Friday, 10 February 2012

Is Weight Watchers a diet?

Weight Watchers are very keen to distance themselves from diets. As Audrey in wrote last week’s post, they are keen for women (and sadly more and more men ) to see what they offer as a lifestyle choice, as a healthy way of living for good. They are inviting us to play Weight Watchers these days. Yes, play, they suggest, as if counting points, controlling portions and limiting food choices or running around the block to make up for transgressions from the rules (have you heard the ad on the radio?) is just a bit of fun really. In my experience there is nothing fun about being overweight and miserable about it. There is nothing fun about feeling out of control around food, not knowing how to resist the temptation of chocolate and cake and the endless foods that appear on the diet's forbidden food lists. Struggling with eating and body size is not a game, it saps energy and destroys lives.

  • Weight Watchers is a diet because it has a clear set of rules and guidelines which anyone on the plan has to follow.
  • Weight Watchers is a diet because it defines for you the foods that are ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
  • Weight Watchers is a diet because 99% (if not 100%) of the focus is on weight loss, not on developing a healthy relationship with food and your body.
  • Weight Watchers is a diet because you are either on it and doing it, or off it and not doing it.
  • Weight Watchers is a diet because food is translated into points that you have to count and measure.
  • Weight Watchers is a diet because it measures success by the number on the scales.
Whatever they say, however then market it, Weight Watchers is a diet. There are no two ways about it. And diets don't work. In fact diets are pretty much guaranteed to make you fatter in the long term than when you started. How many of us started off wanting to lose half a stone and find ourselves with far more than that to lose a few years down the line? We yo-yo up and down time and time again, gaining a few extra pounds each time. We have to keep going back to places like Weight Watchers and do the diet again and again, and every time we go back we are a few pounds heavier than we started.

Beyond Chocolate is not a diet. Weight loss is not the primary goal. Our aims are to empower women to know and trust their bodies, to feel relaxed and in control around food. To feel good about the way they eat and the way they look (whatever their size). And there is always a danger that if you have been dieting for many years and you’re new to Beyond Chocolate, you will make this into a diet too.

It’s tempting to turn the principles into rules or guidelines. Either unconsciously, out of habit or because we feel lost without a sense of structure, without someone telling us what to do. Taking responsibility for ourselves can be challenging.

It’s easy to fall into the all or nothing, doing it/not doing it, diet mentality. After so many years of dieting, being our own Gurus does not come easy to many of us.

So, here are some suggestions for avoiding the diet trap:

If you like structure and you know it works for you, create one of your own. There’s nothing wrong with having a plan or a framework if you know that it supports you.

Give yourself a weight loss holiday - how long would you be willing to experiment with Beyond Chocolate without thinking about whether or not you’re losing weight? Put your bathroom scales away, out of sight, just for a while.

Choose one principle at a time to focus on.

Take action.

Be willing to make mistakes. If you do all the principles properly, all the time, you will learn nothing and nothing will change.

Support yourself along the way with like minded people (the Beyond Chocolate Forum is a great place for that).

Wherever you start be gentle with yourself, cultivate a spirit of curiosity and kindness, take yourself gently by the hand and take action.


  1. Thank you Sophie for a timely reminder. I've shed three stones using Beyond Chocolates principles.

    I would like to lose some more and was considering Weight Watchers for a quick fix. You've reminded me that if need to carry on being kind and patient with myself and it will happen. Phew, a lucky escape!

  2. Do they really recommend running round the block if you've strayed from the rules? I've seen countless girls with serious eating disorders who use exercise as a way to compensate for eating what they consider to be 'bad' foods. Seems like lunacy for Weight Watchers to promote activities like this.

  3. I live in Spain and I have your book. I tried your principles and was determined not to diet ever again! BUT, when my health began to suffer because I was still gaining weight, I made a decision to re-join WW. Yes, I had been there before - twice before.

    Now what I have found is that I have applied the BC principles to WW and it is now working! I do not count exercise points and use them, in fact my exercise level has not changed. I eat whatever I fancy, I do not religiously stick to certain foods, and I cook my favourite meals.

