March 15, 2018 by bridgitgillis
The recent release of Weight Watcher’s new Freestyle point system left many app users confused to see their daily points go down and an increased number of “free” or zero point value foods magically appear. According to the Weight Watcher’s website, the new Freestyle program has made over 200 foods zero points. This enables more “freedom” for individuals to track their foods, since there are many zero point choices.
On the (old) Smart Points plan, Weight Watchers pushed users toward foods that are low in fat and sugar and high in lean protein. For example, a 90-calorie fiber brownie is worth 4 Smart Points, while 300 calories of chicken breast is worth 2 Smart Points. This kind of point value system encourages healthy choices by considering the overall nutrition of a food instead of simply looking at calories. As a way to encourage more consumption of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, the Smart Points system counts them as zero points.
In the (new) Freestyle plan, over 200 foods have been reduced to a zero point value, allowing individuals to eat any quantity of these foods without accumulating a single point. Foods that are not zero have maintained their Smart Point value. Using the same example as before, a 90-calorie fiber brownie is still worth 4 points, while 300 calories of chicken is worth zero points.
In addition to the new point values, the Freestyle plan allows unused daily points to roll over to the next day. Although I’m sure many users rejoiced at this new feature, rolling points over from day to day doesn’t encourage consistent, healthy eating habits. In the Smart Points system, users had a weekly allotment of points that they could choose to use at any time during the week- either all in a single day, or just a couple here and there. This encouraged healthy eating every day of the week and prevented the potential cycle of under eating one day and over eating the next- which I fear will happen on the Freestyle plan.
As someone who has lost 70 pounds over the past 11 months on the Smart Points plan, I am extremely skeptical of the new Freestyle plan for one main reason: portion control. I know myself and my eating habits, and although the Freestyle plan may change what I eat, since so many foods are zero points it wouldn’t change how much or how often I eat. For those of us who use food as a coping mechanism, replacing one type of food with another will not get to the root of the issue- habitual eating. At the end of the day, calories are still calories, and although the foods I eat may be healthier for my body, calories must be decreased in order for weight loss to occur.
On the Smart Points plan, I have developed consistent healthy eating habits that I am able to maintain throughout the week. Tracking was a learning curve at first, but I now have it down and have my arsenal of recipes and foods that I pull from daily and weekly. For example, every day for breakfast I have a 2 point muffin. I typically have chicken enchiladas at least once a week, and I have just discovered an awesome low point chocolate muffin recipe.
Weight Watcher’s website states, “And of those who’ve tried to lose weight before, more than 82 percent agreed that WW Freestyle is easier to do and almost 93 percent agreed it gives them more flexibility in their food choices compared to other times they’ve tried to lose weight in the past.”
I’m sure that the Freestyle plan is easier to use, and that it provides more flexibility. However, at what cost? Anything worth doing in life is hard, and my fear is that Weight Watchers has lowered the bar in order to appeal to more people. Personally, I’m sticking with the Smart Points plan because it has worked so well for me.
If you’re considering joining Weight Watcher’s and are reading this blog, congratulations! You are doing your homework, and I wish you the best of luck in your weight loss endeavors. Remember, the weight didn’t show up overnight, and it won’t leave overnight. However, it is possible and the effort will be worth it.