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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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I Quit WW

Well, I think my title says it all.

Shortest blog post ever?

In all seriousness, this isn’t just about me stepping away from SmartPoints. I talked about that decision before. This is about me stepping away from WW officially.

January 2021 (a date we are all desperately clinging to right now!) will be my 12th anniversary of joining WW. Now, I wasn’t always a consistent, paying member of WW. I’ve left and come back and left again over and over and over.

This feels a little different. Perhaps because when I rejoined in December 2018, I actually stuck to it until only a couple weeks ago. I didn’t always follow the current plan (or any plan) during that time. Still, I was consistent in weighing in (save for the Whole 35), attending meetings (“workshops”), and trying to be a part of the community (kinda) for over 550 days before I canceled my membership.

However, I think this feels different because I canceled for a different reason than I have in the past.

In the past, I’ve canceled because of life changes (like starting college on campus or a new job), finances, or simply because it felt like a waste to pay when I wasn’t losing weight because I wasn’t following the plan or because I was dealing with medication side-effects.

This time, I canceled to let go of a dream I’ve had for over 11 years.

Lifetime Membership.

On WW, if you hit your goal weight (within your healthy BMI range unless you have a doctor’s note for a higher weight goal) and maintain it for 6 weeks (within 2 pounds), you can achieve something called “Lifetime” status. As long as you weigh in no more than 2 pounds over your goal weight, you get free WW. 

Even with switching to PointsPlus, I was still holding onto this idea of getting Lifetime. I love the WW meetings. There’s a reason I went to 2-3 a week pre-COVID and 6 a week when WW went virtual. Getting Lifetime and going for free just makes financial sense- especially after all the time and money I’ve invested into WW over the years.

However, a few weeks ago, I was doing some serious reflection over how COVID has changed things for me and my weight loss journey, and I realized that I really love weighing in at home. The idea of switching things up and going from weighing in at home in the same outfit I wore to weigh in at WW every single week to weighing in wearing shoes and a mask just overwhelmed me. Now, if WW would allow me to continue with home weigh-ins indefinitely, things would be different, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the case (based on a conversation I had with 24/7 chat about reaching Lifetime from home).

It made me realize that I don’t want to be a slave to the scale. Right now, if I have a rough week food-wise, I don’t care if I have a gain on the scale. PMS, special events, a change in a workout routine, illness, family issues. It doesn’t phase me. It’s just weight.

But what if my monthly weigh in to determine whether or not I have to pay happens to fall during the worst part of PMS? What about the fact that lifetime members need to weigh in at the beginning of the month? That makes the first weigh-in of the new year a challenge for everyone, but I’m also dealing with a late-June Birthday, which means it could impact my July weigh-in. Right now, seeing a gain on the scale at the beginning of July doesn’t phase me. It’s pretty normal for me.

But I’m pretty sure I’d feel differently if I weighed in for the purpose of Lifetime.

So, I’ve decided to step away from WW and give myself a break from having that pressure on me to hit goal weight by a certain time. Will I ever return to WW? Honestly, I’m not sure. There is a part of me that’s considering coming back when I’m a little closer to goal so I can get Lifetime and enjoy free meetings, but seeing as part of why I left was the realization that I don’t want the scale to hold so much power over me, this might be it.

In the meantime, I’m switching things up a little. I took a week off of the scale. In fact, tomorrow will be the second Sunday I’ve skipped weighing in since March 17, 2019 (last week was the first). Since I don’t have the pressure to stay consistent with Sunday weigh-ins and scheduling weigh-in day based on the best WW meeting for me, I’ve decided to change things up and start something new on a Monday instead of Sunday.

I think my main focus for the next four weeks is going to be tracking. I’ve been pretty inconsistent at that for a while and that definitely needs to change. I decided to sign up for a few “track bets” over the next few weeks as an added “push.” I was going to commit to 4 solid weeks of tracking anyway, but if I can get some extra cash for doing it, I might as well.

I also have a virtual race I’m working on. I still have 25.9 miles to go (out of 31.9), but that shouldn’t take too long. Currently, my “rule” is that I count any outdoor walk that’s at least 1 mile. If I walk to the store and back, that counts (but the shopping or going from store to store in the shopping center does not). Eventually, I may start biking some races (but I need a bike first). I haven’t quite set a goal for when I want to complete this race, but I think I can get this one done in 2 weeks and then knock out another one by the end of this 4-week experiment. I could possibly finish my current race in about a week, but we’re looking at excessive temperatures over the next few days, so I’m not sure I’ll be up for super long walks this week. I’ve already earned two race medals since starting these virtual races in June and there are a few more I’m hoping to collect from this one site alone.

Overall, I think my theme for the next month is going to be “consistency.” Consistency with tracking, drinking my water, getting in my steps, etc. I don’t have a specific workout plan set yet (working on that one) and I’m still tweaking some goals for the diet aspect of things, but at the end of the day, my main focus is just being consistent with what I know I need to do to reach my goals.

I am also doing a little self-reflection and experimenting with some things over the next 4 weeks related to my diet/health goals, but I’m not quite ready to share those details with anyone. Chances are, I’ll decide whether or not to say anything near the end of the 4 weeks.

Tomorrow, I have some grocery shopping to do to get myself prepped for Monday. In the spirit of giving myself a fresh start, I’m charging up my Fitbit (after not wearing it for a week) and creating a brand new Fitbit account. My weight history from my fancy new Bluetooth scale is being wiped clean. Sometimes, I think I just need a fresh start, so that’s what I’m doing.

So, here’s to the end of my time with WW and the start of my month of consistency.

Let’s see how this goes.