Weight Watchers

      90 Comments on Weight Watchers

I probably shouldn’t be laughing about this, but I can’t help myself.  When a group of Weight Watchers members in Sweden got together recently for their regular weigh-in, the floor collapsed.  As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.  Here are some quotes from the online news story:

“We suddenly heard a huge thud; we almost thought it was an earthquake and everything flew up in the air,” one of about 20 group members said to the Smalandsposten newspaper. “The floor collapsed in one corner of the room and along the walls.”

After the initial collapse on Wednesday evening, the floor started to cave in other parts of the room, and the stench of sewage crept into the clinic, which is in Vaxjo, a city in south central Sweden. The group is looking for an alternate location for future meetings, Weight Watchers consultant Therese Levin told the Swedish paper.

 Since they were able to break the floor badly enough to stir up some sewage, I’m guessing these people were 1) brand-new members of Weight Watchers or 2) long-time members of Weight Watchers.

I’ve known a handful of people who joined Weight Watchers at least once — all women, by the way.  They all lost some weight.  And they all gained it back, usually with a few extra pounds as a going-away present. 

Given what Weight Watchers believes constitutes a good diet, I’m not surprised.  Their entire program is based on the belief that the federal government’s nutrition guidelines are actually based on something resembling science.  So Weight Watchers preaches the same guidelines:  fat is bad, a bit of protein is okay, and carbohydrates are wonderful.

I never joined Weight Watchers, but before I knew better, I did try living on their low-fat Smart Ones meals (along with Lean Cuisines and other diet meals I could nuke.)  By the end of the day, I’d be famished.  Eventually I’d give up and then, like most dieters, blame myself for not having any discipline.  Now I understand the problem wasn’t a lack of discipline; it was a lack of good nutrition.

To illustrate the problem, I went to the Weight Watchers site and put together a sample diet for one day.  Since I’m a male, I allowed myself about 1700 calories.  Figuring three meals and couple of side dishes, I chose a breakfast sandwich, angel hair pasta with marinara, chicken enchiladas, chicken on grilled flatbread, mac and cheese, and rice and beans.  That’s a pretty fair sample of the kind of meals I chose back in the day.  Here’s how they add up:

Total Calories: 1673
Fat: 37 grams
Protein: 77 grams
Carbs: 258 grams

As a percent of total calories, it works out to 20% fat, 18% protein, and 62% carbohydrates — just what the FDA prescribes.  It’s also a prescription for hunger.

If you’re a regular reader or have seen Fat Head, you already know that fat is the most satiating macronutrient …  in addition to being cricual for mood, hormone formation, vitamin absorption, etc.  I won’t go into the many wonders of fat here, except to say that this diet contains far too little of it.  That’s one reason I was so hungry.

The diet is also too low in protein.  The FDA would approve, but not the people who actually know what they’re talking about, like Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades.  According to their calculations, I need more like 120 grams of protein per day.  Eating too little protein produces exactly the kind of physical effects dieters don’t want.

For one, it’ll make you hungry — never mind the calories.  Research shows that primates eat until they satisfy their protein requirements.  If the food is low in protein, they’ll eat more of it.  Here are some quotes from an article on the subject:

Nutritional ecologist Professor David Raubenheimer’s just-published collaborative study with international colleagues found the Bolivian rainforest spider monkey regulates protein intake by eating greater quantities of low protein/high carbohydrate foods when protein-rich foods are not available.

“This is interesting because our experiments show that humans do the same,” says Professor Raubenheimer from the University’s Institute of Natural Sciences at Albany. The consequence is the current obesity epidemic.

Professor Raubenheimer has been involved in a range of similar studies on other primates, as well as human subjects in Australia, the Philippines and Jamaica, to observe how the protein content of their diets influences energy intake.

The findings, published in the latest issue of the journal Behavioural Ecology, reinforce the theory that humans and other primates are physiologically predisposed to maintain a constant level of protein in their diets. But when the range of foods available to them is low in protein (yet high in fats and carbohydrates) they are compelled to eat greater quantities in order to maintain correct protein levels.

Trust me, I definitely felt compelled to eat greater quantities.  I just didn’t allow myself to, at least until I couldn’t stand it anymore. 

The other problem with eating too little protein is muscle loss.  I’ve heard some researchers claim people lose the same amount of weight on almost any diet if the calories are controlled — that hasn’t been my experience, but let’s suppose it’s true.  So what?  The point of dieting isn’t really to lose weight, it’s to lose fat.  Digesting your own muscles is a lousy idea.  In Protein Power, Drs. Eades & Eades wrote:

On typical low-calorie, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets, protein intake is often marginal, and as a result as much as 50 percent of weight loss can be muscle weight.  Each pound of active muscle mass lost reduces your rate of metabolism.

Now, a pound of muscle loss isn’t going to dramatically affect your metabolism, but I don’t think most people — especially men — go on a diet hoping to shed a few pounds off their biceps and pecs.  Muscle makes a body look good, whether the body is male or female.

The biggest problem with the diet is, of course, the 62% carbohydrates.  If you’re insulin resistant — and most fat people these days are — all those carbs are going to drive up your insulin and tell your body to store a disproportionate share of the 1673 calories as fat.  Then you’ll starve at the cellular level and really feel hungry.  Keep it up, and you’ll probably make your insulin resistance worse.

