In Weight Watchers’ newest point system (“PointsPlus”), fresh fruits and most vegetables have a zero point value (essentially meaning that they are unlimited) – this change was meant to encourage members to eat more whole plant foods and less processed foods, adding phytochemical value to their diet. This is certainly a positive step, and I applaud Weight Watchers for taking it. They have tweaked their program a bit, to make it healthier.
However, the Weight Watchers program is still far from a health-promoting eating style. Regarding the zero points policy for most produce, all fruits and vegetables are not equal when it comes to health-supporting phytochemicals. For example, anti-cancer, immune-building, and cardio-protective properties plus the high fiber and low sugar content of berries and pomegranate necessitate placing more focus on these fruits compared to higher sugar fruits like bananas and dates. Also, green vegetables have about 10 times the micronutrients compared to a white potato. However that is not the main problem with the Weight Watchers system.
The PointsPlus system encourages the consumption of foods that produce greater satiety – foods that are higher in fiber and protein content are more favorably scored. High-fiber foods and high-protein foods are not nutritionally equivalent – compare beans and grilled chicken, for example. Beans are phytochemical-rich, protein-adequate, healthful foods with anti-cancer properties and a low glycemic load; grilled chicken may also induce satiety because it is very high in protein, but it has no phytochemical content plus it contains cancer-promoting heterocyclic amines – it is not a food that supports longevity and long-term health. Plus, chicken raises IGF-1, in the body, a hormone associated with higher rates of breast cancer.1,2 The problem here is that animal protein is promoted as a favorable substance to consume more of by Weight Watchers, in spite of the plethora of evidence in recent years linking high IGF-1 to premature aging and cancer.3-5
Weight Watchers’ guidelines for healthy eating are simply unhealthy – and not supported by the most updated nutritional science. Weight Watchers recommends a miniscule five total (half-cup) daily servings of fruits and vegetables combined; not nearly enough to achieve disease prevention. They also recommend two servings of cow’s milk daily, a growth-promoting food associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.6-8 They do not discourage the use of artificial sweeteners, which perpetuate the desire for excessively sweet foods. They also encourage two teaspoons of “healthy oil” daily rather than whole foods that contain fats like seeds and nuts; of course is no such thing as “healthy oil” – all oils are 100% fat with little or no micronutrient value – this recommendation simply adds empty calories.
Weight Watchers promises to provide a method of weight loss that “fits within one’s lifestyle and preferences”, assuring potential members that there is “plenty of room for treats and extras.” To be inclusionary of everyone, they must give watered-down recommendations that are too close to the disease-causing Standard American Diet. Despite the changes to the points system that promote more whole foods, Weight Watchers is still a diet of calorie-counting and controlled portions of mostly addictive processed foods. They do not address re-training the tastebuds to prefer healthier foods – members eat small portions of nutrient-poor junk food daily as ‘treats,’ therefore never losing their addictive cravings. Like most diet plans, Weight Watchers attempts to appeal to a mainstream audience, who eat a diet of primarily processed foods and animal products; so they must allow members to continue the same eating pattern that originally led them down the path to obesity (and also leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer). This is evident when you look at Weight Watchers’ line of pre-packaged foods. They sell nutrient-poor, high-sodium, reduced-calorie processed products with lengthy ingredient lists including added sugars, hydrogenated oils, and white flour – just like conventional processed foods.9,10 The ingredient lists are strategically absent from the Weight Watchers website, though calorie and point values are visible.
Weight Watchers is not in the business of health; it is all about weight and recruiting the mainstream with their SAD (Standard American Diet) but dangerous dietary preferences. Members and even leaders are poorly educated about nutritional science and women are not motivated to eat to win the war on cancer. Participants are forever maintaining their food addictions, because eating a little healthier and trying to cut back is simply a formula for failure in the vast majority of cases. Weight Watchers gives lip service to better health and healthier eating, yet continues to sell nutrient-depleted processed junk food. A healthy weight is almost impossible to maintain without serious attention to excellent nutrition, prevention of all deficiencies, sufficient anti-inflammatory super foods and the resulting elimination of additions and cravings. Weight Watchers is mostly serves those who remain forever on the weight loss merry-go-round, struggling with marginally effective recommendations and outcomes.
Eat To Live is not primarily focused on weight, it is focused on life extension and winning the war on cancer.
You eat larger amounts of vegetables, beans and fruits, with attention to the most powerful anti-cancer foods on the planet. Food is rated according to micronutrients content per calorie, not just calories. Eating delicious, health-promoting foods allows you to lose the cravings and temptations to eat greasy, sugary, disease-causing foods. More importantly, once you learn how to Eat to Live, the weight comes off dramatically and permanently and you never have to diet again. You become the nutritional expert who can now navigate through life with knowledge that you can protect yourself from serious tragic outcomes such as dementia, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. It is for people who want great health and freedom from the medical dependency and medical tragedies that eventually afflict almost all Americans.
Image credits: Flickr: Pink Sherbet Photography, slgckgc
1. Shi R, Yu H, McLarty J, et al. IGF-I and breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Int J Cancer 2004;111:418-423.
2. Rinaldi S, Peeters PH, Berrino F, et al. IGF-I, IGFBP-3 and breast cancer risk in women: The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Endocr Relat Cancer 2006;13:593-605.
3. Laron Z. The GH-IGF1 axis and longevity. The paradigm of IGF1 deficiency. Hormones (Athens) 2008;7:24-27.
4. McCarty MF. A low-fat, whole-food vegan diet, as well as other strategies that down-regulate IGF-I activity, may slow the human aging process. Med Hypotheses 2003;60:784-792.
5. Kaaks R. Nutrition, insulin, IGF-1 metabolism and cancer risk: a summary of epidemiological evidence. Novartis Found Symp 2004;262:247-260; discussion 260-268.
6. Genkinger JM, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Dairy products and ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2006;15:364-372.
7. Larsson SC, Orsini N, Wolk A. Milk, milk products and lactose intake and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. Int J Cancer 2006;118:431-441.
8. Qin LQ, Xu JY, Wang PY, et al. Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer in Western countries: evidence from cohort studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2007;16:467-476.
9. Barclay E: Weight Watchers Faults Processed Foods While Profiting From Them. . 2010. SHOTS: NPR’s Health Blog. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/12/03/131782587/Weight_Watchers-faults-processed-foods-while-profiting-from-them
10. Weight Watchers Smart Ones Entrees – Not that Smart. . Fooducate Blog. http://blog.fooducate.com/2011/05/20/weight-watchers-smart-ones-meals-not-that-smart/