Weight Watchers has been a leading weight-loss program for around 60 years, and for good reason. It owes its longevity to its research- and knowledge-based program updates. Weight Watchers certainly does not shy away from remaking itself to keep up with the changing science of nutrition and meet consumers’ ever-changing needs.
Two of Weight Watchers’ most successful program revisions are the SmartPoints system in 2015 and, the Weight Watchers Freestyle in 2017.
SmartPoints – WW Points System Overhaul
Weight Watchers has always used a proprietary algorithm to simplify complex nutrition information and assign a simple numerical value to food. Its previous algorithm was more broadly based, only taking into consideration basic nutritional information such as calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Each food is given a certain number of points depending on their calorie, protein, fat, and carbohydrate content. The healthier the food, the lower its points; less healthy food gets higher points.
A member is then given a daily and weekly points budget based on their age, height, weight, sex, activity level, and weight-loss goal. To lose weight, they had to stay under their points budget. This means logging every food they eat so they can keep track of the number of points they’re accruing daily. It was a pretty straightforward system that effectively led to slow but continuous weight loss.
In 2015, WW overhauled its points system and started using an algorithm that looked at more specific nutritional components, such as fiber, sugar (which used to be lumped together with carbohydrates), and type of fat. The new points system was called SmartPoints.
With SmartPoints, about 50% of the foods in the WW database got either lower or higher points than what was previously assigned to them to reflect the more targeted approach to their nutritional components. The daily SmartPoints budget also more accurately corresponded to an individual’s resting metabolic weight, taking into consideration whether or not a person is overweight.
With the previous formula, all members received a fixed 49 bonus points per week, which they can use in case they reach their maximum points budget before the week was up; for occasional treats; or in case there’s a special occasion. The SmartPoints system allocates weekly bonus points that are specific to an individual’s varying resting metabolic rates.
Lastly, the new formula separated the physical activity goal from the intake goal, so that a member can also work within a daily/weekly fitness points budget.
WW’s list of ZeroPoint foods increased. And like before, no food was off-limits. Members still enjoyed the same flexibility and freedom to choose what they want to eat as long as they stayed within their daily SmartPoints budget. With the new formula, members were given better information on the foods they eat and better guidance towards developing healthier eating patterns.
Weight Watchers Freestyle – More Freedom and Greater Flexibility
SmartPoints proved to be an effective strategy to help WW members eat better and achieve a healthy weight. In 2017, Weight Watchers gave the SmartPoints system a boost and rolled out their “most livable plan in 50 years,” – Weight Watchers Freestyle.
The Freestyle program still used SmartPoints but offered the greater advantage of a wider variety of ZeroPoint foods. Prior to Freestyle, ZeroPoint foods only included very low-calorie foods. The updated Freestyle list included vegetables; fruits; skinless chicken breast; skinless turkey breast; nonfat, unsweetened yogourt; whole eggs; beans, peas, lentils, tofu, and corn; fish; and all seafood like shrimp, lobster, mussels, oysters.
Weight Watchers Freestyle addressed the importance of making wholesome and healthy food choices within a member’s points budget by designating a greater number of nutrient-dense food items as ZeroPoint foods. This way, even with the temptation of simply using all of one’s daily points on a burger, a member could still add these ZeroPoint foods to that day’s intake to meet nutrient needs. The expansion of ZeroPoint foods also meant less need for measuring portion sizes and tracking any food that’s been given zero points.
WW Freestyle also allowed members to roll over their unused daily SmartPoints to the next day, giving them extra points for a special occasion, a night out, or a simple treat for another day. Up to 4 SmartPoints can be rolled over to another day every week.
WW Freestyle establishes structured accountability and flexibility by incorporating all whole foods and food groups – with zero food restrictions. This means members do not feel guilty about eating a slice of cake every now and then, but they also know to stay within their SmartPoints limit. The strategy makes the WW weight-loss strategy more doable long-term.
WW Freestyle encouraged physical activity for pleasure to help members make their chosen activity a regular part of life. WW support system gave members the guidance they need to find activities they enjoy so that moving becomes a healthy and conscious commitment.
Lastly, WW Freestyle offered techniques that helped members change the thoughts that hold them back and learn skills to keep them motivated for the long haul.
Weight Watchers Freestyle and SmartPoints – Final Thoughts
Weight Watchers’ remains at the top of their game by continuously evolving and revising their strategy based on new science. Their flexible and realistic approach to healthy eating and an overall healthy lifestyle makes them one of the few commercial diet programs that are sustainable and that effectively encourage adopting a balanced approach to eating with no restrictions and other healthy lifelong habits.
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