And as I learned from an excellent article by Dr. Doug McGuff, insulin resistance can also shrink your muscles.  Dr. McGuff wondered why so many fat people have weak muscles — they are, after all, hauling a lot of weight around.  That ought to make them stronger, but usually doesn’t.  Here’s an edited version of what he figured out (the full article is worth the read):

The key to the paradox of the obese-yet weak client was insulin sensitivity. The modern Western diet is very high in refined carbohydrates when compared to the diet in our evolutionary past. In the face of very high carbohydrate intake, one’s glycogen stores will become completely full. Once the glycogen stores are completely full, glucose will begin to stack up in the blood stream. The evolutionary-based response is to increase insulin to drive more glycogen storage. However, pushing more glucose into a cell whose glycogen stores are full can be very damaging.

In the chronically overfed state, the body protects itself by decreasing the sensitivity of insulin receptors on the muscle cells and preserving (actually increasing) insulin sensitivity on the fat cells. By this mechanism blood sugar can be held in check without making the interior of the cells a syrupy mess, and energy is stored for future starvation (which never comes). The problem is, insulin not only controls glucose homeostasis, it is a major hormone for nutrient storage and all of the anabolic processes of the body. In the state we describe above, a vicious form of nutrient partitioning begins to occur. Nutrients used for growth and differentiation are shunted away from the muscle and the liver and are diverted to body fat. The muscles become smaller and weaker and the liver becomes infiltrated with fat as it desperately tries to produce VLDL.

Not a pretty picture, is it?  I know, because by the time I was 14, I was a fat kid with skinny muscles.  I finally started reshaping my body a bit when my older brother bought some barbells and more or less insisted we work out together.  Our high-school health teacher also us to cut back on sugar, potatoes and bread if we wanted to lose weight, so I did.  Then the low-fat diet craze hit, and I got stupid all over again.

Now I’m at least smart enough to know that Smart Ones aren’t going to help most people lose weight and keep it off, and neither will Weight Watchers.  They claim a success rate of nearly 50%, based on a study they funded.  But it’s interesting how they came up with that figure. 

First off, the study only included people who were already lifetime members.  To become a lifetime member, you have to reach your goal weight and stay there for six weeks.  That means all the people who yelled “I’m starving!” and quit after a month or so were excluded …  as were all the people who stuck it out but didn’t reach their goal weight.

After five years, most of the lifetime members included in the study had regained at least half of what they lost —  but Weight Watchers defined “success” as weighing 5% less than when they first joined.  So if you started at 200 pounds, reached your goal weight of 170, and went back up to 190, you were counted as successful.  Wow.  Sounds like “budget-cutting” in Washington.

A blogger analyzed the study, crunched his own numbers based on Weight Watchers’ enrollment figures, and calculated something closer to 6% of all members ever reaching their goal weight and staying there for six weeks … and when he crunched them again, counting only people who stayed at their goal weight for five years, he calculated a success rate of about two in a thousand.

I’d say the best thing Weight Watchers could do is reinforce their floors.


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90 thoughts on “Weight Watchers

  1. Grok

    LMAO! That is F*ing hilarious. You can’t make up stuff like that. Are they sure the sewage smell wasn’t one of them bigguns sh*tting their pants?

    Oh… the rest of the article was good too 😉

    I hadn’t thought of that. Pretty reasonable reaction when the floor under you gives way.

  2. Grok

    LMAO! That is F*ing hilarious. You can’t make up stuff like that. Are they sure the sewage smell wasn’t one of them bigguns sh*tting their pants?

    Oh… the rest of the article was good too 😉

    I hadn’t thought of that. Pretty reasonable reaction when the floor under you gives way.

  3. TXCHLInstructor

    I did Weight Watchers back in the 70’s, and it was actually very effective for me back then. I lost substantial weight, wasn’t particularly hungry, and I kept it off for several years. But two things have changed since then. 1) I got older (only one alternative that I know of to that), and 2) WW went from (relatively) low-carb to low-fat.

    Yes, back in the 70’s, Weight Watchers was low-carb. I think I still have some old WW books which have guidelines like “if sugar is in the first 3 ingredients, or more than 2 of the first 5 ingredients, don’t buy it”. Things like bread and potatoes were strictly limited, and could be optionally left out entirely. They didn’t even mention anything about the skin on poultry; it was a normal part of what you ate. I recall one instructor who claimed that the more times you made fish the main part of a meal each week, the faster you would lose weight.

    It’s all different now. And WW is no longer even reasonably effective, or particularly healthy. At least not as of about 10 years ago, when I went on low-carb a la Atkins, Eades, Bernstein, and Schwarzbein. I haven’t kept track of what WW has done since then, except to see some of the WW-labeled items in the grocery store, and note that the ingredient list would not fit into what I consider a good diet — or even what WW considered a good diet 35 years ago.

    I didn’t know they ever pushed a lower-carb diet. That was back before I knew anyone who tried Weight Watchers. I guess they got snookered by the low-fat theory, along with the rest of us.

  4. musajen

    Ah, Weight Watchers, a diet I love to hate. I was introduced to WW when I was 11 years old (and actually, the plan wasn’t as abhorable then as it is now). In the last 10 years when I’ve tried WW I’ve been non-stop hungry. The other frustration, besides gnawing hunger, is the cultish mindset of many of its devotees who chant “points, points, points” throughout the day (there’s a few in my office, and a good friend). That constant cycle of strict adherence, then falling off the wagon, followed by self-flaggelation is not at all missed. So glad to be in low carb land.

