Friday, September 17, 2010

True confession: do I eat Weight Watchers stuff? Answer: yes. And apples too.

Periodically, I get asked the question:  do you eat Weight Watchers branded products?  Generally, the subtext of the inquiry is whether I eat food that has been processed in any way, shape or form including those that carry my company’s brand.

With further elaboration ahead, the answer is yes.

First off, let me address this topic by strictly speaking to my own personal evolution and my own personal choice rather than embarking down the path of “official Weight Watchers point of view”.  I will also seek to avoid using, as I always do, this blog to submerge myself into the sometimes knotty subject of food politics.  This said, I am happy to talk about my personal views as a Weight Watchers member who has been on the program for roughly 10 years.

Maybe a more useful question is:  do I eat processed food as a regular snack?  Generally and increasingly, the answer is not as much.  Allow me to elaborate on this apparent paradox.

My personal definition of a snack has evolved greatly since I originally became a Weight Watchers member 10 years ago.  For most of my life, a snack was an indiscriminate lump of food whose sole purpose was to occupy my stomach and reward my desire to put food in my mouth.  Any food would do – so long as the time between impulse to eat and actual consumption was less than 23 seconds.  Good examples?  Tortilla chips (they’re healthy, right?) and some sort of dipping substance was always a crowd pleaser.  Fist-fulls of cheese were too.

When I first started doing the Weight Watchers program, my first step was to ramp down the calories of my snacks, but to still stay close to the type of food I liked.  A good example of this was going from full-test tortilla chips (i.e., with buckets of imbedded oil) to baked tortilla chips.  Further, I monitored how much I ate, and I reduced frequency and portion size (i.e., personal revelation #32:  eating an entire large bag is a less good choice).  Another example:  rather than eat hand-fulls of nuts, I started getting the pre-packed ones from Trader Joes.  I was able to significantly reduce caloric intake through a series of small adjustments.

During this phase of choosing lower calorie alternatives and reducing portion size, there were a number of Weight Watchers products that played a crucial role for me as snacks.  Two-POINTS bars and our salty snacks (love the Cheese Twists!) were incredibly helpful to me.  They had more good stuff like fiber and less bad stuff like excess sugars and fats.  Further, they were portion controlled, which I very much needed to start learning the right amount of food to eat as a snack.

Now on my 10th year on the Weight Watchers program, I’m continuing to evolve my choices.  In particular, over the past year, I have started to significantly alter my snack strategy.  These days my go to snack has become:  the apple.  A piece of fruit is a healthy, nutritious, vitamin carrying little meal.  Frankly, I love apples (and all fruit for that matter), so personal taste plays a big role as well.  If I’m really hungry, I might throw in a small container of non-fat Greek yogurt.  The two in combination are 4 POINTS values, which I can afford on my maintenance allowance.  My snacks are starting to look like small meals.  Further, I find that my snacks take a bit longer to eat and give me a rewarding and satisfying eating experience.

OK, this is hardly revolutionary insight, and most of you were probably way ahead of me on this.  However, when I first started to clean-up my lifestyle as a new member, I wasn’t ready to jump from oily chips to angelic apples.  Frankly, that was a bridge too far.  I needed to make a series of small changes over a period of time, and I needed in-the-middle food choices to serve as a bridge.  For me, this was similar to my exercise transformation process:  I didn’t start working out 6-7 days per week on day one.  I gradually added exercise over a period of years.

So do I still eat Weight Watchers branded products?  The answer is still yes.  Counter-intuitively, my go-to Weight Watchers products now tend to be mini-bars, pop-corn and ice cream products.  “Heretic,” you scream!  “That’s the most junky, sugary stuff!”  My reply:  exactly!

I still need my indulgences, but I need better indulgences.  Man (or at least this man), cannot live a puritanical organic apples-only life.  Sometimes I need a candy bar or some ice cream.  Juvenile?  Maybe.  Realistic?  Definitely.

I guess my thinking about this (again, as a 10 year veteran member) has evolved to the following personal point of view:  my indulgences are not my snacks or vice versa.  I now see my snacks as mini-meals.  Indulgences speak to my sweet tooth, and my sweet tooth deserves some attention.  Just, not all the time.  A Weight Watchers chocolate pretzel mini-bar is a much better choice for me than a full-test Snickers bar.  A Weight Watchers ice cream cone is a much better choice than a pint of ice cream.

In addition to these indulgence products, I also enjoy a host of other Weight Watchers products which I categorize as food staples including breads, bagels, cheeses (great snacks BTW), and others.  Further, I will still go for a Weight Watchers 2-POINTS bar or salty snack when I’m on the go, and I don’t have easy access to my new produce friends.

If there is one broad insight I take away from this, it is that adopting a healthier lifestyle has been a series of small changes that have taken place over a long period of time.  For me, it’s been a marathon, not a sprint.

