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Anita Avalos

Weight Watchers PointsPlus- Why Calorie Counting Leads to Crazy!

I realize that this post might piss some people off, but I had to say it.

I hate Weight Watchers and over the next few blog posts, I’m going to give you my top 3 reasons why you should run, not walk, from this program and others like it!

Let me be clear, I don’t hate the idea of people wanting to get healthy, reach a happy/healthy weight, and make positive change in their lives. I’m all down for that.

I’m not even saying you can’t lose weight on their program.

What I’m saying is that when you really look at the approach and food that’s promoted and “allowed” on Weight Watchers, it ain’t all that healthy AT ALL!

To be fair, I want you all to know that another lifetime ago, I did Weight Watchers and my mom has been an avid Weight Watcher devotee for as long as I can remember.

I also spent quite some time researching their “new” PointsPlus program.

I really wanted them to prove me wrong and show that they finally “got it” when it came to health and healthy weight loss. After all, they state that their new program:

…is based on the latest nutritional science, and factors in the way your body actually processes food. Combined with the proven advantages of the Weight Watchers approach, the program helps you make healthy choices.

Umm, really?

Is that why they still have folks counting calories (outdated and yes, that’s essentially what PointsPlus is, just with a cuter name), eating McNuggets, and consuming crap food products they create that contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, soybean oil, and yellow #5/blue #1? (I researched their ingredients) REALLY!?

I can feel myself getting all steamed up just thinking about it!

There is so much WRONG with what they are teaching folks but for today, let’s just focus on the first issue and the top reason I hate Weight Watchers:

Reason #1: Counting leads to crazy! (The Counting Game is the new Crying Game).

Any kind and any form. Why? It doesn’t let you ever get the chance to let your body let you know what it needs, traps you in a numbers game, and fails to heal your relationship with food (which Honey, if you are struggling with your weight, that is a huge part of the problem).

I used to count calories, points, fat grams, carbs. None of it worked long term, none of it taught me how to eat in a way that really nourished me, none of it taught me a damn thing about real health.

It actually made me feel a little crazy because I was always adding and counting up numbers. Kinda neurotic. Eating was more of a points game than a pleasure-rich, nourishing experience (which it should be). All that counting and “watching” is a recipe for an eating disorder to boot!

Today, I don’t count any of that (although so much of that damn thinking is still a part of me because I did it for so many years).

And guess what?

I am thinner, happier, and way damn healthier. Trust me, healthy fats and nutrient dense calories are NOT the enemy; processed foods, food additives, and that crazy counting mentality IS!

So what to do instead of count calories or points or whatever cute name you want to give it?

Here’s three tips to get you started:

1) Don’t count, nourish- Eat a whole foods, heavily plant based diet. What does that mean? Eat foods that you can pronounce, that don’t have 16 syllables, and that you and your body can recognize as food. And eating a heavily plant based diet does not mean you have to go vegan. It just means that what came from the ground takes up most of your plate or blender.

2) Eat those foods as meals, not a bunch of snacks or points! When I did the WW and calorie counting thing, I remember spending my day adding numbers on sheets of paper to see if I had blown my limit or if I had enough left to get another snack. I didn’t want to blow my limit but damn it, I wanted the max I could get!

It was kinda like being a shopaholic and calling your credit card company all day to see if you could get a just one more purchase in before the sales lady says, “Your card was declined.”

If you instead lovingly prepare (and if you are eating out, choose quality food) and consume it calmly 3 times a day, you don’t have to count all damn day. You listen to your body, you eat when your hungry, you stop when you are full, you get in touch with your wise self. You don’t worry about if you got your max or ideal number of points in; instead you learn to trust your body again. Wow! Can we say empowered!?

2) Start working on your relationship with food. Hello, any relationship worth having takes love, time, and some introspection. The one we have with food is not different; in fact it might be one of the most difficult to get in a sweet spot with because of the mixed messages we (especially women) get about food and our bodies.

Start asking yourself:

  • How do I use food in my life?
  • Do I turn to food for pleasure-only, reward, or as a way to numb pain or disappointment in my life?
  • Do I see food as the enemy and something I need to control OR do I see it as a source of nourishment mixed with pleasure?

Great books like Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth can really help you start digging deep on this topic.

