I should really say that I owe my life to Weight Watchers. It enabled me to lose over 50 pounds. Considering I didn’t know how I should be eating, it was a good starting point for me. I went from eating burgers and chicken nuggets to salads galore. I really had no idea how many calories I was consuming daily, so being told I can only eat so many points each day really helped me to stay on track. It was almost like dealing with a checkbook. I started with 24 points a day, so it was a matter of eating all of those points each day, yet being able to save enough by the end of the day so I would still have enough for dinner and a snack. It was definitely a balancing act and it really forced me to plan out the meals for my day.
Weight Watchers was a good to help me lose weight, but did the program really tell me how to totally eat healthy? Not necessarily. With the program, you can eat ANYTHING you want, as long as it’s within your points range. Want that donut? You can have it, as long as you have enough points. But that normally means sacrificing points for your other meals. Everybody should be able to enjoy a donut now and then (though I honestly don’t remember the last time I had one!), so I understand the flexibility of the program. They want it to be realistic for people. However, while I was on the program, I feel as if I relied too much on those frozen meals (which are PACKED with sodium). I was also afraid to eat too much bread (even whole-wheat, which is great for you). I remember someone offering me some strawberries (before fruits were free points), and I said no because I didn’t want to eat more points that day! How crazy was I to say no to something so nutritious? Instead of eating a well-balanced diet, I wound up eating the same food over and over again, primarily because I had memorized the points value, and I didn’t even know how to cook anything (which is worth talking about in a blog post). I was more focused on the calories than if something was actually nutritionally good for my body. That wasn’t necessarily Weight Watchers fault, but I guess I just wasn’t taught any better.
You have to understand that the people who work for Weight Watchers (which I used to be one of them), aren’t professionally trained nutrition experts. They are wonderful people and I truly respect them, but they obviously do not go through the rigorous coursework that RDs go through. We had occasional trainings here and there, but nothing too substantial. The advice we’d give to members was pretty much from our own experiences or from what we heard others tell us. We were there more as form of support and encouragement for the members. We never taught anyone about the importance of getting enough vitamins and minerals, or why carbs are so vital for your body (I cannot emphasize enough that carbs are your friend, not your enemy!!) It just isn’t the focus of the program.
It wasn’t until that I started my coursework in nutrition that I finally began to understand what I should be putting into my body. I no longer buy those frozen meals. They may be cheap, easy, and pre-portioned, but they really aren’t good for you. 100 calorie packs are a thing of the past (which used to be my crutch). Just because something is low in calories, or fat free, doesn’t mean you should be eating it! I now buy whole foods that are nutritious and nourish your body. It’s not to say that I don’t splurge now and then (because I definitely do!), but I’m now realizing as long as I’m eating a well-balanced diet and diverse array of foods, I’m going to be getting all of my macro and micronutrients.
I’m still ever-grateful for Weight Watchers in that it really changed my life and helped me start my journey to becoming healthy. I admire every person who joins Weight Watchers because I know they’re making such a great decision for their bodies and general well-being.
For all those people on the program, or thinking about joining, you should understand these food basics (that Weight Watchers doesn’t necessarily teach you):
- For grains (which you shouldn’t be afraid of!), make sure they are whole-grain/whole-wheat. Go for brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal. They may be a few extra points, but they are way worth it. Your brain NEEDS carbs. They are packed with fiber (just drink enough water), lots of B vitamins, and minerals such as iron and magnesium.
- For protein, go for the leanest cuts of meat. It’s a great way to get vitamin B12. Protein doesn’t just mean meat though! Beans, soy, and nuts are also excellent sources. Also, don’t be afraid to eat the egg yolk occasionally (also worth the points!) It has calcium, vitamin D, DHA, vitamin A, and lots more nutrients than the white lacks in.
- For fruits and veggies, now that they are both free points, you should enjoy them! It’s better to eat the real thing than having the juice version. Don’t be afraid of potatoes, either! Sweet potatoes are PACKED with vitamin A and beta-carotene, and they taste delicious!
- For dairy, you should make sure you stick to non-fat or low-fat. They’re packed with oodles calcium of vitamin D! And who doesn’t love greek yogurt? You’ll get tons of protein per serving.