Saturday, December 4, 2010
Watching Weight Watchers
On this fifth night of the Festival of Latkes, I mean Lights, I'm feeling a bit like a French fry. After hosting a Hanukkah party on night #2 where we served zucchini and curried sweet potato latkes, my home still smells more like McDonald's than I'm comfortable admitting. As a result I will probably abstain from latkes for the next few days. And now so might many Weight Watchers clients.
This week the popular weight loss and management program unveiled its new PointsPlus system, a major overhaul of the widely popular and successful Points system eating plan started in 1997. For years WW had allotted each member a number of daily points that they could reach by carefully calculating the point values of their chosen meals and snacks. Under the plan point values were based solely on calories with slight considerations for fat and fiber. But with emerging trends in nutrition emphasizing the importance of foods for reasons beyond simply caloric content, WW went back to the drawing board to create a system that encouraged greater consumption of fruit and vegetables (all now worth zero points) recognizing that the body digests and metabolizes foods differently. And that's how PointsPlus was born, reintroducing bananas (which were 2 points under the old plan) into the diets of many clients who had long sworn them off. A serving of potato latkes, on the other hand, is now worth a whopping 7 points, according to a recent New York Times article.
WW is not for everyone. It's all about counting points and carefully tracking food and snacks in a way will appeal to some more than others. I've known many people who were very successful at losing weight under the WW plan and the Times article suggests that some followers of the original Points plan have no desire to change what is already working for them. The real significance of the new PointsPlus program is in its bold and daring move to once again change how we think about food. For over a decade WW had been advocating a certain calculated way to relate to food by calorie rather than nutrient content and they are suddenly presenting a very different model to millions of members worldwide. How well that new system is accepted and integrated by the public could provide some basis for the effectiveness of instituting new policies and asserting radical new public health positions that take into account our shifting attitudes toward food and nutrition. And that is worth waiting and watching.