Another great resource is booking a Ready, Set, HOT Breakthrough Session with yours truly; I have had so many women tell me that that session provided amazing insight on where their relationship with food was out of alignment and allowed them the space to start getting clear about it. (It gets even better when I actually get to coach peeps one-on-one or in groups!)

There is so much to cover on this topic so be sure to tune in next week as I explore reason #2 and how WW is out of alignment of its so called “four pillars of healthy weight loss.”

What are your thoughts? Did you break free of the counting game? How did you do that?

30 comments...read them below or… add one

  • Rachel Hoff

    I used to do Weight Watchers and I did lose weight on it. The last time I did it though, I had started my year without groceries project and I realized that my choice to eat all whole foods and to process my own couldn’t fit with  Weight Watchers AT ALL. They are so pro-processed foods that I just couldn’t get through it. They like to promote the most unhealthy foods out there. They want you to drink adulterated (i.e. fat free, sugar free) dairy and juice.  

    I no longer count calories, and while it’s been slow, I’ve been able to lose 20 lbs over the past year just by switching to whole foods. 

    • Anonymous

      You know what, Rachel? You’re smart…you are doing this the right way and creating long term lifestyle habits! Good for you and congrats on your amazing success! When I lost my 35+ lbs., it came off slowly, especially because I really didn’t know what foods worked best for my body (which is one of the major goals of my detox programs…find what foods really work for you!). But you know what? Who cares if it took me some extra time!? When summer rolled around that year, I looked better than I ever had. Keep going, girl!
      It’s a shame what foods WW promotes. I’m going to talk more about that in the next post, so stay tuned! :)

    • Anonymous

      P.S. Mike just told me about your project….amazing!!

  • Julie

    Thank you for this post…I hate WW too and cringe when my aunts lose weight on their fake food program and constantly live in fear of those damn points.

    • Anonymous

      You are so welcome! I am glad that it was of value to you. I am going to be talking more about their fake food in upcoming posts, so stay tuned…

      I feel the same way when I see friends and family going down that path as well, especially since I’m a Health and Nutrition Coach and (hello!?) I could really help them get their health on track.

      Counting points= no way to live long term and it makes living a lot less fun…who need that!?

  • AH

    As someone who has struggled with my relationship to food at times, I really appreciate this article. If I eat only what is healthy and nutritionally sound, I don’t have to freak out about how much or how many of something. As a result, I am an optimal weight, feel great, and stay healthy. I think this blog is right on with its criticism of WW.

    • AnitaAvalos

      AH, I am so so happy this spoke to you. It sounds you are listening to that beautiful and wise body of yours…this makes my heart happy. We have so much body wisdom! :)

  • MiaSFL

    Great Tips!!!!  WHOLE FOODS! PLANT BASED! AMEN!  I liked WW LONG before “points”.  I learned about portion control and not calorie counting but realizing the size of a pile of food on your plate, before all the package food barrage, it used to be much more about real, whole foods, and not packaged processed CRAP!.   I no nothing about the new point system and ALL packaged food tastes like CARDBOARD!

    • AnitaAvalos

      Thank you! I think it has changed more and more over the years and yes, packaged food is tasteless!

  • fatgirlslims

    Totally agree – I started WW recently and feel conned. It’s calorie counting  – nothing more. I eat really good food, made from scratch by me – I can’t believe they encourage you to choose the low fat everything options filled with e numbers and chemicals. I refuse to eat low fat chemical spread and processed bread and meat – which seems to be what WW push you to do.  For someone who cooks, it means hours of weighing and measuring as none of my food is the processed crap they’ve worked the numbers out for.
    I lost weight on a low carb diet which meant I could buy all the non processe food I like – but I missed the fruit and veg so thought I’d try this…what a joke! Hmmmm….

    • AnitaAvalos

      Thank you for letting me know your experience. It’s so true. I think the issue is that they make $ off people being reliant off of THEM. Therefore, they make it complicated to apply their system for those who actually want to get in the kitchen and create healthy meals on their own, like you are doing. I hope that my work inspires and shows you that yes, you can still get those healthy veggies and fruits in, no WW required. Stay in touch!

