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What is Weightwatchers?
Weight Watchers is a really big company, and they’ve been around since about 1963. They operate in around 30 countries, and are meant to be one of the most successful plans in the world – I’ll let you know if I agree in a few months!
Unlike other fad diets, Weight Watchers isn’t about cutting out food groups or starving yourself – it teaches you how to form good eating habits. The awesome part – no food is off limits! So yes – you can still eat chocolate!! I really needed something that allowed me to still eat - I love food too much to give it all up.
My journey so far
I joined Weight Watchers in January this year (2011) , along with my mother-in-law and husband. I tried following the programme a few years ago but failed dismally after I had no support from anyone in the house (I was living with the hubby and his folks). After putting on 35-40 kgs (around 80 pounds!!) since having to stop sport, I became really unhappy... I tried different diets, and I would lose a bit of weight before falling off the rails again and putting it all back on, plus some. The more weight I would put on, the less motivation I had to try again.
My mother in law has also battled with her weight for years, and she finally suggested that we join together! We have never really got along, as I’m sure is normal in most people’s marriages when they’ve only been together for a few short years – so when she suggested this I jumped on the opportunity. My hubby decided to join to support me, instead of helping to derail me when things got tough.
My first meeting was a little nerve wracking – it was the first meeting of the year and there were loads of people there. We had to do our first weigh in, followed by a meeting with our team leader. Claire – our leader – turned out to be a huge pillar of support during the tough weeks. The first meeting really consisted of going through how the plan works, and we then had our daily points allowance calculated. The amount of points you get varies – my hubby gets 41, I get 34 and my mother-in-law gets only 29. From what I understand, this depends on things like age, height and sex. The good part about this new plan – you get an extra 49 points every week to use as you please! So if you want to go out for dinner or have a take away it’s still on the cards.
There are different ways to get involved with Weight Watchers – you can track it all by yourself online, or you can attend weekly meetings, or you can even do both by using a monthly pass. I personally have a monthly pass... I need the support and motivation of weekly meetings, but I like to be able to track what I eat online. A bonus to the monthly pass is e-source... where you can log points and activity points, find new recipes, and even get support from other members. I pay just under £20 for the monthly pass, so I have the online resources and unlimited meetings I can attend.
Weightwatchers has quite a large range of their own pre-pointed products that you can buy from your normal grocery store. The range includes things like pizza, ready meals, bagels and bread, treats etc. Following the plan has never been easier! You can also buy recipe books, scales etc in your weekly meetings. So far I’ve bought a few recipe books, some treats and even an exercise DVD.
The first week on the plan was pure hell for me! I was so determined to stick to it, and yet I had to give up all my bad habits cold turkey. It got to a point where I cried because there was someone on the bus eating hot chips that I wanted. I was a wreck for the whole week, and was hungry every day. The second week became easier, and I wasn’t hungry at all. Eventually, following the plan becomes second nature. I have a better awareness of what foods are good and which are bad, and avoid them accordingly. I still have a chocolate muffin when I really want one, but not every day like before.
So far I have mixed feelings about Weightwatchers... after 14 weeks on the plan I have only lost 9.5 pounds. My mother in law has lost 21 pounds!! What’s scary is that I weigh everything and she doesn’t... For the last 4 weeks or so, I’ve alternated between losing half a pound and gaining half a pound, regardless of doing exercise and eating a little less! One point I must make though – I haven’t lost amazing numbers on the scales but I’ve lost centimetres all over – even 11cm off my waist! For me, the way my clothes fit is more important that the numbers on the scale – those will come in time.
I decided to sit down and try figure out what was happening... I’ve taken a very big interest in health and fitness since I decided to lose weight, so have attended a few sessions of personal training as well as seeing a dietician. Losing weight is meant to be simple- calories in, versus calories out. Sadly – not everyone can lose weight just through dieting. When you go on a diet you slow your metabolism very slightly, so you need even less calories. The only way to counter this is through exercise and building lean muscle. The scary part – Weightwatchers doesn’t tell you this. My leader has told me on more than one occasion that I don’t need to exercise to lose weight. My BMR (the amount of calories needed to lie in bed all day) is pretty low – around 1740 – and the average woman is meant to need around 2000. I’ve calculated the calories in what I eat while on Weightwatchers and it comes to around 1400 calories a day. To lose 1 pound, I need to cut out or burn around 3500 calories a week. Following Weightwatchers, I’m only cutting out around 2100 calories a week – and that’s excluding using any of my extra 49 points!! When I mentioned this at my next meeting, my leader didn’t even know what BMR is!! This is very worrying in my opinion. Everyone’s body is different and has different needs, it’s not 1 plan fits all.
What made this even more difficult is one of the assistants that help with weighing... every week, regardless of a gain or loss she would have a comment for me. The latest comment – “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”! Luckily, she’s now been let go. My leader is trying to help me, and is reading up to see if we can figure this out, so the support is great. Conclusion
To sum it all up – Weightwatchers is helping me to eat more healthily, and it helping me reform unhealthy habits... for example I used to be a comfort eater, and now when I’m upset I can’t even think about food! And having 9.5 pounds less on me is better than nothing. I will continue going to meetings, only because I need the support in the weeks that I gain half a pound. Exercise is something I’m going to have to figure out for myself or pay a personal trainer to help me with, but I think I’m okay with that.
My mother in law is clearly getting amazing results – as are other members. If you want to lose weight or just get healthier, I would recommend Weightwatchers. If you’re having problems with the plan –read up, speak to your leader... the support is there.
Hopefully the next time I update this post, I will be up to 20 pounds lost and I’ll be a new person. Will post pictures when I get there! I think the best plan is to not give up.
Update January 2012
So... I left Weight Watchers - when, instead of losing weight I started gaining!!! After Claire (the team leader) left, the support just wasn't so great anymore either. It slowly turned into a blame game, and it could only be my fault, and not their plan. My life had got to a point where I was too scared to eat too much of anything, I never went to team lunches at work, I wouldn't join colleagues for a drink after work on a Friday... my whole life changed and I wouldn't say it was for the better. No-one should obsess about food!!
I would say one of the final straws was when Weight Watchers decided to endorse Macdonalds chicken nuggets as part of a healthy meal. I came across an article on it, and I agree that any-one who puts "weight loss" and "Macdonalds" in the same sentence are one nugget short of a happy meal, as the article put it. Not saying you can't eat junk food, but I would NEVER refer to it as healthy food, it's a treat that should be enjoyed in moderation.
Their meals are also not great, and no-where do they actually state that you WILL lose weight by eating any of their products. They're full of salt and fibre that our bodies don't even use. I can't even eat Weight Watchers meals on Slimming World or they count as treats!
My perspective of Weight Watchers has TOTALLY changed since I originally wrote this review, and I've decided to downgrade my rating. I can't recommend a programme that encourages food obsession or unhealthy eating. Exercise should be a part of being healthy, not something you do so you can eat more - one of the many points I can no longer stand by after being on Slimming World and exercising because it feels good!!
My mother in law has also given up, and she never really lost above 24 pounds on the plan. My husband joined me on Slimming World and he lost over a stone in 1 month, and we were both shocked as we were eating all the time!
My summary - Weight Watchers can work, but if you're not the kind of person who likes to count points and keep a food diary, then this just isn't for you.