WEIGHT WATCHERS has had an epiphany! Its nutritionists have acknowledged that plant-based, unprocessed foods are so filling that they are now classed as Filling Foods. In fact, the power of these foods to fill has even prompted WEIGHT WATCHERS to overhaul its point-tracking program. “Take a break from tracking,” WEIGHT WATCHERS urges. “The Simply Filling technique focuses on Power Foods. Give it a try for a while.”
(An explanation for non-Weight Watchers: The WEIGHT WATCHERS system is based on points assigned to each food, with the unhealthiest foods – think French fries, cheeseburgers, corn-on-the-cob, chocolate bars – having the most points, and most fruits, vegetables and whole grains zero points. Each Weight Watcher has a daily point allowance calculated from a formula based on factors such as height, age, gender and activity level. It follows, therefore, that foods with zero points – specifically, plant-based whole foods – are much more appealing than those with several points.)
So far, so good: Weight Watchers is inching towards an endorsement of a plant-based, whole food diet proven to be the most wholesome and nutritious way to eat and guaranteed to lead to healthy and sustained weight loss. This is because plant-roughage is rich in the fibre that satisfies appetite with fewer calories and also retains water. The result, in the words of clinical researcher and health advocate Dr. Neal Barnard, is that it “alerts your brain that you’re full long before you’ve eaten too many calories.”
But WEIGHT WATCHERS does not, perhaps dares not naysay the appeal of animal products and processed foods, which do not quickly satisfy the appetite and are full of stored fat. Why is this so? Probably to avoid the risk of alienating millions of carnivorous Weight Watchers.
THE CLIENT IS ALWAYS RIGHT, AND WEIGHT LOSS COMES FIRST
The vast majority of WEIGHT WATCHERS are women driven by the desire to lose weight; improving their health or becoming stronger are usually secondary concerns. This makes it easier to understand how WEIGHT WATCHERS downplays the truth about plant-based whole foods as the healthiest as well as most conducive to weight loss. Instead of such a radical move that would raise the Vegetarian Banner and scare away droves of Weight Watchers, the program merely assigns zero points to plant-based whole foods and relatively high points to unwholesome, processed ones.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE, GOOD OR BAD
Though WEIGHT WATCHERS includes “Eat Smarter” as one of its four pillars of healthy weight loss, no food is forbidden. Just like vegetables and fruits, junk and fast foods are assigned points – 3 points for a snack pack of Oreos, 4 points for a single slice of classic cheese pizza, 10 points for medium fries, 7 for a cheeseburger as examples. In other words, even unhealthy foods that fuel rather than satisfy raging appetites, and that cater to cravings for sugar and fat, are acceptable to the program.
WATCHING WEIGHT: A BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY
That’s too bad, because in an overweight world quickly gobbling its way towards obesity, Weight Watchers leads the multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry in curbing the poundage. (Its approximately 1.2 million members attend 45,000 meeting in 30 countries. And in 2010, the company had sales of $1.45 billion with a net income of $194.2 million.)
Yet fat as the Western World is, without WEIGHT WATCHERS it’d be even fatter. A recent study reported in The Lancet, a venerable medical journal, concluded that after a year-long trial comparing overweight and obese people who participated in Weight Watchers with those who received standard care by family doctors, WEIGHT WATCHERS was more than twice as effective in promoting weight loss.
- 377 overweight and mostly female Germans, Australians and British were randomly assigned to WEIGHT WATCHERS or family doctors
- 61% stuck out the one-year trial period (compared to 54% of the medically-treated)
- their mean weight loss was 5·06 kg (11.2 pounds) versus 2·25 kg (4.96 pounds) for the latter.
- Weight Watchers were also three times as likely to lose 10 percent of their initial body weight.
Quite apart from psychological and sartorial benefits, this has medical significance: The Lancet notes that “Weight loss of 5—10% is associated with clinically significant health benefits, including a reduction in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” David Kirchhoff, the CEO of WEIGHT WATCHERS International, opined that The Lancet study “proves that Weight Watchers is part of the solution to help transform the health of nations.”
Well, yes! And so doesn’t WEIGHT WATCHERS owe it to the fattening, unhealthy world to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about weight loss and the nature of food its experts know so much about? How about just laying it on the line with this simple solution: “Follow a plant-based, whole foods meal plan. These filling foods will satisfy your nutritional needs and your appetite, and you won’t have to count anything but your blessings.”