    I wouldn’t like being a slave to those points, and having to go to bed hungry if I’d used them up … even if the plan worked.

  5. mallory

    hahahahah i literally spit my drink outta my mouth reading you opening paragraph… weight watchers is such a crock… i have seen so many people stavring on that but never losing any weight! figures- we have lots of them in mississippi…go figure they’re not working lol

    Nobody I know who’s tried it has kept the weight off, either.

  6. Chris

    My mother is a WeightWatchers success story. She lost about 30lbs three years ago and has kept it off, but to this day refuses to go outside her points. It drives me crazy. She refuses to listen to me about protein/fat intake and anytime I mention eating butter, red meat, coconut oil, etc., she goes ballistic. I’ll keep trying, but she is convince of the “fats make you fat, carbs keep you thin” myth. Oh well, at least my girlfriend has come around to the believing that low fat/high carb being healthy is a total myth and that protein and fat are good for us.

    I’m glad to hear she’s kept it off, but I wonder if she’s making it harder on herself than it needs to be.

  7. TXCHLInstructor

    I did Weight Watchers back in the 70’s, and it was actually very effective for me back then. I lost substantial weight, wasn’t particularly hungry, and I kept it off for several years. But two things have changed since then. 1) I got older (only one alternative that I know of to that), and 2) WW went from (relatively) low-carb to low-fat.

    Yes, back in the 70’s, Weight Watchers was low-carb. I think I still have some old WW books which have guidelines like “if sugar is in the first 3 ingredients, or more than 2 of the first 5 ingredients, don’t buy it”. Things like bread and potatoes were strictly limited, and could be optionally left out entirely. They didn’t even mention anything about the skin on poultry; it was a normal part of what you ate. I recall one instructor who claimed that the more times you made fish the main part of a meal each week, the faster you would lose weight.

    It’s all different now. And WW is no longer even reasonably effective, or particularly healthy. At least not as of about 10 years ago, when I went on low-carb a la Atkins, Eades, Bernstein, and Schwarzbein. I haven’t kept track of what WW has done since then, except to see some of the WW-labeled items in the grocery store, and note that the ingredient list would not fit into what I consider a good diet — or even what WW considered a good diet 35 years ago.

    I didn’t know they ever pushed a lower-carb diet. That was back before I knew anyone who tried Weight Watchers. I guess they got snookered by the low-fat theory, along with the rest of us.

  8. April

    Another thing I think people fail to remember is that Weight Watchers is also a publicly traded company, so really, they have the interest of their shareholder’s at heart, not the millions of people going to them to lose weight. That’s why they push their products so much too.

    And also, no one bothers to think that if Weight Watchers was actually successful, then they wouldn’t make nearly as much money! As you eloquently said, people just blame themselves instead of Weight Watchers, which is just sad.

    They do seem to focus on selling their packaged meals these days.

  9. Tom (not the fathead guy)

    You made an interesting comment about protein consumption. I don’t think it is entirely true. Maybe in the absence of high fat foods we would eat to some limit for protein. But we really don’t need protein for energy. Just enough for muscle maintenance and repair mainly.
    I eat about 80% animal fat and 20% protein with a few carbs from leafy vegetables. This adds up to about 55~60g of protein per day.
    I’m never hungry and I have plenty of lean muscle mass. 5’11” 185lb, 33″ waist at the navel. Pinch gauge says 11% BF but I don’t know accuracy.
    Probably a good study would be to include pure fat or very fatty foods in the type of study you mentioned and see what the result would be.

    I don’t believe protein is necessary as an energy source, except in the absence of carbohydrates, when it’s needed to produce glucose for the cells that require glucose. But I don’t feel strong and energetic on 60 grams per day. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but I can feel the difference when I consume something more in the area of 100-120 grams.

  10. Jan

    Yup, WW used to be a controlled carbohydrate diet. I lost a lot of weight on WW in 1990, right before they went to this absurd “points” system, and kept it off for many years. But you know the drill – my lifestyle became more sedentary as I moved from a blue-collar job that kept me on my feet all day to a white-collar job that pays much better but requires that I sit all day. I also am 47 now, instead of 27, my metabolism is about as active as a comatose slug and I’ve entered the Hell known perimenopause. Have I gained it all back, plus about 10 more? Oh, yes, indeedy.

    I’m what Grok up there terms “a biggun.”

    I’ve been flirting with a lowcarb lifestyle for a few years now, and I’ve got to tell you that when I stick with it, I feel SOOOOO much better. I have a hard time sticking with it, though. Why? Well, I could give you all sorts of excuses – I’m a foodie and love to cook and bake, my husband can’t live without his “snacks” and the one remaining child at home is the pickiest eater on the planet who would live off of pizza and pasta if I’d consent to it. I could tell you that, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t want to/can’t seem to give up the carbs.

    Until yesterday. This whole post of yours really is one of those wonderful coincidences, because I decided to join WW again, which I did this Monday. I decided that I could do it without eating any grains or potatoes (which are my biggest downfall) and very little sugar.

