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November 29th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Weight Watchers overhauls Point system

After 13 years on the same Point system, Weight Watchers introduced an overhaul of its weight-loss program Monday, saying more has become known about the science behind weight loss.

Weight Watchers assigns “Points” to food, based on calories. In its new PointsPlus system, fruits and vegetables will carry zero Points; the program will now calculate Points based on macronutrients such as proteins and carbohydrates instead of relying solely on calories, fat and fiber.

Under the old Weight Watchers Points, a breakfast consisting of a croissant and butter would’ve had the same Points value as a breakfast of toast, ham and eggs as long as it contained the same number of calories.  Now, the croissant would carry seven Points and the toast, ham and eggs breakfast would contain six Points, because of the nutritional differences. The new system increases Points for fat content and reduces them for fiber.

“The main reason is that science has evolved,” said Karen Miller Kovach, chief science officer of Weight Watchers, about why the company made the switch.  “We know more now than we did 13 years ago. "

Although the model is getting an update, the core remains the same, she said.

Keri Gans, a registered dietitian who has no relationship with Weight Watchers, said the upgrade was “long overdue.”

While weight loss is about calories in versus calories out, Gans said, “the difference is where those calories are coming from. In the old program, calories can come from non-nutritious foods. The foods have to be nutritious.”

The changes have been in development for the last four years and were tested in trials at the Medical University of South Carolina, said Kovach.

She said the new system takes into consideration how the body has to work harder to convert protein and fiber than it would for fats and carbohydrates.  It also considered how some foods feel more filling than others.  While creating a deficit of calories is what causes the weight loss, nutrients also make a difference, Kovach said.

Fruits and vegetables will carry zero Points, to encourage people to eat more of them.

“Fruits and vegetables are good and healthy from the weight loss perspective, but at the same time, most Americans fall quite short of intake of these foods,” said Stephanie Rost, corporate program development director of Weight Watchers.

“We’re finding with our members reaching for a snack, no longer do a 100-calorie granola bar and a banana look equal,” she said.  “The banana is a better option."  This gives people incentives to change their behavior.

Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet,” said she initially had concerns that people would load up on fruit, which has calories.

“I thought about it and most people aren’t even eating two pieces of fruit a day,” she said.  “I’m not really worried.”

High starch vegetables such as corns and potatoes will not be exempt.  And only steamed or raw vegetables will have zero Points – not collard greens cooked in fat.

Shrinking professor lost weight on diet of Twinkies

Weight Watchers will also offer a list of “power foods,” comparing the nutrients in 40,000 food products and highlighting the healthiest choices.  For example, it compares a variety of soups and assesses sodium, sugars, fats, fiber to recommend the healthiest choice (such as a broth-based vegetable soup).  It is designed to be a cheat sheet to help people identify foods that are filling and healthy.

The changes in the American Weight Watchers program follow after similar changes in the United Kingdom.  Read more about the U.K. changes.


soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Pat

    Everyone here makes good points, but I don't see where anyone has addressed the expense of replacing scales and all of the books that WW offers. I have been a member of WW several times in the past 12 years. Eveytime I have gone, they switch their program right in the middle of my weight loss. My question is: How can you tell me that what you were telling me to do is now wrong and you don't offer to refund me for any of the materials that I bought that are now obsolete? I have to agree that the change that they have made now should have been done years ago, but that would have prevented them from changing their program several times and making that money for everyone to replace their scales, books, and calculators. When I heard they were changing their program again, I quit going. I wasn't going to get roped into spending more money to get new materials. I am now eating lean meats, vegetables and fruits and have lost weight. No processed foods and my carbs all come from vegetables and fruits. I would put money on it that WW does not quit selling their WW bars, which is highly processed food.

    November 29, 2010 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. notmyrealname

    Rabia, whoever you are, you are clueless about WW. Claiming that WW tells people they're "bad" if they go over their points for the day or that a food is "bad" is simply not true. If anything, WW is about choice. One can choose to eat a cookie and know that it's no more "bad" than choosing not to do so. It's simply a matter of acknowledging that you ARE choosing to eat something and being mindful about that choice. WW helps people to realize that they CAN have their favorite foods and enjoy them in moderation.

    You're simply telling falsehoods, and I suspect you have an ulterior motive for doing so. Fess up.

    November 29, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Melinda

    I have been a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers since 1978. I lost 32 pounds then and also worked for WW as a leader. I kept that weight off (not on the points system btw) until 2003 when I had to go back and lost 20 pounds that had crept back on. As a Lifetime member, as long as I weigh in each month and am with in 2 lbs +- of my goal weight, I don't pay a dime. WW had introduced a version of the points system when I went back in January of 2003, I followed it and by June I was under my goal weight and I have maintained that loss ever since.

