|What's been going on with Weight Watchers
||[Feb. 13th, 2016|02:02 pm]
I guess I'll cut tag this, because a lot of people Just Don't Want To Hear About It, about weight loss. But I'm hoping that what I'm going to be saying won't be as problematic as one might think. I hope.|
Three months ago, Weight Watchers was based on the best nutritional science of 1963. Oh, in the fifty-some years since, they've made some tweaks here and there, but the basic concepts have been pretty stable. You get a certain number of points per day, depending on your weight and sex. A "point" is forty calories. And there you go.
It was based on the idea that if energy consumed is greater than energy expended, your body stores the excess as fat, and you gain fat, and if energy consumed is less than energy expended, your body uses the energy stored as fat, and you lose fat.
And in defense of this idea, it's not, y'know, completely wrong, exactly.
But, yeah. That was what we knew fifty years ago. And, up until December of last year, that's what Weight Watchers worked on.
During the first week of December, Weight Watchers jumped forward a half-century. And they're still tweaking things, but they're tweaking things based on what we NOW know about nutrition.
Superficially, much of it is the same. You've got a number of points per day, and different foods "cost" different numbers of points, and you budget your food. You can still eat whatever you want, but you have to plan it out a lot more.
And, well... forty calories per point? No. Not so much any more. Now, you look at the food in terms of its complex carbohydrates, sugar, unsaturated fat, saturated fat, and protein.
It's not looking at the CALORIES in your food any more. It's looking at WHAT you eat.
Oh, sure, in a sense, "what you eat" includes "how much you eat", and overeating and undereating do have effects on your health, but different things have effects.
I calculated it out. "Normal" fats, and "normal" carbohydrates are about 33 calories per point. Saturated fats and sugar are about 16 calories per point.
And protein? Protein is 200 calories per point.
These calculations are still simplistic, of course. There are different kinds of saturated fats, for instance. The saturated fat in coconut oil is healthier than the saturated fat in lard, and the Weight Watchers calculations won't pick this up. Agave nectar is probably somewhat healthier than refined white table sugar, and Weight Watchers treats them exactly the same.
So, yeah. It's simplified, and misses nuances. Because it's got to be simple enough for people to actually be able to use. And I think it's got a good balance of being simple enough to use and actually matching reality.
So, that's the first part, the nutrition part. But Weight Watchers is now ALSO working on physical activity. Besides tracking your nutrition, tracking your activity is now also part of the plan. Getting a FitBit or other fitness monitor isn't strictly necessary -- but it sure helps.
It's still POSSIBLE to use the Weight Watchers system with pencil and paper. But it's not easy. In order to use the current Weight Watchers system, you really want a smartphone, web browser, and a Fitbit or Jawbone or whatever. Your daily activity, as tracked by your fitness device gives you FitPoints. When you deliberately work out, you manually add in your workout as well for more FitPoints. And then, after you get a reasonable number of FitPoints, what you can eat per day goes up.
A person who's training for a marathon ought to be eating more than a person who's mostly sedentary -- and Weight Watchers didn't always acknowledge that particularly well.
And the third thing?
This isn't tracked as much as the first two, and they haven't REALLY nailed down good ways to completely incorporate it -- it's a lot easier to track what you eat and how you move than your emotions. But it's something we talk about a lot, and it's important. I wouldn't be surprised if, as things go forward, they work out ways to track happiness and satisfaction, and try to work out ways to create measurable goals for THAT, too.
And there's a lot of support for building a community, as well. So social health is also a part of what they're working on.
I've heard that some commercials that Oprah Winfrey has done on behalf of WW have been really upsetting to some of my friends. And that she's really putting out less-than-helpful messages.
And I wanted to see if I can't counter that, and talk a little bit about how this is going. Because what Lis and I are doing feels completely consistent with how I think about health and happiness. And I just wanted to let people know that.