Weight Watchers vs. Nutrisystem

When we first started looking at getting back on the weightloss track, Jenny’s doctor gave us two options: Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers. She listed them in that order, and I assume she did so for a reason, most likely because of how the plans work. Nutrisystem is a strict diet with no flexibility outside of its boundaries, where Weight Watchers puts the ball in your court and simply tells you the rules to play by.

The doctor told us to look at the two plans, take a few days to think about them, and then pick one. She said to be sure we didn’t go with any fad diets, and not to just trust ourselves to eat better, but to pick one of those two plans, consider them both, and pick one to go with.

Initial Thoughts
Our initial thoughts were to go ahead and give Nutrisystem a try because of it’s strictness. It wouldn’t allow us to cheat, we wouldn’t be able to forget that we had eaten a snack without recording the points for it, or any of those other convenient little excuses and things that would basically nullify the plan. We didn’t do that too much when we did Weight Watchers before, but there were a few times that we “cheated” and spent a few points beyond what we should have. But hey, we’re still human, right?

We had both found success with Weight Watchers previously, with Jenny losing 17 lbs and me losing 32, so we knew it worked, but we thought it might be good for us to go with the strict plan, just in case.

Twitter Poll
Like many decisions, it’s often good to get the thoughts of other people, and so we did just that by asking our friends on twitter. A lot of people who don’t use twitter like to think of it as something similar to Facebook, only more worthless. They hear stories of people “tweeting” about going to the bathroom, or letting you know where they’re going to eat lunch, or some other obscure topic that people generally don’t care about or don’t want to read about. And in some cases, or rather for some users, that’s true. But in my experience with over 1,000 people that interact with on twitter, that’s definitely not the case.

We asked Twitter what everyone though, Nutrisystem or Weight Watchers? Have they tried it, what were their thoughts on each, what success did they find, and so on. We found two people who fully supported Nutrisystem and found success with the program, two people who knew or were related to people who had success with it, and three who had tried it and been very unpleased with their results.

On the other hand, the replies in support of Weight Watchers was seriously overwhelming to the point that I didn’t even bother keeping track after the first 30 seconds of me tweeting the question. I had one person reply that Weight Watchers had been unsuccessful for them and another who said a relative had been disappointed with it, but that was the extent of the negative reviews.

Weight Watchers: A Life Style, Not a Diet
A very common misconception that we see in talking with other people, or even in going through the check-out line at a grocery store, is that people see the food with Weight Watchers points and logos on them and assume that the food is going to taste bland or disgusting. What people don’t understand is that Weight Watchers isn’t a diet, it’s a life style. Unlike Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers doesn’t tell you what to eat or not eat, it teaches you how to make good decisions about what food you eat and how much you eat of it.

Weight Watchers works on a Points system. You decide your number of Points based on your height, weight, age, and gender. Your weight determines the largest part of your Points because the more you weight the more calories your body needs to function in the first place, and the more weight you lose the lower that portion of your points gets. Those Points tell you how much food you need to eat in a given day, which is both your minimum and your maximum, as you always want to eat all of your Points worth and then stop there. But, there are also what they call Weekly Points, which you get to use throughout the week as you see fit.

The fewest Points you can have is 25, and the most you can have is 44. Technically, you can have more than 44 Points, but you can’t count any extra beyond those 44, and everyone gets 35 Weekly Points to spend throughout the week. Jenny has 39 Points right now, while I have 44 (actually, I have 47 but 44 is the max). I get 8 more points than her because I’m a male (8 Points vs 2 for women), and another 2 Points because I’m younger than her (cradle robber!).

I can use those points however I choose, using a calculation for all foods based on Total Calories (bad), Total Fat (bad), and Dietary Fiber (good!). I could give you the mathematical equation for it, but without knowing all of the rules and exceptions within the system you’d end up with false Points values from time to time, so I’ll leave out the details. When you eat something, you subtract the Points value of the food from your Daily Points Allowance, and once you’ve used that up if you eat anything else that day then you subtract instead from the Weekly Allowance.

They also give you some guidelines to follow so that you’re not just eating junk all day long. They want you to get at least six, eight-ounce servings of water each day, as well as three servings of dairy products, five servings of vegetables, and a multivitamin each day. If you get those servings, eat all of your Points, and not go over your Points allowances, then you’ll lose weight.

