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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Weight Watchers: This time, it's not me, it's you

Sorry, but this post is going to be very long.

So, if you know me, or if you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I've been fighting the Battle of the Bulge for most of my adult life.  When you have a serious weight issue, it's not just a question of "what's on your plate", it's also a question of "what's in your head".  I've spent a long time trying to figure out what's in my head, and I think I've finally got a handle on that.  But that's a conversation for another day; today I want to talk about "what's on my plate", or rather, what programs do and do not work for me.

The laws of physics are immutable -- for weight loss to occur, calories out must exceed calories in.  Good nutrition is equally important.  But I think an eating plan (I won't use the word "diet") has to be flexible, enjoyable, and sustainable.  If you do something to lose weight, but then cannot make it a lifestyle change, you're going to gain it all back. 

I never had an interest in crazy, fad diets.   The cabbage soup diet?  You've got to be kidding.  Paleo?  No way!  The raw food diet?   Not my idea of fun.  The Twinkie diet?  Get real.

Then there are the diets that tell you what to eat.  Jenny Craig.  Nutrisystem.  Medifast.  You buy their foods, you don't have to think.  Just eat what they put on your plate.  Good weight loss, good nutrition, but what have you learned?

My sister once lost a lot of weight on a medically -supervised liquid diet.  But she found it hard to stick with the plan even while losing weight, and then she gained it all back as soon as she went back to real food.

Then there was Atkins.  In its original form, it encouraged you to eliminate entire food groups.  It's more balanced now, but still...And South Beach and The Zone just seem like Atkins clones.

No, my plan of choice has always been Weight Watchers.

I first joined WW in the 90's.  And followed the plan for awhile before I quit.  And rejoined, and quit.  And rejoined, and quit.  And...well, you get the idea.  And each time I quit, it was because of what was going on in my head. 

The last time, I'd lost 70 pounds.  Can you believe it?  In 2009 I lost 70 pounds on Weight Watchers.

And gained it all back.  And then some.

Yeah, I did that to myself.  It wasn't Weight Watchers' fault, of course.  It was mine.

I joined Weight Watchers (again) in March of this year, this time as an "online only" member.  For a small monthly fee, I had access to  eTools, the WW program that tracks food, exercise and weight, by going to the WW website or downloading an app to my phone or iPad.  I could also access articles and videos that would give me recipes, exercise ideas, weight loss strategies, etc.  I could participate in the online community.  And, of course, I could purchase WW products -- scales, measuring cups, cookbooks, t shirts, etc.  And then I found out I could link my Fitbit account to my WW account, and WW would import information from Fitbit and automatically calculate the activity points I'd earned.

Sounds good, right?

And then, in the summer, I upped my membership to include weekly meetings.  And I liked going to the meetings.  Especially when I realized that the new "theme" was to address the "whole person", not just the part that was involved in losing weight.  A happy person makes better choices, and all that.


As of this morning, I've lost 42 pounds since March.  Yay, me!

So why am I quitting Weight Watchers?

It's because of the new program, Smartpoints, and the changes in the technology that were made to accommodate Smartpoints.

No, I don't really care that every time they develop a new program, all the tools they sold you before become obsolete.  I don't mind buying new gadgets. 

So first, the technology.

In November, members were given the option to test out a new tracker, then in beta form, and give feedback.  I liked the new format, gave mostly positive feedback.  The new format dropped some features that I liked, but overall looked easy to use.

It went live just before Thanksgiving, and it was a disaster. So many bugs and glitches that the site crashed, or the app wouldn't sync with the site, etc.  It was so bad that the CEO had to write a letter of apology.  It was so bad that the company had to give partial refunds to subscribers. 

Not to mention,  they didn't take into account any of the feedback they got from members.

It was so bad, they delayed the release of the new fitness app, Fitbreak.    And when they did release the new app, I discovered it's only available for iPhone.  Not only can't I get it on my Android phone, I can't even get it on my iPad!

I kind of expected that.  Back in the day when I had a Palm Pilot, WW came up with a way to track on your PDA -- but only if you had the "right" PDA (I didn't).  And even those who had the right PDA often complained that they couldn't sync with the website.  And later, when WW developed an app, it was only for IOS systems, and those of us with Android had to complain long and loud to get an app of our own.  Even now, you have to have the right brand of activity tracker in order to sync with WW, and I've experienced  several times when I couldn't sync from Fitbit to WW -- almost always because of a problem at WW.

Well, if it was just the technology, I would muddle through, as I always do. 

No, the final straw was Smartpoints.  Rolled out during Chanukah and just before Christmas.  Rolled out after only 3 months of testing on real human beings.

So PointsPlus took into account four aspects of nutrition -- fat, fiber, protein and carbohydrates.    Smartpoints considers seven pieces of information -- calories, fat, saturated fat, carbs, fiber, sugar and protein.      It's supposed to steer you towards better choices, better nutrition.

What it does is steer you away from carbs. 

The first shock was when I calculated the points for my yogurt and cereal breakfast.  A breakfast I'd been eating regularly since March now contained too many points to fit into a normal day.

And this during latke season?

I gave up tracking my food halfway through the first week.   It was NOT  a good week.

The next week, I decided to do an experiment.  I double tracked.  That is, I tracked points on WW, and I tracked the same food on My Fitness Pal.  My Fitness Pal is calorie-based.  It gives you a calorie budget, but also gives feedback on the nutritional content of the food you're tracking.  I gave myself a calorie budget designed to induce a 1 pound per week weight loss.

And then I ate the same way I've been eating since March. 

At the end of the week, I was way over my WW points budget.

At the end of the week, My Fitness Pal told me I was under budget every day, and that my food choices were nutritionally balanced.

I lost two pounds.

The following week, I was way over budget on WW points, but on My Fitness Pal I was under budget most days, over budget twice, eating healthy.  And I lost a pound.

I haven't tracked at all on WW this week.  I'm doing calories on My Fitness Pal, and I'm doing just fine.

Essentially WW went from a flexible, "eat whatever you want within reason" plan to a plan where carbs are the enemy.  If I'd wanted Atkins, South Beach or The Zone, I would have signed up for those programs.

So, sorry, Weight Watchers, but here's where you and I part company.

1 comment:

bookworm said...

Goodbye, Weight Watchers. Hello, My Fitness Pal. I installed the MFP app on my tablet months ago but never activated it. That is about to change.

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