6 Lessons I Learned from People Doing Weight Watchers SmartPoints

I have been reading online articles and watching videos about Weight Watchers members:
  • what they eat
  • challenges they've taken on for themselves
  • what their struggles and problems are
And – OH MY!

I totally cannot wrap my head around the points thing, smart or not, but I was astonished at how people were using points to guide their daily food choices. From the way Weight Watchers presents the program, you'd think members were making healthier decisions about food, but that's definitely not what I saw or read.

If you're struggling to make SmartPoints work for you, here are 6 issues that might be interfering in your weight loss success:

Losing weight and keeping it off isn't easy, due to:
  • genetics
  • sleep patterns
  • medications
  • work environment
  • social pressure
  • hunger and cravings
  • false beliefs about food
  • feelings of deprivation
  • eating out
  • drinking
  • family responsibilities
  • unsupportive spouses, friends, and coworkers
  • unforeseen events
  • health conditions
  • nutritional deficiencies
Plus, plain old habit. Most of what we do comes from habitual urges and emotional reactions to our thoughts or environment that we have never taken the time to examine.

Switching from completely mindless eating to trying to stay within a given number of SmartPoints doesn't change old habits. In many cases, it simply reinforces them and makes you feel like you don't fit in.

Not only does dieting force you to stand outside of your social circle, dieting feeds resentment and often tosses you into the cesspool of self-pity when you don't measure up to the standards that others have set for you.

Many of the women I met over the past couple of weeks keep trying to stay within their target, but fail every single day.

Perhaps you do too.

If so, these 7 lessons I learned from people doing SmartPoints may help you to see yourself better and encourage you to reevaluate the usefulness of how you're currently using SmartPoints to reach your health and dietary goals.

Banana with Chocolate Syrup is What SmartPoints People Eat

SmartPoints Lesson #1: SmartPoints Have No Correlation to Calories

Unlike older point versions of Weight Watchers, where you inputted the protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber for a given food, and the calculator spit out a point value associated with the food's calorie content, the current SmartPoints system doesn't line up with calorie intake or even macronutrients.

One woman, who had been doing the new Beyond the Scale Weight Watchers program for over 3 weeks, due to a 30-day challenge and a desire to get into a smaller pair of jeans, decided to splurge on a piece of chocolate cake at a social event. After indulging in the cake, she looked up the SmartPoints value on her phone app.

A normal slice of chocolate cake was 27 SmartPoints according to the app, which is just shy of the 30 points she was allowed for the entire day! The reason why chocolate cake is so high isn't due to the number of calories in a piece of cake. The high ratio of points is due to its sugar and saturated fat content.

If you want to continue eating sugary foods or foods high in fat, it's going to cost you dearly now. On SmartPoints, sugar and saturated fat are penalized, so even healthy foods like avocado, nuts, and cheese come with huge SmartPoints values. The justification for the change is that Weight Watchers now targets things that tend to slow down weight loss.

To put this into perspective, one huge rectangle of gluten-free chocolate cake, (6 servings per 9-inch pan) topped with chocolate frosting (half vegetable shortening and half butter) is 600 calories. Since those 600 calories represent 27 of your 30 points for the day, the 30-point target takes up about 700 to 750 calories.

Weekly points for an older woman, sedentary, like me would be 21, which only allows you another 3 points a day. This brings the base calorie content of the diet up to 800. At 21 weekly points, a single slice of chocolate cake would eat up all of those weekly points, plus 6 daily points on the day you ate the cake.

Granted, cake packs a dietary wallop and under normal conditions, you can't eat cake every day and expect to lose weight, but on a low-calorie diet, you'd simply skip breakfast or lunch that day to make up for the cake indulgence later on. Since I have a family of two right now, even a small cake lasts us three days.

If you cut the cake into smaller pieces, say nine slices per 9-inch square pan, you can reduce the calories in the cake by 200 per slice. SmartPoint wise, you'd lower those points to 18, which fits better into a 21 weekly point target than 27 does. A better option for those who need a daily treat to keep from binging would be to simply eat half a slice of cake (13.5 points) instead of a whole one.

Likewise, choosing a different sweet option, like 1 cup of French-Vanilla ice cream for 10 points would be even more workable, but I didn't see very many dieters shopping around for the best point option. Most people wanted to continue eating what they were eating before, so those who were used to eating sweetened yogurt, chips, crackers, and processed foods had the largest struggles.