    Now, they have this formula that you can use to help you figure out points and all but basically a point is 50 calories. Except for meat, where as far as I can see is 1.5 points for 50 calories of very lean meats and as many as 3 for 50 calories of fatty meats (I found this out by inputting a recipe into MasterCook to find out the calories, fat and fiber counts – the only thing WW cares about) and the recipe was four points per serving (this was using a very lean pork loin and spices only). When I input the same recipe into the WW online “recipe builder” the points value was five per serving. Also, they had allotted me 30 points per day, which is 1,500 calories if you figure 50 points per serving. WRONG – I figured up a days worth of food at exactly 50 points and input it into FitDay and it was barely 1,300 calories, because of their bias against protein and fat.

    To make a long story a tiny bit shorter, by Wednesday evening I was RAVENOUS, and yesterday morning I woke up dizzy, light-headed and pretty much feeling like doo-doo. Eating a WW-approved breakfast didn’t help any at all, so I broke down and by 10 a.m. was eating hard-boiled eggs, cheese and handfuls of raw pecans (which I love). I began to feel better, so I cooked a large patty of ground chuck (20% fat) and felt even better. For dinner, I had a steak and salad with cheese and tomatoes and a good, full-fat dressing. I was pretty much back on an even keel by then – thank goodness.

    The WW site is full of BS propaganda – on their “diet myths” page, while they admit that yes, you need some fat (their idea of “some fat” is 3 teaspoons of “essential oils” a day), they also say that “Sugar doesn’t make you fat!” Considering all of the sugar and HFCS they pump into their commercial products (which I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, even doing WW, because they taste like doo-doo) that’s not surprising.

    Oh, and their “filling foods”? Are anything but.

    I guess it’s back to Protein Power for me. Let’s hope I can stay away from the grains, potatoes and sugar long enough for the cravings to go far, far away.

    Best of luck. We all wish we could remain healthy and lean without giving up anything — I’d live on Guinness and pizza if I could — but sadly, something has to go.

  11. musajen

    Ah, Weight Watchers, a diet I love to hate. I was introduced to WW when I was 11 years old (and actually, the plan wasn’t as abhorable then as it is now). In the last 10 years when I’ve tried WW I’ve been non-stop hungry. The other frustration, besides gnawing hunger, is the cultish mindset of many of its devotees who chant “points, points, points” throughout the day (there’s a few in my office, and a good friend). That constant cycle of strict adherence, then falling off the wagon, followed by self-flaggelation is not at all missed. So glad to be in low carb land.

    I wouldn’t like being a slave to those points, and having to go to bed hungry if I’d used them up … even if the plan worked.

  12. mallory

    hahahahah i literally spit my drink outta my mouth reading you opening paragraph… weight watchers is such a crock… i have seen so many people stavring on that but never losing any weight! figures- we have lots of them in mississippi…go figure they’re not working lol

    Nobody I know who’s tried it has kept the weight off, either.

  13. Chris

    My mother is a WeightWatchers success story. She lost about 30lbs three years ago and has kept it off, but to this day refuses to go outside her points. It drives me crazy. She refuses to listen to me about protein/fat intake and anytime I mention eating butter, red meat, coconut oil, etc., she goes ballistic. I’ll keep trying, but she is convince of the “fats make you fat, carbs keep you thin” myth. Oh well, at least my girlfriend has come around to the believing that low fat/high carb being healthy is a total myth and that protein and fat are good for us.

    I’m glad to hear she’s kept it off, but I wonder if she’s making it harder on herself than it needs to be.

  14. Katy

    The original WW plan had RULES. NO added sugar. NO potatoes. NO added fat. NO fried food. You HAD to eat three times per day. You were required to eat breakfast (1 protein exchange [1 egg, 1 oz. cheese, 2 oz. fish] 1 slice of bread or equivalent, 1 fruit). Lunch was 4 oz. of protein, 1 slice of bread or equivalent; dinner was 6 oz. of protein, 4 oz. of a starchier vegetable, such as peas, beets, acorn squash, or tomatoes–this was not optional. You could not save your bread for dinner. You could supplement your meals with unlimited quantities of nonstarchy vegetables. You had to eat 5 fish meals, 3 beef meals, and 1 liver meal/week. Three fruits/day, no bananas, cherries, grapes, or watermelon (considered to be too high in sugar). You had to consume 2 servings of nonfat milk/day. After a few years, the plan was modified to include 1 T./day of oil, butter, mayo, margarine, etc., so you could put a teaspoon of oil on your salad or a pat of butter on your evening veggies. My grandmother and aunt lost 50+ lbs. in 3-4 months on this plan and my grandmother said that she had a difficult time eating all of the food required. Take out the bread and add fat and it’s practically Paleo. Then the “Pasta is low-fat” crazies got into the driver’s seat. Points. Eat what YOU want. And suddenly the WW program was low fat AND high carb.

    BTW, men had to eat more protein, 6 oz. and 8 oz. for lunch/dinner, and were permitted two slices of bread at lunch. And they were allowed 5 fruits/day.

    I once estimated that with the fruit/bread/milk, the carb count was between 100-150 day.

    Now it makes sense how they build their reputation. Lots of protein and vegetables, a limit of around 150 carbs, that’s actually not a bad diet. Too bad they changed.

  15. Cynthia

    Really brilliant post! Funny yet informative!

    I think you’re right that people and animals eat to fill protein requirements. On a very low protein diet, the body will start to conserve protein more, but I doubt that would completely take away the protein hunger.

    Maybe WW should offer a “WW classic” version, like their original plan. Seems to me it would be in their best interest since they could capture more of the market (some people really like prepackaged meals).

    Good idea, but they might see it as admitting they’re wrong now.

