Sunday, September 13, 2009

The curious culture of Weight Watchers

If you read the Weight Watchers message boards, you get an interesting view into the mind of people doing the plan. There are lots of questions like "Do you use your WPA?" (Weekly Points Allowance) or "Do you eat your AP?" (activity points). Then there are threads like "Deep Fried Oreos." There seem to be a certain number of super-strict Weight Watchers who claim to never, ever, ever eat their WPA or AP. Then there are the people who admit to using every single point because "Weight Watchers gave them to us to use them." I would have to admit being in that latter category. When I posted a while ago about earning 22 points on a run, and someone commented that I could only use 4 of those points, you can bet I checked my materials. The only rule that I found was that activity points don't carry over into the next week -- there was no rule limiting the number of them you could earn or use. I didn't use them the day I earned them, but later in the week, I dipped into those points (and then some) and still lost. I find there are a lot of "rules" floating around from old plans or things some leader said somewhere that make it in to the folklore but aren't actually part of the official program.

There is never a question like "Do you sometimes go over your points and hope that you can still lose anyway?" Someone who posted something like that would know they would be tempting the wrath of the super-strict WWers for sure. I actually admired the Deep Fried Oreo poster because she had the guts to admit having had three of them (and, by the way, for counting points for them). If she really wanted them, made room for them in her points allowance, and counted them, what's the problem, exactly? It's not like this is a food she will be eating on a daily basis.

One curious piece of culture you can only pick up from meetings. There are a certain number of people who attend meetings and use some of the tips and recipes, but don't actually count points or track. I suspect the woman who made the pumpkin muffins with nuts and frosting was probably one from that camp. Usually they don't have a whole lot of weight to lose and are just trying to make a few tweaks.

I think there is a lot of weirdness surrounding Weight Watchers for the same reason that baseball players have elaborate systems of tapping their cleats before they step up to bat: Weight loss is fickle and invites superstition and ritual. Though over the long term the "calories in/calories out" equation might hold true, in an individual week, anything could happen on the scale. No wonder people have lucky weigh-in pants and make up special variants on the plan to protect them from the disappointed look of the receptionist.

By the way, this week I'm not expecting good things. Maybe that's why all this is on my mind. Setting expectations low is one of my rituals for a week where things got a little out of control.


  1. First off some of those woman on those WW message boards are EVIL! lol If it had not been for the blog world I would haev kept trying to get support from the WW boards, but Im so glad that I do not have to deal with the drama going on over there! lol

    As far as daily points go-yes I always eat mine. I am down to 22 points a day. Back when I started I was eating 35 a day and yeah I was still eating them all but I was FULL! Now I usually eat all of my Weekly 35's but on occasion there are weeks that I do not dip into them fully.

    AP's are something that I do not eat at all. Mainly because 3 different leaders told me that unless I am earning a bunch its better to not eat them to help speed up your weight loss. I am not a marathon runner...not even a good I skip any AP's I earn.

    I do not know the eat one 4 rule that you were told...maybe because I just ignore the AP's anyway.


  2. I don't think this is something unique to the WW community, but that it happens in the Weight Loss community at large. People are always dealing with issues of calories in/ calories out, and arguing about what the best way to do that is, whether a calorie is a calorie no matter if you're eating deep fried oreos or a green salad, and so on.

    I also have to say that there is a lot of difference between those people who have to tweak their diets a little to lose 10 lbs, and those who have a lot of weight to lose.

  3. There's a lot flexiblity in WW, sometimes too much -- some people eat whatever they want because WW doesn't tell them NOT to eat it. They can, but they won't lose weight and they'll wonder why. Those super strict WW'ers make me crazy because I'm doing the best I can to stay balanced and not feel deprived but also follow healthy guidelines.

    Sometimes I think we need a road map.

  4. LOL!! I totally agree!!! Some of those people on the WW boards are like super evil people that only exist in sci-fi movies and the Die Hard series.
    I totally agree that I wouldn't have stuck with online WW if it hadn't been for blogs and the kick butt chicks at the Babycenter WW board.
    I agree with eating the fried oreos and counting them if you have the points for them. Who cares???

  5. I too find the range of characters on the WW boards make me look farther afield. I have found to be good at times. I think one thing people do, and something I have to work on, is to not eat chemical food (ie Fat Free Cool Whip) on a regular basis just because it is low in points - it's still not good for you! Thanks for this blog - a lot of your ideas resonate with me.


  6. The problem is that old school WW leaders will tell people they're only allowed to use four points a day, as the old system allowed.

    As someone who 10-13 miles too, I've never earned 22 points for a run, but usually 10-14.

    But that's the problem. Everyone thinks that their way is the right way and we don't get uniformed answers from the "leaders," so we get a broken telephone like game from all around us.

    Just follow the GHG, stay within your points and exercise and it's all easy peasey :)

  7. Lucky weigh-in pants??? Everyone knows there's no such thing. It's lucky weigh-in shoes. I should know. I have a pair. LOL


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07