accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet.
    F: This diet does not meet any accepted standards for a healthy well-balanced diet. It does not differentiate between healthy foods and unhealthy foods and/or does not meet caloric needs.
Published On: January 21, 2008