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Goldilocks: The Problem with WW

It seems like every few days, someone comes online and posts some rant complaining that WW is too low in calories. People start double tracking on MyFitnessPal or LoseIt, or leave WW and start using iTrackBites with their secondary metric and see that they’re barely eating 1,000 calories a day. They don’t understand why their calories are so low, and they’re quick to blame WW and not their own food choices.

I’ve never had that problem- at least, not on SmartPoints. In fact, even on the Green Plan, where there aren’t as many zero point foods, I’ve struggled with eating too many calories.

That’s where the problem with WW lies.

I’ve talked before about how there’s very little correlation between calories and points on SmartPoints. If I eat 30 points of chicken breast, that’s over 2,000 calories. That same 30 SmartPoints can also give me a 640 calorie Bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes.

Of course, nobody is going to only eat chicken or cake for a day, but it illustrates the root of the problem. It’s possible to be “perfectly” on plan- at least, according to the numbers on your tracker- and be way over or way under a reasonable calorie target.

In the past, this wasn’t as much of an issue (though, I’d say the old Points System teetered on being a little too low in calories). On Points, a point was approximately 50-100 calories. On PointsPlus, it was 40-80. On SmartPoints? I’ve seen as low as 16 calories per point and as high as over 200. That’s a pretty big range.

In WW, we’re taught to trust the plan. Track the food, stay in your points, and trust the plan. After all, WW is based on the latest science when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.

And I’m not denying that- to an extent. After all, most of us could afford to eat more protein and less sugar.

However, at the end of the day, we still have a program where some people are eating too little while being told, “remember that 0 point foods have calories!” Some people are taking full advantage of those same 0 point foods and overeating. It’s Goldilocks. Some are eating too much. Some are eating too little. Some just happen to be eating just the right amount.

SmartPoints isn’t self-regulating. There’s nothing in the app telling members if they’re eating too much or too little beyond the very unreliable SmartPoints system.

This is a problem.

WW has created a system that people trust to help them healthily lose weight, and I believe it can be that system, but not without some changes.

I think WW needs to start incorporating a calorie target into the app. Specifically, it needs to be a reasonable calorie range that considers the member’s age, weight, height, biological sex, and activity level. With WW discouraging the use of FitPoints (which I understand, to an extent), they basically say that I should eat the same amount of food as someone who is a complete badass when it comes to lifting weights and working out. That’s just wrong.

The goal should be to utilize your daily, weekly, and FitPoints (if necessary)- along with your zero point foods- to hit that calorie range. It’ll be up to you to figure out what works best for you (which is the whole point of SmartPoints anyway- this just makes it more transparent).

Will it happen? I doubt it. That’s one of the reasons I love that iTrackBites doesn’t allow you to follow Better Balance (the equivalent to WW Blue) without a Pro Membership. The pro membership also gives you the ability to track a secondary metric: macros or calories. Sure, you can opt-out of using it, but it’s available for everyone on Better Balance.

That’s the first step in improving this major flaw in the WW SmartPoints system. It’s not the only thing that needs to be fixed. People need to be educated on metabolic adaptation. We need to stop pushing this idea that 1,200 calories a day is appropriate for most adults. 

But we can start by fixing the Goldilocks issue with SmartPoints and making people aware of how much they’re eating.

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Sticking to what Works… Until it Doesn’t

I love the WW Green Plan. I lost a bit of weight on it back when it was the new SmartPoints plan a few years back before I put the weight back on when I went on medication to manage my mental health. When I started back on it in September, I spent time modifying the WW app to allow myself to go back to following that plan.

I lost about 30 pounds on SmartPoints.

Last Sunday, I weighed in at 0.2 pounds above what I weighed on March 1. I have been in this same weight decade since December. My only saving grace is that even with some large gains, I haven’t gone up into the higher weight decade.

Now, I haven’t been perfect, but I never have been (and never will be). Still, I’ve had more good days than bad days and that’s always been enough. Lately, however, it hasn’t been enough.

