Last week, as Americans were still nibbling on Thanksgiving leftovers, Weight Watchers made an announcement that changed everything for its one million-plus clients — by banishing its "points plan," a dieting system that gave all calories a similar value regardless of their source. Introduced in 1997, the points plan had become a "cultural touchstone," says The New York Times, inspiring "cultlike" devotion. Now a replacement system, called PointsPlus, will allot points based on a complex equation that factors in a food's protein, fiber, carbs, and fat. Although Weight Watchers' chief scientific officer, Karen Miller-Kovach, proudly calls the new plan a "complete overhaul," some are already complaining and quipping about its "tyranny." Did Weight Watchers act wisely?
This should be common sense: The new plan's "basic notion of more apples, fewer cookies, and stopping when you're full" is "smart," says Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon. It's also basic common sense. That some outraged dieters became so dependent on the "strict dogma" of the old system is a "a sad statement on how disconnected we are as a culture with the food in front us and the cues our bodies are sending."
"Outrage: Weight Watchers forces us to eat fruit!"
They should have changed the system long ago: It takes some gall for Weight Watchers to "change horses in such a spectacular way and make it seem like it is doing us a favor," says Ian Marber in Marketing Week. While it's about time the company caught up with current approaches to dieting, "albeit with an unnecessarily complicated plan," I have to wonder if Weight Watchers will "be making amends by way of compensation to clients who were taken in by ... a way of eating that didn't really work."
"Will Weight Watchers serve up sorry dish?"
The company is hypocritical: The new plan, which says "the key to weight loss is fiber and 'natural foods,'" seems incompatible with all the prepackaged and unnatural food Weight Watchers sells and endorses—from its frozen meals to its special menu items at Applebee's, says Eliza Barclay at NPR. Weight Watchers makes "good money" on these foods, but none of them align with the new approach, a matter that company spokespeople have declined to discuss.
"Weight Watchers faults processed foods while profiting from them"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 11 weeknight dinners you can make without a recipe
- Your 2-year-old doesn't need to go to school
- 10 things you need to know today: September 17, 2014
Subscribe to the Week