When I started Weight Watchers (this time), it was 2009. At that time, WW was still using the original points system. That system was primarily based on calories. Most veggies were zero points, but all fruits had points values associated with them. I lost the majority of my weight (88 pounds) on that plan, but I was often hungry and deprived. I can remember complaining to my husband that I felt like I was starving and couldn’t imagine living on such a small points budget forever.
The plan switched to PointsPlus in November 2010. On the PointsPlus plan, most veggies and all fruit are 0 PointsPlus. Woo hoo! I finally felt like I was satisfied and not hungry all the time, but I also struggled with my weight loss quite a bit. The whole concept of “free” fruit apparently translated to mean “all you can eat” fruit in my mind, which is not what the plan intended!
What are the 0 PointsPlus foods?
According to the Weight Watchers web site, “All fresh fruit and most vegetables have been assigned 0 PointsPlus values. They’re such healthy, filling choices that we want to encourage you to eat them. We’ve already factored the caloric impact of these foods into our calculations of your daily PointsPlus Target. Consider them prepaid! Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can overeat as long as you’re having fruit. You should always eat reasonable portions, and stop eating when you’re satisfied. Some other foods — some condiments, very small portions of other foods — naturally have 0 PointsPlus values.” Get the basic list here.
Is zero really zero?
Weight Watchers knows that fruits and vegetables aren’t “magically calorie-free.” The reason for making most fruits and vegetables 0 PointsPlus was to encourage us to eat more fruits and vegetables because they are good for us! I know that I definitely make healthier choices now than I did on the old points system. Since the plan changed (November 2010), I have struggled to lose my last 12 pounds for a whole variety of reasons.
Last fall I decided that it was time to get serious again and make 2015 the year I finally hit my 100 pound milestone! I’ve been doing pretty well, but I’m still struggling to lose my last 5 pounds. I know, I know…some of you would die to be at that point. I get it! Our struggles change throughout our journey. Some things get easier and some things get harder. I keep getting frustrated with the plan, but I finally faced the facts. The plan isn’t the problem. THE PROBLEM IS ME. I’m still overeating.
How much is too much?
According to Weight Watchers, the idea with 0 PointsPlus fruits and vegetables is to “eat to satisfaction.” Well, clearly that’s my problem. Weight Watchers recommends that we “eat reasonable portions” and stop when we’re satisfied. WHEN IS THAT? AM I EVER SATISFIED? Am I really hungry or am I just stuffing myself with fruit because it is “free?” Does a giant smoothie with a pound of berries really count as zero?? I really should think of the items as “prepaid” rather than “free.”
The WW Good Health Guidelines recommend 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (9 if you weigh more than 350 pounds). It really boils down to quantity. The plan has factored in an average number of servings of those 0 PointsPlus items. If I were to add up all my fruit and vegetable servings, I’m confident that I’ve been eating WAY more than 5 per day. That means that I’m eating more than what is prepaid on the plan and that I’m still eating too many calories.
Just to experiment, I tracked my calories a few days while still tracking my PointsPlus values like normal. I was startled to realize that although I was only 1-2 points over my daily PointsPlus target of 26, I was about 400-500 calories over my daily calorie target of 1200. I had a little pity party for a day or two… “poor me, I have to cut out EVEN MORE?” But then I remembered that I don’t HAVE to, but I might need to in order to see the results I want. I also realized that it’s not about cutting out foods that I love. It’s about eating the RIGHT amount of food for my body.
The key in determining if you’re eating too many 0 PointsPlus foods is to “Let your weight loss be the guide.” That’s what I’m doing. My weight loss has not been where it should be, so I’m taking a closer look at things.
What can I do to fix the problem?
Now that I have recognized and admitted that I am eating too much, how can I fix it? I’m not willing to starve myself, and I’m not willing to eat a strict boring diet. In looking at my behaviors, I found 3 key changes that I can implement without feeling deprived.
