Both Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are based around cutting calories, and while that’s my general goal in week three, I didn’t want to copy either plan all-out. If you are interested in learning about either, I did find a nice article comparing the two.

My mother was on Jenny Craig for a few years (we’ll see if I can convince her to guest blog!) but for now, I asked my friend Megan to write something up about her experiences with Weight Watchers. She has an amazing blog that details her exploits in the running world (she’s about to run her second half-marathon this spring!)

Megan and I hanging out before her half-marathon in November

If you have any questions about WW, feel free to comment here or contact Megan directly through her blog.

I joined Weight Watchers last January. January 1, actually. I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that means my thyroid will eventually die, a year prior (for more on this, see this post at my blog) and had started exercising. Working out alone, I knew, wasn’t enough to drop the pounds. I had to get my diet under control. I had previous experience (and success!) with Weight Watchers, so I decided to sign back up with them.
I weighed 190 pounds at that time. I’m 5’8″, so that gave me a BMI of 28.9. That’s not obese, but it’s close, according to BMI standards. More worryingly, I clocked in at 36% body fat, which is obese. I was uncomfortable and unhappy, and my clothes didn’t fit right anymore, which made it even worse.
Weight Watchers immediately set me at ease. There are lots of different sizes of people (mostly women, but a few men). The leader at my first meeting was funny and smart, and I liked him a lot. I signed up for the meetings and online e-tools, knowing from my prior experience that the online tracker was key, but also knowing that it alone wouldn’t be sufficient to keep me on track. I had to go to the meetings.
At first, I had a pretty easy time with it. Everyone is assigned a number of points for the day, with a certain number of additional weekly points for indulgences. Exercise can be traded for points,
which is good when you’re running long distances! All food is assigned a points value based on macro nutrients – formerly fat, calories and fiber. Under the new plan, it’s carbohydrates, fat, fiber, and protein that are computed to find a PointsPlus value.
The points allowances (note: this is before they switched over to the PointsPlus formula, which is something I’ll address later in the post) were generous enough that I never felt deprived. The goal is to lose weight, yes, but to keep it off. Not to eat weird food until you hit goal weight, not to leave out whole food groups. Just eating real food and increasing my exercise.
Things I like about the plan:
  • I never felt hungry, but it did take a fair amount of planning to make sure that what I was eating was filling, nutritious and sustainable.
  • The focus on exercise, which is much greater now than it was when I used Weight Watchers before.
  • The emphasis on discussing WW as a tool, not as an end-all-be-all system. There was no discussion of failure if we weren’t on WW, just pointing out that it’s been helpful to others and works for many.
  • The emphasis on learning portions. I often just ate without thinking about HOW MUCH I’m eating, but now I always try to think about sizes and what’s appropriate for my hunger and nutrition levels. I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it.
  • Nothing is off-limits. Nothing. Cupcakes? Sure. Just factor it in.
  • If you eat too much one day, tomorrow the numbers reset. It’s a pretty amazing mind-set in the diet world, really.
Things I didn’t care for on the plan:
  • Portionsizes are rather too small for building muscle, particularly protein.
  • Processed foods that were low-calorie are treated as equal value with whole foods. This is different with the new PointsPlus plan, to some extent: Fruit is now zero, so it’s easier to make a more nutritious choice: An apple over say, a piece of candy. Both could have had the same points value, but obviously didn’t have similar nutritional value.
  • Tracking is a pain, though SimplyFilling/PowerFoods/whatever they’re calling it now is a good alternative. That’s a more restrictive diet where you don’t have to track, because everything you’re ‘allowed’ to eat is nutritious, filling food. Points apply to things you eat that don’t fit with that plan.
I lost 20 pounds fairly quickly – by March, I was down to 170 pounds. That’s when I started training for a half-marathon (a post on that coming soon!) and my eating has changed again. I’m maintaining, though, and still keeping track of what I eat, though not as religiously as I was when I started. The PointsPlus program has thrown me for a bit of a loop, and I’m debating switching over to SimplyFilling to see if that works any better for me.
I know Megan has been a true inspiration for me this month–and not just because she’s done so well losing weight without letting dieting take over her life! When the two of us decided last spring to run a half-marathon (which I chickened out of half way through training) she not only completed it, but managed to qualify for the National Half-marathon in DC this March. Go Megan–I hope the training is going well (and I promise to run with you at least once before the month is over!)