  16. Angel

    Jan,

    I have a serious problem with carb cravings no matter whether I am eating low carb or not (but I notice them more when I am on low carb). Lierre Keith talked about this a bit in The Vegetarian Myth. She said there were 3 reasons that people crave carbs, 2 of which have to do with blood sugar and exhaustion. The third one was tryptophan – that if you are tryptophan deficient, then the only time any decent amount gets in your brain is when your insulin is up, because insulin sweeps out all competing substances and your brain can finally start making some serotonin (from the tryptophan) and feel “normal” again. This seemed like a pretty good explanation for me, because even eating something sweet without sugar would help the carb cravings for a little while (insulin levels will often go up when you eat something sweet, whether or not it had a lot of carbs).

    And here’s another website that is low-carb, real foods friendly – they have some interesting information on neurotransmitter deficiencies and carb cravings.
    http://www.nutritionaltherapy.com/Articles/TheSecretBehindCarbohydrateAddiction.htm

    (Did taking some tryptophan help me? Um, no. I’ve been taking 2-3 tablets a day (package recommends 3) for several days. I still have carb cravings – I haven’t noticed any difference. Sigh. The only thing that’s ever briefly stopped my carb cravings is eating carbs. But I wanted to mention it here because it might help others.)

    I’ve heard Julia Ross interviewed. Very interesting stuff.

  17. April

    Another thing I think people fail to remember is that Weight Watchers is also a publicly traded company, so really, they have the interest of their shareholder’s at heart, not the millions of people going to them to lose weight. That’s why they push their products so much too.

    And also, no one bothers to think that if Weight Watchers was actually successful, then they wouldn’t make nearly as much money! As you eloquently said, people just blame themselves instead of Weight Watchers, which is just sad.

    They do seem to focus on selling their packaged meals these days.

  18. meredith

    Here’s a funny Weight Watchers story.

    My friend just joined and she told me that in order to get in all of her “points” she has to cheat. So she purposefully eats junk food to stay on Weight Watchers.

    It’ll be interesting to see what kind of results she gets.

  19. Chris

    Insanely funny! If you want to really understand “the diet industry,” all you have to know is that it is the food industry. Heinz makes Weight Watchers food. Kraft makes South Beach Living food. Unilever makes (and recalls) Slim Fast. And Kellogs makes Kashi Go Lean. Nestle owns Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine. So the largest purveyors of sugar, enriched flour and HFCS are making the low fat diet food. As you learned, Tom, if the label says LEAN, HEALTHY, SLIM, LO-FAT, SUGAR FREE, SPA, or SMART do not buy it. And if you’ve already bought it, throw it out. You will never get thin eating diet food. Or as my wife likes to say, “Lean Cuisine, my fat butt.”

    Well said. I tried a bunch of those, and all they did was ramp up my appetite.

  20. Tom (not the fathead guy)

    You made an interesting comment about protein consumption. I don’t think it is entirely true. Maybe in the absence of high fat foods we would eat to some limit for protein. But we really don’t need protein for energy. Just enough for muscle maintenance and repair mainly.
    I eat about 80% animal fat and 20% protein with a few carbs from leafy vegetables. This adds up to about 55~60g of protein per day.
    I’m never hungry and I have plenty of lean muscle mass. 5’11” 185lb, 33″ waist at the navel. Pinch gauge says 11% BF but I don’t know accuracy.
    Probably a good study would be to include pure fat or very fatty foods in the type of study you mentioned and see what the result would be.

    I don’t believe protein is necessary as an energy source, except in the absence of carbohydrates, when it’s needed to produce glucose for the cells that require glucose. But I don’t feel strong and energetic on 60 grams per day. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but I can feel the difference when I consume something more in the area of 100-120 grams.

  21. Jan

    Yup, WW used to be a controlled carbohydrate diet. I lost a lot of weight on WW in 1990, right before they went to this absurd “points” system, and kept it off for many years. But you know the drill – my lifestyle became more sedentary as I moved from a blue-collar job that kept me on my feet all day to a white-collar job that pays much better but requires that I sit all day. I also am 47 now, instead of 27, my metabolism is about as active as a comatose slug and I’ve entered the Hell known perimenopause. Have I gained it all back, plus about 10 more? Oh, yes, indeedy.

    I’m what Grok up there terms “a biggun.”

    I’ve been flirting with a lowcarb lifestyle for a few years now, and I’ve got to tell you that when I stick with it, I feel SOOOOO much better. I have a hard time sticking with it, though. Why? Well, I could give you all sorts of excuses – I’m a foodie and love to cook and bake, my husband can’t live without his “snacks” and the one remaining child at home is the pickiest eater on the planet who would live off of pizza and pasta if I’d consent to it. I could tell you that, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t want to/can’t seem to give up the carbs.

    Until yesterday. This whole post of yours really is one of those wonderful coincidences, because I decided to join WW again, which I did this Monday. I decided that I could do it without eating any grains or potatoes (which are my biggest downfall) and very little sugar.

    Now, they have this formula that you can use to help you figure out points and all but basically a point is 50 calories. Except for meat, where as far as I can see is 1.5 points for 50 calories of very lean meats and as many as 3 for 50 calories of fatty meats (I found this out by inputting a recipe into MasterCook to find out the calories, fat and fiber counts – the only thing WW cares about) and the recipe was four points per serving (this was using a very lean pork loin and spices only). When I input the same recipe into the WW online “recipe builder” the points value was five per serving. Also, they had allotted me 30 points per day, which is 1,500 calories if you figure 50 points per serving. WRONG – I figured up a days worth of food at exactly 50 points and input it into FitDay and it was barely 1,300 calories, because of their bias against protein and fat.

