3 monthsfrom now (1)_editedI outed myself on Facebook as having joining Weight Watchers a  month ago on account of being a tad too curvy-licious to fit into a lot of clothes in my wardrobe and feeling, frankly, bloody miserable about my expanding waistline.  Since then I’ve had a few people message me to see how I’m getting on and to ask: Would I recommend Weight Watchers?  This is a blog post answering those questions – and more.  

Firstly,  I want you to know that I’m paying my own hard-earned cash for Weight Watchers. Therefore this is a (non-sponsored) blog post with my own opinion. Usual story: Some will disagree with me, some will think Weight Watchers is a bunch of nonsense, equally Weight Watchers evangelists may get a bit snippy with me for my constructive criticism. Cool as! We are all entitled to our own opinion: This is mine.

Why did I choose Weight Watchers?

I’ve already nodded to my growing size (story of my life) and my frustration with poorly fitting clothes. However the main catalyst to get me through WW doors was my state of mind as well as my general health. I have been feeling unhealthy, heavy, unfit and I’ve struggled with a few physical ailments that I feel are weight-related. I realised my ‘head’ was getting to a dangerous place recently when I turned down social event because I thought I was too fat. In short, I know my thinking is utter horseshit, but it was affecting how I feel. That’s not cool. I know that nobody gives a fat rats about my weight: I’m the one with the problem. So, I decided I needed to ‘get over myself’ and take some action. I couldn’t face the thought of this still being an issue for me in three months time – I’d be pissed off with myself.  

What’s my size?  For the record, I’m a curvy size 14-16, spread across a diminutive 5”1 frame (yeah, I’m dinky). What did I weigh? I can’t quite bring myself to fess up on that! Stay tuned, I’ll get there. Suffice to say just over a month ago I was wearing jeans and was trying to tie up my shoe laces. I struggled: My guts was getting in the way.  That I needed to take action hit me like a tonne of bricks. What also hit me was that I’d had enough. Enough of excuses, enough of not being who I want to be.  It was like a switched flicked… I joined WW the next day and recorded my measurements in the privacy of my bedroom.

I must mention that I’ve done WW successfully several times before. Keeping it off, however, is not something I’ve mastered: Clearly.  I’ve been trying to control my weight over the last few years by trying the following: Upping my exercise; Adopting clean eating principles; Dabbling with the Paleo lifestyle; Trying to the Weight Watchers programme on my own; Using food diary/and or weight loss apps; Eliminating sugar; Trying various diets I’ve stumbled across. None of this is working for me, despite some reasonably solid efforts.

How Weight Watchers Works

SmartPoints

Based on variables like your height, weight, gender and age, you are allocated a certain number of ‘SmartPoints’ (SP) for food consumption each day. Every food is allocated a SP value based on its nutritional value and,  each day you have to stick within your daily SP target. You are also allowed a number of bonus points for the week (for treats, when you ‘go over’ etc). I’m allowed 30 SP daily and 35 extra bonus points (to be spread across the week).

Higher amounts of saturated fat and sugar increase the point value of foods and higher amounts of protein bring the point value down. Processed foods are generally high in points, while most fresh fruits and veggies carry zero points.

cauliflower fried rice with Mexican seasoning
Cauliflower fried rice with Mexican seasoning, scrambled egg and bacon (and a squirt of hot sauce). A filling breakfast with a great SP value.

You work out the point value of each food via the WW app (which is awesome) or you can jump online to your WW members only log in. The app has a neat feature which is the barcode scanner: Wave the scanner over a barcode of any food (e.g. cheese, milk, honey) and chances are the SP value will pop up! How cool is that?! There’s also a WW calculator for any food that‘s not a known quantity, pop in the kilo-joules, fat, carbohydrates and all that bizzo and it’ll tell you how many SP it is.

Read more about Weight Watchers here – there’s a plethora of information and tonnes of websites/blogs with recipes.

This barcode scanner within the WW app is genius: Scan the barcode on a packet, Bob's your uncle.
This barcode scanner within the WW app is genius: Scan the barcode on a packet, Bob’s your uncle.

