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Leave…Weight Watchers…Alone!!

You may or may not have heard that Weight Watchers (WW) has recently overhauled their famous (or infamous, depending on who you are) points system to more accurately reflect how the body breaks down different nutrients. More on the logic behind that in a moment–for the time being, news sources are focusing on the most obviously important angle, that the fatties are so dumb about losing their nasty fat! Eat some bananas and kale, you fatties!!

So far, the fat-hate has been mostly subtext. To better understand where the haters are coming from (though certainly not to excuse their bigoted rhetoric), some background: the main difference between WW’s old points system and their new PointsPlus system is that fruits and vegetables are now worth 0 points, no matter how many are consumed.

Additionally, users are now allowed slightly more points per week, but that increase corresponds to upticks in point values for certain foods, i.e., three glasses of white wine went from six points to 11; one quarter cup ketchup went from one point to two. The logic behind the changes is that foods of the same caloric content may contain vastly different amounts of fiber, protein, carbohydrates and fat, which effect how the body stores and utilizes energy, as well as how satisfied the consumer feels. The new system encourages members to choose foods that are natural, filling and easy to process.

Some WW users are less than psyched about the new PointsPlus plan. A New York Times article quotes a commenter from WW’s website: “I don’t want to be forced to choose veggies. I do NOT like veggies or fruit. I feel like I am being forced to “˜diet,’ and that is what I DO NOT WANT.” I suspect NYT ran that comment because it was the juiciest example of an unhinged Weight Watcher they could find. I just spent 15 minutes browsing the WW message boards, and the threads I read were full of users who were either excited about the new plan or slightly apprehensive but willing to give it a try, with relatively few resorting to caps lock abuse.

Of course, such hyperbolic internet behavior is catnip for people looking to sensationalize a story.  Professional Gawker snarker Adrien Chen wrote “Weight Watchers Point Changes Plunge Members’ Lives Into Chaos.” It’s obvious that Chen and I read the same NYT article, but his takeaway was that Weight Watchers members are mindless dodos who “turn meals into joyless games of caloric Tetris.” Chen’s smug advice:

“May we suggest a simple point-based dietary system that can’t be changed abruptly by a corporation–one you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to take advantage of and has zero meetings per week? It’s called calories. They’re right there on the side of your SlimFast milkshake! The rules of calories are simple: Eat less of them. Hell, you can even eat only Twinkies under this system and still lose weight.”

They are so many different breeds of nasty privilege in that one paragraph that I hardly know where to begin. There’s the obvious disparagement for fat people who are trying to lose weight, the semi-classist jibes at SlimFast and Twinkies (generally considered the foods of the proletariat, not those who can afford personal chefs and trainers), and the insinuation that WW members are idiots who can’t do simple math.

It’s not easy converting people who truly hate fat people; that’s one thing I’ve learned recently. But these notions that overweight people eat Little Debbie snack cakes by the pound and have never, ever heard the mantra “eat less, move more” should be easy to expel, if people would just take the time to educate themselves about metabolism and genetics, not to mention open their eyes–most people know at least one skinny person who eats crap and one fat person who eats extremely health-consciously.

And if some WW members are wary of the new points system, they have good reason to be. As anyone who’s been on a diet knows, you fall into certain eating patterns and become hyper-aware of how many calories or grams of fiber are in this or that. It just makes sense that long-term WW members would be aggravated by such a huge chance in their routine, not to mention suspicious when a company renders products (old points system calculators and scales) totally obsolete. Wrath over wasted money was a common thread I saw on the WW threads.

In the end, I hope Weight Watchers’ intentions are pure, and that this new system helps members achieve a healthier and more-rounded diet than before. And to the Chens and random NYT drama-mongers of the world: I’m sorry I called you privileged bigots. It’s not your fault you’re so privileged and bigoted.

8 replies on “Leave…Weight Watchers…Alone!!”

I agree, the new points seem like a good idea. And the people screaming about wasting money need to relax. The old system worked, if you did it right, as far as I can tell the new system just tweaks things a bit. It makes more sense to me.
As for the fat-haters, my mantra is “I weigh less than I did six months ago, I’m going to weigh less in six more months. I’m pretty sure you’re still going to be a jackass.” It’s kind of awkward for a mantra, but it makes me feel better.

Ha! I love your mantra. I’ve never done WW but I have friends who’ve had success with it, and I’ve done SparkPeople, which is along the same lines of encouraging people to take a close look at what they’re eating, not just for calories but for other nutrients, and make permanent, healthy changes.

I think fat-haters just took this opportunity to rip on people who do WW for the hell of it, and because it’s easier to write about people hating fruits/veg than it is to do a serious article examining various reasons WW members felt the plan might be a marketing ploy.

I think it’s great that fruits/veg are free now too. Interestingly enough, on the WW boards, some of the new members who have already started PointsPlus say they think it’s helping them move past plateaus.

Two points for a banana is insane, especially when (like WW employees pointed out in the NYT article) you could eat a big pat of butter or two 100-calorie Oreo snack packs for those same points.

I have used Weight Watchers in the past, and I see this change as a positive one. I don’t like a lot of the things it used to encourage you to snack on (nuts, for one) so I felt “bad” using points for fruits as snacks that I would have to take away from somewhere else. I would likely eat MORE fruits and veggies this way.

The thing about being a “fattie” is that sometimes you are one because your eating is disordered in some way – maybe you really just aren’t aware of what a “normal” portion is. This kind of system teaches you to recognize a “normal” portion, while using regular food. I am wary of things like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem that require you to buy their food – once you stop eating their pre-made portions, have you learned how to exist in the real world?

100% agreed on what you said about Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem. I feel like they’re infinitely more exploitative, at their best, than Weight Watchers is at their worst (marketing those WW brand snack cakes to people). Also, it really ticks me off when people rag on Weight Watchers because it’s run by a corporation or because “it’s still a diet!!” I don’t think “diet” should necessarily be such a four-letter word, especially if people are trying to change their nutrition in healthy, permanent ways.

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