    The points system is a great way to teach healthy eating and portion control. I firmly believe that portion control and moderation are the key to keeping weight off. I don't eat "diet" foods of any kind – no diet cola, mayo, etc – but do watch fat and fiber and portion size. I exercise 5 days a week and am in great health – I am 65 and feel wonderful. WW is not a diet – it is a way of life where you become aware of good nutrition and portion size. I continue to weigh in once a month and am very excited to see how WW has tweaked the plan to be even more successful.

    November 29, 2010 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Little Momma

      Yay Melinda! Wow... 1978... liver and all! :)

      November 30, 2010 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
  4. MyToesSmell

    Folks: If you want a quick laugh, then do a search on 'notmyrealname' for all of his/her posts. You will get a great laugh, trust me!

    November 29, 2010 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. deborahwold

    The benefits of the "Hypersonic Weight Loss" system are almost too numerous to mention. For starters, I lost over 50 lbs and 37 inches of body fat. My hot flashes are gone and so are my muscle cramps. I haven't suffered from allergies since I started and I'm off 6 medications. I'm back to living life exactly how I want to!

    November 30, 2010 at 00:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. bonnielou

    I never had any luck with Weight Watchers. I just watched my money go to waste or is that waist because I either lost nothing or gained like crazy. I found Atkins worked on me. And it was basically free. With this eat all you want fruits and veggies I might try it again. I feel people are what they are and weigh what they will be and it is futile to try to do anything about it. I am tired of skinny being beautiful and fat being a dirty word.

    November 30, 2010 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Little Momma

    One thing I would like to clarify about the WW program is that we are encouraged to eat those healthy non-processed foods. There are good health guidelines that are part of the plan, a roadmap if you will. They are to eat lean protein, fruits and vegetable, dairy and healthy oils. The problem is that people skip over that part of the program sometimes.

    Please don't judge others' choice in weight loss methods. We're all working to live healthier and different things work for different people.

    It's all about a lifestyle change. I personally could not "eat off a list" of foods... it made me feel deprived. WW taught me to gradually change and I work the plan very differently now than I did when I joined. I now look for those healthy choices instead of "points bargains".

    WW worked for me and worked for thousands and thousands of others. Why else would the NWCR be comprised of so many WW members?

    Thanks WW for continuing to support me after I reached my goal weight. I follow the Lifetime Membership rules and get all of the benefits at no cost!

    Good luck to all in your journey!

    November 30, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RunningOutofLifetime

    Foods consist of carbohydrates, protein, and/or fats and the calorie content of each adds up to the calorie content of a given food so the Weight Watchers changes still take calories into consideration indirectly, just no longer directly.

    I agree with previous posters, fad diets are not sustainable. But for me, healthy eating lifestyles have also not been sustainable. I've done Weight Watchers many times because I believed and still do believe it has sound principles and teaches healthy eating. My problem was I lost 46 lbs one time and 47 lbs (took 1.5 years) another time and then stopped losing when I had another 95 lbs to go. Because I believe this was a lifestyle I could continue for a lifetime I continued two years past my 47 lbs weight loss but lost no more weight (nor gained any). Controlling my intake (that's what you're doing when you stay within your points value) was resulting in weight maintenance at a still pretty high weight. Very discouraging. I always kept my points/food diary and a review of it by the leader revealed I was following the WW guidelines and staying within my points. I believe the prescribed minimum points value which was based on my current weight was too high. At the time, Weight Watchers did not tailor the points value to each person based on anything other than current weight.

    This situation was not sustainable for me. Limiting my intake and not losing was not sustainable. In fact, any lifestyle (healthy or not) is not sustainable for me as long as I have to eat less than I really wanted to eat or eat foods that really didn't satisfy me. Although Weight Watchers allows one to eat almost anything as long as one stays within the points, one switches to healthier foods just to be able to eat enough food to satisfy hunger. I was able to do it for 3.5 years but couldn't sustain it past that point, especially when one doesn't reach goal.

    Although healthy eating has stayed with me (I eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, don't eat fried foods, and drink no sodas or caffeine or sugar containing beverages) obviously my total caloric intake when I left and stopped tracking was higher because I gained the weight back to the exact pre-WW weight and maintained that weight without tracking anything although I was eating healthier and exercising at least 30 minutes a day. My body's automatic mechanisms ensured I still took in a certain number of calories (even when the content of my diet changed to be healthier) to maintain a certain set-point which happens to e a pretty high set-point.

    i continue to believe in Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers new changes don't change the situation about being hard to sustain any way of eating if you are eating less than you really want to eat. You may say it's not about what you want to eat. It's about feeding your body what it needs. I agree. So many of us fail because we can't sustain feeding our bodies solely what's needed. We have to deal with physical and head hunger, mouth feel, taste, satiety issues.

