So here we’ll get stuck into why Weight Watchers doesn’t work. If you want to lose ‘weight’ it might do that. But if you want to slow your metabolism, indirectly risk osteoporosis and make your body more prone to fat storage, it might do that too!
I’ve had a few clients now that have previously been on a Weight Watchers diet. The story is usually the same - they did lose ‘weight’ but then they put it all back on.
A 2007 study by Dr Michael R. Lowe and published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that out of a selection of the most successful Weight Watchers attendees, there was an increasing decline in goal-weight maintenance 1, 2 and 5 years after initially reaching their goal. Only 37.2% kept within 5lb of their goal weight after 5 years. Bearing in mind that the goal weight was pretty modest.
That said, I haven’t yet explained one of the biggest reasons why Weight Watchers doesn’t work! And it’s staring you right in the face. The name itself holds the answer: Weight Watchers.
With the exception of morbidly obese people who live on a diet of cake and cheese and fizzy full-sugar drinks, losing or watching your ‘weight’ is a terrible idea.
I have heard stories from attendees who said that they and their fellow ‘watchers’ would queue up outside the toilet before their weekly weigh-in so the scales would tell them they’d lost that little bit extra. Then – and I’m sure this isn’t uncommon – they’d go and get a takeaway to treat themselves for their loss.
This kind of weight-watching obsession, where total weight is all that matters, can’t lead to long-term and sustained health. So without further ranting, I shall present my list of reasons in numbered form so as to punctuate each point and make them easy to digest as it were.
Why Weight Watchers Doesn’t Work – Reason 1: It’s called Weight Watchers
I myself am a student of and specialist in fat-loss. So my clients could say they’re on a Fat Watchers plan. That said, I also advocate muscle development in young, old, male and female so there’s an element of being a Muscle Watcher too.
And that is fine and healthy to do.
When we lose ‘weight’ and only weigh ourselves, we lose both fat weight and lean tissue. People don’t realise that while muscle can be built, it can also be lost. People also don’t realise that without strong muscles we end up like bent over, brittle boned hunchbacks by the time we’re of a mature age, or younger!
There’s much more to getting slim and healthy than watching your weight. Read on to see what other implications stem from the term ‘Weight Watchers’.
Why Weight Watchers Doesn’t Work – Reason 2: It slows your metabolism
In targeting fat loss Vs weight loss, there’s a lot of careful factors to consider such as muscle maintenance, diet and the type of cardio to perform.
Weight loss is pretty easy – just eat less and your body will eat muscle and fat thus giving you your weight loss. This is the Weight Watchers method. Again, remember the name, the clue is in the title ‘weight’ watchers.
What then happens is that you lose a percentage of your lean muscle tissue and thus a percentage of your metabolism.
Muscle amount is proportional to metabolism because it requires a lot more calories to keep muscle than fat.
Why Weight Watchers Doesn’t Work – Reason 3: It works on a useless points system.
On the Weight Watchers diet, you can eat pizza and drink coke. They take up more points though. That’s fine if you then just eat a little less to compensate.
When a client of mine is on a fat loss diet, they’re educated as to how metabolism works and why any sugars (including fruit), solid-at-room-temperature fats and late night carbs of any kind are going to undo all their hard work. Oh, and alcohol too.
Usually, they surprise themselves in adhering to this quite quickly. Why? because they know why it’s bad for them. Specifically.
On the Weight Watchers diet, you could eat just about anything. Then if you eat less to compensate you’re again, slowing your metabolism.
Why Weight Watchers Doesn’t Work – Reason 4: It discourages a proper look into exercise and diet thereby keeping themselves in control.
Weight Watchers is a company. Their goal is to not just make money, but make as much money as possible. They sell their own special foods and foster a kind of dependence on their system.
When a client trains with me they are equipped to manage their body composition (not just weight) for the rest of their lives as long as they can remember the advice I give them.
They are measured for body fat levels and lean tissue levels and given a diet and exercise regime that supports the reduction of the former and at least maintenance of the latter.
The very nature of a ‘one size fits all’ system is set up primarily to make money and if the poor people who spend their money to step on the scales and see the numbers go down are happy then all the better for Weight Watchers.
Did you know that from the above study 95.3% of their customer base are female?
Does anyone find it strange that a non gender-based problem such as getting slimmer is so obviously aimed at one gender here? That’s a huge bias not far off 100% female attendees!
I think this is because women are very ‘weight’ focused – for reasons we could go into but won’t – and Weight Watchers really plays on that vulnerability.
I’ll never forget a female colleague (when I used to work in an office) telling me that she wanted to lose weight and, so far that day, has done “really well” because she’d only eaten a few pieces of fruit all day. This is the kind of misinformation that is abundant in society and it often takes a Personal Trainer to turn that person’s logic on its head. A similar logic is employed by Weight Watchers.
Why Weight Watchers Doesn’t Work – Reason 5: It doesn’t promote health, strength and vitality.
We’ve been over the basis of the Weight Watchers method – mild starvation and ignorance. Now someone who is obese may well be better off after a year on their regime than if they’d carried on their previous path. But consider this…
We’ve lost muscle tissue. To lose muscle tissue is to lose, not just metabolism, but a certain degree of strength and support that our body needs. Especially in later life.
The idea of promoting muscle growth is completely alien to about 90% of society in my estimation. From my experience of talking to gym members, most want to ‘tone-up’ (although I really don’t know what that means), but almost all say “but I don’t want to be too big.”
I have to sell them the idea that their muscle tissue is likely under-developed and could do with a slight increase to raise metabolism and promote strength and also help avoid osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can come about through lack of bone density and bone density can be increased through load bearing (lifting weights).
Muscle tissue is our best friend when it comes to metabolism, strength and bodily support (think back, abdomen, core stability and so on). To look after this key component we require a great deal of protein, a modest amount of quality carbs, quality fats and a decent weights regime. NOT a mild starvation diet.
So, a conclusion then…
Get a PT for a few months. Even if it’s only once every few weeks. Make sure they know their nutrition and fat loss and get yourself educated.
This way you’ll be set for life any time you feel the need to get slimmer using a healthy approach.
To burn fat requires eating more, not less. To eat less is asking for trouble. Of course, when I say ‘more’ I mean a solid diet of good foods. Trust me, if you’re on one of my diets, you won’t have time to feel hungry!
Don’t pay money each week just to step on the scales on an empty bladder.
Edit: Click here to read the follow up to this article.
Subscribe to my newsletter and get reminded when I write something else of interest!