Calories and Weight Watchers.

What I've never understand about the Weight Watchers program (in any version, and I've done them all) is that it does not count calories. Anyone who has ever dieted has memorized the "calories in/calories out" mantra, but here's a hugely popular and successful program that completely ignores the calorie count of food. How can that even work?

[For anyone who has not tried or read about WW, the current system counts fat, carbs, fiber, and protein, and assigns a point value to the serving of food. You're given a set number of points to use per day, with additional ones for activity minutes, and a bonus bank for the week. Stay within your points, and you'll lose weight.]

So I tried an experiment. For about a week, I tracked my food on WW and on sparkpeople (dot) com -- an awesome FREE site that I highly recommend. I entered the same foods, the same quantities in order to see what, if any, correlation there might be.

WW gives 26 points a day. Sparkpeople recommends about 1200-1500 calories a day for my goals, and also tracks fat, protein, and carbs based on the food entered.

Without exception, if I stayed within my WW points, the calorie count for the day was within or below the range. If it was a day I used my points stupidly (say, for cake or wine), I'd be at the top end of the calorie range, but did not go over. On WW, fruits and veggies are basically "free" -- Sparkpeople would record the calories, but even then, the range was wide enough to cover all of that.

I'm not sure if this is a scientific experiment, but it did convince me that at least to start this journey, I would use WW as a base. It's not for everyone, and I think it is important to know calorie values. But it satisfied my curiousity about how a program can ignore THE measurement that's common to any eating plan, and still work.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I agree that it's interesting. I never doubt that WW works, but I am learning that it definitely depends on the person and how they learn.

  3. I'm glad you did that test!!! Now I know it works (even w/out counting calories!!).

  4. Wired ran an interview with the president of WW, and he said that they recently overhauled the point system because, to put it simply, all calories are not created equal. Depending on the food the calorie comes from, the body processes it differently.

    For example, 100 calories from brown rice takes up nearly as many calories to process because the body has to break down the complex carbs. It also has lots of fiber and carbs to make you feel full & satisfied. On the other hand, 100 calories from Oreos contain no fiber and the body doesn't have to do very much to process the simple sugars and fat. Certain other foods, like dairy, even slow down the metabolism.

    I thought it was an interesting article because it really mirrored what I'd read last year in two books by Dr. Neal Barnard. Basically, he says, if you want to lose weight, stick to whole grains, legumes, vegs, and fruit. Even potatoes are fine if you don't load them up with cheese & sour cream.

    Anyway, good for you for sticking to it!

  5. Hey, Julie! That actually makes more sense. I knew when they went to the new point system they did it in part so that fruits and vegs would be "free" - in the past, fruit would cost you points because of the natural sugar. People would choose the Oreos over the banana because it would actually be the same or fewer points! How can that make any logical sense at all?


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