FitPoints

Exercise is an important component of the programme and you are allocated a personalised Fit Point goal too for the week. FitPoints can be earned from exercise whether it’s cleaning the house, walking the dog, going for a walk, even shagging will earn you points! Hubby and I have had a good giggle working out how many FitPoints equates to the latter activity, based on the length of time and the level of intensity (low – little sweating; can talk and sing; Moderate sweating – can talk not sing; High – lots of sweating can’t talk or sing). Ha.  

FitPoints
Track your activity points to meet your FitPoint target per week

It’s flexible

There’s a bunch of different ways you can do WW to suit your lifestyle, like follow the programme online,  via meetings or through a personal coaching subscription. I do it via meetings. I need to see someone, have them weigh me and write it in my book. It might sound daft but it makes me accountable. Sometimes I stay for the meeting, which is a half hour affair. This is lead by the WW leader and there’s a group of us that sit around and talk about the programme (i.e. what’s worked this week, new food ideas etc).  I’ve got some great tips from meetings and it’s good to know support is there from people on the same journey.

What does Weight Watchers cost?

Eek! With my bum puckering, I signed up for 3 months ‘group coaching’. This was an upfront payment of NZ$174.90 ($14.75 over a 12 week period). This gives me access to my local WW meeting and online coaching for the duration of the plan.

This price was a surprise though as the WW of old operated on a system where you paid a registration fee (i.e. $60) and then paid for weekly weigh-ins and meetings (this was approx. $16 last time I did it). Alas, times have changed! Now you have to sign up for a plan and there’s 3, 6 and 12 month plan options. Frankly, I am not a fan of the upfront payment: I’d have preferred to pay as I go. I get the logic though: Sign up and you are committed and locked in.

If you opt to buy any Weight Watchers products, like muesli bars or rice crackers at the meetings these cost extra.  I don’t buy these.  The price I’ve referred to is simply the cost of weighing in and accessing WW their services (meetings, the app and all the online ‘membership only’ stuff).

How am I finding the programme?

3.5kg lost

It works. I’ve lost 3.5kg in four weeks. I’m rapt with that, that’s a nice amount of weight to lose in that timeframe, it’s not too drastic either.   I haven’t measured myself – I don’t need to: My clothes fit better already.  Critically,  my mindset is in a whole new space: The negative self-talk has gone.  All that was required was to take action… Oh, I’m not snoring anymore either. 

Am I enjoying Weight Watchers?

Yeah nah… I’m stoked with my weight loss and I’m motivated to keep going . However, WW curbs your lifestyle, it doesn’t just easily fit into your lifestyle despite WW proclaiming this in its adverts. That said, it’s more flexible than other ways of eating, like paleo or sugar-free.  Strictly speaking you can eat anything: Nothing is off limits  – you just have to stay within your SP allocation.  All that said: I’m mindful that my lifestyle needed curbing! Look where the willy nilly approach got me…

I don’t enjoy having to be mega organised with my food. I don’t enjoy having to think consciously about everything I am going to eat, nor think about everything I put in my mouth, i.e. record every morsel that passes my lips in the app. – it’s a pain in the bum. I often forget – I’m a busy person!  It’s another thing to do in my day.  But then again…. It’s tracking my food that’s lead to a nice little weight loss. It’s a double-edged sword!

Also, I find going out  for a meal stressful: This is usually a great pleasure for me.  Why? Finding WW friendly food isn’t always as easy as it sounds. This is where those extra weekly bonus points are needed. Yeah, sure, you can make healthy choices, like have fresh spring rolls or Pad Thai if you are dining Thai style, but I’ve found a few times there isn’t always something WW friendly on the menu (keep reading, rant coming). In this situation, I just make the best decision I can, usually something with fish or chicken and with lots of veges so as to not break the SmartPoints bank.   Today I went out for lunch and had a calamari salad with a vinaigrette based dressing (instead of aioli). It was delicious.  I reckon it came in at about 10 SP. Not too bad.

Cos lettuce wraps
Cos lettuce wraps. All the veges are 0 smart points, you only need to count the thousand island dressing (homemade), the protein and the seeds.

