Thursday, August 4, 2011

Weight Watchers is too restrictive part 2

I'd like to say that for any dieter reading this, I believe that you should follow the plan (be it Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, etc.) that is working for you. Obviously, for both my friend and I, Weight Watchers no longer worked for us.

My friend's therapist did say that Weight Watchers is one of the better programs on the market. But, like all structured diets, it's still restrictive. You can eat what you want and how much you want until you run out of points.

Whenever I was on Weight Watchers (and between memberships too; can you ever really turn off the diet mentality?) I was constantly worried that I would run out of points and I would dwell on what I could and could not eat. Meal planning was difficult; trying to figure out the proper balance and appropriate amount of quality foods to fuel the body and treats stave off any feelings of deprivation.

My last successful run on Weight Watchers was in 2005 and 2006 in preparation for my wedding. I knew from the outset that the points program wasn't going to work for me. I was one of the few core plan participants.  The core plan worked for me since I could eat unlimited quantities of core foods, tracking was not required and meal planning was fairly simple.

After the birth of my first baby, I again looked to Weight Watchers to lose the baby weight. I joined the online program and selected the core program. I lasted only months. The problem with the core plan is that I could only eat core foods. Sure, I could eat non-core foods, but then I had the freakin' point-planning headache.

Have you considered the psychological ramifications of restricting yourself? Constantly telling yourself that you can't eat this, can't eat that; or don't eat too much of this, don't eat too much of that? It's human nature to want what you can't have. For decades, I told myself that I couldn't eat all sorts of food such as ice cream, chocolate, cookies and even fruit juice.

Of course, you may be thinking that you can eat anything you want in small quantities (the flexibility of the points plan allows this). This strategy may work for you, but it could have the same psychological affects on your eating as restricting the type of foods you eat.

Let's say you've figured out that you have enough points to eat half a bag of Miss. Vickies' potato chips. But you really want to eat the whole bag of chips. Your anxiety level rises; you want the whole bag of chips, a half bag is no longer enough. There is an internal battle of wills: your motivation to lose weight and will to resist versus human nature and anxiety-induced hunger.

When my dieting career began, motivation and will power easily overcame my natural need to want what I couldn't have. As my dieting-induced anxiety increased, the human nature/anxiety side began to win the battle (these internal conflicts increased in frequency).

I suspect that not all dieters have this problem. I think some dieters aren't bothered by eating smaller quantities of food and not eating other foods at all.

So, if you are on Weight Watchers or some other structured diet, here are my tips for you:
  • Make a positive choice "I'm choosing to eat a peach as a snack" rather than a negative decision "No, I can't eat a bag of potato chips for snack, I have to eat this peach instead."
  • Whatever choice of food you decide to eat remain positive; don't dwell on the food that you're not eating. "I can eat the bag of potato chips if I really want to, but I've made the decision to not eat it because I would like to lose weight."
  • Same goes for quantity of food. If you've decided to eat a smaller portion of food, don't obsess about your decision. "I can eat more potato chips if I really want to, but I have made the choice to eat a smaller amount because I would like to lose weight." 
  • If you do eat a food or an amount of food that pushes you over your food limit, don't become preoccupied with your moment of overindulgence. Forget about your splurge and start fresh; feeling badly and obsessing about a binge or an overeating episode will only increase your dieting related anxiety. "I had an oops moment. It's over, I'm moving on."  

A final thought: what if the pressure to stay within your daily and weekly points limit causes so much anxiety that it triggers binges and overeating? Why do so many dieters gain back the weight they've lost and more?

Quick Links:
Weight Watchers is too restrictive part 1


  1. My favorite is when my WW friends told me they were saving their points to eat something so very terrible for them. So - lettuce all day, then two pieces of cheesecake at night. What?!

  2. Totally abnormal eating! Sure it's in the point ranges and will lose weight, but at what cost?


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