    To make a long story a tiny bit shorter, by Wednesday evening I was RAVENOUS, and yesterday morning I woke up dizzy, light-headed and pretty much feeling like doo-doo. Eating a WW-approved breakfast didn’t help any at all, so I broke down and by 10 a.m. was eating hard-boiled eggs, cheese and handfuls of raw pecans (which I love). I began to feel better, so I cooked a large patty of ground chuck (20% fat) and felt even better. For dinner, I had a steak and salad with cheese and tomatoes and a good, full-fat dressing. I was pretty much back on an even keel by then – thank goodness.

    The WW site is full of BS propaganda – on their “diet myths” page, while they admit that yes, you need some fat (their idea of “some fat” is 3 teaspoons of “essential oils” a day), they also say that “Sugar doesn’t make you fat!” Considering all of the sugar and HFCS they pump into their commercial products (which I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, even doing WW, because they taste like doo-doo) that’s not surprising.

    Oh, and their “filling foods”? Are anything but.

    I guess it’s back to Protein Power for me. Let’s hope I can stay away from the grains, potatoes and sugar long enough for the cravings to go far, far away.

    Best of luck. We all wish we could remain healthy and lean without giving up anything — I’d live on Guinness and pizza if I could — but sadly, something has to go.

  22. Graybull

    One of your funniest…….and best lines…..

    “I’d say the best thing Weight Watchers could do is reinforce their floors.”

    Guess I have as much of a warped sense of humor as you do………lol……loud

    As I always tell people: If you lose your sense of humor, the idiots win.

  23. Katy

    The original WW plan had RULES. NO added sugar. NO potatoes. NO added fat. NO fried food. You HAD to eat three times per day. You were required to eat breakfast (1 protein exchange [1 egg, 1 oz. cheese, 2 oz. fish] 1 slice of bread or equivalent, 1 fruit). Lunch was 4 oz. of protein, 1 slice of bread or equivalent; dinner was 6 oz. of protein, 4 oz. of a starchier vegetable, such as peas, beets, acorn squash, or tomatoes–this was not optional. You could not save your bread for dinner. You could supplement your meals with unlimited quantities of nonstarchy vegetables. You had to eat 5 fish meals, 3 beef meals, and 1 liver meal/week. Three fruits/day, no bananas, cherries, grapes, or watermelon (considered to be too high in sugar). You had to consume 2 servings of nonfat milk/day. After a few years, the plan was modified to include 1 T./day of oil, butter, mayo, margarine, etc., so you could put a teaspoon of oil on your salad or a pat of butter on your evening veggies. My grandmother and aunt lost 50+ lbs. in 3-4 months on this plan and my grandmother said that she had a difficult time eating all of the food required. Take out the bread and add fat and it’s practically Paleo. Then the “Pasta is low-fat” crazies got into the driver’s seat. Points. Eat what YOU want. And suddenly the WW program was low fat AND high carb.

    BTW, men had to eat more protein, 6 oz. and 8 oz. for lunch/dinner, and were permitted two slices of bread at lunch. And they were allowed 5 fruits/day.

    I once estimated that with the fruit/bread/milk, the carb count was between 100-150 day.

    Now it makes sense how they build their reputation. Lots of protein and vegetables, a limit of around 150 carbs, that’s actually not a bad diet. Too bad they changed.

  24. Tim

    Hey, Jan, nice post up! Good luck! Try the Eade’s new “6 Week Cure”, and consider repeating weeks as needed to kick start. I think Tom has a few “6 Week Cure” posts on Fat Head Movie Blog. Then go to straight up “Protein Power” recommendations.

    Do “6 Week Cure” precisely as written up, and you’ll be far ahead of your WW classmates at that 6 week point. You’ll be shocked, so will they if you bother to go back in to WW to gloat.

  25. Cynthia

    Really brilliant post! Funny yet informative!

    I think you’re right that people and animals eat to fill protein requirements. On a very low protein diet, the body will start to conserve protein more, but I doubt that would completely take away the protein hunger.

    Maybe WW should offer a “WW classic” version, like their original plan. Seems to me it would be in their best interest since they could capture more of the market (some people really like prepackaged meals).

    Good idea, but they might see it as admitting they’re wrong now.

  26. Angel

    Jan,

    I have a serious problem with carb cravings no matter whether I am eating low carb or not (but I notice them more when I am on low carb). Lierre Keith talked about this a bit in The Vegetarian Myth. She said there were 3 reasons that people crave carbs, 2 of which have to do with blood sugar and exhaustion. The third one was tryptophan – that if you are tryptophan deficient, then the only time any decent amount gets in your brain is when your insulin is up, because insulin sweeps out all competing substances and your brain can finally start making some serotonin (from the tryptophan) and feel “normal” again. This seemed like a pretty good explanation for me, because even eating something sweet without sugar would help the carb cravings for a little while (insulin levels will often go up when you eat something sweet, whether or not it had a lot of carbs).