    Those who are able to ignore physical or head hunger when reducing calorie intake (even if volume stays the same from lower calorie density foods like increased fruits and vegetables), eat foods that don't taste good or at least taste acceptable to you, and sustain that for a lifetime, I salute you. Those who are lucky enough to not feel physical or head hunger when reducing your intake of calories or happen to love all these healthy foods, well you're just lucky.

    I am lucky with regards to a few things. I hate mayonnaise so no effort to give it up. I hate cheesecake so no effort to give it up. I hate cooked fruits so no effort to give up fruit desserts.

    Maybe I'm a weak person but if so that's just who I am. I've tried other programs other than Weight Watchers with the idea I'll do this for a lifetime only to have failed to do so. Although I didn't reach goal on Weight Watchers as long as I was doing it I wasn't gaining and was maintaining a weight lower than my body's natural set-point. So I keep going back. Even though I've had trouble sustaining the Weight Watchers lifestyle, it's more sustainable than lots of other lifestyles and programs. Pretty soon I'm going to run out of lifetime.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Christine

    I've been a WW member for 4 years (which includes the 10 plus months I was forced out due to pregnancy) and in those four years I've lost over 60lbs. I did that by eating healtfully. The new plan makes more sense and those who have been getting their calories from good foods like fruit, veggies, high protien and low carb/low sugar foods will see no difference in what or how they eat. Folks that have been subsisting on 100 calorie snacks and coffee will, however. Our leader always said that it DOES matter where the calories are coming from and she never saw anyone lose weight by eating their daily points in refined sugar/carbs and low nutrient foods. I think the new plan is pretty good. It takes away the convience of convience foods.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kelsey

    Weight loss is not about calories OR self control, and low-fat diets such as this are dangerous. Fats are just as important in a diet as fruits and vegetables. Highly processed carbohydrates and refined sugars alone are to blame for the obesity epidemic in America. The only effective weight loss method I have found is through a low-glycemic diet, getting rid of processed sugars and any processed grains. Fats can actually help you lose weight, like virgin coconut oil, which has been proven to stimulate under-active thyroids.

    Here's a great article that is scientifically backed up about how and why fats are GOOD for you. (Excluding hydrogenated oils, of course.) http://www dot health-report.co.uk/saturated_fats_health_benefits.htm

    December 2, 2010 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mitzi

      Kelsey, just FYI, the WW programs since I've been a member have ALWAYS included at least two healthy fat servings per day as a goal. The program encourages whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, and recommended levels of protein and carbs. It does not promote low- or non-fat eating, as they recognize, as you do, the necessity for healthy fats for bodily function.

      December 3, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Actually, weight loss is all about calories. In the most simplistic terms. More calories burned than consumed equals weight loss. Different diets and different programs work for different people, but at the end of the day the calorie equation needs to be negative to loose weight. However, you are correct in saying some fat (good fats) are healthy for your diet in moderation and healthier than other fats.

      December 8, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse |
  11. khall1009

    This is not entirely true. The old "Points" system calculated points based on calories, fat and fiber. The new "PointsPlus" system DOES NOT use calories. It is based on fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protien. This is a huge change in the WW system. Most foods have a new PointsPlus Value, and the number of PointsPlus allowed per day has changed as well as the weekly points. Check your facts.

    December 3, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rk

      Actually, calories ARE taken into consideration... albeit indirectly. If you take the fat, carbohydrates, and protein of a particular food, you can get pretty close to the total number of calories (just multiply the fat times 9, and the protein and carbs by 4). In actually it should add up exactly right, but the numbers are just slightly off since the fiber portion of carbs slightly affects the total calorie count. Also, sometimes the fat/protein/carb numbers on package labels are rounded to the nearest gram. So that's why the numbers don't add up exactly. But anyone who states that the new WW plan doesn't take into consideration calories is wrong, since by asking the user to input f/p/c it automatically accounts for calories since these numbers together approximate total calories.

      December 4, 2010 at 03:06 | Report abuse |
  12. Baby

    I am on WW and enjoying the new plan. I am not brainwashed, though, as some WW people are. I believe that WW is rolling out this new plan not just for concern for our health but also concern for their bottom line, which I don't begrudge them. The old formula is basically out there for free-why are you people complaining about buying scales, etc–you could have gotten all the old program materials for free on the internet? WW is smart to change programs every few years (at least a little) to make money.