  • Susan

    Hi Anita, I watched your youtube vid from the IIN conference and was inspired to sign up for your website.  I, too, have difficulty with the WW diet – even though they have moved towards better nutritional science with their Points Plus program, I have concerns about staying on the program because I have lost 25 – 30 lbs on the program 3 different times over the past few years, only to gain it all back each time.  Talk about humiliation…  I have considered going back on the program because I know it does work, for a while…but maybe I can keep track with healthier, less processed foods this time.  I am in need of losing 40 lbs.  I am also starting up with IIN this May, so perhaps that is my answer.  Not sure what to do – I feel I need the disciplne that WW offers, as regimented and less self-empowering as it can be.

    • AnitaAvalos

      Hi Calasicarc! What do you think would happen if you could get in tune to your body wisdom so you could trust and relax around food, no counting systems required?? Trust me, it’s in there…we all have it but dieting steals it from us. I’m here to show you a better, happier way of living and enjoying food, no counting required. Did you know that 99% of all people who lose weight on a diet program (including the top seller Weight Watchers) gain it back within 1-2 years!? That’s just crazy! I can happily tell you that I never count points, calories, fat grams, carbs….and this is the leanest I have been in my whole life. So happy you are here so I can help expose you to a whole different way of eating and living. Are you on my mailing list.?? And let me know if you ever would like to have a Happy, Healthy, and Hot Discovery Session.  I would love to talk with you further and help you move forward. Lots of love.

      • Susan

        Sounds good, Anita – yes, I am on the mailing list with my email: ClassicArc@comcast.net.  My name is Susan Coleman.  I will spend some more time on your website in the next few days and see about a session with you.  Prices are on your site, I assume.  Thanks!

  • JackieConn

    My approach to calorie counting or WW PointsPlus values (PPVs) is different than what you describe.  I eat what I love.  I only eat what I love.  My calorie target or PointsPlus target is simply a budget and calories or PPVs are price tags that I consider so that my budget is balanced.  It lets me eat what I want and what I love and keep my weight where I like it so that I feel fit, happy, and comfortable in my clothes.  Weight Watchers has never pushed me into eating stuff I don’t want or like, rather it’s helped me eat exactly what I do want and like while managing my weight.  I think I embrace your philosophy about food, nourishment, and nurturing myself and utilize the structure I get from the WW program to keep from going off a cliff.

    • Classicarc

      Hmmm… good points, Jackie.  Thanks!

    • AnitaAvalos

      Hi Jackie. Thanks for your comment. I am a big believer in eating what you love and I am also a big believer in developing your body wisdom by starting to connect with your body in a deeper way. Dieting in any form does not allow us to do that. I personally don’t want to spend my life fearing that I might, as you said, “go off a cliff” with my food…but I can totally understand that feeling! I used to feel that way for many years and relied on a system, NOT my body talk, to tell me what my limits were. I hope you will stick around here on AnitaAvalos.com and perhaps even sign up for some great training that will truly revamp how you think about food, your body, and will be able to happily and freely let go of all systems of counting. Lots of love.

      • Susan

        Wow, Anita, you make a great point, too.  I am in such fear of the counting of points, cals, all of that… I already have to watch carbs since I am a diabetic and need to know the carb grams so that I can bolus the right amount of insulin at each meal and snack.  Anyway, I will stick around and may also reach out for some health counseling from you about this.  I wish you were my Health Coach for the IIN program I am about to start!

        • AnitaAvalos

          Hi Susan! I am actually a mentor coach for IIN and am wishing you tons of great luck..you are going to LOVE it!! How lucky for you to have such amazing access to increasing your knowledge about nutrition….and heal with food instead of having to be fearful of it, as diets teach us. Lots of love.

      • Jackieconn

         I don’t have any fear that I may go off a cliff.  I am not afraid of food or eating.  Indeed, I celebrate every bite as much as I celebrate my jean size!  I also am aware that I can override my body’s signals of satiety anytime the food I’m eating tastes very good and there is more of it than I need to become full and satisfied.  It is those times that a budget (points target) and price tags (points values) help me to remember that I can stop eating now and be happy both by having enjoyed what I wanted and stopping before I consumed more than I can pay for in burnt calories.  I think that body wisdom helps to a point but I also believe that my environment and my genes are not completely compatible. In other words I have strong survival genes that aren’t aware that I live in an environment where food is plenty and always available.  My survival genes drive me to eat as though there may be no food available tomorrow and of course, I know what my body does not know – there will be more food tomorrow.  My body doesn’t know what my mind knows so weight control for me is balancing them.

