My Experience After 3 Weeks on WW (Formerly WeightWatchers): 4 Things I Like & 3 I Don’t About PersonalPoints

After having my second baby last June, like many women, I waited a few months, and then got ultra-serious about weight loss. While I lost my baby weight quickly, I still admittedly haven’t weighed what I like to weigh – about 115-120 pounds on my 5’4”, small-boned frame – for about ten years, so I thought now was the time.

So when a friend of mine suggested WW, I was intrigued. Yes, the program provides meal plans as a guide, but most people utilize the program by eating whatever they want and counting WW Points in the WW App. You get a certain number of WW Points for your age, height, weight, activity level, and biological gender, but you can also add on points for additional activity, vegetable servings, and water consumption (64 ounces = 1 point). You’re also given a certain number of WW Points as “Weeklies,” so if you go over – whether a little bit every day or one big “cheat” meal a week – you’re covered.

After three weeks on the program, I’ve lost 4 pounds. Not bad, especially considering I haven’t weighed this little in the past three years, despite religious calorie-counting and working out. There are both pros and cons of the WW program, which I’ll go into below:

Pro #1: The Flexibility Can’t Be Beat

I’ve been on every diet out there, from NutriSystem to the Beauty Detox (vegan) diet, from Slim Fast two meals a day to having 1:1 consultations with a dietitian. The issue for me is usually that my life is ultra-busy, like many people’s are. I’m a married mom of two, running a full-time marketing agency with 20-30 team members, and my dad and mom are both in their late 70’s and require care and attention.

Some days, I’m able to eat only the designated pre-packaged food, or meal prep with lots of vegetables and tofu. But on other days, I’m rushing from one meeting to another, I’m required to have lunch or dinner out with a client, or I’m traveling. And when that’s the case, a lot of programs that require eating certain foods (like NutriSystem or Jenny Craig), or which require only eating certain food groups (like vegan diets) are just too strict for me, and just don’t work for me.

With WW, there are days I’m able to eat amazingly well, with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. On those days, I feel like I’m killing it. But, unlike on other programs, there are also days I realize I have a business meeting right after a preschool drop-off and I’m flying out the door, only to grab McDonald’s or Bruegger’s on the way back. And what I’ve found on those days is I can still make it work – just eat half, or eat low- or Zero  PersonalPoints foods after – and on those days, somehow, I still am killing it. 

That’s really the big difference for me.

Pro #2: Points are Easier to Count Than Macros, But Just as Effective

I’ll admit, the reason I gained only the recommended 25 pounds with each pregnancy (and lost it quickly) was because I calorie-counted.

But here’s the thing: My choices with calorie counting alone aren’t the healthiest, which is why I weigh a good 15-20 pounds more than I’d like. If I see on MyFitnessPal that I have 200 calories left to eat, I tend to look at it like, welllllll, I can have a 200-calorie pack of M&Ms or 200 calories from two oranges and an apple. And I would nearly always choose the M&Ms.

When I saw a dietitian, she tried to convince me to count macros, and include not only calories, but also fat and carbohydrates in my considerations when deciding what to eat. Unfortunately, this was just too much for me. I’ve been an avid calorie-counter for years, and while I know the approximate calories in everything I eat regularly, I have absolutely no idea about fat or carbs.

And that’s one of the beautiful things about the WW Points system: It automatically includes considerations not only of calories, but also fat, carbohydrates, and sugar. For instance, alluding to the above example, a 200-calorie pack of M&Ms is about 8 points, whereas 200 calories of fresh fruit in the form of two oranges and an apple is 0 points (yes, zero) for me as a non-diabetic WW user. So, yeah, it gets me, an avid calorie counter, to eat the damn fruit.

So, essentially, I’m counting macros including calories, saturated fat, sugar, protein, fiber, and unsaturated fat, but it comes down to one easy-to-tabulate PersonalPoints number per serving, not six different numbers I need to track for everything. And so much more effective than calorie counting alone!

