Weight Watchers says it decided to make the shift after testing out the new points system and finding that people were less hungry on this plan, had fewer food cravings, and lost an average of nearly eight percent of their body weight after six months.
Weight Watchers fans have had mixed reactions on social media, and nutritionists are in the same boat. “If the focus is on health and balanced eating, it’s a great move,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N., and CEO of NY Nutrition Group. “But for those who are also looking to lose a lot of pounds, this will most likely significantly hinder the effectiveness of Weight Watchers.” (Speed up your progress towards your weight-loss goals with Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)
Portion control is a potential issue with the new Weight Watchers zero-points foods, says Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food. “I think they should be more cautionary with the assumption that people will not overeat the zero-points foods,” she says. “Foods that contribute calories, fat, protein, or carbohydrates are not ‘zero,’ ‘free,’ or ‘unlimited’ foods.” While Warren says that the underlying concept of stressing whole foods is good, she points out that “anyone can overeat when given free rein while dieting, regardless of the type.”
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Still, Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy says that making the program more “freestyle” helps set people up for long-term success. He especially likes that the new program is stressing more lean protein, like fish, shellfish, and chicken. “These options also have a little bit of fat in them which will keep you more satisfied as they day goes on, which will lead to spending less points on so-so snacks,” he says. And, he points out, it takes a lot of guilt out of eating with the diet. “Eggs and tilapia are not the dieter’s enemy,” he says.
If you’re on Weight Watchers and you’re nervous about the new changes, Warren says it’s important to be aware of your portion sizes and when you eat, even with Weight Watchers zero-points foods. “Just because something is unlimited, doesn’t mean your body is hungry for it,” she says.
She also recommends practicing intuitive eating techniques and listening to when your belly is telling your mind that you are hungry. “Eat slow while chewing each bite and stop when you feel satisfied, not full or stuffed,” she says. “If anything, this revamp can pave the way for an impactful method of intuitive and mindful eating.”