1. Quit cheating the Recipe Builder
Weight Watchers offers members a cool feature called Recipe Builder. It allows you to input your ingredients and number of servings to quickly figure out the PointsPlus values per serving. The Recipe Builder factors in the nutritional value of all ingredients (including fruits and vegetables and other 0 PointsPlus items) in a recipe. The recipe builder looks strictly at the numbers. It doesn’t know the difference between broccoli and ice cream. I also have my own Recipe Calculator spreadsheet that I use to calculate my recipe totals when I have all the exact packaging in front of me.
In the past I’ve always rationalized that it shouldn’t make a difference if I eat something by itself or combined in a recipe. However, that’s the way the plan is intended to work. To get the results I want, I need to start working the plan as it is intended. If I am snacking on fruits and veggies throughout the day and counting them as zero, I probably shouldn’t also be counting all the fruits and veggies baked into recipes as zero. Doing that probably means that I will be exceeding the prepaid number of servings again.
We also have a tendency to overeat a recipe more than we would the individual ingredients. Think about carrots, apples, and bananas. Most of us wouldn’t overeat those items as often as we would overeat carrot cake, apple pie, or banana bread. Most of us wouldn’t eat a pound of berries in one sitting, but it would be really easy to drink a pound of berries in a smoothie!
2. Monitor my fruit intake more closely
I do not think fruit is the issue. I think my behavior around fruit is the issue. I have found myself slipping into the old habit of snacking mindlessly and eating when I’m not really hungry. I find myself justifying that it’s okay if I’m snacking because I’m snacking on fruit and it’s better than cookies. It’s still not okay to be eating when I’m not really hungry! If I know that I wouldn’t eat something if I had to count PointsPlus values for it, that’s a red flag that I shouldn’t be eating it in the first place.
I am trying to reign myself in by counting PointsPlus values for any fruit beyond two servings per day. I almost always have a banana and an apple for snacks during the day. I will continue to allow myself those two servings as part of my prepaid allowance built into the plan, but I will be counting PointsPlus values for any fruit beyond that. Lately I’ve also been having fruit at every meal (like a dessert) when I don’t really need it! By forcing myself to assign a PointsPlus value to those servings, I hope to really evaluate if I am truly hungry or not.
PLEASE NOTE that this is not a Weight Watchers recommendation. I am only trying it as an experiment to see if that helps me cut down on the mindless munching. There’s a great article on the WW site that answers the questions about fruit that so many members struggle with.
3. Measure my fruit and vegetable servings
I need to get back to basics and remember what a serving size looks like for my fruits and vegetables. Again, I don’t think these foods are the real problem. My behavior is the real problem. However, knowing appropriate portion sizes (even for fruits and veggies) should help me recognize when I’m eating too much. I’m not saying I won’t have two servings of a vegetable at once, but at least I’ll get a better idea of what a serving should look like.
With all my other food, I’m very careful about weighing and measuring the proper serving size. With fruit and vegetables, I haven’t been concerned with portion size at all. Did you know that a serving of baby carrots is not half the bag? 😉 It was kind of shocking to me to see what a serving of baby carrots looks like! The serving size is actually not that big…not even half of a snack size plastic bag! Of course eating carrots is better than eating chips, but I still don’t need to be mindlessly eating them just to be eating.
I hope these changes help get me back on the road to reaching my 100 pound milestone! Frankly, I would NEVER have done this 95 pounds ago. I’ve been able to lose this much without really worrying about these items, so this might sound extreme to some of you. I’m just at the point where it’s harder and harder to lose so I feel like I need to pay more attention to even the smallest things.
If you are losing weight consistently, you probably don’t need to worry about any of this! If you feel like you are doing everything right but you are not seeing results, these ideas might be something to consider. Let your weight loss be your guide!
Has anyone else struggled with the zero PointsPlus foods? How have you dealt with it? Share your experience in the comments! If you think I’m nuts, you can tell me that too!!