How has your thinking about snack foods evolved?




  1. Nine years ago when I weighed in at the age of 18 at my first WWs meeting my snacking involved drive-through food and too much of everything. I have always had a problem with portion control, but now, 90 pounds lighter, I don't always make the healthiest snack food choices, but I do have a motto that has helped me on my journey when it comes to snack foods: I want the most bites for the fewest calories. I would rather have skittles than a candy bar, popcorn over chips, and even sunflower seeds over almonds. For me, the longer it takes me to eat something the likelier I am not to over due it.

  2. It's definitely an evolution. I think that's a part of the program that's tough for most members to accept. I love the motto: Progress, not perfection. I lost 88 lbs and got through cancer surgery while achieving LT status and made a lot of changes along the way. End result: yogurt & fruit, veggies & hummus, fiber & protein combos are awesome.

  3. My snacking has changed quite a bit since I joined back in 1999. It was very much a part of routine to sit down with a book, or watch TV with a bag of something next to me, mindlessly dipping my hand in and out of the bag until it was gone. Snacking now is different--planned, not while reading. If I'm watching TV it's a portioned snack vs. a bag of something.

    I'm a "quality" eater as I tell my WW buddies at my meeting--I'm happier eating the full fat snack vs. a baked one so I portion it out. I've learned when NOT to buy a bag of chips because I know that I won't be able to stop with just one serving. The mini bags of chips work well for me--I buy one bag and that's it.

    Through the years I've also found that protein plus a carb satisfies me longer than just a carb.

    Apples are my favorite fruit and I love buying them, cutting them up into slices and pairing one with one of those individually wrapped pieces of cheddar cheese. I have also learned to be creative, open to trying new things. I really enjoy the WW almond sensation bars (I cut them up into small pieces to make the bar last longer) and the Chocolate Preztel Blast fit the bill for the salty/sweet combo. I've changed a lot in how and what I snack on and find myself making much better choices.

  4. I love the Weight Watchers products but I don't eat them all the time it is about changing the food up. But when looking for an alternative to icecream they are great! I was thinking WW really needs a program for kids. I have lost 140 lbs and would love to start a program just for kids or maybe teens and college kids. Would WW be interested I have my degree in business administration and helping people lose weight is my passion. Do you think you could help me get it started? I love your blogs!!

  5. I once had a member stand up at a meeting I was covering. The regular leader had the weekend off. I was pretty new to leading at this time, and standing up in front of the group scared the living daylights out of me!

    Just as I started with the "Hi my name is Kirsty & I've been a Weight Watchers member since... " speech that I start the meeting with when I am substituting, a member stood up and said she had something to say.

    Well she started on this rant about how Weight Watchers, as a company, was being highly hypocritical in 'preaching' a healthier lifestyle full of filling foods, while displaying all these processed snacks as members line up to weigh in.

    It started a HUGE debate with the members. It seemed as though one third of the room agreed with her, one third of the room supported weight watchers selling portion controlled 'snacks', and the other third just wanted to get on with the meeting topic.

    What I said that day, and what I believe to this day, is that Weight Watchers is about choice, and change. You don't HAVE to buy the foods we offer, but they are there as a tool to help you learn to make healthier choices in your life.

    When I was on my weight loss journey, I was dependent on those products being available to me so that when I had a craving for a bag of chips, or a candy bar, I could choose a portion controlled option! However, in recent years, I have made the transition more towards living the 'simply filling' technique, and focusing on filling foods more often as a snack.

    That being said, once in a while, when I am sitting in the meeting room, after the meeting is over, and I get a craving for a salty snack, I head right over to the BBQ Pretzel Thins and buy myself a box.

    I think the products are a great part of the Weight Watchers program. They are the perfect tool to teach members what a normal portion of a 'treat' like that is, and they are just the right size to squash that craving before you make an unhealthy choice!

  6. LesleyLS (my WW handle)September 23, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    I personally LOVE the technical side of the WW program - the online Tracker & easy Healthy Checks boxes, the emphasis on portions & the types of food choices, certain aspects of the online community (although I wish there were more resources for when you hit Goal & switch to the maintenance mindset) but the WW frozen "foods", snacks & desserts are another matter. At least you're honest that when you do eat WW snacks, you're fully aware you're consuming junk. I think many people actually believe all this packaged fare is good for their WL....and blog repeatedly how they continue to binge & never lose the weight. Real Food (& angelic apples) rules - both for health & successful WL.

  7. I don't eat alot of the WW pre-portioned foods, but I do like to keep them on hand incase I don't feel like packing a lunch, I can just throw a Smart Choice meal in my lunch bag and go.But I do know several people who eat them on a regular basis, and thats ok too. Like other folks have said, its all about the choices you make, what works for me, may not work for you.

