The Problem with Weight Watchers and other Calorie Counting Diets

From the library of DrFuhrman.com:

Weight Watchers and other similar diet plans have dismal failure rates. To appeal to the mainstream, who presently are eating a diet predominating in “fake” low-nutrient processed foods, they must perpetuate the same nutritional mistakes that lead people down the path to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The leading cause of death in the modern world today is heart disease. Most people consume a diet rich in processed foods and high saturated fat animal products that guarantees them a future destiny with heart disease. It is this same style of eating that fuels the obesity epidemic. To end these unnecessary tragedies, to get real results in the weight-loss arena and to save lives, we need to eat much differently.

When you support the status quo and attempt to motivate people to consume smaller portions of disease causing foods, you give people all the same addictive foods that caused them to become overweight to begin with. Unhealthy food is addicting. When your diet is still centered on disease causing foods, you will always feel ill and have addictive food cravings. Unless your body is flooded with all the nutrients it needs, you will simply crave more food than you need, and it will be almost impossible to achieve and maintain an ideal weight.

Diets such as this fail over 90 percent of the time simply because they are structured around dangerous foods and do not ensure adequate nutrient intake. Studies performed on subjects undergoing the Weight Watchers program have shown that after 6 months the average weight loss was less than 5 pounds.1

In comparison, a group of 100 overweight people following my Eat to Live approach, who were tracked for two years, showed a weight loss of 49 pounds after their two year follow-up. The reason my approach is so successful is that it is not merely a weight-loss diet. It encourages you to eat large amounts of vegetables, beans and fruits, the most powerful anti-cancer foods on the planet. Food is rated, not by calories but by nutrient levels to encourage recipes and menus that make you disease-resistant. You learn how delicious healthy eating can be, but as a result by eating more healthy food, you can lose the cravings and temptations to eat greasy, sugary and unhealthy food. When you are so filled up with nutrient, fiber and volume, you simply lose your “toxic” hunger and food cravings.

With calorie-counting and point-counting and having to weigh, measure, and calculate amounts eaten, you are following a diet. Who wants to diet and measure portions forever? I enjoy eating. I eat the way I advise all my patients to do, yet I am not overweight. Why? I enjoy eating lots of great tasting stuff and not having to worry about my weight or my health. Intellectually, I know that I am doing the right thing to prevent heart disease and other medical problems from developing in my future. Dieting and measuring out thimble-sized portions of food for the rest of one's life is not something that fits in naturally and permanently into anyone's lifestyle. Besides, anything you do temporarily gives only temporary benefit.

A key (and always overlooked) element in my Eat to Live approach is understanding “toxic hunger.” Most people feel abdominal spasm, stomach discomfort, headaches, and weakness driving them to eat for relief. They do not recognize these symptoms as withdrawal symptoms from their nutritionally inadequate diet. When one eats a high-nutrient diet these symptoms of toxicity melt away, and you are put back in touch with true hunger, that mouth and throat sensation that makes even simple food taste great. True hunger leads you to the precise amount of calories that you need to maintain your ideal weight, no more and no less. When you achieve this, you no longer have to try to figure out how much is the right amount to eat; you eat as much as you desire. It is the secret to maintaining your long-term weight control.

Weight Watchers does some sensible things, like encouraging exercise and the consumption of healthier food choices such as fruits and vegetables. However, it is essentially a calorie counting diet with group support which then lets you eat anything you desire. Instead of counting calories, they have counted them for you and grouped foods by points. You look up the point value of all foods, and they tell you how much of it that you are allowed to eat and how many points a day that you can consume.

Consider these typical Weight Watcher's solutions: “Love strong-flavored crunch? Try some ranch flavored chips or cheddar “Goldfish” crackers. Want something chocolaty? Enjoy a small piece of very rich chocolate or a small fudgy brownie. Need a longer-lasting sweet? Opt for butterscotch hard candies or a chocolate lollipop.” This is the solution for you if you are willing to sacrifice your health, maintain your food addictions, and stay a dieter struggling with weight and health issues the rest of your life.

Restricting portions is an obsolete approach with a dismal tract record. When you restrict calories you wind up having to eat such tiny portions in order to lose weight. It doesn't satisfy our desire to eat; it leaves us unsatisfied, hungry and suffering. Our food cravings continue, and we live frustrated, trying to follow a diet. Try to breathe less air for a few minutes. Soon, you will be gasping for air. Likewise, diets that can't be maintained naturally forever don't usually work. People lose and then gain, yo-yoing their weight, which is not healthful.

Rethink this dieting philosophy, and you can lose a spectacular amount of weight in the process. My patients lose an average of 15 pounds the first month, and then about 8 – 10 pounds a month thereafter. But even more dramatic is you can gain the health advantages, radically dropping cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar as you lose the weight. The results are impressive and lasting when you choose to Eat to Live.

1. Heshka S, Greenway F, Anderson JW, et al. Self-help weight loss versus a structured commercial program after 26 weeks: a randomized controlled study. Am J Med 2000;109(4):282-287.

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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
June Fain - February 9, 2007 4:50 PM

I have been experiencing headaches the last couple of weeks while doing weight watchers. I am in my fifth week of the program. Could this diet cause my headaches?

maryam - August 27, 2010 2:34 AM

i have read other studies that show of those fad diets, ornish folks lost the most.
i do not consider ornish to be a fad it is a lifestyle change with multiple components
social support strss management and exercise in addition to a veg. low fat diet.
having said that i am more successful on your diet because of the structure of what i am supposed to eat. i fill up on smothies and salads and cant eat anymore. however i am finding the need to reread my ornish books to get the other components of a heathly lifestyle. eat to live is an effective nutritional approach i am proud to be a part of, but it is by no means a lifestlye.

Melissa Moreno - January 23, 2012 3:39 PM

Great article exposing the fallacies in Weight Watchers and other calorie restricting diets!

You mention that the consumption of saturated fats also leads to heart disease, however. Unfortunately, this is another myth that needs to be dispelled. For a well-rounded, optimally healthy diet, our bodies need saturated fat - and not from processed foods! Incorporating food choices such as virgin (unrefined and organic) coconut oil/butter and eating organic, grass-fed meats along with organic, free-range eggs (for example) actually do wonders in keeping us healthy. The combination of saturated fat, complete protein and vitamins A, B & D actually keep us strong and resistant to disease and virus.

For more information on the benefits of saturated fat, please read "Nourishing Traditions" by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.

fitness factory - May 13, 2013 1:18 AM

Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and the rest of the site is
really good.

Mary T - June 13, 2013 8:26 PM

Hi - one thing i noticed is that restaurant food can contain sodium, like i was shocked to find out that I got a small portion of a salad, and it is full of sodium. Its making me hold onto water weight. the other thing is - some plans like WW allow you to eat fattening food if its in a certain portion, so you might be able to eat bacon, but however, just because you "can" eat it does not mean its a good idea. so thats my issue with it.

I now have decided that I cannot even eat "healthy" restaurant food, because it contains a lot of things unawares, and i know there are nutrition facts for certain restaurants, but not all. i did a test to see what would happen if i ate my own home cooked chilli, vs a "healthy" restaurant chilli and the sodium content is astronomical in the restaurant chilli. shocking!!!

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