The holidays are upon us and the New Year is right around the corner. This means that millions of people are going to start a diet. Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss various eating plans so you can help sort through the confusion and choose one that is best for you and your fitness goals.
Weight Watchers has been around for forever (well, at least 1963), but it’s still ranked among the top ten most popular diets. How has it managed to remain in the spotlight instead of falling by the wayside like so many others of its era? Well, many reasons, but mostly for its ability to adapt to cultural preferences. For instance, two of Weight Watchers’ newest program enhancements utilize digital technology. A completely online version of the traditional program includes options for tracking your food and exercise each day, and helps you find recipes and workout ideas for your time at the health club. The mobile app-based, 2-week introduction to the Weight Watcher system known as Simple Start includes 30+ recipe ideas, media resources, and motivational support.
What else does the Weight Watchers method involve? Let’s take a look.
The Points System
Weight Watchers utilizes a simple points-based eating plan. When you start the program, you’re assigned target points based on your weight, height, age, and other personal information. Each food in the Points Plus plan is assigned a value: lower points for low-calorie, filling foods, and higher points for smaller portions of high-calorie treats. How you fulfill your daily points target is up to you – no restrictions of any kind. That being said, if you choose to eat a high-point candy bar and fast the rest of the day, you’ll quickly learn the cost of making poor food choices.
Weight Watchers is designed to be more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle plan that helps many people learn how to make small changes and gradually improve their nutrition, health, and fitness level. Speaking of exercise, Weight Watchers also encourages its participants to get active, and even provides resources for good workouts to complete in a fitness center. Here are what could be considered the three greatest strengths of the Weight Watchers eating plan:
- Extreme flexibility.
The ‘eat what you want’ approach works wonderfully for people who struggle to completely cut out certain foods and habits they’ve maintained for years. Basically, the program offers results based on your desired level of commitment. If you’re new to eating healthy, you can slowly adapt your diet to meet optimum recommendations over a matter of months or even years. This makes it much easier to stick with than some other stricter diets, and because of this, more likely to help you reach your weight loss goal.
- Safe, steady weight loss.
Weight Watchers reports that it helps participants lose an average of 1-2 pounds a week, which most medical experts agree is a safe and realistic weight loss goal. Losing weight this way will be more likely to result in permanent weight loss than crash diets. Long-term, Consumer Reports surveys indicate that after 9 months of following the plan, women generally lose between 10-28 pounds, and men between 12-35 pounds. In fact, many studies support the effectiveness of the Weight Watchers system.
- Peer support like no other.
One of the most unique dynamics of the Weight Watcher system is its peer support. Traditionally, in-person meetings allow fellow WW members to share their struggles, concerns, and motivation and build life-long friendships. Even though the online version is a tremendous tool for those unable to attend meetings, those who participate in-person report greater satisfaction and long-term motivation.
One of the few drawbacks to Weight Watchers is the expense. Online membership costs at least $48.90 the first month, and $18.95 from then on, although there are savings advantages for signing up for 3 months immediately. At the same time, WW doesn’t require buying all organic, packaged, or specially-prepared foods, so your grocery bill shouldn’t change much. Those who have benefited from the lifestyle changes of incorporating positive food choices and regular exercise at fitness clubs would certainly attest that the value is well worth the cost. If you’ve struggled with the expectations of other eating plans, Weight Watchers might offer just the right amount of flexibility, sustainability, and support you need.