        • AnitaAvalos

          Hi Jackie…I was just quoting what you said in a previous comment….you stated that you use WW so you “don’t go off a cliff”. I’m still going to invite you to start trusting your body. You won’t have to count ever again. With love.

          • Jackieconn

            Hi Anita,
            I know you were quoting me and I see that you misco0nstued that to think I worried about going off the the cliff.  The reality is that counting is a guard rail of sorts.  There’s no need for fear or to worry because the guard rail keeps me from falling in a way that’s gentle. If I don’t need it I don’t even know it’s there; if I do need it, it’s an effective correction.  I lost 40 pounds 21 years ago.  I’ve maintained the loss all that time eating everything I love including pizza, chips, candy, cake and cookies and not the lo-cal, icky tasting kind – I’m talking about real stuff.  I totally trust my body without a need to count when I eat fruit, vegetables. whole grains, fat free and low fat dairy, and lean proteins. Those foods, of course, are the mainstay of my diet. Thanks for your invitation but I’m supremely happy with Weight Watchers and how it’s worked for me for all this time.

  • Mrsg918

    i actually googled “why i hate weight watchers” just to see what would pop up and I was led to this page. What you wrote is almost verbatim to what I’ve said for years. But so many people I know are on weight watchers and worse it gives them a false sense of confidence and expertise about food and nutritional health! It drives me nuts to hear people telling someone who wants to lose weight say something like, “Oh you can lose weight and you don’t even have to give up your favorite foods! WW teaches you to be healthy and still enjoy all your guilty snacks.” Um, where i come from, the word guilty is usually associated with doing something WRONG. Not all calories are created equal. And yes, portion control would drive me nuts! I love to eat and enjoy company and not sit there constantly calculating what is on my plate. I’m healthy, fit, extremely active mom of 2 boys and I don’t have time for that kind of pressure or madness. I also enjoy feeling full, but I fill up on veggies, lean protein, sprouted grains and raw whole foods. That’s the way to do it and it’s doable for life. Amen to your blog! Preach on 

    • AnitaAvalos

      Girl, I am so glad to read your comment. You are the second person to find me that way :) Yes, it’s time for a new thought on food, body, life…and it’s about creating a new relationship with food and our bodies, not counting all damn day. Hope you stick around on the blog…more goodness to come. xo

  • Steph

    thanks for the post. I agree wholeheartedly. somehow WW has brain-washed almost everyone who has walked through their doors with “Weight Watchers works!!” So when it inevitability doesn’t work, we blame ourselves; not them. It’s a terrible system that allows for far too many carby crap foods that is NOT sustainable in the long-term.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write, I enjoyed :)

    • AnitaAvalos

      Hi Steph!

      Thanks so much for writing in! I am so glad this post spoke to you. You are so right…the WW/counting culture makes people feel like failures, when in reality it’s these low quality foods that are to blame.

      Here’s to Living Diet-Free in 2014!

  • She’s 100% right…go with the whole foods, stop the processed foods, listen to your body, talk to a nutritionist, everyone should have his/her own diet programme. Thumbs Up!!!

  • philippa

    I was directed to this page when I typed in I hate WeigjtWatchers. I recently rejoined however after pointing a days food I was well over dailies & into my weeklies : the worse thing was I did’ nt think I had eaten that much or badly. It was this that mafe me decide to track my food but not point it. I need the weigh in to keep track of my weight (my scales are rubbish lol) plus the meeting was a friendly and so was the leader. She said I could do it…yes I can bit my own way. I find I actually eat less if not trying to stick to an inadequate and arbitrary points total: I think pointing,personally, can lead to binging.

  • Jennifer

    Weight Watchers did drive me crazy, and I lost nothing on their new plan before giving up. I’ve been trying to lose the same darn last 20 pounds for the past year and am tired of having my days and all my thoughts centered around calories and whether I failed or succeeded for the day. It’s a bad example to my two teenage daughters (whose last names are Avalos, btw, so they must be special lol), and so I decided yesterday that I am no longer going to waste my life on it. I’m going to eat healthy and exercise and the scale and calories be damned.

    • Anita Avalos

      Hi Jennifer!!

      I just saw your comment….I’d love an update!! How are things going for you???
      Big hug!!

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