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Healthy Living Blog

Information and inspiration to help you make a habit out of living healthy.


Fad Diet Dilemma: Weight Watchers

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

By , YMCA Registered Dietitian

The world of weight loss can be an overwhelming and confusing place. It seems like every day a new super supplement or quick fix diet is popping up promising to help you quickly shed unwanted weight.

While the ideal approach to weight loss is to aim for 1-2 pounds a week using a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, the temptation to subscribe to the next popular craze can be too much to ignore.

So, each month, we’re examining a different diet—diving into the science behind it, the pros, the cons—and letting you decide whether or not it’s worth trying.

Watch the Weight

This month we’re taking a closer look at the Weight Watchers diet, which has been around since 1963 and has remained a constant resource for those trying to drop pounds. After a recent rebranding, the company now goes by WW, which was an effort to move away from a sole focus on decreasing the number on the scale and emphasize the importance of overall health and wellness.

You likely know someone who has tried and perhaps found success through WW. So, how does this Oprah-endorsed program really work, and is it something you want to do? Let’s dig a little deeper.

The Science

WW uses a point-based system where each participant is given a daily point value that they can spend however they like. Each food you eat and beverage you consume counts for some amount of points, and your goal is to meet your daily point limit consistently.

Foods are assigned points based on the following four categories: calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. Some foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, are assigned zero points. This encourages an increase in fresh food consumption, while also promoting regular dietary intake tracking. By giving higher point values to foods that have more saturated fat and sugar, the program is designed to reduce overall calorie intake, which can promote weight loss.

The Pros

I think the most beneficial thing about this program is that there aren’t any foods that are off limits. Participants have control over their allotted points budget and can choose what foods to spend it on. This encourages a mindful approach to eating and reduces the chance of binging on overly-restricted items. Additionally, this program heavily relies on community and small group interaction. By having a mentor or a group of people who are tackling health and wellness together, you increase your chance of success.

The Cons

While WW has one of the more well-balanced approaches to weight loss in comparison to other programs out there, there are drawbacks to any diet, which are good to consider before jumping in. Some WW participants end up spending more money than they anticipated. The point system may also seem tedious and all-consuming for people and can lead to negative associations with high-point food or beverage items.

Unfortunately, for those with diagnosed diabetes, there’s no such thing as a “free food.” Many of the zero-point foods are fruits, which, although are healthy and an essential part of any well-balanced diet, contain naturally-occurring carbohydrates and can lead to blood sugar spikes for those who have trouble with insulin sensitivity.

Hopefully, this overview helps you understand some of the ins and outs of this popular diet. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what approach to nutrition is right for you and works best for your body. Talking with your doctor and a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you create a healthy eating plan that's effective and safe. Check back next month when we look at the Zone diet.

Read more Fad Diet Dilemmas about Keto, Mediterranean, Intermittent Fasting, and Whole30.

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