  8. I've been on and off diets for years. Some with more success than others. It wasn't until I realized the reason I eventually failed was due to processed foods. I would buy the "portion" control argument and buy all the diet foods that would make me hungrier and crankier. I still love a lot of the processed foods, but I just don't allow it in my house or in my body. It's definitely been a lifestyle change and requires a lot more time planning and time in the kitchen, but banning processed foods is the only way for me to stay healthy. I honestly wish WW and others would not push their foods on dieters that don't realize that they can be detrimental to their success. I know many may disagree, but I wish I would have listened to people who preached about eating whole foods a long time ago.

  9. great blog! i enjoyed reading it

  10. I'm a lapsed Weight Watchers Gold Member and I'm currently struggling to get back on track. I really need to get the motivation back to get back on track and lose weight. When I got to goal in 2005, I felt amazing and it was amazing to be slim after so many years of being overweight.

  11. I reached lifetime in May of 2009 and became a leader in Mar/Apr of 2010..I'm glad to hear it took our President 10 yrs to perfect his snack choices. I do pretty well most of the time but I still struggle with trigger foods. I do ok with veggies but struggle getting the fruit in. I am trying to improve on that. I love the Weight Watchers program, it's the only thing that got my 33lbs off finally and has stayed off. I love being in the meeting rooms and hearing all the wonderful testimonies. It helps me to keep on keeping on. It didn't hurt to be recognized as 2010 Rookie leader of the year. Thank you WW.

  12. I finially decided it was time to lose weight and stop dieting after I had my first son at 23. That's why I chose WW. Everything I had done before wasn't working, and "dieting" isn't a lifestyle- WW can be. That's how I saw the points system right from the get go. Up until that time though, my sweet tooth was the only one that ever got any attention. I knew, and still know, that giving up snacks, and giving up sweets isn't something I can do forever. So, I didn't. I buy into the 1-2 point snacks. Not all WW. My best move, and the one that got me to lifetime within a year was keeping some one or two point bars in my car. That way, when I was on the go (which we so often are) I had no excuse to go through the easy drive throughs. I would reach under my seat, grab a bar...I'd keep my hunger satisfied, feed my sweet tooth and stay within my points. Now, I need those snacks less and less and enjoy my fruit over my sweet most days!

  13. Thanks, Dave. This is the first time I have read your blog and I liked your thinking. I have been on WW since March and lost 15 pounds...slow going, by most standards, but I am mostly happy with it. I need to get it moving again and I know I need to pick up my exercise and keep eating high fiber foods. It is so easy to slip back, with something like tortilla chips, and eat 2 servings instead of one. So I try to dial it in and keep going. The alternative is not so bright and I have made some progress that has made my doctors happy! I even was allowed to cut a med in half, so that is a "Non-scale Victory".
    I like apples and I like making my own food, but I love the mini bars, TJ's "Just a Handful" nuts and mini boxes of raisins. Funny, now I look for the smallest bananas, etc, when making my food purchases...complete turnaround!
    Anyway, thanks for you insight into this process. I have accepted that this is not a short-term fix, but something I will need to monitor for life!

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  15. I cannot eat most of the Weight Watchers snacks because I have Celiac Disease and they do not have many gluten free options! If they had more I would love to have them so keep around when I am having a craving.
    Weight watchers has taught me so much and I love it. It has taught me the importance of portion control and that healthy snacks fill you up longer and make for more successful weigh ins :)

  16. Being a WW veteran..from as far back as the 60's..I have learned a lot of healthy tips and ideas from the program along the way...Thank goodness WW has evolved along with the food industry...In the 60's..when on WW,you had to have 5 servings of fish per week..and 1-3" potato per week...we had no way to have chocolate...and going out to eat was next to impossible..You lost weight in self-defense..In WW's defense..we did not have access to the many, many food choices now available...The program has continued to change and become more user friendly year after year...
    With age also comes experience...and coming out of a relationship where my other half thought bacon grease was a food group all by itself... wanting 'FRIED EVERYTHING'..and gaining a huge amount of weight..I understand that it is my responsibility to take charge and "just say no"...I am correcting that serious mistake by getting my body back to where it belongs..mentally and physically...and I now know that WW is a way of life for me..not an on and off thing as I have done before..I will this time make goal...then lifetime..because I deserve to feel this good the rest of my life..
    As for the processed food...I too use them occasionally..but, find myself cutting them from my food options more and more, simply because I have 'purified' my palate..and have no desire for them the longer I am on the program..which is itself an evolution....

  17. I recently did an experiement - life indulging in low cal boxed treats - and life eating real food - even if its not low cal. The thing about WW and the WW products is portion control. Those portions are small - ok I can do small with real food. Now I can, I couldn't in my past life.

    I'm now a strong proponent for real food - toss the boxed process. I stay full longer with the real food and don't have to eat as much... which in the long run makes me feel better.