This week, I’ve been doing an experiment inspired by Brianna’s own calorie and point comparison experiment. I decided to switch to tracking on iTrackBites instead of the WW app to take advantage of the secondary metrics. Clearly, something has not been working for me and I need to figure out what it is. I figured the first step would be to look at how many calories I’m eating.

Now, this was a rough week to start an experiment between PMS hunger and eating like a jerk, but the on plan days have been very insightful.

I am still following the Wendie Plan. I do not count points for fruits, vegetables, or the oil I drizzle on my veggies before roasting or air frying (but if I make a salad dressing or something like waffles, I will count points for the oil in that). I am, however, counting calories for those things.

On a “good” day, I’ve been averaging about 1,831 calories per day. According to my Fitbit, my 7 day average calorie burn is about 2,160 calories. [This doesn’t include my “high” point day which would obviously skew my calorie consumption]. It’s no wonder I’m not losing weight.

I’ve looked at the numbers. Obviously, the fruit, veggies, and oil that I don’t count as points still have calories. However, even after subtracting the calories from those foods, I’m still hitting my calorie goal. I know people who, even with 0 point foods, struggle to hit their calorie goals without blowing through their points. I don’t have that problem at all.

If I spend my entire points allowance on chicken breast, that’s over 2,000 calories. On a bundt cake? 640. That’s an average of 75 calories per point vs 21. The problem is, I eat a lot more chicken than I do cake- which is what WW wants me to do.

On PointsPlus, there’s a 10 calorie per point difference between chicken breast and cake.

Most of what I eat on a regular basis is either the same points between SmartPoints and PointsPlus or is fewer points on SmartPoints. I don’t eat a lot of sugary foods. Between daily and weekly points, I have 14 points more on SmartPoints than I do on PointsPlus. If most of my foods are the same on both plans, it means I’m easily overeating on SmartPoints. Take my work lunch for example? The protein powder I use is a point more on PointsPlus than on SmartPoints, but the 1sp fiber powder is 0pp. This means that my smoothie is going to be 9 points on either plan. However, I’m looking at 9 out of 30 points on Green and 9 out of 26 on PointsPlus (which I still think is the “yellow” plan- even if Brianna says it should be the glitter plan). That’s nearly 35% of my daily target vs 30%. Things like that can add up FAST.

One thing that confused me about when SmartPoints first came out was that, even 40+ pounds above my goal weight, I hit my minimum daily and weekly target. It just didn’t make sense. At the point where I hit my minimum of 30 dailies and 35 weeklies on SmartPoints, I was still at about 29 PointsPlus. Right now, I’m at about 26pp. Being at my minimum while I’m around 12 pounds from hitting a healthy weight range makes perfect sense. At 30+ pounds above? Not so much.

So, I’m stepping away from SmartPoints- at least for the time being. Tomorrow, I’m going to switch my tracker on iTrackBites to start tracking PointsPlus values on the Carb Concious plan. I’ll still be double tracking calories- just to keep myself in check and see what other tweaks I need to start making. Other than switching plans, nothing else will be changing. The foods I eat will probably be the same- with a few tweaks here and there. I still plan on following the Wendie Plan guidelines for PointsPlus.

I’m hoping that making a few small tweaks here and there with my diet, in addition to starting a mini fitness challenge for my Birthday (which I’ll announce at some point) in addition to finishing out Liift 4 will be enough to get the scale moving in the right direction.

Now, I will be adding one more food to my list of foods I will NOT be counting as points. Every morning, I add two scoops of unflavored collagen peptides to my water. On SmartPoints, that comes out to 0 points. On PointsPlus, however, that’s 2 points. I still plan on counting the calories for it, but since I’m taking the collagen as a supplement and not as food, I’m going to treat it like I do my vitamins or any medications and not count any points. If I find that I need to start cutting back on some things, I’ll look into counting it in the future, but for now, I’m going to see how not counting it works for me.

I’ve always struggled with “the grass is always greener” syndrome when it comes to diets. No matter how well a plan is working for me, I always look at others and go “I wonder if I should switch.” It’s taken me a long time to reach the point where I’m no longer wanting to make major changes every few weeks. I’ve been staying in my own lane. It’s been working for me, so why change?

