On Wednesday, Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers died at the age of 91. Nidetch has one of those feel good stories which illustrates the American dream. She was the daughter of a cabdriver and a manicurist. In 1968 when Weight Watchers went public and was sold to H.J. Heinz Co., Nidetch became a millionaire. What started as a confession of a cookie obsession to a group of friends in her Queens, NY apartment ultimately impacted millions of people. That’s inspiration!
The part you may not hear so much about
Like most things Weight Watchers has advantages as well as flaws. Most women end up heavier than when they began just one year later. In fact, there is a 99% long term failure rate. To top it off Nidetch struggled with her weight into her later years.
The Positives of Weight Watchers
This isn’t an article to bash Weight Watchers. It’s simply my opinion. How can I hate on someone who did so much with her life!
• Weekly meetings – Accountability is a great tool for weight loss/fitness.
• Empathy – There are a lot of emotional factors behind dieting and Weight Watchers certainly addresses this.
• Focus – You are required to track yourself both in terms of weigh-ins and food consumption. This definitely can be a plus
The Down Side
• Weekly meetings – This might seem like a contradiction as it is in the list above. To me it depends on what happens at the meetings. I worry that some Weight Watcher meetings are nothing more than a pity party. Positive action must be the emphasis for success.
• A calorie is not a calorie – While Weight Watchers generally keeps your total calories in check, it is missing a crucial component; what those calories are made up of. For example, a 7 point plate with protein and refined carbohydrates will have a very different effect on your health and metabolism than one with protein and healthy fats.
• Not Performance Based – Unfortunately just focusing on weight can sabotage results. If you are constantly telling yourself you want to “lose weight” you’re just reinforcing that something is wrong with you. Instead, focus on the positives (e.g. healthy habits) or even a performance goal (e.g. I easily run 2 miles without stopping).
What does work? As mentioned, my opinion is that some of the principles of Weight Watchers can help. I do feel there are some missing ingredients that could be game changing for most people. Here are 3 action steps.
1. Cut out (or minimize) simple sugar and refined carbohydrates.
2. Choose a goal. Performance based goals are great.
3. Eat some protein at each meal. This supports lean muscle tissue which will help you maintain or increase your metabolism.