The Weight Watchers diet is a method aimed at slimming and subsequent maintenance of the ideal weight ; it is a fairly alternative program, focused on nutritional education and the adoption of a healthier lifestyle, certainly modern, but not without its criticalities.
The Weight Watchers diet is based on two cardinal principles:
- permanently change the eating habits and lifestyle of the subject;
- reach a weight that allows you to “feel good” with yourself, or rather, with your body image;
it is precisely this latter objective that raises the greatest criticisms of the Weight Watchers diet, especially from professionals who deal with eating disorders (DCA); later we will try to understand why.
Origins and evolution
The Weight Watchers diet, which literally means ” Weight Control “, was born in New York in the 1960s by Jean Nidetch. By virtue of its success it was then exported to numerous countries around the globe; to tell the truth, Weight Watchers is the name of the first weight control “club” which, from a small profane reality, then specialized by refining a specialized multidisciplinary monitoring technique (or rather, this would be the goal … ) , constantly updated.
The Weight Watchers diet includes membership (for a fee) in a motivational and educational support group. Being a standardized method, while making use of a constant and systematic relationship with its followers, the Weight Watchers diet requires food management as uniform as possible; for this purpose, the club of the same name has developed a mathematical evaluation system for the calories introduced, conceptually similar to that of the ” Points Diet “. In addition to some guiding principles based on nutrition education, those who follow the Weight Watchers diet must therefore respect the constraint of the daily score attributed based on individual characteristics ( age , height , current weight, target weight, gender, level ofphysical activity, etc.) and the caloric deficit needed to produce the desired weight loss . Once the overall score to be adhered to is known, the subject will add the points of each individual food consumed, corrected for the relative portions, in order to respect this overall constraint. In general, the Weight Watchers diet gives a high score to foods with higher energy density (higher in calories), so that the relative portions of consumption are necessarily reduced, and that each point of the diet provides a standard amount of calories. (35-45 Kcal per point) regardless of the source it comes from.
Bonus points can also be attributed to the individual score, to be spent throughout the week at will, while further increases in the score are foreseen for those who practice physical activity (in proportion to its intensity and duration). In addition, the subject can save points in one day and then use them on a special day (for example to include the classic weekend pizza in the diet).
Unlike other dietary models aimed at weight loss, the Weight Watchers diet is not based on the total exclusion of certain foods, but establishes rules that reduce the consumption of certain foods in favor of others considered healthier (see next chapter). The only prohibitions can concern spirits and carbonated and sugary drinks. In any case, above all there is a calorie constraint to be respected, which is lacking in other types of diets where the permitted foods can be taken at will without quantity restrictions. This makes the Weight Watchers diet a substantially balanced and largely shareable diet, albeit more cumbersome to follow.
In addition, the support club meets periodically to compare the various results obtained and express a professional (specialists) and collective (participants) judgment on the group itself and on individual members; a sort of “group therapy”. With the spread of modern technologies, such meetings can also be held online.
In the Weight Watchers diet it is often recommended to use specific dietary supplements, such as a daily multivitamin supplement , or traditional food products with a reduced calorie content and in any case in line with its principles.
The combination of nutrition and psychology is the basis of the success achieved by the Weight Watchers diet, which acts both on the food front through a regularized diet, and on the psychological front through collective motivational support.
When the subject reaches the desired target weight, he begins an adaptation period by adjusting his diet so as not to lose or gain weight . If, after the first six weeks of maintenance, the weight does not fluctuate by more than one kg with respect to the target weight reached, the subject becomes a “life” Weight Watchers member and, if he maintains this regularity and constancy, can participate for free in the meetings of the groups of support.
Weight Watchers Diet Rules
According to the principles of the Weight Watchers diet it is important to:
- Follow the menus proposed by the club and DO NOT transgress by increasing or decreasing the number of meals
- Observe the following rules regarding the consumption of the various categories of food:
- Fruit: fresh or canned but without sugar ; once a day consume at least 1 fruit that contains a lot of C ( citrus fruits , kiwi , berries , currants …); a portion must be present in the morning meal
- Eggs: up to 4 per week (1 in the morning and 2 in the evening); with freedom of cooking but WITHOUT FAT
- Cheeses: no more than 120g per week (30g in the morning and 60g in the evening):asiago, caciotta , gorgonzola , mozzarella , pecorino ,caciocavallo, emmenthal , gruyere , fontina , parmesan .
- Other dairyproducts: up to 75g in the morning and no more than 150g in the evening, for a total of 225g per week
- Bread: 30g of white bread2 to 4 times a day BUT only with a meal (1 portion always atbreakfast)
- Milk: 250ml per main meal or between meals 3-4 times a day or replace them with 200g of low-fat yogurt
- Meat and fish: lean meats , duck and goose are allowed; at least 3 portions offisha week
- Legumesand vegetables : at least 3 times a week with portions of 100g each
- Fats: only margarineand seed oils allowed; olive oil only once a day; 3 portions of fat per day of 1 tablespoon each are allowed but NEVER fried
- Drinks: waterfreely, NOalcohol, tea and coffee allowed but nosugar
PLEASE NOTE: these rules can be more or less strict and differ slightly according to the application plans (which we remember are constantly evolving and often different from country to country); however, even when there are no such rigorous recommendations on the portions to be consumed, the principles expressed above must in any case serve as general guidelines to guide the food choices of the subject with respect for the score constraints.
Despite being a sufficiently balanced and varied diet (when compared to other standardized methods), the Weight Watchers diet is quite restrictive and in its most rigid variant requires the compilation of a food diary with the weighing of all foods.
Furthermore, as regards the club meetings, the Weight Watchers diet uses the formula of the open group (i.e. the free entry of new participants in each phase of the program) and NOT always under SPECIALIST medical supervision, with a relative spannometric application of the principles of cognitive and nutritional therapy. Unfortunately, this neglect has a considerable impact on the success of the program which, in many cases, suffers in the mutual confrontation between the participants; after all, we remember that the frequent visitors of similar systems are those affected by eating disorders(DCA), which require a very specific psychiatric approach and a multidisciplinarity that cannot be obtained with the Weight Watchers diet. Furthermore, people with DCA are characterized by an immeasurable distortion of their body image which, according to the second cardinal principle, through the Weight Watchers diet would lead them to levels of thinness (prolonged or excessive restriction – for anorexia and some forms of bulimia ) or frustration (treatment failure – for some forms of bulimia and binge eating disorder ) absolutely inadvisable.