Weight Watchers SmartPoints System
By WLR's Food Information Executive, Laurence Beeken
WeightWatchers have changed their ProPoint system to SmartPoint and have launched WW Flex to promote exercise to their members. Until now, it's all been about the food. Now they are offering an holistic approach.
Weight Watchers claim that the SmartPoints plan helps you lose weight in a regulated way. By keeping within the smart points budget each week, Weight Watchers members are able to eat favourite foods, eat out, cook from scratch or grab a snack.
What the values will do is guide your portion sizes and your choices so that you know the impact of each food on your daily and weekly allowance.
You get a WeightWatchers SmartPoints allowance for the week, consisting of a daily quota to ensure that you’re eating sufficient basic calories, plus a top up ‘safety net’ which can be used as and when you like over the week. These extra Weight Watchers points can be saved up for a special occasion or used for an unplanned night out.
Snacks are planned in too as all fresh and frozen fruit has a ProPoints value of zero.
One of the main problems with the old points formula was that it didn’t take into account the amount of other nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate and fibre in your diet.
Weight Watchers say that research shows protein is an important element as it takes more energy to digest and therefore is a better choice in your meals. In addition to fibre, protein makes you feel fuller for longer.
Weight Watchers have had a similar spin on some of the earlier points systems, so critics may see this new approach as a way to attract new markets, provide renewed interest and head off any attempts to duplicate the older points system.
The new formula for calculating SmartPoints is a closely guarded secret, and as such, members of the Weight Watchers points system do not know why a certain food has the value allocated to it.
In addition there is of course the issue that all of the Weight Watchers' books, calculators and scales sold in the past are instantly obsolete and need to be replaced; BBC Watchdog reported on their refusal to refund people who had just brought the old style equipment.
- It has simplified the calorie counting process for some, and has made it less strict by introducing the ‘safety net’. Alcohol and treats are now allowed.
- Healthier foods such as sweet potatoes and wholemeal pasta have reduced in points, meaning you can eat more.
- Like many other plans, you are encouraged to burn more calories than you eat, which has got to be a good thing.
- Carb points for pasta and jacket potatoes have increased meaning that you eat less of them – you are almost restricted on what you can and can’t eat, so you may find that your favourite foods are not allowed or reduced to a lower quantity.
- You have to join Weight Watchers to take advantage of the system; you can’t just apply it to your current regime. The point system remains specific to Weight Watchers.
- It takes the thinking out of losing weight and as a result does not re-educate people about diet and healthy choices.
- The SmartPoints system is ‘non transferrable’ outside of weightwatchers.
- By offering an option to save points and splurge at the weekend, WW are not educating people. Many members will scrimp on their daily allowance, promoting the body to hang on to fat as it enters ‘starvation mode’ so that they can splurge at the weekend, promoting fat storage when the body thinks ‘wahay I’ve been fed, I’d better hang onto it’
- There are concerns that the change to more protein and less carbs makes the plan faddy and weight loss may be unsustainable in the long run.
- Fruit contains calories, if you are constantly snacking on them thinking they are zero points, you will gain weight.
- Initial members response on the WW website has neither found in favour of nor against. Like any other diet which restricts calories, it will work if you are strict and log everything, but fail if you think of it as a quick fix and learn nothing about lifestyle change.
- WW seem to have borrowed ideas from other ‘diet’ plans to beef up their system, and the emphasis on protein appears to be a little bit of the theory behind the Atkins diet.
We know that to lose weight you need to take in fewer calories than your body requires to take you through the day.
Fortunately for WLR members this approach is nothing new and for those of you that enter your food diaries regularly you will see your own results speak for themselves.
The Weight Watchers SmartPoints system is showing signs of a faddy diet, not helped by the degree of secrecy.
On the plus side, if you can afford the membership, then this may be the kick start that you need to regain motivation and get your weight loss back on track, but as for a long term plan to keep you on track, the jury, especially amongst current Weight Watchers’ members, is definitely out.
If you're not sure what diet programme is going to be best for you - try the tools in WLR free, for 24 hours, to help you find out what your real needs are and what dieting method could work well for you. Start the free trial.