Pro #3: PersonalPoints Train You to Make Healthier Choices… But You Don’t Have To

Before 2020, WW used a program called SmartPoints, but now they’ve switched to a PersonalPoints algorithm in 2021:

  • SmartPoints were calculated using calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein.
  • PersonalPoints are calculated using calories, saturated fat, sugar, protein, AND fiber AND unsaturated fats.
PersonalPoints cookbook for weight loss

The big difference between these programs isn’t in, say, choosing a Big Mac versus grilled fish for dinner. (!) That was always a big gap in points. The difference between the old program and the new program is subtle, where a serving of whole wheat pasta is now 3 points, versus white pasta, which is 4 points. Or regular applesauce is 1 point for a ½ cup, whereas sugar-free applesauce is zero points. Like I said, subtle, where you can still pick and choose your indulgences, but you’re gently swayed against full-fat dairy, products with added sugar, and white processed food products that are stripped of their nutrients and fiber. And for someone like me who was raised on white pasta, it may be a while before I decide it’s worth it… but that’s OK, unlike on some other plans, and I’m still losing weight.

WW aids in weight loss with personalization.

Pro #4: It’s Customized for the Foods You Like

At the start of the new WW program, you’ll be given a quiz, where you’re asked:

  • What types of foods you like to eat
  • Your eating patterns
  • Your activity level

WW uses your answers to give you a personalized list of ZeroPoint foods along with a daily and weekly PersonalPoints budget. These foods may include:

  • non-starchy vegetables (the only group that will be ZeroPoints for all members)
  • fruits (ZeroPoints for all members except diabetics)
  • avocado
  • fish and shellfish
  • chicken and turkey breast
  • tofu and tempeh
  • eggs
  • plain, nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese
  • oatmeal
  • potatoes
  • corn
  • beans, peas, and lentils
  • whole-wheat pasta
  • brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains

The best part is, you can retake the quiz, in case the foods you are assigned as “ZeroPoint Foods” don’t truly match your preferences. For instance, when I first took the quiz, I was assigned corn and avocados. I mean, these are fine, but I only tend to eat corn or avocados when I eat Mexican food, which is maybe once a week. So when I heard eggs and potatoes were potential ZeroPoint foods, I retook the quiz until I was matched with eggs and potatoes.

To retake the quiz:

  1. Go to Profile
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Go to Food Settings
  4. Select “Food Plan” and re-answer the questions

Con #1: For Best Results, You Probably Need to Make Time for Additional Grocery Shopping, Cooking, and Meal Prep

If you would’ve asked me if I had an extra hour or two a week for grocery shopping, cooking, and meal prep when I started WW, I would’ve said no.

But when you get into situations where you realize a Bruegger’s Bagel is about 10 points, on average, depending on the flavor, and you can make a (small) WW Two-Ingredient Bagel for 2 points… well, when you also consider you get about 20-30 points a day, all of a sudden, I’m freaking Martha Stewart and I’m in the kitchen, making six 2-point bagels a week. (!)

WW product that aids in weight loss

And it’s like that with a lot of other foods as well. Instead of snacking on That’s It Fruit Bars for 2 points each, I find I’m spending a lot of time buying, washing, and cutting fresh fruit for 0 points. I realize now this is a part of the program, but I didn’t realize this going into it.

Some would say this is a positive, because it’s forcing “self-care” in this arena of my life, and that’s true. But it’s also a little annoying, because I didn’t anticipate it going into it, and I’ve found it to be necessary to stay within my daily/weekly PersonalPoints. So, it’s a negative for me, even though everyone might not see it this way.

ZeroPoints foods can be misleading for weight loss.

Con #2: The ZeroPoints Foods Can Be Misleading

I remember one time, years ago, I was watching an episode of Oprah, and an overweight gentleman was saying he ate a 700-calorie fruit salad every day.

The medical expert there — I think it was Bob Greene — was a little taken aback, and instructed that “anything, when taken to extremes, is too much.”

The issue is, if you’re on a program like WW, you might need or want guidance.

I’m fairly Type A, so I started tracking ZeroPoint Foods on MyFitnessPal. It seems like I’m normally eating about 200 calories in ZeroPoint foods and about 1500 calories a day overall — but there have been a few days I’ve loaded on the ZeroPoint foods and they’ve been 400 calories or more. I wish that they made it so there were reasonable limitations on the ZeroPoint foods. I don’t honestly like the idea that I could halt or slow weight loss by eating hundreds or even thousands of calories in ZeroPoint foods, technically abiding by the program. Some say, “Oh, use common sense,” but let’s get real, if I knew how to weigh my goal weight on my own, I wouldn’t be here in the first place.

