T Nation

Weight Watchers

My mother has recently started on the “Weight Watchers” diet plan. She goes to the meetings, buys the books, and counts her “points.” From what I see, they don’t even take into consideration carb intake whatsoever. I may be wrong, if anyone knows anything about this be sure to correct me. But, anyway my point to this post is that such expensive, “easy” ways to diet and lose weight seem to be very, outdated. As in, they think it’s all about less fat intake, and calories are calories, etc. I’m worried she’s losing money over something that’s really not going to help her much at all. She’s really set on losing, has a goal, and I’d really like to help her meet that goal. (Without being jipped out of her time spent on this “diet” of hers.) All she ever does is say how her “diet” is so easy, and she’s going to lose so much weight because she’s eating “right.” I’m sure most of you probably don’t care, I mean I am talking about my mother. But, really… if anyone has any feedback about Weight Watchers, how thier diet works, or any suggestions on helping me help her understand our concept of things, please reply. She doesn’t seem to beleive anything I tell her.

In short, they suck. My mom has been using them for a couple of years now. It’s a scam that encourages people to buy their frozen, nutritionless meals because the points are already counted. They pay no attention to complete vs. incomplete proteins, low glycemic vs. high glycemic carbs, or unsaturated vs. saturated fats. Essentially, you could drink vegetable oil all day and it wouldn’t matter as long as you stay within your points framework. Tell your mom that she is going to become a robot with a digestive system. Chances are she’ll ignore you. Her loss.

In my opinion most people are overweight not from eating too much but from eating too much shit and no exercise, and if they do exercise it is walking around the block with their friend. Chances are you’re just going to have to wait it out and if she fails then she will listen. Or just charge her for advice then she would listen. Or put some initials behind your name and she will listen. Also a trend I see with diets is that they won’t eat much during the day or exercise then they will “reward” themselves with a bowl of icecream at night.

Apparently Weight Watchers is really reputable and it works. I have a friend who was one of their “guides” for a number of years and she swears by their process. You don’t need to eliminate anything, can eat anything, but it’s all in the quantities. They really stick to the Food Guide and the amount of certain foods that one needs to eat (or can eat)–carbs included. They are very motivating and supportive and of all the diets around, I personally think they are the most honest and up-front. It takes awhile, but with their method once you lose you pretty much stay that way. Other diets allow you to gain back almost everything very quickly. Support her in this and mention that she should also exercise in conjunction. And exercise to lose weight does not mean pumping iron. She needs an aerobic workout at least 3 times a week with some muscle toning included. If she doesn’t like aerobics tell her to take an aquafit class. They are almost as good with a lot less stress on the joints. Many overweight people enjoy them alot because their weight doesn’t look quite so obvious in the water (despite the bathing suits they have to wear!). Plus they can float really well. All resistance equipment is provided and the aqua classes combine both cardio and resistance together at the same time. They can also be a lot of fun!

My feeling on weight watchers is that it’s not great, but for your average sedentary middle-aged woman it’s better than eating like, well, your average sedentary middle-aged woman. My mom’s done it too, and she does make better food choices when on it than when off. Here’s what I’d do if I were you: back off and let your mom do the weight watchers thing for a while (maybe a couple of months). See if she sticks with it. If she does demonstrate enough discipline to stick with it, then I bet she’ll be more open to your advice a bit down the line. Couch your advice in terms of “nice work thus far, mom. Want some tips that’ll make things go even better?”

Without being too redundant, I agree with Zev. You can’t expect everyone out there to take diet and exercise to the level that T-mag readers take it. There are other approaches to diet and exercise that do work for people. I’m familiar with the weight watchers plan and I’ve had clients use it successfully. Basically it simply teaches portion control. It doesn’t get too specific with macronutrient recommendations, which is probably ok where your mom is concerned (or at least as she is getting started). I would encourage her not to purchase the expensive meals and such that they try and sell. The plan is fundamentally sound though for mainstreamers. Portion control is the key for the general public. If your mom does well and wants your help, she’ll know where to find you. Be patient with her. You can’t expect your mom to jump head first into the T-Dawg diet and meltdown training.

Weight Watchers basically gets people in the habit of watching exactly what they eat and how much of it. My mom did it for a while, and told me that it’s amazing how fast she ‘ran out’ of food for the day. When people get used to eating less they don’t mind it, and they feel better anyway. Let her make some progress, then tell her how good she looks and offer to help the weight come off faster.

Let me preface I’m not a weight lifter or a body builder, but I am a martial artist, so most of my strength training is body weight and plyometrics. But, I have a REALLY slow metabolism. It runs in my family. I ballooned up to 290 pounds (6’2") right before I got back to training a year ago. For six months, I couldn’t lose any weight, I lost a couple of inches on my waist, but not nearly enough. On my wife’s suggestion, we joined weight watchers. I loved it. I litterally lost 10 pounds the first week. You don’t have to watch carbs to lose weight. The weight watchers system is roughly 50 calories = 1 point. The more dietary fiber, the more calories it can be. I believe 90 calories with 0 grams of fat and 4 grams or more of Dietary fiber is roughly 1 point. Add on fat and it adds points, again, roughly 5 grams of fat is one point. The points range for someone 275-300 was 34-38 points. Or roughly 1900 calories. At 274-250 it was 32-36 daily, or roughly 1600 calories. Given my form of martial arts(Wah Lum Kung Fu) is a very rough style, my legs have gotten humongous even with eating whatever I wanted. That’s why their diet works. You eat whatever you want. You just don’t eat everything. Most vegetables are 0 points, except for starches, which are higher. They do take in account carbs in a little way, because the higher the amount of carbs, the more cals it will have. I stopped going after 13 weeks, having lost about 25 pounds. I would encourage your mother to attend the weekly meetings, as this is the moral support that will help her morale.

Hope this helps,


Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. I’ll sit back a bit and watch her progress. I’m a little bit more at ease now. Hopefully, she’ll be successful. Once again, thanks a bunch!