Most diets fail in the long-term. People end up missing their favorite foods, which they’ve either cut out completely or drastically limited. And they simply get tired of being “on a diet”. WW, formerly Weight Watchers, just rolled out a new plan aimed at overcoming those obstacles. But will it make a difference?
WW says its new program, called myWW, offers more flexibility and customization than ever before. With a new assessment tool, members determine which of WW’s three plans is best for them based on factors like whether they want lots of food choices or whether they want to measure and track food as little as possible. (For the first time, current members don’t have to change the plan they’re on unless they want to.)
What’s also changed is that more foods now count as “ZeroPoint”. Those are foods that members don’t have to track and measure because they’re nutrient-dense and less likely to be overeaten. In the past, those foods have included fruits and non-starchy vegetables. But on two plans, eggs, fish, tofu, nonfat yogurt, beans, lentils are ZeroPoint. And on one plan, potatoes and whole grain pasta are too.
WW has studied the plans with 143 new and lapsed members and says they’re equally effective, resulting in an 8 percent weight loss (and about a 12 percent decrease in waist circumference) after about six months. According to WW, ninety percent of the members said the new plan felt more like a lifestyle than a diet.
But can any diet plan really not feel like a diet? I’m torn. As a dietitian, I firmly believe that different approaches work for different people--and it’s refreshing that, unlike so many diets popular now, WW allows for all foods and incentivizes eating more nutrient-rich staples like eggs, fish, and veggies.
Yet myWW is still a diet, and even on the most flexible plan, there’s daily tracking and vigilance involved. Over time, that can feel like a burden. To people who bristle under too much control or easily feel deprived, it can trigger a backlash: going off the plan, overeating, gaining back weight (and then some), and feeling bad about it. For many people, diet plans lead to guilt about food and shame around eating.
Like a lot of women I know, I’ve done Weight Watchers. It was years ago when I couldn’t fit into my wedding dress. I eventually gave up and had the dress taken out. But I know what it’s like to count Points and to think about every bite. Some people may feel grateful for the structure, end up eating more produce and whole grains, and thrive. But others will not, no matter how many “free” foods are allowed, and will end up in an unhealthy cycle, in a worse place than they were before. So before you jump into another diet plan, take a moment to think about diets you’ve tried in the past, how you felt, and what ultimately made you stop. And if you try a diet plan and don’t “succeed”, know that you didn’t fail--the diet did.