Last updated at 12:14 PM on 5th January 2012
We’re always being told that the best way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. But escalating obesity figures in Britain are testament to the fact that dieting isn’t that simple.
This week scientists renewed their attack on the calorie-counting process, criticising it for being too complicated.
With low-fat and low-sugar foods regularly masking more calories than their unadulterated counterparts, and some supposedly healthy foods (such as muesli, cereal bars, even salads) packing more calories than chocolate and cakes, it’s not surprising we’re confused — or that so many diets fail.
It worked for me! Sue Wray lost 5st 8lb and has now qualified as a fitness instructor
But one worldwide dieting brand seems to be bucking the trend. Fifteen years ago, Weight Watchers devised a Points system to simplify the complex calorie-counting process. And it seems to be working.
Weight Watchers claims that UK members have lost more than eight million stone between them in the past eight years, and last year alone, its two million UK members successfully lost 11 million pounds of unwanted weight.
And they’re not just blowing their own trumpet. In 2011, a U.S. study ranked Weight Watchers as one of the five best diets in the world, while last year a UK trial found people on Weight Watchers lost twice as much weight as those given dietary advice by their GP.
However, in the past decade, the science of nutrition has moved on, so in 2010, Weight Watchers revolutionised its old Points system, allocating each food (and drink) a ProPoints value, which more accurately measures whether or not it’s going to help — or hinder — your weight-loss progress.
New me: Sue says she does not recognise herself in her old pictures
‘Science shows our bodies use
different amounts of effort to process proteins, carbohydrates, fats and
fibre,’ explains Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer for
Weight Watchers International. ‘Foods that we digest slowly, such as
proteins, wholegrain carbohydrates and fibre-rich vegetables can use up
to 25 per cent more energy (calories) to digest than fatty and sugary
ProPoints takes this
into account. Although a bar of chocolate and a piece of steak may have
the same calorie count (and had a very similar Points value under the
old scheme), the protein-packed steak will now have a significantly
lower ProPoints value than chocolate.
And, unlike so many diets, no food is off
limits, and all fruit and most vegetables have been allocated a
ProPoints value of zero.
If you sign-up with Weight Watchers either online or join a local club, you will be given an individually calculated daily ProPoints allowance based on your height, weight and gender.
But everyone also gets a weekly bonus allowance of 49 ProPoints values to ‘spend’ as you wish — on larger portions, snacks, desserts, alcohol and other treats often banned on other diet plans.
Even cynics would have to accept that this system cleverly nudges you towards a diet rich in fresh whole foods and away from quick-fix, high-fat junk food.
Weight Watchers has also come up with an optional alternative to counting ProPoints.
If you know you’re likely to be socialising, or on the move and you’re going to find it tricky to keep track of your ProPoints total, you can skip the points for the day and eat from a list of foods to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
These foods include lean cuts of beef and chicken, fish, beans and pulses, vegetables, and fibre-rich carbohydrates such as bulgar wheat, quinoa and brown rice.
The underlying message, which makes Weight Watchers so popular with the medical community, is that by the time you reach your target weight, healthy eating should have become second nature — so weight loss is more likely to succeed long term.
Studies show that most of us underestimate the calorie count in food but hugely overestimate the number of calories we burn through exercise.
Many diets encourage participants to be active with latest statistics recommending an hour’s exercise is needed every day to maintain any weight lost.
Work it out: Weight Watchers scientists have devised a whole new concept of Activity ProPoints which you earn for different forms of exercise
But just as ProPoints have simplified calculations of energy intake, Weight Watchers scientists have devised a whole new concept of Activity ProPoints which you earn for different forms of exercise.
So every ten-minute brisk walk, Zumba class, or escalator you climb earns you ProPoints (calculated according to the amount of effort expended and your weight at the time) which you can either ‘use’ to speed up your weight loss, or increase your 49 ProPoint weekly buffer.
Cut down your weight with Gary Rhodes’ 7-day meal planner in the Mail this Saturday
Starting this Saturday inside your Daily Mail, you’ll find the first of six free magazines to start you on a weight-loss journey that could change how you look — and feel — for ever.
The glossy magazines combine Weight Watchers dieting know-how with the flair and exuberance of four of Britain’s most-loved chefs, who have been challenged to adapt their delicious menu ideas. And for each recipe Weight Watchers’ nutritionists have calculated the dish’s ProPoints value.
TV chef and restaurant owner Gary Rhodes kicks off the series, followed on Monday by Jean-Christophe Novelli. On Tuesday, Gordon Ramsay’s wife Tana has simple but tempting meals the children will love — and which she successfully used to slim. On Wednesday, Antonio Carluccio shares the mouth-watering Italian dishes he used to shed 3½ st.
The fifth magazine in our series showcases EASY Start — a step-by-step, one-meal-at-a-time approach that does all the meal-planning (and counting of ProPoints values) for you. The final glossy magazine is fronted by Alesha Dixon, the new celebrity face of Weight Watchers and the star of its inspirational new TV ad.
Alesha’s magazine explains the crucially important role of exercise in your weight-loss journey.