    What WW has done for me this time is help me learn exactly what my body can take in without gaining weight and what I need to take in to lose weight - which was an important part of why I am doing it. I have lost slowly - around 1.3 lbs on average per week, and I feel good about the choices I am making. I knew Christmas was going to be a problem because of all the traditional lovely food we have as a family and I put on 7 lbs, but I lost it again by mid January as soon as I returned to a normal eating pattern. I am not fanatic about sticking to the guidelines, in fact I ignore them, but counting the number of points I have consumed (only those foods that one needs to count) has helped me much more than ever before. I do NOT see this as a diet but a re-education of my eating pattern. I have lost 31 pounds since August and I am still losing and will do so until I feel right, I will choose the weight at which I am happy, not a weight given to me. I do this all on-line and do not have to go to classes which I hated.

    So, what I am trying to say is - don't knock WW completely, a lot of what they have introduced allows one to adopt your principles and succeed.

    1. I agree! I use weightwatchers this way - the online tools just help me learn portion control and the amount of food I need to put in my body to be healthy. I never read any of the extra material or follow any of the guidelines. And I certainly don't panic or beat myself up if I consume a few extra points one day.I am sensible enough to know it is ultimately a long term process not a week-to-week one.

  4. Well done, Anonymous. I think we should not knock ANY weight loss programme that introduces people to an enjoyable and HEALTHY WAY OF EATING! That is my goal, to introduce people to eating healthily. Yes, moderation is the key (and there certainly is HUGE temptation out there - fast food chains should be BANNED, in my opinion!), but people should be EDUCATED, be made aware of what is in the food they choose to eat and what it does to their bodies. I am sorry, eating, and feeding your family, on fried food and chips, crisps, sweets and such, is criminal. I heard that there was a comment from a mother on one of Jamie Oliver's school's programme, when he tried to introduce her to lettuce in a salad, 'but that's LEAVES, we don't eat LEAVES!' THAT is what I am talking about. We have an overweight problem in this country, and many others, because people are ignorant about what they put into their bodies. So, well done to WW for trying to address the problem with education, well done to BC for trying to educate people as well. Don't knock either, people. The more people are made aware of the huge strain they are putting on their bodies, the NHS and all that, by feeding incorrectly (and worse, feeding their children incorrectly!), the better off we will be, individually, AND as a nation.

  5. I would just like to share that several lovely ladies I know lost weight using Weight Watchers method for last Summer. All of them are heavier now than they were this time last year! This is a pattern I have become aware of. It is the deprivation then overeating phenomenon I have been aware of for years.

  6. I am someone who has never been overwieght and who always exercises regularly. I am a member of Wieght Watchers for a year now. I am 30 and with turning 30 your metabolism changes. Weight Watchers has given me a way to learn what foods are better for me, how to make foods I like healthier, and how to balance what I take in with what I am doing (activity) to get out. I don't view it as a diet at all! I don't follow points closely, I try to get green arrows which means you are eating fresh, healthy, high in protein foods! I also don't wiegh myself regularly. Weight Watchers is a guide to help you keep track of how you are living and to help you make healthy choices without having to figure out a label and try to decipher all the ingredients.

    Health experts say that keeping a food diary and studying patterns to see what you need to change is an excellent way to help lose weight. Welcome Weight Watchers, which does just this with the added bonus of recipes, a support community, eating out guides, and so much more!

  7. I can't help thinking (again) that when it comes to resolving all the issues around eating and food we really need to be focusing on our kids. I almost feel like the 'lost' generation - a child who grew up watching people diet, being told fat is bad, and learning all about 'good' and 'bad' foods. The ultimate result being that the diet mentality is pretty much hardwired into me and into most of the people I know. It seems that we just can't imagine a world without diets - whatever guise they come in - and without a fear of fat.
    I hope that my efforts to NOT just default back to that socially acceptable way of thinking about food and fat is teaching my son that there is a different way. That you can actually just live your life with food not being something you even have to think about - except maybe with happy anticipation - and where scales are used to weigh suitcases and ingredients, not people. We all need to remember that how we behave around and speak about food is going to affect the next generation. This is about more than just slimming down - do we really want another bunch of kids to be like us - to perpetuate this 'trust me I'm the professional and you don't know how to look after yourself properly' culture?