Con #3: I Think It Would Be Better to Let Users Directly Choose Their 2-3 “ZeroPoint” Foods, Rather than Having to Take the Quiz

On top of vegetables (ZeroPoints for everyone) and fruits (ZeroPoints for everyone except diabetics), you get 2-4 ZeroPoints foods, which may include any of the following:

  • avocado 
  • fish and shellfish
  • chicken and turkey breast
  • tofu and tempeh
  • eggs
  • plain, nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese
  • oatmeal
  • potatoes
  • corn
  • beans, peas, and lentils
  • whole-wheat pasta
  • brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains

But rather than having to take a quiz to be “assigned” your 2-4 ZeroPoint foods, I wish you were allowed to choose them daily or weekly. After all, some people in the WW Community admit they take and re-take the quiz until they get the desired result on any given day – say, getting corn and avocado as your free foods on the day you are going to a Mexican restaurant, or getting brown rice and tofu on a night you might be getting Thai. It’s perfectly legit to change your ZeroPoint foods using the quiz – I just wish you didn’t have to use the quiz to change them!

I recommend WW for weight loss to those who need flexibility, would benefits from counting macros, or want to make healthier choices.

Bottom Line

Overall, my assessment of WW is positive. I’ve lost 4 pounds in 3 weeks (dropping to my lowest weight in 3 years, after two kids…). I’m excited to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight! I recommend it to anyone who wants to lose weight but fits these three criteria:

  1. Needs some degree of flexibility. Sure, some days, I’m able to eat only the designated pre-packaged food that a Sakara Life or NutriSystem type program might require. But on other days, I’m rushing from one meeting to another, or I’m required to have a last-minute lunch or dinner out with a client. And when that’s the case, a lot of programs that require eating certain foods are just too strict for me.
  2. Would benefit from counting macros (including calories, fat, fiber, protein, and sugar) but doesn’t want to for one reason or another. For years, I was an avid calorie counter, but it wasn’t until I started using WW that I started making choices with lower fat, lower sugar, and more fiber and protein. Some would say, oh, that’s common sense, but you know what? I couldn’t seem to make all of these differentiations and calculations for myself. Some days, a 300 calorie bagel with cream cheese was preferable to a 300 calorie omelet. But WW helped me see, the bagel was 17 points and the omelet was 9 points, and with only 24 points to eat for the day, it forced me to think about what I was eating from a more complete perspective than just calories, even if it was a gamified way of doing so.
  3. Would benefit from healthier choices (think less processed food, substituting low-sugar items for regular items, choosing brown rice over white rice or whole-wheat pasta over white pasta, etc.). WW trains you to maximize your points by making these types of changes to stretch out your points.

If I could make any changes to the current WW PersonalPoints program, I would recommend two things:

  1. Stop making ZeroPoint foods unlimited, except for maybe vegetables. Because I’m sort-of Type A, I started tracking ZeroPoint Foods on MyFitnessPal. It seems like I’m normally eating about 200 calories in ZeroPoint foods and about 1500 calories a day overall — but there have been a few days I’ve loaded on the ZeroPoint foods and they’ve been 400 calories or more. I would love it if there were limits to each food – say, one potato is a ZeroPoint food, but three turns into 3 points or something – so that there are clear boundaries. (I personally love freedom within a boundary.)
  2. Allow you to choose your 2-4 additional ZeroPoint foods. Rather than having to take a quiz to be “assigned” your 2-4 ZeroPoint foods, I wish you were allowed to choose them daily or weekly. It’s perfectly legit to retake the quiz daily or weekly and be “reassigned” different ZeroPoint foods, so why not trust members enough to just choose them on any given day?!

That said, the WW program may know more than I do. After years of being stuck at a certain weight, I’ve lost 4 pounds in 3 weeks. I’ll keep you updated!

1 Comment. Leave new

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    May 13, 2022 4:56 pm

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