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Weight Watchers Focuses on Weight, Not Health

May 21, 2016 by Joel Fuhrman, MD

Health Concerns: Weight Loss

Following Weight Watchers is still not the healthy way to lose weight and keep it off despite their newest point system (“PointsPlus”) where fresh fruits and most vegetables have a zero point value (essentially meaning that they are unlimited). 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.

A Little Bit Healthier is Not Enough

However, the Weight Watchers program is still far from a health-promoting eating style. Regarding the zero points policy for most produce, what is very important to realize, is that 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 ten times the micronutrients compared to a white potato. However, that is not the main problem with the Weight Watchers system. The PointsPlus system encourages eating 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.

For example, compare beans and grilled chicken. 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 properties. 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 Weight Watchers promotes animal protein as a favorable food to consume in spite of the plethora of evidence in recent years linking high IGF-1 to premature aging and cancer.3-5

Problems With Guidelines

  • Their recommendations for healthy eating are simply unhealthy and not supported by the most updated nutritional science. They recommend a miniscule five total (half-cup) daily servings of fruits and vegetables combined; not nearly enough to achieve disease prevention.
  • They recommend two servings of cow’s milk daily, a growth-promoting food associated with an 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 encourage two teaspoons of “healthy oil” daily rather than whole foods that contain fats like seeds and nuts. There is no such thing as a “healthy oil” – all oils are 100 percent fat with little or no micronutrient value. This recommendation simply adds empty calories.
  • They promise 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 promotes more whole foods, it is still a diet of calorie-counting and controlled portions of mostly addictive, processed foods.
  • They do not address training taste buds to prefer healthier foods. Members eat small portions of nutrient-poor junk food daily as ‘treats,’ therefore never losing their addictive cravings.
  • They, like most diet plans, attempt 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 by 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.

Plan Faulty in Promoting Good Health

Weight Watchers is not in the business of health; it is all about weight. Members, and even leaders, are poorly educated about nutritional science. People are not motivated to eat to win the war against cancer.

Participants continue to be victims of 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.

The Healthy Way to Lose Weighty and Keep it Off

A healthy weight is almost impossible to maintain without serious attention to smart nutrition, prevention of all deficiencies, sufficient anti-inflammatory super foods and the resulting elimination of additions and cravings. Weight Watchers mostly serves those who remain forever on the weight loss merry-go-round, struggling with marginally effective recommendations and outcomes.

The End of Dieting

The Nutritarian diet, as described in my book, The End of Dieting, is not focused on just weight loss; it is also focused on optimizing health, promoting longevity, and winning the war on cancer. You eat larger amounts of vegetables, beans and fruits, with attention to eating the most powerful anti-cancer foods on the planet.

Food is rated according to micronutrient 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 follow a Nutritarian diet, the weight comes off dramatically and permanently and you never have to diet again.

You become a nutritional expert who can navigate through life knowing that you can protect yourself from serious and/or tragic outcomes such as dementia, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. The Nutritarian diet is for people who want great health and freedom from medical dependency and medical tragedies that eventually afflict almost all Americans.

  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 Accessed
  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/ Accessed

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, seven-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
For over 25 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.