Living a healthy life is incredibly important, especially to me. I have always loved working out and staying fit, from when I was younger and wanted to eat pasta seven times per week to now when I actually keep track of my daily calories, grams of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Eating less processed food, staying away from sodas and sugary drinks, and going to the gym five to six times per week have definitely helped me to be as healthy as I possibly can. And, yet, it is still fairly difficult to lose weight.
Hence, when my mother recommended going to a Weight Watchers meeting last Saturday morning, I didn’t object. My mom has had her own challenges with weight loss and healthy living throughout my life and before. After she gave birth to me 22 years ago, she used Weight Watchers and breastfeeding (true) to lose more than 50 pounds. But, with stress from work and keeping a household running like the HBIC she is, the weight hasn’t stayed off, and it’s even more difficult now to come off.
What with her previous successes and stellar advertising campaigns by the company, however, we were both fairly enthusiastic in coming into this Weight Watchers meeting.
Weight Watchers has been helping women and men lose weight since its inception in 1963, when homemaker Jean Nidetch set up shop in Brooklyn, NY. Now, the company operates in about 30 countries, and aids its members to lose approximately 2.6 percent more weight in a 12-month span than other systems. From its core, Weight Watchers aims to assist members in losing weight in a way that does not put limitations on food. You can eat that slice of chocolate cake, yes, but you have to remember to track how many “points” that cake is worth in your daily value. The PointsPlus program, which was established in the U.S. in 2010, focuses on giving the Weight Watchers member a 1,000 calorie deficit every day of the week. If you were to cut out 1,000 calories a day for a week, you would be able to lose up to two pounds a week, even if you are still eating your favorite foods in moderation. That is primarily why the program is so popular: you’re not depriving yourself, just learning to keep your intakes to a little bit lower than previously.
So, did I fall head over heels for their platform during the half an hour meeting? Not exactly.
Meeting for half an hour a week may or may not do much for your weight loss.
In college, you typically have class meetings two to three times per week, from one-and-a-half to three hours per meeting. Now think about if you were to have a class that only met once a week, for half an hour, but still had to pay a similar price. You’re probably not learning as much, right? And you’re probably not as happy with how little time you have to learn this new subject, right?
That’s how I felt coming to this meeting. Yes, I wanted to come in with an open mind, but it just seemed like too little time for massive life changes. You need to be focused on eating healthy foods and exercising every day—if you’re truly committed to change, then this half an hour meeting could be a propellant and help you out a bit more. However, if you’re not up for the near constant attention you have to pay for your health, going to these meetings may feel more just like a crutch.
The group is big, which can be either good or bad.
Weight Watchers encourages you to go to the same meeting every week so that you can bond with your fellow attendees, as well as get weighed only once per week. At our meeting, there were nearly 30 people there: some laughed with friends, a lot sat near the bag mumbling to themselves, and we sat silent. It was hard to get a question in, or even meet anyone new, since you’re, really, being lectured at by the Weight Watchers coach. Those attendees that yell out answers to the coach’s questions obviously do that every week, which made me feel even worse for the other attendees who may also have questions, but don’t like speaking out loud in a group setting, or felt that they were interfering with the coach’s lecture. The lecture took up, I believe, 28 minutes of the 30 scheduled for the meeting—how exactly are everyone’s questions supposed to be answered?
You’re not really tracking calories, which isn’t good.
Sure, we’ve learned over the years that tracking calories isn’t all you should be doing to lose weight, and that finding a specific caloric goal via the Internet—say, 1200 calories per day—doesn’t factor in a lot of what you do. That’s probably why the Weight Watchers’ Points system works so well: you’re not counting calories, so you can’t be unhealthy, right?
Ehhh, not so much. With the Points system, you’re not taking into account how many grams of fat, grams of sugar, or grams of carbohydrates you normally digest; you are, instead, looking up in a little book or online how many points a certain item has. You’re given about 26 points to use per day—yet, fruits and vegetables, which do have up to 130 calories depending on the size and type, don’t have points. Isn’t that a bit detrimental to your overall health? You could end up having an insulin spike if you choose to eat lots and lots of fruit, because there are no points associated with them.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat fruits and vegetables—c’mon, don’t be daft—but you should consider them into your daily allowance as such, not as a ghost of a point.
I didn’t feel like I really learned anything.
This won’t be true for everyone who attends Weight Watchers’ meetings, and I applaud those who choose to attend them to better their lives. However, I don’t think paying a set amount each month to learn facts that you can easily find online is the best use of your money.
In this meeting, we talked about “good” and “bad” proteins. As you may know, if you want to lose weight, you should be ingesting half of your body weight in grams of protein per day (i.e., you weight 150 pounds, eat 75 grams of protein). Most people in the meeting didn’t seem to understand this, so that’s awesome that they learned it. Then, we talked about what foods have good amounts of protein and what proteins are more full of fat. Again, if you’re questioning why bacon isn’t a good protein, please, do a Google search.
As we continued through the list, I realized there weren’t many proteins that the coach offered for a vegetarian like myself, someone with celiac disease, or someone with a dairy allergy. Instead, there was a large focus on buying the protein shakes and snacks that were so conveniently located at the front of the office. I’m not one for someone to try to push stuff down my throat to sell, so I kind of just rolled my eyes at the no-less-than five times that the coach tried to sell us their products.
And, like that, in what felt like no time and no improved knowledge at all, the meeting was over.
Yes, this may be a very negative view of a franchise that has helped so many, I won’t argue against it. I also don’t want to belittle anyone who chooses to use Weight Watchers. Whatever you feel is good to help your health is awesome, so go do it!
However, I for one will not be coming back. It was fun to check out, and I’ll always love the Weight Watchers cherry gummies, but, other than that, I’m content with Google and nutritionists.