Sunday, February 6, 2011

Annie: Hidden trap of new Program

I've discovered a "trap" in the new Weight Watchers PointsPlus program that's really just common sense when you think about it, but which could really slow your loss if you don't. Which I hadn't, before this week.

On the new PointsPlus program, all fruit and most vegetables are PointsPlus free - so you can eat them (in reasonable portions) without any impact on your daily PointsPlus allotment.

The idea behind this apparently arose when Weight Watchers members (like me, I have to admit) tended to choose a two-point bag of cookies over a two-point banana in keeping to their points allotments. If you only had so many points to use, and fruit cost points, you were less likely to choose fruit than other things you felt you were missing out on.

The result was that Weight Watchers members did lose weight, but they weren't developing the healthy eating habits the program was striving for. So they changed the entire way food values are calculated, and made fruits and most veggies (exceptions: starchy things like potatoes, peas, corn, some beans, etc.) "free."

The warning

When they rolled this out, we were warned that we should still be mindful of serving sizes when it came to fruits and veggies - don't think you can eat a bushel of apples a day and lose weight as quickly as you would only eating one or two (they still do have calories, after all). Choose a piece of fruit for a snack, increase the proportion of vegetables in your meals, and you'll have more success -- but don't "abuse" the new rules about fruits and veggies.

The trap

A friend of mine gave me a recipe a while back for a spaghetti squash stuffed with ground beef, rice, carrots/celery and some low-fat mushroom soup -- it's baked, with reduced-fat cheese on top. By her calculation, it should have been around 10 PointsPlus (for the meat, rice, soup and cheese - the squash should be zero). 

Mae's Mister christened the dish "Meat Boat," as your serving is half the squash with all that stuff baked in the middle.

Because I am a stickler (spelled O-C-D) about the points, I ran it through the Weight Watchers "Recipe Builder" on the eTools section of the members-only site, and was shocked by the result: 15 PointsPlus!
PP value in the list: 45. At bottom: 59.

I thought, there must be some mistake - if you look at the PointsPlus values of the ingredients listed, they don't add up to that much.

So I ran another recipe through: a yummy soup from the Podleski sisters' Eat, Shrink & Be Merry cookbook (thanks Mo!) called "Gourdian Angel." On the face of it, it should be about 1 PP per bowl (it's all fruit and veggies, except for fat-free chicken broth, a bit of oil, and some evaporated low-fat milk). But when I ran it: 3 PP ber bowl.

PP value in the list: 7. At bottom: 21.
Again, the total number of PP per recipe was significantly higher than the counted PP in the list.

It's disappointing, but it makes sense

It only makes sense that a meal largely composed of vegetables and fruit would have to be counted like other food, even if they tell us fruits and veggies are points-free.

If you filled up on fruits and veggies at every meal, and then used all your alloted PointsPlus on top of that, and ate all 49 of your Weekly PointsPlus Allowance, it makes sense that your loss would be slower than it might otherwise... or that you might even gain.  But in your mind, you'd have been following the program.

I don't know why this surprised me, but I'm glad I figured it out before I wasted too many weeks' progress over a misunderstanding of how this program works.

I'm going to bring it up at the meeting on Wednesday, because many if not most of the meetings members don't use the eTools, so they may have no way of knowing the difference.


  1. I'm not liking this trap, as it can only be detected if you are an e member running your meals through meal planner.... how else are you to calculate your used points? Should be intresting to hear what they have to say about it when you ask at your next meeting.

  2. Annie sez: Exactly what I was thinking.

    I was also wondering about your beloved fruit smoothies!