Weighing in on Points Plus

You can eat as many healthy bananas as you like under Weight Watchers' Points Plus program.

In today’s Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer is a story on Weight Watchers‘ shift within the past year to the Points Plus system, which WW said was intended to steer people toward more healthy food choices. One change under the new plan: encourage people to eat more fresh fruits by giving them zero points. The guts of the reporting is from the New York Times; I added the local comments.

Alas, there was not room enough to include all the comments, the majority of which came from solicitations post on both papers’ online sites. I won’t include all 45 of the comments here; rather, a brief summation of how people feel about the new system plus select comments that capture the prevailing sentiment.

As I mentioned, 45 people responded. Thirty-seven spoke favorably of the new Points Plus system, five weren’t crazy about it and dropped the program, three weren’t initially initially crazy about it but were giving it another try. (A small contingent wrote to complain about their weekly meeting location being moved.)

Of those who didn’t like the change, some saw it more of an opportunity for Weight Watchers to make more money. “Of course, the changes they made caused everything that their members had purchased in the past (points calculators, cookbooks, etc) to be obsolete,” wrote Susan Gordon. “… I do agree that carbs, sugars, starches need to be controlled in order to have a truly healthy diet and weight loss. But there were so many ways they could have done that and not caused loyal followers to spend unnecessary money…..especially in these difficult times. Shame on them!”

Of Weight Watchers introducing the new program early last year, then tweaking it in December based on consumer feedback, Peggy Myers didn’t appreciate being “guinea pigs for the new system. … WW ‘tweaked’ the new system based on a year of data from people who paid to be unwitting members of the experiment.”

Kathy Squires initially found the new system “cumbersome.” But her husband convinced her to get the Points Plus app for her smartphone, which lets her scan items and calculate points instantly. “I find using the app much easier and less time consuming than using the traditional method (calculator).”

Amy Clipston had success under the old program, losing 59 pounds after having her first son in 2001 and 65 pounds after her second son was born in 2005. But the weight kept coming back. “The old program wasn’t working for me anymore, and the new Points Plus was the boost I needed to lose weight before donating a kidney,” she wrote. That donation came last year after losing 30 pounds on the new program.

Likewise, Ronnye Boone lost weight through Weight Watchers in the early 1990s and has lost 43 pounds since rejoining a year ago. “The Points Plus plan is easy to follow – no food is off limits, which is wonderful,” wrote Boone.

Boone also likes that Points Plus stresses activity, awarding points — which can be redeemed for food — for exercising. “In addition to the changes I have made in making better food choices,” Boone says, “I also started walking and am now walking 5-6 miles a couple times a week.”

“I had been sedentary for years and thought, ‘I can’t exercise!’” added Cati Montgomery. “They said, ‘Hey, just start out easy. Just walk 10 minutes a day.’ And I did. Now I routinely spend 60-90 minutes on a treadmill daily!”

Points Plus’s emphasis on cleaner eating drew widespread praise.

“Having seen every iteration of WW plan since 1999,” wrote Jennifer Hynes, “I have to say this one is the smartest. It takes all the best parts of previous plans and amps them up with a focus on fresh foods, unprocessed and ‘cleaner’ eating. It’s more balanced and more nutritious.  Some would say it is more like a common-sense approach to eating, but people like me need the support and accountability that Weight Watchers provides.”

The free pass on fruit was also widely praised.

“I now spend more money in produce and love to buy fruits and veggies!” wrote Kristen Roulette, who has lost 40 pounds since joining Weight Watchers last June. “I was never much of a fruit eater; however, on this plan fruits are FREE and I have really started enjoying them!”

Several respondents noted that Weight Watchers, especially under the new Points Plus system, isn’t the fastest way to lose weight. The growing emphasis on healthy eating, they said, is a tradeoff: lose less now, but stick with the program and you’ll keep it off.

“WW does not fall into the American culture of instant gratification,” wrote Margie Tippett, who has lost 35 pounds since August. “The average weight loss per week is 1/2 to two pounds. My average per week was just over one pound. Weight that comes off slowly, in a healthy real-food way, tends to stay off longer.”

“It’s a health plan that can easily be followed for life,” agreed Janet Tart. “It’s more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.”

Here’s what that “lifestyle change” has meant for Tart since losing 70 pounds and keeping it off for nearly a year now:

“When I started the Weight Watchers program I was a very unhealthy overweight person who was exhausted all the time. I am now a very healthy, energetic wife, mother, and business owner who loves myself and loves life. Since meeting my weight loss goal in April of 2011, I have become an AEA certified professional aquatic  instructor. I teach water aerobics classes, participate in spinning classes, lift weights, do punch boxing, etc., all while running my own busy income tax office. I also have done a couple of public speaking engagements to women’s organizations about diet, health, and exercise. Weight Watcher’s Points Plus program has changed me into a new woman.”

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