April 2003    
<< Home   Volume 02 Issue 04

Weight Watchers Fail to Shed Pounds


A Reuters Health Story on April 8, 2003 reported that people who followed the Weight Watchers program for two years lost an average of only six pounds.  But especially diligent participants -- who attended at least 78 percent of the weekly meetings – had lost an average of 11 pounds after two years on the program. However, while, on average, participants lost only small amounts of weight, some lost much more, with the maximum amount of weight loss reaching around 50 pounds. People enrolled in Weight Watchers shed more pounds than did people who were simply provided with information about smart eating and exercising – these people lost, on average, less than one-half of one pound after two years.


I have never been through a Weight Watchers program, nor have I studied it thoroughly, so I rely upon comments made by people with experience who posted on my discussion board (at www.drmcdougall.com) after this story appeared.


Lisa wrote: I read with interest this posting regarding Weight Watchers. I started going to Weight Watchers last June/July and I recently quit Weight Watchers because I got tired of having to worry about counting points. I did lose some weight on Weight Watchers but once I stopped counting the points, the weight started creeping up onto my body again. I went to the Weight Watchers meetings regularly and never got anything from their meetings. I hated their weekly weigh-in's because I felt like I had to starve myself a couple days before I went to the Weight Watchers weight booth just so I could lose a couple more pounds. 


Teresa Wrote: The first time it was 65 pounds, the second it was about 60, the third time it was 80....but the problem is I found them again. AND I was always hungry, never truly satisfied. 


Zoe wrote: I lost about 50 pounds on Weight Watchers, but...as I was approaching my goal, I could see I was losing control. I was very careful about keeping track of my points, but I was starting to sacrifice "healthier" points so that I could include chocolate and junk in my diet. 

Nicki wrote:Weight Watchers may be good for some people. I have reservations about it for two reasons: 1. It allows you to eat unhealthy heart clogging, cancer causing foods. Even with the point system, you still chow down on chicken, dairy etc. 2. Most people I have seen may lose the weight, but gain it back rather quickly since it is mostly just calorie cutting. 


Pumpkin wrote: I saw this study first thing this AM and was kind of surprised. Those losses are really tiny. I think that controlled-calorie diets, like WeightWatchers, are almost impossible for most people to follow over the long haul. I know it was for me. I was soooooo hungry, especially in the afternoon and then again after dinner. The amount of willpower required to stay away from food when you are hungry is significant, and if you get into one of the stressful periods that life seems to like to hand out periodically, it's usually impossible to stay with the program... so you end up gaining the weight back. 


McDougall's Comments:


The hunger drive was designed to keep you and the whole human race alive – you will not win against such a powerful force.  And you will not fool your hunger drive by "pushing yourself away from the table, putting your fork down between bites, eating from a small plate, or counting points."  It will always hurt to be hungry and you will never train yourself to not feel pain even if you practice until you are 90 years old.


If you accept these facts about your hunger drive then I encourage you to give in and stop fighting it.  This then leaves you with two options: to eat foods that make people trim (and healthy) or be fat.  Look around the world – where are there billions of trim, active, young-looking people? What do they eat?  Hopefully, the rural Asians (Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Filipinos, etc.), or Africans come to mind.  All of these people share in a common diet based around various starches (rice, millet, chickpeas, corn, etc.) with lots of vegetables and very little meat and dairy products.  When these people come in contact with "junk" foods by migrating to the cities or to countries in North America and Europe and abandoning their starch-based diets – eating more meat, dairy and refined foods – what happens to them?  Their hunger drive causes them to eat, but now the foods are wrong – they are too high in calories and much less satisfying for their appetite – so they take in too many calories, and especially fat calories – and they become fat and obese.  This should not be a big surprise to you.

Even after you learn these truths and change your diet you do not have to be perfect. 


Mary wrote:  I was really glad to hear you say that you have days when you eat everything in sight. I have days like that as well. It seems like no matter how much I eat, I'm always hungry. But before I started McDougalling, I would try to fill up on junk food. Now, even if I feel like I am eating too much, I don't feel guilty because I am filling up on things like vegetables and whole grains. I no longer have that catch 22 of feeling bad because I overeat and overeating because I feel bad. 


Pumpkin wrote: Isn't that the truth! I sure used to get caught up in that self-defeating cycle! I'd be especially hungry one day and then fill up on a fast food burger meal, or ice cream, or chips and cookies. Then feel bad and sooooo guilty, which would make me feel hopeless and guilty, which would lead to more poor eating, to make myself feel better. Now I'll often make a big bowl of popcorn if I've got that "bottomless" feeling. Or make a batch of one quick bread or another. 


Pumpkin continues: I'm very excited for you! It's fun reading your posts. Don't worry; you will have days when the bottomless feeling comes back, or various cravings. For most people I don't think these ever leave for good, they just become more infrequent (thank goodness!). But you're learning the tools to deal with them in a "healthy" way, and that's the important thing. Every time you respond to cravings or an unusually hungry day with McDougall food (even a LOT of it) instead of SAD junk food, is a day you've learned something and strengthened the good habits a bit more. (And when you mess up and eat something that isn't good for you, you can make a learning experience from that, and try to figure out WHY you DID that, and what you could do next time to keep yourself on track.)


May I add, it helps to have a household stocked with healthy McDougall-style foods and a few compliant restaurants identified.  Nothing foils your diet faster then to open the door to find an empty refrigerator.  With a little planning, you will eat until you're fully satisfied, be healthy and trim, and never feel guilty again. 


If you're looking for help, spend some time on my discussion board at www.drmcdougall.com. You will meet knowledgeable people who care and will help you get started and through the tough times.  In no time you will become a "Star McDougaller" and a person helping others.

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