Losing weight faster, or more consistently also includes exercise of course, so you can also earn additional Points by exercising. You don’t have to use those Points if you don’t want to, but it is an option if you like to reward your exercising efforts with food (preferably less Points worth of food than you earned with the exercise so that it’s actually worth it).

I fully intended everything there to address that misconception of food tasting bad if it’s meant for losing weight, but as usual I rambled on about details instead. So let me summarize it here, Weight Watchers food isn’t “diet food”, because it’s not special. It’s food that you eat every day, whether you’re on a diet or not. But rather than eating that greasy cheeseburger that’s worth 18 Points, and a large fries that’s worth another 8 Points, you either cut back on the portions or maybe eat a different type of burger or one that’s on wheat bread instead of white.

I could eat a single can of chili from the grocery store by itself for 11 Points, or I can eat two cups of Jenny’s chili with a quarter of a cup of shredded cheese (real cheese, not a special low fat or low calorie) for only 8 points. The difference is Jenny’s chili tastes better (seriously), there’s more of it so you can actually get full and stay full, and a single pot of it is enough for multiple meals. Rather than eating candy bars or chips as snacks throughout the day which cost anywhere from 4 to 12 Points each, you can have fruit for 1-2 Points or veggies which are often free.

So Weight Watchers isn’t about just eating diet foods or foods that are good for you, it’s about learning how to eat the right foods, eat enough of those foods, and how to monitor your portions based on value vs. return. You don’t want to spend 20 Points on a little snack that’s not going to keep you full when you could spend a handful of Points on something that will keep you full for hours. You can go ahead and eat that 20 Point snack if you want, assuming you have the points for it, but you might be reduced to a skimpy dinner if you do so.

To simplify, Weight Watchers doesn’t tell you what to eat and what not to it, it teaches you how to make those decisions for yourself.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Tweets that mention Weight Watchers vs. Nutrisystem « The Chubby Couple -- Topsy.com
  2. Gwenyth Love
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 11:35:18

    This is a great post. I have been considering WW and now am even more convinced it might be the way to go.



  3. Apple
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 18:49:35

    God, it’s been ages since I did weight watchers, but I remember that it worked.

    If I had the money for things more expensive than ramen and mac and cheese, and a kitchen to cook things more complicated than… well, ramen and mac and cheese, I’d probably seriously consider going back, or at least figuring out my points and doing it by myself. I didn’t have a very good experience with it before, but that wasn’t the fault of WW, but my mother, who took me. I was a freshman in high school, and she didn’t take me to learn to eat healthy, she took me because she thought I (at 14 years old and fully developed, 5’5, and 145 lbs) was too fat and needed to lose some weight.

    I can trace a lot of my weight and food and body image issues back to that. >< But I DO remember that I lost about 5 lbs on WW, and that it didn't suck – it was pretty easy, all in all.

    Good luck to you and Jenny both! 🙂 I wish you the best in your efforts!


  4. Tarinae
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 12:09:32

    I didn’t see the twitter poll but I have tried WW before, I was in HS. I did it with my mom though didn’t pay for the meetings, and I lost 15 lbs in just a few weeks and thought it was a great program that I could have continued but I didn’t.

    Good luck today, I hear it is the first weigh in!


  5. Nibuca
    Oct 28, 2010 @ 11:30:55

    Having tried both.. I recommend trying Nutrisystem for at least a month. I found it a great push to get my portion sizes in check. That said.. after the first month the food got really boring and honestly processed food is the -last- thing you need.

    At this point I’m doing Clean Eating. Essentially it boils down to eat fresh, unprocessed food, not too much, mostly vegetables, 4-5 times a day. Each meal must consist of a protein and a complex carb. I pack a lunch cooler for breakfast/lunch everyday and make sure I have the right foods on-hand so I’m not tempted by office food or eating out.

    Lastly, I -highly- recommend you look into/get a copy of “Recipe for Life” by Susan B. Dopart. Far and away this book helped me to finally learn what it is I needed to be doing. It described the WHY of insulin resistance, cholesterol, hunger hormones and a host of other health things I just never understood. Now, by understanding these things I can make the right choices to change them.

    I’m in Week 11. I started August 1. I’m down 25 lbs.



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