The following week, look out for our series of six double-sided laminated exercise cards — free with the Daily Mail.
They feature easy-to-follow instructions for toning the major muscle groups, boosting fitness levels through cardiovascular exercise, and a safe and effective programme of stretches.
CASE STUDY: SUE WRAY
Sue Wray, 35, lives in Colchester, Essex, with her husband Neil and daughter, Emily-Jane, 14.
All change: Sue after one of her marathon runs
My weight had always fluctuated but I never considered myself to be big until I married my first husband at 19. Contentment quickly set in, and it soon took its toll on my waistline. It piled on even more when I got pregnant and three years after having Emily-Jane I was still wearing size-18 maternity clothes.
I joined Weight Watchers in 2001 and lost ½st in my first week, replacing greasy takeaways with healthy meals. My confidence grew and I exercised more. I used to hate walking because my thighs would rub together and hurt. I’d even drive to the corner shop. But as I got lighter, I walked more and swam a few times a week.
Within a year I reached my goal of 9st 7lb, losing another stone by March 2003, which I have kept off.
Unfortunately, losing weight changed me in many ways and my marriage didn’t survive. A year after we split, I met my new husband Neil, who encouraged me to try running — I’ve now done two marathons, qualified as a fitness instructor and am about to set up my own bootcamp company.
I don’t recognise myself in old photos. Losing weight has changed my life for ever.
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@Beth, Bath. You’re right; Weight Watchers has been around a few years longer than Slimming World. However, Weight Watchers Propoints plan is remarkably similar to Slimming World’s Extra Easy plan, but hasn’t been around for nearly as long. Just seems a bit unfair that Weight Watchers should get all the credit for this ‘revolutionary diet’ when Slimming World have been doing it for years.
I agree with “Nanon” from Cardiff (should that be Manon??)…any way…diets dont work. If they did you would only ever need to go on one in your lifetime and then you would be sorted. But….o no…..people reach target and start overeating again then go back to the slimming club to lose it again etc etc….vicious circle. And the real winners are the Slimming Clubs…..multi million pound industry. The lady who started Slimming World is not very slim either….always wondered about that. No found should be good or bad….its just food. Eat when your hungry, stop when your full. Eat what you want and when you want. After you get your mind off the “diet mentality” you find that even chocolate and cakes dont bother you any more. You have a mouthfull and then leave it…..because its not forbidden you dont feel the need to overeat. And those people who say if it was that easy everybody would be doing it……well…..everybody should be doing it.
She swam to the corner shop! My God where does she live, the Amazon?
I lost 4 stone after my first child doing weight watchers old points plan, and after my 2nd child, lost 3 stone again. I went to one meeting, got the literature, then did it myself from home. I didn;t buy the foods etc. There is plenty of other stuff you can eat. I dont think of it as a “diet” it is a way of retraining you how to eat healthily and portion control. It takes a few weeks to settle in, but it works! If you do it properly and stick to it! (oh, and i didn;t excercise during all that either – it was purely food based!) some people just find some things easier than others, and you have to have self discipline. and to be honest, i could’t give a monkey’s where the diet originated, as long as it WORKS!!
Slimming World Extra Easy for me! Lost 15 pounds in first 5 weeks whilst never feeling hungry. Brilliant. A friend of mine tried to explain the WW Pro ‘thing’ and it sounded like you needed a calculator….no thank you!
I’ve tried them all SW, WW Rosemary Connelly and Jenny Craig, I’ve tried the cabbage soup diet, the heart foundation diet and countless other get slim quick fads, DIETS don’t work 4 years ago I made a decision not to diet again, and guess what? I lost weight, I stopped thinking that food was good or bad, ate in moderation and started to enjoy food again, my attitude to food has changed Idon’t live to eat anymore! I eat fresh healthy food, cook from scratch, I stopped eating low fat sugar filled rubbish the diet industry promotes and feel so much better for it, and my weight has remained stable for the last 3 years. Holidays, Christmas and socialising don’t worry me anymore, I eat and drink what I want knowing that being sensible for a few days after will bring me back to normal.
Please try it, it does work, it may take a while to get your head around eating “bad” food but if I can do it with no willpower everyone can!
I’ve been on Weight Watchers since June 2010 and have lost 25lbs. Hands down, it’s the simplest and most effective diet I’ve ever tired. The focus is on eating healthy and filling food; no ’2 bowls of cereal/milkshakes’ a day, no food off limits so you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself, and encouragement to exercise. Although I’m now at the weight I want to be, I’m still going to meetings to focus on keeping the weight off.
Don’t knock it if you’ve not tried it.
Why is this a story? Isn’t it obvious?
Calories expended greater than calories consumed = weight loss
Calories consumed greater than calories expended = weight gain
could not get on with the pro-points system. surely the old points system was good as well considering the amount of successful ppl over the last eight years! so why cant we have it back?
‘I hate that word ‘Pro’ as it such an insignifcant word but they probably think it is catchy. It is used on hair products too. What do they mean by it? Do they mean ‘Professional’?’ – it usually means ‘Priced Really Outrageously’. As far as I can tell.
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