Except, it’s clearly not working anymore, so I need to make a change.

I’m nervous. It’s been a while since I’ve been on PointsPlus. I’m used to having 30 points a day that I aim to divide evenly between 3 meals. I’m not used to dividing 26 points up; 26 points don’t even divide up evenly between the meals. I’ve never had anything below 30 points on PointsPlus, so that in itself is going to be a challenge- on top of relearning the points values for foods. I’m going to have to learn how to eat with these changes: figuring out how to divide my points and learning how to enjoy the fact that I don’t have to schedule my entire week around one dessert without using it as an excuse to eat like a jerk.

It’s going to take some time to figure things out, but the best way for me to figure that out is just to get started.

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A Day of Eating on the Wendie Plan (36 Point Day)

I was struggling to come up with an idea for what to write today, so I thought I would try sharing what I ate today.

As you should know, I’m currently following the Wendie Plan. Since today is Thursday, it means today is a 36 point day. I am on the WW Green Plan (also known as “Sugar Smart” on iTrackBites).

Now, you should know that I track some foods a little differently than the “rules.” For example, I am 100% on Team No Count Blended Fruit. I’ve also stopped tracking the drizzles of oil I use for cooking. The biggest thing that I do, however, is that I recalculate the calories for most of the food I eat based on the macro nutrients on the nutritional label. This means that there may be a slight discrepancy between what points I share and what the WW app says based on the nutritional information on the package.

Breakfast (11):

After my morning walk, I threw together a pretty simple 11 point grilled cheese sandwich:

-2 slices of Ezekiel 4:9 Bread (4)
-2 slices of Good & Gather [Target] Brand Munster Cheese (5)
-Good & Gather Sliced Turkey Breast (1)
-Trader Joe’s Garlic Aioli Mustard Sauce (1)
-Arugula (0)

I paired the sandwich (which I cooked on my grill pan) with red, orange, and yellow bell pepper slices (0); sugar snap peas (0), and cherries (0). [I also took my multivitamins- which I don’t count, and I had two scoops of Vital Proteins Unflavored Collagen Protein in my water for 0sp.]

Lunch (10):

This was a fairly quick and easy meal since I really just reheated my dinner leftovers. I made a simple stir-fry last night:

-Chicken Breast (2)
-Asparagus (0)
-Mushrooms (0)
-Red Onion (0)
-Sesame Oil (2)
-Coconut Aminos (1)
-Primal Kitchen No Soy Teriyaki Sauce (1)

I served this over cauliflower rice with some soy sauce (0) and topped the mixture with Trader Joe’s Chicken and Cilantro Mini Wontons (4).

Dinner (9):

Lunch kept me full a lot longer than I was expecting, so dinner ended up being later than I wanted it to be, but that’s ok.

-Grilled Pork Chop (5)
-Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub with Coffee and Garlic (1)
-Air Fried Potatoes seasoned with Trader Joe’s Onion Salt (3)
-Roasted Broccoli (0)
-Roasted Beets (0)
-Roasted Carrots (0)

The beets and carrots were seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme. So simple, but so delicious.

Dessert (6):

I think my favorite days are the days when I hit my daily target (30) exactly with my meals and use my weeklies for dessert. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I eat lower point meals and have more points left over for dessert. Other times, I want a little something extra and don’t have any points for dessert. I’ve learned to be flexible.

I took my top two dessert options to Instagram for a vote, and the Trader Joe’s Joe- Joe’s Thins beat out the Clio bar for my last 6 points. I paired these with some more cherries (0).

And there you have it! It wasn’t an exciting day of eating, but most days aren’t. In fact, this was actually a fairly typical day for me. Some shortcut foods, some foods made from scratch, a ton of veggies.

Not including 0 point fruits and veggies or the bits of oil used when cooking, my totals come out to around 1,447 calories and 126 grams of protein for today. I don’t count calories or macros, but I do like to check in occasionally just to see where I’m at without looking at 0 point foods. Without the 6 weeklies spent on dessert, my totals sit at about 1,398 calories.