  8. Of course WW is a 'diet'; however it tries to sell itself its focus is on weight loss. As far as diets go, howeve, it is one of the more sensible one around unlike others such as the Dukan or Atkins which ban whole food groups or the one proposed by James Duigan ( who traines Elle McPherson) which is rigid in the extreme.
    On the other hand I do have some concerns as to BC apparently distancing itself from weight loss. I bought the book, joined the forum etc becuase of its claim of how 'to stop yo yo dieting and lose weight for good'. I do not want to 'feel happy' at being overweight. I like being a size 12 ( not overskinny these days) and able to buy clothes I like with no problem. I follow BC principles but wouldd defintely take action if my weight began to rise. So please, BC, do keep in mind that most women sign up to BC because they want to lose weight or, as in my case, keep it off without yo you dieting

  9. I personally do not think the country needs educating about healthy foods, everyone knows what experts think is healthy or not as its rammed down our throats. I personally do not want someone else telling me what is healthy or not, if I listen to my body it tells me what it wants, so there is no need for weight watchers to educate me. I followed a so called healthy, sensible diet once, one recommended by the british heart foundation. It ended up as an eating disorder. I think those people who think they can do BC and WW at the same time are missing one of the major points of BC, to trust your body. Although I know I should let you all be your own Guru, but I've seen peoples lives almost ruined by these so called healthy diets (slimming world and WW included). I would like to also point out I no longer have an eating disorder and I have a very healthy relationship with food and my body, thanks to stopping dieting and reading a range of books including BC. If you look at this independent meta study on long term diet research it shows that two thirds of people gain more weight than they started with going on diets. This is not just one study, this is a combination of over 30 studies done on the long term effects of dieting. The researchers at the end essentially do not recommend that doctors encourage their overweight patients to diet.

  10. Thanks all for your comments. For anyone who enjoys WW and finds it helpful, we would not dream of suggesting you do anything different. We are all free to choose and here at BC we support that wholeheartedly. I will continue to speak out against diets and the dieting industry as well as well meaning health experts who are comprehensively failing to offer a solution to women's struggle with weight loss or healthy eating. WW are the market leader and while I would love to see them as competition, we don't come anywhere close to be in a position to compete. Yet. Pointing out where diets fail us in not knocking the opposition it is simply stating a fact. They have enormous power and influence and I am simply commenting on their and other diet methods on my blog. I a neither bashing or knocking them, just stating my point of view. Rosy, please rest assured our position on weight loss remains unchanged. We see it (and always have done) as a bi-product of a healthy and balanced relationship with food and as we say in our book, weight loss alone is of little benefit and usually short lived. We have no issue with women wanting to lose weight and experimenting with the principles will lead to weight loss if there is weight to lose. What we are and have always distanced ourselves from i the idea that weight loss as a goal in itself is useful and that weight loss is the problem to be solved. I hope that helps Rosie.
    Thanks all again for your comments. We love hearing from you.

  11. Yes it does - thanks Sophie

  12. Weightwatchers is such an effective diet that I did it eight times. I really enjoyed learning the skills needed to lose and gain the same 50lb over and over again.

    Any diet plan with a 95% failure rate is not effective, kind or value for money.

  13. My personal experience of WW wasnt good. In fact all diets and diet clubs were unhelpful. They made my obsession with food and weight worse. I suffered for many years with an eating disorder. I also know of someone who still attends a certain diet club and only seems to be getting fatter. She is hooked on sweet foods and is diabetic and gradually losing her eyesight. Hardly a great advert is it? Yet when she visited hosp to have checks she gave advice to a nurse. If you struggle with your own weight how can you possibly dare give advice to others? WW only set me up to binge and then over exercise. Thankfully now I feel in a better place. I dont diet or count calories or points. These so called experts dont know it all. Some advice eg to drink diet drinks or foods with artificial sweetner are harmful to health.

  14. Just seen an article about a Weightwatcher leader who was sacked by Weightwatchers for putting on 3 stone and she is suing them for unfair dismisaal...will be interesting to see ehow thatfinishes up!! Jayne


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