    And here’s another website that is low-carb, real foods friendly – they have some interesting information on neurotransmitter deficiencies and carb cravings.
    http://www.nutritionaltherapy.com/Articles/TheSecretBehindCarbohydrateAddiction.htm

    (Did taking some tryptophan help me? Um, no. I’ve been taking 2-3 tablets a day (package recommends 3) for several days. I still have carb cravings – I haven’t noticed any difference. Sigh. The only thing that’s ever briefly stopped my carb cravings is eating carbs. But I wanted to mention it here because it might help others.)

    I’ve heard Julia Ross interviewed. Very interesting stuff.

  27. meredith

    Here’s a funny Weight Watchers story.

    My friend just joined and she told me that in order to get in all of her “points” she has to cheat. So she purposefully eats junk food to stay on Weight Watchers.

    It’ll be interesting to see what kind of results she gets.

  28. Chris

    Insanely funny! If you want to really understand “the diet industry,” all you have to know is that it is the food industry. Heinz makes Weight Watchers food. Kraft makes South Beach Living food. Unilever makes (and recalls) Slim Fast. And Kellogs makes Kashi Go Lean. Nestle owns Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine. So the largest purveyors of sugar, enriched flour and HFCS are making the low fat diet food. As you learned, Tom, if the label says LEAN, HEALTHY, SLIM, LO-FAT, SUGAR FREE, SPA, or SMART do not buy it. And if you’ve already bought it, throw it out. You will never get thin eating diet food. Or as my wife likes to say, “Lean Cuisine, my fat butt.”

    Well said. I tried a bunch of those, and all they did was ramp up my appetite.

  29. Katy

    In case anyone is interested in how Weight Watchers was started (by Jean Nidetch):

    http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/ewb_21/ewb_21_07868.html

    The diet came from the New York City Department of Health Obesity Clinic.

    My grandmother had a phone run-in with the woman who is the spokesperson now, Florine Mark. Grandma had a question about dry, unsweetened cocoa; how would a person count it, or how much could a person have, etc., and FM absolutely cut her off and said she couldn’t have any, it was not permitted. Well, Grandma proclaimed her ignorant and used it anyway in a pudding made with nonfat powdered milk, sweetener, and unflavored Knox gelatin:-).

    Looks like they stared to go downhill just about the time Heinz bought them. That was also around the time the lowfat diet became all the rage, which was convenient for Heinz.

  30. Graybull

    One of your funniest…….and best lines…..

    “I’d say the best thing Weight Watchers could do is reinforce their floors.”

    Guess I have as much of a warped sense of humor as you do………lol……loud

    As I always tell people: If you lose your sense of humor, the idiots win.

  31. KD

    Re: Angel’s post — I’ve always wanted the usual paleo blogroll suspects to comment on the tryptophan/insulin theory (if someone has, I missed it!). I have not the scientific brainpower or resources to try and dissect its soundness myself. I’ve always been curious if low-carb approaches can somehow reconcile with that “a potato or high starch a night can help your depression” theory.

    I haven’t looked into that one. I don’t feel good when I eat starches, but that’s me.

  32. Katy

    In case anyone is interested in how Weight Watchers was started (by Jean Nidetch):

    http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/ewb_21/ewb_21_07868.html

    The diet came from the New York City Department of Health Obesity Clinic.

    My grandmother had a phone run-in with the woman who is the spokesperson now, Florine Mark. Grandma had a question about dry, unsweetened cocoa; how would a person count it, or how much could a person have, etc., and FM absolutely cut her off and said she couldn’t have any, it was not permitted. Well, Grandma proclaimed her ignorant and used it anyway in a pudding made with nonfat powdered milk, sweetener, and unflavored Knox gelatin:-).

    Looks like they stared to go downhill just about the time Heinz bought them. That was also around the time the lowfat diet became all the rage, which was convenient for Heinz.

  33. Jm Purdy

    “Given what Weight Watchers believes constitutes a good diet, I’m not surprised. Their entire program is based on the belief that the federal government’s nutrition guidelines are actually based on something resembling science. So Weight Watchers preaches the same guidelines: fat is bad, a bit of protein is okay, and carbohydrates are wonderful.”

    Enough said.

    The 50 Best Health Blogs

  34. KD

    Re: Angel’s post — I’ve always wanted the usual paleo blogroll suspects to comment on the tryptophan/insulin theory (if someone has, I missed it!). I have not the scientific brainpower or resources to try and dissect its soundness myself. I’ve always been curious if low-carb approaches can somehow reconcile with that “a potato or high starch a night can help your depression” theory.

    I haven’t looked into that one. I don’t feel good when I eat starches, but that’s me.

  35. Lupe, aka Ms. Sat Fat

    My mother lost over 100 pounds on Weight Watchers about 30 years ago, and it made her a life-long proponent of having a low-fat lifestyle. I’m just realizing how unhealthy a low-fat diet is, after spending all of my life stuck in that rut and not feeling well. My mom doesn’t have health problems, at least none that I am aware of, so I am having some mental trouble with my new low-carb life. I wonder if people can be one or the other?

    There are different metabolic types. Some folks can lose weight and feel fine on a low-fat diet, but I believe they’re a small minority.

  36. Rachel

    I went with my mom to weightwatchers starting at almost 11 years old – they had the “fat & fiber” plan then – all you counted were grams of fat and fiber. It was a humiliating experience, and in hindsight only made my problems worse (PCOS/hormone imbalance). I was constantly on diets – and have re-joined WW a total of 4 TIMES!!! They keep changing their plans – makes you wonder if WW really worked, then why do they do that? LOL. When you start that young, your whole life of eating is a vicious cycle – do “everything right”, not see any results and eventually “fail” and give up, gaining more weight before starting your next diet. I’ve lost almost 30 pounds in just a few months with low carb! My skin is clear, my depression is much improved, and I have energy! And PS – I don’t weigh or measure food or count calories – I just eat it.

