January 13, 2011
The New Weightwatchers PointsPlus Program
I have to admit that my first reaction to the new PointsPlus program was anger. Very few people like change – especially when their old habits worked for them. Let's face it – even if our old habits aren't working for us anymore, we're still resistant to change. It's human nature. However, having reinvented myself over the past two years by losing more than 60 pounds, the change in the Weightwatchers program in and of itself is not what pissed me off. What did it for me was the manner in which Weightwatchers went about the change.
I've been a card-carrying member of WeightWatchers since October, 2008. I attended meetings at work and subscribed online to WeightWatchers.com. You pay a monthly fee every twelve weeks for the at-work program and a monthly fee to be an online member. Due to a lack of interest among my co-workers, the WeightWatchers at-work program ended several months ago. Being the busy lawyer and writer that I am, I didn't make the time to join another Weightwatchers group and attend meetings somewhere else. I just continued to be an online member and to track my weight and my food intake online. I struggled for several months, but then I got back on track and lost a couple more pounds.
When WeightWatchers rolled out the PointsPlus program, it didn't spell out the program for its online members – despite the fact that we pay monthly dues. Instead, by withholding vital information about the new program, it tried to force its online members to pay for and go to WeightWatchers meetings just so they could get the booklets outlining the new plan. That was just flat out wrong and it caused me unnecessary angst. You see – in order to master something, you have to understand its fundamental tenets.
Without knowing the science behind the new program, I just couldn't understand why the same Arnold Sandwich Thins I used to make my turkey meatloaf sandwiches with suddenly went from counting as 1 point to now costing 3 PointsPlus values or why my Flatout wrap breads went from counting as 1 point to 2 Pointsplus values or why my standard evening snack of 94% fat-free popcorn increased from 1 point to 3 Pointsplus values.
Even though my daily points budget increased from 25 points to 30 PointsPlus values on the new program and my weekly points allowance increased from 35 to 49, I found it impossible to stay within my daily PointsPlus targets. I was using my extra weekly points for really basic food and they went fast. All of a sudden my daily standby's and my secret weapons of weight loss had to be reinvented because the “price” of healthy hi-fiber carbs like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread and popcorn just got a whole lot higher. The worst change of all for me was that my secret weapon for combatting chocolate cravings after dinner – the double chocolate Vitatop muffin – increased from 1 point to 3 PointsPlus values. So, whereas I used to combat my after dinner munchies, salt and chocolate cravings with popcorn and a Vitatop muffin for 2 points, that indulgence would now cost me 6 points a day. Needless to say, I was bitter.
I went on the Weightwatchers website the other day to post a new chat thread and ascertain whether any bread existed with low PointsPlus values. I discovered that WeightWatchers had finally posted a little more information about the PointsPlus program. Here is what I've been able to piece together. Whereas previously, WeightWatchers points were calculated by factoring in calories, fat grams and fiber, PointsPlus values are calculated by factoring in protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber numbers. They take into account how much energy your body uses to process foods. Since your body works harder to process protein and fiber than it does carbohydrates and fat, and foods higher in protein and fiber are more filling, they will have lower PointsPlus values than those higher in carbohydrates and fat.
All fruits and most vegetables on the PointsPlus program are now “free” because Weightwatchers wants to encourage its members to eat more of them. That made me a little happy since a medium to large banana, which would have cost me 2 points under the old program, now costs me 0 PointsPlus values. However, if “free” fruits and vegetables are put into a recipe, like what used to be my “Zero Point Curried Vegetable Soup,” then they have PointsPlus values that are counted. As a result, a serving of that soup now costs 1 PointsPlus value.
I was feeling really down on the new program and was pretty much ready to kick it to the curb when I saw a thread posted by another member on the WeightWatchers website. She whined about the program because she didn't want to have to eat healthy food. I found myself wanting to track her down and b-slap her, but it occurred to me that I was, in essence, doing the same thing – albeit for different reasons. She was whining because she didn't want to eat fruits and veggies and I was bitter and overindulging in every piece of dark chocolate I could find because I had to reinvent some of my secret weapons of weight loss (snacks that helped me stay on track by combatting my cravings with low points).
Admittedly, I haven't found an acceptable substitute for my evening ritual yet and I overindulged in dark chocolate yet again today (it's hard to resist the power of Godiva), but some of the gumption and determination that set me on this weight loss journey to begin with came back. I searched the Weightwatchers website and found some tortillas and light breads with 1-2 PointsPlus values that I can substitute for some of my old standbys. I also searched for and found new recipes with low PointsPlus values and figured out ways to lighten up some old recipes that now had PointsPlus values too high to justify.
I am now determined to find new secret weapons of weight loss that won't cost me an arm and a leg in PointsPlus values or that will at least make the cost worth my while in health benefits. I'll keep you updated on how that goes. In the meantime, may you and your families have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.