I have followed the WW/Weight Watchers program for years, from "exchanges" up to the most recent Wellness Wins program.
To me, the biggest change is opening up WW to people who are not looking to lose weight, but just want to have healthier habits. I believe it’s in tune with the “New Year, New You” movement. These wellness members will have access to all of the same tools as other members, but won’t have the same emphasis on tracking weight. But that’s not the only thing that has changed.
All New or Just the Same?
While much of the program has remained the same, there are several new things with the WW approach. In a nutshell, there is greater emphasis on health and wellness, in addition to weight management. But what does that mean, exactly? Here are the highlights:
- The Wellness Wins rewards program, which introduces gamification to their existing online app. This program offers rewards for tracking meals and other activities. The rewards consist of exclusive products, services, and experiences all designed to encourage members to stay with the program. I haven’t been with the new WW program long enough to tell you more specifically what these rewards are. I’ll post an update when I know more.
- New “Connect Groups” will cater to specific like-minded members. This is essentially a technological update on their “meeting” model, where members share tips and provide support to other members. Now you can find other members who share your very specific interests, e.g., people who enjoy hiking, or fellow vegetarians, etc.)
- WW packaged foods will no longer contain artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, or preservatives. In fact, I saw some WW “fresh” prepackaged meals in the supermarket for the first time today, in the refrigerated section (not freezer).
- In-person meetings are now called Wellness Workshops. Different name, same basic function however.
- A popular meditation and mindfulness app, Headspace, is going to be available to members soon. I look forward to this one, as I believe that half (or more) of the weight loss battle is mental and emotional, rather than just physical.
- Members have always been able to “earn” extra points by tracking physical activity. What’s new here is that the points will be customized to the individual, based on body make-up. It sounds like a much more accurate approach. There is also increased emphasis on high intensity and strength training, but members can still earn points for walking and other low impact activities.
- Soon members will be able to use voice recognition software to look up and track points. They will also be able to get updates on their progress with this method.
What is the Same?
The WW program still uses SmartPoints. Basically, it assigns points to food based upon calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. The most recent US Dietary Guidelines emphasize the importance of protein in addition to the clearly negative effects of too much sugar in our diets. So, the system is designed around the concept that not all calories are created equal.
For example, you could eat an apple (around 95 calories) for zero points, or you could eat ¾ ounce of cheddar cheese (around 85 calories) for three SmartPoints. Clearly, there are 10 more calories in the apple, and yet it has three fewer points. However, when was the last time you sat down and ate more than one fresh apple at a time? And yet I bet you could eat six or eight ounces of cheese in less than five minutes. Am I right? That’s the basic concept behind SmartPoints: nudge you in the direction of healthy foods by making them lower in points. It’s just that simple.
That’s not to say that you can’t eat cheese. Or anything else you want, really. The point is to balance the good healthy stuff (e.g., apples, celery, carrots, etc.), with the not so healthy stuff (cheese dip, potato chips, donuts, etc.). If we could all do that on our own, without a little help from a person or a program, then we wouldn’t need WW. With 4.5 million members, it’s safe to say that many of us need a little help now and then.
More on Zero Points Foods
Just one more thought on the zero point foods (i.e., items you can eat as much as you want of without having to track points). Of course, if you were to eat 12 apples and 15 eggs in a day, it may be counterproductive. Yet the likelihood of that happening is remote. You might do it once, just to prove a point, but eventually you will get appetite fatigued. That’s why you aren’t supposed to live on just the zero point foods alone. Use up those SmartPoints on more interesting fare, keeping taste, texture, and flavor variety in mind.
While Wellness Wins (or WW for short) isn’t a radical departure from previous Weight Watchers programs, I believe that it may be just enough to help them compete with other online approaches (e.g., Noom – which is supposedly WW for millennials). But just like anything else, in order to reap the benefits, you must actually (and honestly) follow the program and do the work. For me, that includes “in person” interactions with others, where I can’t fib about the numbers I saw on the scale that morning. Just my personal opinion. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Carolyn Fields