I hate counting Weight Watchers SmartPoints

Weight Watchers introduced a new program, Beyond the Scale, featuring a food plan, SmartPoints, a year ago. The scientific and medical communities love it. It’s even been approved by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a way to manage pre diabetes. It steers users towards food choices that are better for them and evidence-proven to promote better health.

Some diets forbid red meat, others make potatoes off limits. Weight Watchers food plan lets you eat both and all other foods too. SmartPoints helps members eat what they enjoy within a framework of a healthful, reduced-calorie plan.

The new food plan has changed the points-weight-loss formula and the name of the points from PointsPlus to SmartPoints. I hate it. Yes, you read that right – I hate it.

SmartPoints® are annoying. I hate them because two foods with the same calories per serving can have vastly different SmartPoints (SP).

It all comes down to these 4 elements – calories per serving, saturated fat (sat fat) content, sugar content, and protein. More sat fat and sugar will drive up the SP while less of those things and more protein will send the SP down.

It galls me that a 1/2 cup serving of ice cream with 137 calories has 7 SP while 3oz of chicken with 187 calories is just 3 SP. Why is that? The ice cream has 5g of saturated fat, 14g of sugar and 2g of protein. The chicken has 0g of both saturated fat and sugar and 25g of protein.

That’s how SmartPoints steers users towards healthier eating habits, but my habits are pretty healthy. I know that ice cream is a treat and should be eaten sparingly. Assigning 7 SP to ice cream feels like paying a sin tax that isn’t applied to chicken at 3 SP.

1 scoop of ice cream is a half cup serving and 7 SmartPoints for 137 calories

I know chicken is a good source of lean protein and a frequent choice for my meals. I don’t need SmartPoints to help me differentiate the nutritional value between ice cream and chicken.

3oz of chicken breast is 3 SmartPoints at 187 calories.

There! So now it’s out. Jackie Conn, general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine hates SmartPoints counting.

Yes, I really hate counting them although counting them or not, ostensibly I’m eating in the same good-for-me manner.

I also must add in defense of SP that they’re better than counting calories. At least they are a calculation that promotes better nutrition as well as satisfaction. It’s true that the source of calories is important, especially when you’re restricting calories to lose weight.

Tracking SP beats a lot of diet methods including those that have you substituting shakes for meals, eating bland freeze-dried and microwaved meals, or the diets with extensive “do not eat” lists.They’re better than any of those things but I’m no fan, nevertheless.

Oh and I’ll give SP credit as a vast improvement over the old method Weight Watchers used to track and count food. When I joined in 1987 we had “exchanges” which later were updated to the very tasty-sounding “selections.”

We had a set number of daily servings from each of these selections – Protein, Bread, Fruit, Vegetable, Milk, and Fat lists. It was much more rigid than any of the points-based-weight-loss plans.

If somebody said, “the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to count your points for the rest of your days,” I’m afraid I’d choose getting fat again over a lifetime of counting SP. I wouldn’t like it, but I know it wouldn’t be realistic to think I was going to become a faithful counter of points for the rest of my life.

By now you’re wondering if I’m at goal since I don’t count SP. Yes, I am at goal and I eat good-for-me food (most of the time)

You may also be curious about my feelings in general of Weight Watchers. I love Weight Watchers; it’s much more than just a food plan. I love the meetings. I loved them as a member and I love them as the general manager.

Meetings are still where I go to stay motivated. They’re fun and I always learn something, even after 26 years. Members are always discovering and sharing their insights, great recipes, and tips where to shop or which restaurants will go out of their way to take care of their weight conscious guests.

As Jean Nidetch said, “Weight Watchers is a little talking, a little listening and a program that works.”

I love Weight Watchers meetings’ holistic approach.

Meetings teach weight management by placing equal emphasis on eating, physical activity, thinking and behavior modification, and reinforcing new weight management thinking and behaviors in an environment of group support. 

In fact, I am certain that the reason why I can manage my weight without getting hung up on SP is because of what I learned about myself and how my old limiting beliefs used to influence my unhealthy eating and exercising habits.

My education I received by participating in Weight Watchers meetings and past and present food plans taught me important things about myself and my weight challenges. These things are how I’m able to stay at goal while eating in what now feels entirely natural and intuitive to me.

I’ve learned:
  • My healthy weight isn’t the same as my ideal weight.
  • I like good food – meaning food that’s good for me and tastes good too.
  • I can eat less and still be satisfied.
  • To say “another time,” if it’s not the right time to indulge.
  • To indulge without regrets or getting carried away / flexible restraint.
  • Physical activity is fun and makes me feel happy.
  • Moving more means more eating freedom.

I don’t feel like a phony because I hate SP and I work for Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers even recognizes that not everybody loves or wants to count points. They developed an alternative approach to their food plan that only minimally relies on SP counting.

It’s called Simply Filling

Simply filling allows me to choose from a comprehensive list of foods that are highly nutritious and naturally lower in fat and calories. There’s no counting or tracking when eating the foods on the simply filling list.

Eat as much fruit as you need to stay satisfied.

The list is so complete I could be almost entirely satisfied eating only what’s on it. The foods are tasty but not likely to encourage me to eat too much which could set back my weight-related goals. They’re foods I enjoy a lot and mostly eat, but I can also enjoy eating anything I want that isn’t on the list too, as long as I count and track the SPs for just those foods.

This is a Simply Filling meal. All the food on this plate comes from the Simply Filling food list. Eat as much of this meal as you need to feel satisfied – no counting or tracking.

If I were following the plan exactly as written I would have to count points for foods that aren’t on the list. The plan gives me 28 points a week. I’ll admit I don’t track them, but I do monitor them closely. If I eat a piece of cake, for example, I know it’s got a lot of sugar and a bit of sat fat, so I don’t eat a massive piece or have it often.

It’s become a very natural and flexible way for me to eat. It keeps me both satisfied and at goal.

“Please stop your incessant yakking about Weight Watchers, Grandma.”

I hate SmartPoints, but that’s just me. Lots of people love them and count them and are losing more weight than they lose with the previous Weight Watchers food plan. To me counting and tracking everything I eat feels like a diet, but following Simply Filling just feels like good eating habits.

If you like them and they work for you, why on Earth would you change that just because they drive me crazy? You have choices with Weight Watchers.

You need to find what fits you. If SP works for you, then points it is. If they are unbearable for you, them you may be a Simply Filling kind of person just as I am.

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.