As for alcohol – oh goodness, I’ve had to reign this in! I love indulging in a glass of wine or three when I see my friends. As a very social creature this is at least several times a week.  However, at four points per glass of red vino, this is a killer on your SmartPoint daily intake!  Then again, this habit needed curbing…  Hmmm.

Tips and secrets

The secret is to be super organised with your food. Plan your meals out in advance. Shop to the list. Ensure you’ve always got a stash of WW friendly food available.  I’ve always got on hand the following foods: Fruit and veges, including a bag of coleslaw (0 SP); Boiled eggs (2 SP), Muhammara Dip (I mix this with yogurt and use it as salad dressing and I also have it on toast instead of butter (1 tlb = 1 SP), Bliss Balls (3 SP). I’ve also got into the habit of roasting a chicken on a Sunday and having this in the fridge for easy dinners and lunches. Zoodles and cauliflower rice have also been lifesavers in the place of pasta and rice and these really help to bulk a meal out and ensure I keep within my daily point allowance. I’ve also been drinking a shitload of herbal tea (0 SP) and I’m even more in love with my Soda Stream: I’m guzzling a lot of sparkling water (0 SP).

As mentioned, we have a really active social life and we join friends for dinner at least once or twice a week. Fortunately how we roll with our group of friends is generally to dine pot luck style. I love this: I just take something that fits in with WW… Nobody would have any idea!  My friend Alex is an absolute sweetheart: We had a dinner party a few weeks ago and she’d made a massive ‘full noise’ banoffee pie. Being the thoughtful person she bought some points friendly bliss balls.  There’s the sign of a good mate right there.

Bliss balls
Alex’s Bliss Balls

Anything I don’t like about Weight Watchers?

Aside from having to be super-organised (this isn’t my default personality style!) I’m struggling with getting my head around the relatively high point value of foods that I’ve come to love since I hopped on the low sugar and cleaner eating bandwagon. One of the people that follows my Facebook page made a constructive comment that WW “demonises fat”. I’d have to say she’s pretty much bang-on with that: A large avocado (12 SP), coconut oil x2 tsp (5 SP), peanut butter (5 SP for x1 tlb), handful of cashew nuts (10 pieces are 4 SP). Eek! These are foods that have featured in moderation in my diet over the last while.  Why? Because I’ve read left right and centre that these are good fats.

Yesterday I was in a café in Rotorua and had time to kill while waiting for a friend. I was hungry and was eyeing up treats from Health Lab (see the photo below). Out came the barcode scanner and I nearly shit my pants…. Despite containing all natural ingredients that are raw, gluten free, have no refined sugars these should be a good choice, right? Nope! These clock in at around 9 SP each. Fark: That’s a meal. I moved onto Tom & Luke’s Oat Bars (organic sunflower butter, golden pea protein, toasted oats, chia seeds, all ‘good ingredients’). Same story – do I want to have a snack that’s the SP equivalent of a meal? No I do not!  Just out of interest my barcode scanner and I found a Cadbury’s chocolate fish, sugary, processed crap food: 4 SP. Sorry, but given everything I’ve learnt about nutrition in the last few years (noting I am far from an expert) there is no way I’m eating something like a chocolate fish just because it’s lower in SP. This defies all nutritional logic. In the end, defeated and quite pissed off, I had a trim cappuccino (3 SP) along with a glass of water to ease my hunger pains.  Lesson learnt:  Take a piece of fruit with me next time. 

snacks
Not WW friendly snacks and I’m dark. It seems crazy… Would you prefer to eat this or a chocolate fish. I’m bamboozled.

Before I finish this mini grumble, those of you who follow my Facebook page will know I’m a massive fan of  Life Changing Bread.  Jam packed with nuts, seeds and oats, bound with coconut oil, water, psyllium  husk and maple syrup, this is the kind of bread people should eat daily (and if you aren’t regular in the visiting the toilet department, make some coz you’ll be more regular than the 6.00pm news). But one slice for 6SP?  And that’s SP before you’ve whacked a topping on it (and incurred more SP) Ouch.  I’m still eating it, but I have to carefully factor it in to my daily plan. I’d rather eat Life Changing Bread than 2 SP of some fluffy white highly processed bread that will see me starving within an hour.  

