Lessons from Weight Watcher’s: Portion Control and Balance

Girl Balancing Herself on a Rock wearing Pink Tennis Shoes
What I Learned from Doing Weight Watchers
Exchange Plan in the 80s

Now that I’ve gotten my distraction with Nutritional Ketosis out of my system, I’ve started to look at the Old Weight Watcher’s Exchange Program more closely.

What I like about that system is that it focuses on balance and portion control, rather than counting calories, fat grams, or carbohydrates.

The old Weight Watchers Diet is a more normal way of eating.



Although the South Beach Diet does something similar, South Beach doesn’t have as much structure.

There’s no portion control, so it’s more of an offshoot from the Atkins Diet with an emphasis on reducing saturated fat.

In the mid 1980s, when the Quick Start Program first began, the rumor about Weight Watchers was that the combination of foods held some sort of chemical weight-loss magic.

The recommendation was to eat everything allowed each day, exactly as the plan laid out – with no deviation – or you wouldn’t lose any weight at all.

That isn’t true, but that’s what people, and sometimes leaders, were saying back then.

Eating exactly what Weight Watcher’s told you to eat was essential for success.

But today, we know better.


Weight Loss Depends on Many Variables


Weight loss is subject to a large number of variables, and those variables are extremely individual.
  • Metabolism
  • insulin resistance or sensitivity
  • health problems
  • pancreatic function
  • food allergies and sensitivities
  • activity level
and even the health of your mitochondria all play a role in fat loss. What works for you, might not work for me, and what works for me, might not work for you.

That’s just the way weight loss is.

It isn’t linear, and it doesn’t follow any particular pattern.

Balance and Portion Control Are Essential To Weight-Loss Success


Grilled Pork Chop, Steamed Kale, Homemade Applesauce
The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Plan
taught balance, as well as portion control.

There are basic lessons about portion control and balance that the Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program teaches.

Lessons you don’t learn from counting points or calories or carbohydrates.

This doesn’t mean that using exchanges to balance your eating style doesn’t have its drawbacks. Many people find exchanges confusing. Mostly, because they can’t wrap their brain around the idea of appropriate serving sizes.

Even though exchange programs existed before super-sizing became commonplace, it’s just human nature to overestimate activity level and underestimate the amount of food you’re eating.

I’ve seen this tendency time and time again within all dieting communities.

Just because something is low in carbohydrates, calories, or fat, that doesn’t mean you can eat all you want of it.

If you want to be successful on any diet plan, you have to maintain balance and you have to maintain portion control.


So What Do I Mean by Balance?


The word balance means different things to different people.

Old Fashioned Weight Scale Balancing Money Against Time
What does balanced eating mean to you?
To me, it's not over indulging on one
single food group.


You ask a low carber about balance, and they’ll tell you that their diet is deliberately unbalanced to correct their metabolic imbalances. Yet, they spend a lot of time running around looking for food brands that carry the least amount of carbs.

You ask a low-calorie dieter about balance, and they’ll tell you that you need to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains every single day, regardless of your metabolic individuality.

You ask a low-fat dieter about balance, and they’ll tell you that you need to eat as little fat as possible. Fat is evil.

To each of these dieters, that’s what balance means to them, but is any of their answers really about balance?

Most of the answers you’ll receive simply justify a person’s personal dietary choices.

That isn’t balance.

Balance is about finding the midpoint between excess and deprivation that keeps everything in your body functioning at its best. It’s where no one single food or macronutrient receives more attention and focus than the others.

It’s when you learn that variety really is the spice of life.

On a low-carb diet, balance means you experiment with new foods and vegetables that you’ve never tried before. You stop hunting for what’s lowest in carbohydrates and learn how to get the micronutrients you need within your own carbohydrate tolerance.

On a low-calorie diet, balance means you don’t limit your meals and snacks to just low-calorie fruits and vegetables.

And on a low-fat diet, you dump your fear of fat, so you can experience the health that comes from eating an adequate amount of essential fatty acids.
  • A low-carb diet isn’t a no-carb diet.
  • A low-fat diet isn’t a no-fat diet.
  • Likewise, a low-calorie diet isn’t fasting.
Yet, many people who follow one of these major diet categories use a diet in just that way.

The result?

Eventually, you go off your diet because you’ve never learned how to turn your dieting program into a lifestyle you can enjoy eating for the rest of your life.

Weight Watchers Can Help You Shuck the Dieting Mindset


I hear this concept quite a lot within the low-carb community. Even the Weight Watchers Points Program has started using the same mantra in their television commercials:

This isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle. Stop dieting and start living.

But how many dieters actually do that?

The sad truth is – very few.

Most of us become stuck in what I call the Dieting Mindset.

What is a Dieting Mindset?

A Dieting Mindset looks at a food program as a temporary restriction. You are either on a diet or off of one.

That type of unbalanced thought-form eventually brings failure because when you’re off your diet, you are more likely to eat in a way that destroys your health.

The Old Weight Watcher’s Exchange Program offers a wide variety of foods placed within a structured, portion-controlled system that teaches you how to bring more variety into your life.

Yes, it spells out exact portion sizes, but that helps to teach you what a realistic portion looks like.

Weight Watcher’s isn’t just about eating meat and vegetables, or learning how to cook lean meats in a broiler, George Foreman grill, or a non-stick pan. Those are unbalanced extremes when taken by themselves that can keep you living within a dieting mindset.

Don’t think of the Weight Watcher’s Plan in terms of absolutes.

Think of the program in terms of guidelines. 

These guidelines are a framework from which you can begin to build a way of eating that suits your lifestyle, tastes, and metabolic individuality. 

The idea isn’t to follow the Weight Watcher’s Program to extremes. 

The idea is to break out of your dieting mindset and give yourself permission to live.


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