    December 3, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. AJM

    I am a WW Lifetime Member. I have been at my goal weight 2 times, and both times I reached my goal weight, I got pregnant (surely that was just a coincidence!). I KNEW that the best way to lose the "baby fat" was to head back to WW. So, yes, I'm a "repeat customer" but for good reason – the program works if you work the program. I am back the third time and am 4 pounds from my goal weight.

    One thing the "book" diets don't have is a support system. Going to the meeting each week gives members a chance to ask questions, get answers, celebrate victories and encourage one another to keep at it. And the weekly weigh-in is a great system of accountability.

    Please don't knock WW unless you have actually BEEN to a few meetings and WORKED the CURRENT program and can speak with real knowledge and experience.

    December 3, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Ayurlady

    Moderation is the KEY to all. Something that we could all use more of. The fact that WW changed fruit to 0 points should be of not surprise. How often have you downed 12 oranges in one sitting or even that many bananas, but have no issues downing 12 Oreo's etc. It's all about moderation. It's always been a struggle to moderate, as I love to eat. So, I realize I need to also exercise. I have also incorporated some natural supplements into by regiment, including http://www.elanveda.com
    triphala. Even eating plenty of fruit, veggies, whole grains (fibre) and lots of water, I can still get plugged up from time to time. This natural product is awesome and works overnight, no pain, and non addictive. so WW bring on the point change!!

    December 3, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Stephanie Levendoski

    I would just like to say that it is a shame that all this attention has to be highlighted about fruits and vegetables. I have had much success on Weight Watchers. But when I go to the grocery story I have to pay nearly $4 for a single red pepper. Has anyone bought a bad of oranges lately! It is criminal! Fresh fruit and vegetables are so very expensive!!! I wish someone would take on the food manufacturers and growers. Or maybe some individuals or companies can start underselling manufacturers and growers and put the greedy profiteers out of business!

    December 3, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Linda

    Total calories=fat+protein+carbohydrates, therefore calories are in the equation, just not spelled out as calories.
    Nutrition 101

    December 3, 2010 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sara

    This is a great advancement in Weight Watchers' program. For people who sometimes struggle to fully benefit from Weight Watchers, acupuncture can be a useful adjunct. This article explains more: http://acutakehealth.com/the-deal-with-weight-loss

    December 7, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Lynn in Florida

    I am a life time member of WW since 1978...I went back and I am happily surprised they are watching carbs... I bought the calulator and it really helps... This past week I lost 3.2 pounds, and I made it throught Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I think alot of people don't want change, and will be mad that it has changed..BUT it has changed for the btter I think/

    December 30, 2010 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Lin

    I joined WW more than a year ago. I bought some of their products including their scale. Now with this new program comes a new scale. I asked my leader if those of us that bought the old scale which I think I paid $44.95 can trade it in for a new one since WW was selling the scale til the very end, including putting it on sale. She said no. That was not an option WW was allowing. I told her I did not think that was fair since they knew the change was coming for quite some time now. I emailed a help site but was told I have to contact customer service which I will. I'm sure there are many out there who will agree with me that WW did some shady business here.

    January 1, 2011 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      If you try hard enough you will find the new food list and point values on line !

      January 10, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
  20. janetlaw

    I just converted 1/2 cup orange juice from the old program into the new program – it WAS 1 point on the old, now TWO points for HALF A CUP of OJ! But, it does make me think I should have the actual piece of fruit instead of the juice – for me this is a matter of how much time I have in the morning – usually enough to down the juice, but not enough to peel, cut up, etc. the piece of fruit....I will give it a try though!

    January 3, 2011 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Rick

    Weight watchers point system is the best , the other pre packed food programs do not teach you how to eat right away they make you buy their food and spend your money, you have more freedom on WW , what it comes down to is you want to do it !

    January 10, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jody

    How do you calculate your allotted points on the new system? I am guessing they tossed out the old formula...

    January 20, 2011 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Nancy Sterne

    I'm withnJody-I did the old Points System that alloted you points based on your weight range. (The more weight I had to lose, the more points I go on a daily basis) How do I find out how many points I am now allowed? I weight 185 lbs at 5'9" and would like to lose about 25 lbs.

    February 6, 2011 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dwana

    I love the new Weight watchers system. I tried the old way about a year ago and found that even thoughI lost a bit of weight, the new system is helping me lose faster while making better food choices. I've lost 11 lbs in only 3 weeks! With ww, you are learning to eat healthy with real foods that you choose. Last week I lost 3.4 lbs. and I even had a piece of birthday cake!! It is so worth it to go to the meetings, too. It really helps and I learn something new every week. Yay Weight Watchers!!!

    July 10, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 25, 2011 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Jessi

    I know this plan – not bad but you need to have a lot of motivation ;)

    September 28, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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