Life Changing Bread

Geez!  No wonder people get confused and despondent in trying to lose weight, it’s farking confusing: What do you believe? Who do you listen to? What do you do?  But here’s the thing: Weight Watchers WORKS for me. The other stuff didn’t work. My clothes are getting loser. I feel good: I’m going to keep at it.   But I’m confused about all these different nutritional information. I just can’t shake my beliefs: Cook from scratch; Eat food made by mother nature; Avoid sugar; Avoid processed goods;  Eat in moderation.   Get some exercise. Energy in, energy out. 

Summary

So there we have it, a balanced (I hope) walk through of my experience on WW. Aside from the bitch and moan above, none of what I’m finding on the programme is a surprise: I’ve done WW before, it’s more or less the same system as what I’ve experienced before.  Results wise:   I feel happier.  I’ve got my confidence back.  My skinny black jeans from last winter are within my sights!  I can do this.

Feel free to contact me with any questions, or tell me your experiences, or better still, send me your favourite recipes!

  • Hey Lou! I’ve been enjoying the programme so far. I like that veggies are zero points and if you add a bit of cheese sauce or gravy, it’s only an extra point. Always good to have as a back up for lazy evenings. I am going to take my slow cooker out of hibernation and start making some WW friendly slow cooked meals for the winter too. That’ll make life even easier!
    I have to say that I’ve never been a big fan of protein bars etc so I haven’t found this to be too frustrating…yet! I also don’t have a problem with nuts, avos etc being high in points as they are good fats but even too much of a good thing can be bad for you. I also find that nuts and avos tend to go a long way (and with prices, I can’t afford too many anyway!).
    What I find most frustrating is their small NZ database of foods. I wish they would expand their database but maybe that’ll come with time. I have had to add SO many foods myself lately which is annoying for quick adding foods. That would have to be my only pet peeve at the moment.

    Good luck on your journey!
    I’ve also found it’s working for me – 4.1kg in a month 🙂

  • Hey Lou! I’ve been enjoying the programme so far. I like that veggies are zero points and if you add a bit of cheese sauce or gravy, it’s only an extra point. Always good to have as a back up for lazy evenings. I am going to take my slow cooker out of hibernation and start making some WW friendly slow cooked meals for the winter too. That’ll make life even easier!
    I have to say that I’ve never been a big fan of protein bars etc so I haven’t found this to be too frustrating…yet! I also don’t have a problem with nuts, avos etc being high in points as they are good fats but even too much of a good thing can be bad for you. I also find that nuts and avos tend to go a long way (and with prices, I can’t afford too many anyway!).
    What I find most frustrating is their small NZ database of foods. I wish they would expand their database but maybe that’ll come with time. I have had to add SO many foods myself lately which is annoying for quick adding foods. That would have to be my only pet peeve at the moment.

    Good luck on your journey!
    I’ve also found it’s working for me – 4.1kg in a month 🙂

    • Sam, sorry for belated reply. Congrats on your weight loss. Inspirational! I’ve fallen off the wagon this week but I’m hauling myself back on!
      Thanks for the slow cooker – great idea! I’ll do the same.
      I had a revelation this week. Instead of focusing on what I can’t/shouldn’t eat, realised I needed to focus on what I can. I love spicy Thai salads, wonton steamed dumplings, hummus and vege sticks. These are all great WW friendly foods. Need to keep my mindset on track…. it’s all in the head!

  • This was really interesting. I did WW about 5 or 6 years ago, back in the olden days where I had to carry around a little notebook and a point calculator card. I also never went to meetings as I was too embarrassed that someone I knew would see me, being only 19 at the time. I’ve since piled all that weight on plus more. I’ve had moderate success with my fitness pal but not really. I need to get my head back in the game because what you said about the leaning down to tie up your shoes – I’ve been there! I’ve developed some binge-eating tendencies so am thinking of going and talking to someone about that, but maybe I’ll be back on WW before long.

    • Hi Lena. I could have written what you just wrote. It’s about getting (back) in control of my eating and weight for me. As well as feeling better about myself. I definitely recommend WW despite my constructive feedback. I feel it’s more conducive to having a life (eating along with my family and being able to have wine!).
      I too remember the days of the points book and the calculator!
      X