As some of you know, I started losing weight by following Weight Watchers Points Plus.
It didn't take me very long to figure out that my weight loss would stall if I used all the "point" that were permitted for me (about 2000 calories). So I quit using weekly "indulgence" points and exercise-based "activity" points, though I still continued to exercise. Then I chose to use the minimum points acceptable to the Weight Watchers organization (about 1000 calories, not counting fruit and vegetables), and to make a long story short, I settled upon a 900-ish calorie daily intake as best for longterm weight loss AND live-ability.
My goal was to adjust the Weight Watchers plan so that I could stay on it forever without being tempted to binge, and strangely enough, the more precisely I designed my pseudo-WW plan, the easier it became to follow it. "Indulging" myself with sugar and flour, even within my daily calorie allowance, was instantly trigger-y for me, as were fried foods, processed foods, regular dairy or meats (I need skim milk, lowfat cheese, 96% or leaner meat), crunchy snacks, etc. I need to pre-plan my meals, fast between an early dinner and a late breakfast, focus on lean protein and fresh fruit/veg, exercise 10 hours per week, and so on.
So in the end, my diet doesn't look much like Weight Watchers anymore. My husband still wants me to attend the meetings, so I go to the meeting room, get weighed in, then hang out in the Humane Society cat adoption room at Petco. Because it's hard for me to keep my mouth shut when asked how I've lost 53 pounds since April, though I've been reprimanded from one side of WW to the other (in person and online) for telling the truth.
Recent Weight Watchers ads have been touting a double-blind scientific study which shows that Weight Watchers members lose twice as much as other dieters. I wondered how this was possible, since I wasn't seeing many successful people at meetings (okay, I wasn't seeing ANY, except for hobby dieters who wanted to lose 5 pounds), and the calorie numbers weren't adding up. Remember that at 246 pounds, I was given points that were the equivalent of 2000 calories, and could earn more by not-really-exercise "activities" like standing up during TV commercials.
So I just read the study report, and wouldn't you know it! Here's the truth beneath that "lose twice as much weight" headline:
[For everyone who joined Weight Watchers, whether they stuck with it or not...], "the average weight loss at 12 months was 11.2 pounds (5.1 kilograms) for those using Weight Watchers versus 4.8 pounds (2.2 kg) for those on standard care. For those who completed the full 12 months, average weight loss was 14.4 pounds (6.7 kg) on Weight Watchers versus 7.2 pounds (3.3 kg) on standard care."
Keep in mind that the experimental subjects weren't diet hobbyists with 10 or 15 pounds to lose. They were people who were rated as "obese" or "extremely obese" on the BMI chart.
So if someone like me goes to WW and stays for a year -- presumably adhering reasonably well to the diet plan, or they wouldn't keep showing up to get weighed in -- they will lose 14.4 pounds in 52 weeks? And also, since the experimental subjects had their WW dues paid for them to participate, wouldn't even fewer people last for the full year if they were paying an average of $12 per week to NOT lose very much weight?
It's the New Year's resolution season again, and all of last year's failures (many of whom have been coming back every January for years) will pick up the diet again, buy all the "new" products, and spend an average of over $300 on dues, products, and WW-branded foods before leaving again by the end of March.
And when they stand on the meeting-room scale to be weighed in, the weigher will insinuate that any lack of weight loss was due to the members' failure to follow the plan precisely. And because there is such a culture of self-indulgence in Weight Watchers (from "indulgence" extra points to WW-branded ice cream and candy), even those who follow the plan exactly as written are getting too many calories, while shouldering all of the blame for poor results which are really the fault of the food plan itself.
I happened to be weighing in at the local store at the same time as a WW meeting on the Monday after New Years. The week before, there had been only 4 attendees. Now there were almost 50 people there, and when the leader asked how many were newcomers who'd never been to Weight Watchers before, I saw only 5 hands raised. But the storefront (most WW meetings now happen in malls or shopping districts, at WW-brand stores which sell everything from scales and cookbooks to candy and soft-serve ice cream) was stocked with "brand-new and improved" stuff which is "soooo much better than last year" (though in fact the diet plan hasn't changed at all since 2010).
As I said earlier, I only go to Weight Watchers to weigh in because it keeps my husband off my back. (He'd be appalled if he knew that I eat less than half of the recommended points, even though my personal method is still not really a "pro-ana" diet -- it's a high-protein CRON plan with moderate caloric restriction.) I feel guilty sometimes because I don't want vulnerable newcomers to think that I lost my weight by "doing Weight Watchers" as the plan is written. When I used to attend the meetings, I tried to get this point across during the discussions, though I got busted for it constantly, and have even been asked to not attend certain leaders' groups and forbidden to write on the Weight Watchers online forums.
So this is why I'm so glad to be right here on MPA, where hardcore dieting (which, now that I've experienced Weight Watchers, I know is the same as "actually dieting consistently, and well enough to lose weight") is understood and appreciated. I love you guys! <3