Helpful or Harmful Diet Review: Weight Watchers

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on April 5th, 2012)

Given last week’s topic of Cravings, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the different diets out there so over the next couple of weeks we’re going to breakdown some of the more popular diets to see why they are the way they are and list their strengths and weaknesses. This week we are going to examine a very popular weight loss system. Weight Watchers!

Weight Watchers is a simple system of counting calories. In fact, they have done all the hard work for you and given a point system for almost every food in the world. This is an amazing accomplishment and the recipes they provide their customers are great.

I have two major problems with the system though, both of which centre around the points system. The first is that the points only take calories into account, not the quality of the food. The second is that it makes the diet too simple. That may sound backwards but hear me out.

If you have been following my blog for a while you will know how important food quality is to our health. Weight Watchers is only concerned with the caloric content of the food. So while following their suggestions to the letter it is still possible to be completely missing important nutrients for optimal health. A healthy diet should be balanced and diverse but there is nothing in the point system, other than our own taste buds to stop us from eating the same thing every day to get a low point value but little actual nutrition.

Now back to that second problem. A diet should be a lifestyle change not just a temporary means to weight loss. It should be a healthy pattern that we understand and can explain and rationalize. This is actually my main reason for running this blog. So that everyone can understand their health. Weight Watchers does not explain WHY people should eat and live the way they say to. They offer results but to reasoning. This makes it extremely hard for someone who has reached their goal to keep up the habits they should have been forming with program. They will most likely return to their previous eating habits and regain that weight they just lost. In Weight Watcher’s defence they do recommend maintaining their diet after our goal is reached.

As we discussed last week, understanding is a key factor in making decisions about our health. The Weight Watchers program essentially says,”Here is a point system. You want the lowest score. Here’s what you should aim for.” Then they send you on your way. They provide you with all kinds of resources on how to calculate the points of a meal or food that is not in their system and how to prepare a low point meal but don’t tell you why.

What I really like about Weight Watchers is that all vegetables are 0 points. This encourages us to use vegetables as snacks and filler in meals but once again fails to explain why this is a good idea. There is no emphasis of nutrient dense vegetables over foods that as basically just water like celery and cucumber. So it’s a good start driving people towards more veggies but it definitely does not go far enough.

The best thing about Weight Watchers is their encouragement of their customers. They have a great support network through their website and many resources so that ideas are never in short supply. Their recipes are great and provide easy ways for people who are not comfortable in the kitchen to create tasty meals.

My overall recommendation for Weight Watchers is that it is a good tool for specific, temporary, weight-loss goals but there are much better ways to have a healthy diet. It does not go far enough to imprint healthy eating habits and ignores important areas of nutrition.

Come back next week and we’ll review another diet. Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

Weight Watchers

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