SmartPoints Lesson #2: You Can't Eat Whatever You Want Anymore

I realize that fruits and vegetables don't cost you any points, even though they do cost you calories, but despite what Oprah has been saying in her video clips and commercials, I'm totally not buying into the idea that you can eat anything you want as long as you track the points.

This whole Weight Watchers slogan is a lie.

Granted, the prior plan wasn't all that healthy. And many members didn't take advantage of the opportunity Weight Watchers gave them to change their dietary habits over the course of the original Points and PointsPlus programs. Evolving from exchanges to points to PointsPlus was an obvious sign that Weight Watchers would continue to evolve in the future.

Even so, dieters approached their meal plans from the perspective that Weight Watchers would never change what they were doing. The game was how many treats can I fit into the points target and still lose weight.

In my own experience, you need about 900 to 950 calories a day to get enough nutrients for good health. Calories above 950 are used to take up the energy slack, so you can pretty much spend them on anything you like and not adversely affect your health.

The way the old Weight Watchers exchange plan provided these extra calories was in the form of 2 to 3 servings of starchy carbs a day, plus 550 weekly calories you could spend on anything you wanted. The whole idea that every single calorie you put into your mouth must be nutrient-dense isn't realistic.

People who habitually make poor dietary choices can't be expected to automatically switch to a pure, clean diet without creating mental, emotional, and physical stress on the body. This is the major reason why a standard low-carb diet often doesn't work very well. Stress raises cortisol levels and other stress hormones, which can work against what you're trying to do by eating less.

Easing into a new way of eating is often the wiser path, so you don't trigger the body into life preservation mode, but people have been so conditioned to follow the rules or do what some authoritative figure tells them to do, that tweaking their Weight Watchers diet has never crossed their mind.

It's either Weight Watchers by the book, or no SmartPoints at all.

SmartPoints Lesson #3: Most Dieters are Eating Impulsively

Losing weight using SmartPoints is far more complex than just hitting your daily points target, especially if you're used to eating impulsively – as most dieters are.

Without a plan and consistent mindfulness, you will almost always go over your target number of points.

The common reaction I saw to point overload by the end of the day wasn't an evaluation of what was eaten, so a course correction could be made or a different strategy tried out. Instead, SmartPoints dieters tend to have an “I'll do better tomorrow” mindset, nudged into being after indulging in feeling guilty for a little while.

Unfortunately, I'll do better never happens because tomorrow only brings more impulsive eating.

Hunger pangs, mental and emotional urges, food smells, and what other people are eating are in control of how the dieter eats most of the time instead of personal responsibility. Feelings of deprivation are rampant, even among those who do indulge in fatty or sugary treats on a daily basis. Drinking was also fairly common.

Points were typically guessed at, even among those using phone apps, either because it wasn't convenient to weigh and measure what they were eating or because it took too much effort. Going out was done on the spur of the moment, so if you only had a few points left for the day, you were not standing on solid ground.

Eating socially seemed to be the number one obstacle that most people eating SmartPoints face. Partly, because it never occurred to them to balance out their points on a weekly basis instead of daily. A new day meant a new chance to stay within their healthy target, so what happened the day before, was out-of-site and out-of-mind.

I got the feeling that most of these individuals were not capable of adapting to what Weight Watchers felt they should be eating, and as a consequence, they were driven by their impulsive eating habits from moment to moment.

For example, breakfast, if eaten, was devoured with no thought as to what they would eat for lunch or dinner, so the smell of hot chocolate or a desire to be a part of the gang often resulted in them running out of points before the end of the day.

They kept track as they went along, giving into their desires and appetite as the day progressed.

SmartPoints Lesson #4: Many are Deficient in Protein and Fats

This lesson jumped out at me early on in my research. Since SmartPoints was the target, dieters paid no attention to protein, fats, or the nutritional value of the foods they ate. All they focused on were the points. As a result, the meals I looked at were extremely deficient in protein, fats, and other nutrients.

This was partly due to the fact that saturated fats are penalized under the new plan, so hard boiled eggs, cheese, and red meat come with higher point values, but I honestly didn't see a lot of fish and chicken being eaten either. Olive oil and other healthy fats were noticeably missing in the menus I looked at.

Many dieters were only using a single egg for their protein source at breakfast.