    Here’s something I’ve heard more than once from people I know: “Well, I think I’ll join Weight Watchers again.” Again? Why, if it didn’t work the first time?

  37. Jm Purdy

    “Given what Weight Watchers believes constitutes a good diet, I’m not surprised. Their entire program is based on the belief that the federal government’s nutrition guidelines are actually based on something resembling science. So Weight Watchers preaches the same guidelines: fat is bad, a bit of protein is okay, and carbohydrates are wonderful.”

    Enough said.

    The 50 Best Health Blogs

  38. Lupe, aka Ms. Sat Fat

    My mother lost over 100 pounds on Weight Watchers about 30 years ago, and it made her a life-long proponent of having a low-fat lifestyle. I’m just realizing how unhealthy a low-fat diet is, after spending all of my life stuck in that rut and not feeling well. My mom doesn’t have health problems, at least none that I am aware of, so I am having some mental trouble with my new low-carb life. I wonder if people can be one or the other?

    There are different metabolic types. Some folks can lose weight and feel fine on a low-fat diet, but I believe they’re a small minority.

  39. Rachel

    I went with my mom to weightwatchers starting at almost 11 years old – they had the “fat & fiber” plan then – all you counted were grams of fat and fiber. It was a humiliating experience, and in hindsight only made my problems worse (PCOS/hormone imbalance). I was constantly on diets – and have re-joined WW a total of 4 TIMES!!! They keep changing their plans – makes you wonder if WW really worked, then why do they do that? LOL. When you start that young, your whole life of eating is a vicious cycle – do “everything right”, not see any results and eventually “fail” and give up, gaining more weight before starting your next diet. I’ve lost almost 30 pounds in just a few months with low carb! My skin is clear, my depression is much improved, and I have energy! And PS – I don’t weigh or measure food or count calories – I just eat it.

    Here’s something I’ve heard more than once from people I know: “Well, I think I’ll join Weight Watchers again.” Again? Why, if it didn’t work the first time?

  40. Matt

    Katy’s first comment mentioned a 6-oz meat portion for dinner. Could you imagine the vitriol that would spew forth from anyone well initiated in conventional wisdom at the mere suggestion that a meat portion be LARGER THAN YOUR PALM??? Shudder to think.

    I do know one person who has done a reasonably good job keeping the weight off with WW. Two caveats. She only lost 20 pounds, and she is still obsessed with cards and numbers, five years later. It’s really depressing – no way to live. She does mix it with some intermittent fasting now, since she finds it easier to eat 35 “points” if she only eats one or two meals/day.

    That’s why I wouldn’t do a program like Weight Watchers. I don’t want to go through life carefully limiting my points and probably going hungry much of the time. I find it easier to avoid the foods I know aren’t good for me, then just eat until I’m full.

  41. Matt

    Katy’s first comment mentioned a 6-oz meat portion for dinner. Could you imagine the vitriol that would spew forth from anyone well initiated in conventional wisdom at the mere suggestion that a meat portion be LARGER THAN YOUR PALM??? Shudder to think.

    I do know one person who has done a reasonably good job keeping the weight off with WW. Two caveats. She only lost 20 pounds, and she is still obsessed with cards and numbers, five years later. It’s really depressing – no way to live. She does mix it with some intermittent fasting now, since she finds it easier to eat 35 “points” if she only eats one or two meals/day.

    That’s why I wouldn’t do a program like Weight Watchers. I don’t want to go through life carefully limiting my points and probably going hungry much of the time. I find it easier to avoid the foods I know aren’t good for me, then just eat until I’m full.

  42. Jim

    Glad to see your mention of the article by Dr Doug McGuff, Tom. Just stumbled upon him recently via an interview by Jimmy Moore. His strength training methods are really helping me become more physically fit, which neatly complements low carb paleo helping me become nutritionally fit.

    Now if I could just figure out a way for C***s Light to fit into all that, I’d be good to go.

    Yeah, it’s hard to justify beer as a paleo drink.

  43. Eileen

    Too bad there’s no “share on Facebook” link for your post. Many of my coworkers (most all of them on Facebook) do Weight Watchers. And they are all fat. And starving.

  44. Eileen

    Oops – just saw the link off to the side. Off to “share”.

    I forgot it was there myself.

  45. William

    Hey Tom, do you have a list or know a site that has a list of foods rich in protein? My friend and I have been running and working out together and I have been doing ok losing weight but he wants to quit losing weight and start gaining muscle. He has restricted his diet to cut sugars and calories but I would like to convince him there is a better way.

    I’m not aware of any sites specifically dedicated to protein, although there are many with overall nutrition information. Has you friend considered adding whey protein shakes to his diet?

  46. Jim

    Glad to see your mention of the article by Dr Doug McGuff, Tom. Just stumbled upon him recently via an interview by Jimmy Moore. His strength training methods are really helping me become more physically fit, which neatly complements low carb paleo helping me become nutritionally fit.

    Now if I could just figure out a way for C***s Light to fit into all that, I’d be good to go.

    Yeah, it’s hard to justify beer as a paleo drink.

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