Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Problem With Counting Points (Part 2)

So as you can tell, I fluctuate between two extremes: agonizing over every point/ thing I eat and breaking down and stuffing as much junk food into my body as I possibly can. I do best (I think) when I reach a happy medium of being aware of my food choices but not being so stringent with my diet that I feel deprived.

This is my way of justifying my somewhat lax points counting this past week, haha. I started the week off with my steak lunch, and last night I had pizza for dinner. I also drank my weight in gin and tonics (seriously, the best drink ever) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday night. So yes, I might not see an awesome number on the scale this week. And yes, I only worked out one time, but I've been crazy busy so it's been hard to fit in workouts. I'm definitely going to work out tonight though.

But here's something that I did do. I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies and only had one. I ordered a pizza and limited my portion to two slices. I shared part of a cheesy appetizer and only had one half of a piece. I ate fruits and vegetables. I chose salads or healthy sandwiches for lunch. I have been binge free for two weeks now, and that feels fantastic. Yes, I could have made better choices but, on the other hand, maybe the fact that I was not overly restrictive has helped me to stay sane. If that makes any sense?

Now, many people would tell me, yes, yes Katie. This is the Weight Watcher way--you're basically just splurging with your WPs and that's exactly what Weight Watchers is intended for. And they would have a point. Weight Watchers does allow you to splurge--it just insists that you keep track of all your points.

And the only problem is the following: how do you count a bite of an appetizer? How do you count a holiday drink at a Christmas party? In some ways, the counting system encourages you to finish your entire serving of food. For instance, I know that the Chipotle burrito bowl is 11 points for the whole serving, but what if you leave a fourth of the serving because you're full? What about an eighth? At that point, my counting likely gets a little screwy and my math skills reach their (admittedly pathetic) limits. And the other problem is--sometimes I only drink a half of a glass of my wine and the gin and tonics at Banditios are way bigger than the gin and tonics at The Republic. And sometimes I forget how many drinks I have (embarrassing, I know). So when it comes to partying and socializing, I don't really count points. I just try to watch what I'm doing.

The thing is, even though I'm not completely following Weight Watchers perfectly, I'm not surrendering my common sense. I know that an apple is healthier than an ice cream cone. I know that one bite of an appetizer is not going to do much damage, but five slices of pizza might. And that, my friends, is my number one complaint with the points system. It encourages me to swap my 25 years of knowledge about food to blindly follow a system where all foods are assigned a numerical value. Why is an English muffin healthier than a bagel--because it has less points, silly! But I didn't need Weight Watchers to tell me that. Anyone in their right mind knows that a bagel is a delicious, robust treat and an English muffin is paltry in comparison (not trying to diss the muffins, as they are quite yummy too).

On the other hand, Weight Watchers themselves say that losing weight is pretty straightforward--eat less, move more. The points system was only invented as a means to losing weight and making healthier choices. And I think as long as I keep that in mind, it's okay to follow the program religiously 80% of the time =)

What do you guys think? Do you ever struggle with this problem when following Weight Watchers (or any other type of eating plan)?


  1. Great post, Katie. I do struggle with counting sometimes, and feeling frustrated with the whole system. The thing for me is that if all else fails, I love being able to go back to counting. I think being on WW for a long time like you have, instills the points values of foods in your brain, so whether I like it or not, I still think of things in terms of points.

    My strategy to avoid point-burnout (my own phrase) is that I pick one event/day a week to not count, and just assume I'm using all my weeklies. This past week, it was the shower. I tried to be semi-conscious of what I ate by not drinking, but other than that I went kind of crazy. I think that's ok - and necessary - in my opinion, and allowing myself to have those "free" days makes me feel less deprived and more like this is something that I can do longterm.

  2. My biggest problem is getting burnt out. I did so well for awhile, consistent losses every week. And then I just... stopped. I've been back on track since January 1, and I think the best part of it is I made a promise to myself to track EVERYTHING that goes into my body. Which I wouldn't do sometimes.

    I also decided to limit my splurges, quantify them, and say ok, I can only drink 2X this week, but that means more than 2 drinks. Or I can only have a dessert worth more than 5 points 2X this week. It helps to have that to look forward to (like ok I'm not going to drink tonight, but tomorrow night I'm allowing myself to go out, have fun, etc).

    And I totally forget how many drinks I have sometimes too :-) I figure it's better to overguess then under guess, and even if I forget one sometimes, it's not going to absolutely destroy my WL.

    For me, the most important thing is to not overstress. My goal isn't to be perfect, but it is to be OP 85% of the time. Giving myself that 15% leeway helps me stay on plan that other 85%

    Oh, and Gin and Tonics are my favorite drinks :-)

  3. This may not work for everybody, but it's worked well for me.

    I try to track all my points and for the most part, I do a really good job. I eat all my daily points and all my weekly points. Every single week.

    But, I very rarely touch my APs and I earn a fairly significant amount of them. I figure the APs cover any errors that I make in tracking or anything I can't track accurately (like a mixed drink that I have no idea what was in it or a bite of an appetizer or a meal at a friends house where I can guess, but I can't really be sure).

    The method has worked well for me, it's made me less crazy about trying to track every single thing that I put into my body and it leaves me confident that I have plenty of points to cover errors or bites of things here and there.

  4. I do the same thing that Kirsten does! I (try to always) track everything, always eat all my DPs and WPAs, earn a ton of APs and barely ever eat them.

    Exercise and tracking have really been key to my success.

    Sometimes I get tired of tracking, BUT it's worth it for me.

    But I go with the 80% idea, too. I try to be 80% OP, 80% of the time. But for me, that means that sometimes I won't follow the GHGs, not that I don't track.