Two Eggs Looking at a Fried Egg
Most SmartPoints Dieters Only
Eat One Egg at a Time

Others tossed the yolk and went with just egg whites mixed with vegetables and baked in muffin tins. Sausage and bacon was made of turkey and limited to a small 1 ounce patty or 2 slices. Lattes were fairly common, and so were meatless vegetable casseroles. I noticed that one woman liked to eat Quest protein bars for breakfast since they were only 5 points.

One girl did have an Egg McMuffin, (1 egg, 1 slice of Canadian bacon) but that cost her 9 points and was still super low in protein.

Many videos talked about being super hungry by mid-morning. One girl was so hungry by lunch time that she polished off an entire steamer bag of vegetables along with a 1-cup portion of a philly cheese steak casserole. From the photo, I could hardly see any meat in it.

Salad for lunch was pretty common and sometimes contained a couple of ounces of tuna, chicken, or shrimp. Dinner was where dieters did eat a bit of protein, but a single smoked sausage or a 3 to 4-ounce chicken breast was the norm.

In general, SmartPoints dieters are only eating about 6 ounces of protein sources a day, so it's pretty obvious why they are hungry, tired, and thinking about food all the time. Many celebrate when they have one full day of no binge eating.

Even on a balanced diet, the amount of protein you need for repair, proper immune system function, enzymes, and other things like hair and nails is at least double that, or even more.

On the old Weight Watchers exchange program, for example, we ate 9 ounces of fish, chicken, or red meat and 2 cups of non-fat milk daily, which provided about 80 grams of protein for the day. One egg was equal to an ounce of meat and you didn't have to avoid the yolk. Although, SmartPoints gives protein sources super low values, most dieters continue to shy away from eating it.

I'm not sure why.

SmartPoints Lesson #5: Most Dieters Are Guessing at Points

The Weight Watchers app makes tracking what you eat easier than using a pencil and paper, but it is time consuming to input each ingredient and track meals on a daily basis.

When I was on a low-carb diet, I used the free Fitday online service to track my food intake. I weighed and measured everything I ate to make sure I knew exactly how much I was eating. Fitday made it quick and easy because I could create my own personalized popular foods list. The popular food list allowed me to check off the foods or ingredients I wanted to add to my daily chart without having to look them up each day.

Weighing and measuring was non-existent in the people I read about or viewed over the past couple of weeks. Most of them just guessed at how much they were eating, and used similar stats from the app for dishes that were similar to what they were eating, even if not exact.

There is no way to know how many SmartPoints you are really eating if you don't weigh and measure your food.

SmartPoints Lesson #6: Emotional Issues Were Rampant

The emotional attachment to food was strong. I didn't see a whole lot of joy in their lives. I don't know why these people had chosen to join Weight Watchers, but dieting really wasn't something they honestly wanted to do.

Most were miserable, hungry, and their attention was totally focused on food, especially how many points that food had. Nothing else mattered to them except for their next snack or meal.

People did ignore points, from time to time, and made personal indulgences, but they still felt victimized and deprived later on in the day if they had already spent their points and couldn't splurge on any more pleasure foods.

In addition, they seemed to have identified with their health-point number, and used their ability to comply with Weight Watchers' demands as a measure of self worth. Instead of using Beyond the Scale as a foundation for healthy eating, and adapted it to fit their tastes, preferences, and lifestyle, in a very real sense, these people had chained themselves to their points.

They were either in the healthy zone, as defined by Weight Watchers, or they were not. There wasn't a lot of rational thought or even a working-knowledge of how to make the program work for them. Self-pity, anger, resentment, and feeling mistreated were the norm.

What's Gong On?

There is only one problem in life, and that problem is always an outgrowth of internal conflict, struggle, and resistance against reality. When it comes to dieting, many conflicting desires and attitudes struggle to be heard.

You want to be thin, but you don't want to have to change what you're eating. You want to be healthier, but you don't want to have to put up with discomfort, even on a short-term basis. You want to be approved of and accepted by your co-workers, family, and friends, but you don't want to do what's necessary to be thin. You want to be able to go out when you want to, eat what you want to, and still be thin and healthy.

Everything worthwhile in life comes with a price.

Even the middle path requires you to make choices that bring discomfort and pain, but that doesn't mean those creative adventures are not worth living.

Spiritual growth doesn't happen when things are going your way. Growth comes when you meet face-to-face with resistance and challenge and decide to keep going anyway.


  1. Good points Vickie. (no pun intended ;-)
    Just what I don't want in my life is another set of numbers to study.

    1. Exactly. Ditch the gimmicks and just tell me straight out.


Post a Comment