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Weight Watchers Changes Plan

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

David Kirchhoff, CEO of Weight Watchers International, gives us the skinny on Weight Watchers' new Points Plus program, an overhaul of its original points program.

Guests:

David Kirchhoff

The Morning Brief

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Comments [24]

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Feb. 27 2012 02:22 AM

I agree with many of the comments below about abstracting food into numbers and points. But even more specifically, I think even outside of WW we abstract this stuff. We are obsessed with calories and fat content in everything, which is the direct cause of nutritionists telling us we need to take these into account when making any dietary decisions

I think in general WW is going in the right direction with their new rules. It's hard to argue with the idea that whole foods are being given more emphasis (fewer points) than processed ones. Yes, it's still abstract, but hopefully those who use WW will slowly start to understand that emphasis and integrate it into their overall relationship with food.

That being said Kirchhoff said that alcohol was just sugar. But that's just not true and the body uses alcohol as fuel differently - before anything else. That he got this wrong speaks to the fact that he may not be very well versed in the science. Another answer that I thought speaks to his ignorance in the science was at the end of the show. All he could come up with was "how the body is satisfied with different types of food." No study references, etc. Maybe it's unfair to demand this specificity, but I don't recall any big studies about satiety in the last year or even the last few.

What I really disliked was his response to the caller regarding fruit and insulin. There's been a lot of study on this issue and the diabetes community is finally starting to change its tune about excess sugars and carbs in the diet, whether they come from candy bars or bananas. A banana may not produce the insulin "spike" that a candy bar produces, but it does cause the body to produce the same amount of insulin over the long haul, and insulin is a big fat storage hormone, so whether it gets secredt slowly by the cells or quickly, it's the overall amount that is important.

I certainly understand his position as CEO not wanting to go out on a limb. Heck, just the bigger emphasis on whole foods seems to be rustling some people's feathers! But if you read stuff even by Walter Willet (head of the nutrition for Harvard) he's been bemoaning the food pyramid, both new and old, for emphasizing grain over every other food group. It seems that for Kirrchoff he's all about the new science when it fits into what will work for WW, but when it doesn't, it's a "minority" viewpoint and thus not worth any consideration.

I'd urge people also to look at Gary Taubes excellent book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" which goes into why calories are not all the same, and why whether you are overweight or not is not dependent strictly on some magic formula of calories in vs. calories out. It also goes into detail on the scientific history of diets and the diet-heart hypothesis - fascinating stuff and very eye-opening as far as how politics and economics and even personalities play into how we eat and/or what we are TOLD to eat!

Dec. 09 2010 09:30 AM
Cipora from Long Island

Some of the comments on this page remind me why I don't care for certain NPR callers (you know who you are). The smugness, lecturing tone and patronizing comments do nothing to advance the conversation and leave people who struggle with their weight feeling even worse. If you have no problem eating well, not over-eating and exercising consistently, good for you! I know it's not rocket science, but it is difficult for many people. If Weight Watchers and the support it offers helps people, why criticize it and the people who utilize it?

Dec. 07 2010 07:07 PM
Joel from Nyack, NY

I have looked at the ingredient list on some Weight Watchers packaged foods and the contents are scary. To many unpronounceable ingredients.

Dec. 07 2010 12:01 PM
dboy from nyc

Fad dieting doesn't work!

Educate yourself about nutrition and don't eat too damn much!

Cut out the super-processed (including Weight Watchers™ "meals") food stuffs.

Cook. Choose carefully, out.

Exercise.

It's simple arithmetic: More has to go out than goes in!

No gimmicks! Ain't rocket science!

Too weird, this episode!!

Dec. 07 2010 11:59 AM
Joel from Nyack, NY

I have looked at the ingredient list on some Weight Watchers packaged foods and the contents are scary. To many unpronounceable ingredients.

Dec. 07 2010 11:59 AM
Julie from ny

This just fetishizes food, exactly what people who struggle with food do not need. Healthy eating is not about how many 'points' are in an apple.

Dec. 07 2010 11:56 AM
troy from Carroll Gardens

Sir, I commend you for tricking people into eating more fruit and vegetables! Well-played!

Dec. 07 2010 11:55 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Does the new system make an exception for dried fruits (like dates or raisins), which tend to be high in sugar even if no sugar is added?

Dec. 07 2010 11:53 AM
lauren from nj

im not on the program, but i buy weight watchers frozen meals for my husband for lunch. i wonder if and how your food products will change to line up with your new plan, as most of the weight watchers frozen meals are not food items typically considered healthy - eg, chicken ranchero wraps, steak and cheese paninis, heavily sauced pastas, etc. I suspect most of these products are purched for the same reason i buy them - its junk food, but low - cal junk food.

Dec. 07 2010 11:53 AM
Craig Bishop from Manhattan

Why are you shilling for Weight Watchers? Who cares what their latest gimmick is?

Dec. 07 2010 11:51 AM
KS from SI from Staten Island, NY

I lost a significant amount of weight on weight watchers several years ago, and have successfully kept most of it off (recovering from pregnancy has been rough!). But I really like this new system - wine is just not as good for me as grapes, and the new points system reinforces those choices. It also encourages me to eat less processed food. I think it makes me actually have a better relationship with food than a worse one...

