My Thoughts on the New Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale Program

I’ve been a Weight Watchers member for so many years that I’ve lost count and am a lifetime member, which means that I’ve achieved my goal weight.

Once you’re a lifetime member, you’re always a lifetime member, even if you gain weight. The catch is that you can’t be more than two pounds over your goal weight or you have to pay to use Weight Watchers. That’s why I’m trying to lose a few more pounds, so that I can get back to my goal weight range and not have to pay.

This week Weight Watchers released a new program called Beyond the Scale. I was around for the last change, from POINTS to PointsPlus. In that big change, Weight Watchers put more of an emphasis on healthy eating. They realized that if a banana was 2 points and a 100-pack of Oreo cookies was 2 points, everyone would eat the cookies. So even though fruits and veggies aren’t free of calories or sugar, they made them 0 points to encourage people to eat more of them for all the nutritional benefits.

In this new Beyond the Scale program, PointsPlus have been replaced with SmartPoints, and the emphasis is even more on making healthier choices. The program is meant to guide members to not just lose weight, but to learn how to eat healthier, which will help with weight maintenance. Fruits and vegetables remain 0 points, and most healthy foods are the same or slightly higher. Lean proteins, including tofu (yay!), went down in points. A lot of junk foods, processed foods, and foods high in sugar all went up in points.

The gist of the program is the same. You get a daily points allowance, which increased with the new program. To lose weight, I had 26 daily points in the old program; now I have 30 (you get more points if you are trying to maintain your weight). You also get a weekly allowance of extra points to use however you want–a little each day for a small daily treat, for example, all at once for a big splurge like dinner out or a birthday party, or not at all to lose weight faster. You also earn what used to be activity points but are not FitPoints that you can swap for food–or not, again, to lose weight faster.

Overall, I applaud the change in direction because I know a focus on healthy eating is so important for lifetime weight maintenance. I had lost and gained weight for years–even on Weight Watchers–and could never maintain a loss for very long. It was only when I started to eat a plant-based diet that I made my weight loss permanent. In January, I’ll be celebrating my 5th anniversary of losing 35+ pounds and mostly keeping it off. I say mostly because I have gone over my goal weight range, like the situation I’m in now. Still, I’ve never gained more than 10 pounds, and I’ve always lost the weight again. I’m not saying that everyone needs to go vegan in order to successfully lose and maintain weight. But I do think that focusing on healthy eating is necessary.

I was vegetarian before I was vegan, and I was a very unhealthy vegetarian. My focus was on not eating meat, and I tended to eat a lot of fake, processed meats, cheese, and bread. I was pretty heavy during that time. When I went vegan, I switched from focusing on what I didn’t want to eat to what I should eat to be healthy. I started eating foods I never had before, like kale and collard greens, and tried to follow all the guidelines for what I should eat–which is basically every kind of fruit and vegetable because they’re so nutritionally beneficial. And guess what? After I eat all the kale and mushrooms and spinach and tomatoes and avocado and blueberries and bananas and oranges and on an on…I don’t really have much room for junk and processed food. I also learned that I love eating these foods. I don’t know if my body sends a message to my brain to convince me I love kale because my body appreciates the nutrients, but damned if I don’t love kale. In the end, I’m eating what I want, am not deprived, and am able to maintain my weight loss. That’s not to say that I don’t splurge. I’ve said before that I credit my success to having a small treat nearly every day. Life would not be worth living without cookies and white bread! But there’s a completely different mindset between treating yourself in moderation and trying to figure out how many potato chips and cookies you can eat and still be thin. That’s the point of the new Weight Watchers program.

Having said all that, I think my time with Weight Watchers is coming to an end. I think those who benefit the most from Weight Watchers are those who need a lot of education and help with healthy eating. I’ve been to meetings where new members are surprised to learn that butter isn’t a condiment like ketchup. I don’t need the education nor the help since I’ve been eating this way for so long. How Weight Watchers helps me the most is being honest and accountable with what I eat, which is why tracking what I eat helps me stay on track. But, I think I would get the same benefits by just doing my own food journal.

The other big reason I may be quitting Weight Watchers is that it really isn’t geared toward athletes. I posted in my last weekly recap about struggling between getting all the carbs I need for training and following Weight Watchers. That triggered a lot of comments about whether Weight Watchers is too restrictive, whether I’m able to adequately train while following it, and even whether my goal weight is realistic. One of the reasons I love being part of the blogging community is hearing others’ perspectives, and those comments really got me thinking. In my last training cycle, I didn’t follow Weight Watchers and instead tried to follow the nutrition guidelines in the Racing Weight book. Even though I was eating significantly more than Weight Watchers said I should be eating, I was easily able to maintain my weight. This post is getting pretty long, so I’m going to do a follow-up post that has my food diary for a typical day that shows the difference between the Weight Watchers program and the Racing Weight guidelines.

The other thing is that with Weight Watchers, I’m very focused on the number on the scale. I think the better gauge of a healthy weight is whether I can comfortably fit into my clothes. If I’m not eating what I need to to fuel my runs just to lose 2 pounds so that Weight Watchers will be free, even though my clothes fit fine and I feel good…is it really worth it? I’m going to continue Weight Watchers for now (my pants are still a tad tight since I’m 5 pounds over my goal weight), but I’ll definitely be thinking of these questions.

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