I also think that Weight Watchers has many years of experience at this - their programs are research-based and tested by external scientists. I trust it.

Dec. 07 2010 11:51 AM
bernie from bklyn

if you need WW to tell you how and what to eat then you are a child who is denying what you already know and making yourself into somekind of victim. you know what to eat and what not to eat. enough already. stop eating bad food and exercise; it's not rocket science

Dec. 07 2010 11:49 AM
ursonate from boston

anyone else expect the ceo of weight watchers to be a woman? i don't know why i thought that.

Dec. 07 2010 11:48 AM
Greg from Manhattan

I was surprised at this change. I looked through it, and I can see it, in some ways, but I found one specific problem. How is it, that lite tofu is 1 pt. and chicken breast of the same serving size is 3 pts. They both have approximately the same nutritional value, so I don't know why they would be such a difference.

Dec. 07 2010 11:48 AM
Darrell from Astoria

While I would definitely consider myself an advocate of healthy eating, I disapprove of weight management programs in general and Weight Watchers in particular, for one simple reason: they're not the least bit holistic.

It's an interesting coincidence that in just the past few days I've had two separate discussions on this topic with two (notably female) friends of mine, both of whom are recent devotees to the Weight Watchers program. While either of them were easily able to tell me what kinds of foods they could and couldn't eat, neither of them could articulate exactly WHY. If the point of these programs is to promote a healthy relationship with food, I can't help but think of WW as a sort of sloppy CliffsNotes for healthy eating - one that marginalizes the importance of truly knowing and understanding how different foods contribute to our health and livelihood.

As it happens, human beings did pretty well for millenia without diet programs and dieticians and nutritionists and doctors and science and oversimplified number systems to tell us what and what not to eat. I don't mean to sound cynical, but I certainly would like to hear how your guest defends the viability of the program, particularly in light of this dramatic shift in point values - which, to my mind, just proves that it's been leaving a lot of things out of the picture.

Dec. 07 2010 11:45 AM
Jackie from new york city

they got any eating plan that will give OBAMA a back bone

Dec. 07 2010 11:44 AM
Elinor

I am a ww life time member and made those little changes on my own. Most of the processed foods are a "trigger" for me- has this phsycological effect of "eat more". I think what works most for me is that I found a great meeting group to attend, with a leader who encouraged us to explore what works for us.

Dec. 07 2010 11:42 AM
suki from Williamsburg

Johnny - I hear you. Thing is, intuitive eating is harder for some than others. The reason people are on WW in the first place is because of a pre-existing abnormal relationship with food.

You can't expect people to develop a healthy relationship with food overnight. WW has been the vehicle for me and thousands of others and I think this is the best version of Weight Watchers yet.

Dec. 07 2010 11:26 AM
Johnny from Jersey

I am vaguely familiar with the new system. My real concern is abstracting food further from a food product to nutrition facts to points. I think it exacerbates bad relationships with food. Although I am aware it has enable great weight loss successes and different systems work for different people.

Dec. 07 2010 11:03 AM
suki from Williamsburg

Johnny from Jersey - do you know anything about the new plan? I agree that being able to eat your points in candy bars was a flaw of the old plan but on the new plan, fruits and vegetables are zero points. People are much more likely to reach for a "free" apple than a 10 point candy bar.

I am, however, very upset that wine has doubled in points. :) I used to be able to drink an entire bottle of wine for 10 points. No longer. Though that's probably not a bad thing.

Dec. 07 2010 10:56 AM
suki from Williamsburg

I LOVE the change. I had been off and on Weight Watchers for almost a decade before I finally lost weight (on Weight Watchers) by cutting out all the processed foods they push. No more 1 point GIANT FUDGE BARS! No more "free" foods unless they're fruits or vegetables. Higher points for carb-heavy foods and lower points for protein and fiber-rich foods. This is DEFINITELY a step in the right direction.

No more pastries for breakfast. Have some Greek yogurt with berries or an egg and some Canadian bacon with half a grapefruit.

Dec. 07 2010 10:53 AM
Johnny from Jersey

I have seen family and friends attempt to use this program. I think the points system further abstracts food and people's relationship with food into another numbers system. It creates a limiting relationship converting nutrition facts/serving sizes into "points."
It does not encourage a healthy stable relationship with food in my observation it can exacerbate someone's already love/hate relationship with food.
It doesn't encourage you to eat many different types of foods (by food I mean something whole an apple, a nut, oats). You could eat your daily allotment of points in candy bars which lacks nutrition.

Dec. 07 2010 10:40 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Wow! What a change. The little blueberry bran muffins (delicious) from Trader Joe's were 1 point, now 4 points. I'll adjust eventually. But I'm having trouble with breakfast. My recent favorite is the Trader Joe's (recognize a pattern?) "High Fiber Cereal" (delicious w/ strawberries) w/ 1/2 cup almond milk. I'd like to find a lower carb breakfast. Please, Brian, ask your guest for suggestions.
I came back to WW earlier this year and have lost slowly -- I think low carb will work better for me. I have to go to the pool now (after I eat a pear) so will listen later on line.

Dec. 07 2010 10:22 AM

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