I lost 75lbs on the Weight Watchers program between March and September of 2002. Here are some of my tips.
You don’t need to cheat. Track your points carefully, and if you find something that you really must eat; then eat it and fully count its points.
Don’t eat anything until you find out the point count
That “fat free muffin” that you see at the bakery probably has twice the points that you think it does. Do your research before eating it. I have available some details on the formula for Weight Watchers Points.
Don’t waste points on non-filling items
Things like orange juice; non-diet soda, etc. use up a lot of points, but don’t really fill you up or satisfy your hunger very much. I also recommend that you not use points strictly for “flavor” (i.e. sauces, full-fat dressings, etc.) Save your points for items that will be filling and satisfying.
Do use your points on filling items
Rice cakes are a good example of this. They are pretty filling and are only 1 point each.
Rethink what you like
Many people say “I don’t like salad” or “I can’t eat vegetables.” You are trying to improve you health and fitness, now is the time to re-access your likes and dislikes. I don’t like vegetables very much, but I try and have them with every lunch and dinner, because I know they will fill me up without points.
Don’t use “special event dinners” as an excuse for going off the program
That fancy steak house probably can broil you a nice piece of fish and serve you a salad without cheese.
You do need to weigh and measure most of what you eat. If you are too lazy to do this very often at home, then buy pre-packaged entries which have the points pre-calculated (i.e. Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones).
Drink those fluids
You will need to have at least 8 glasses of non-caffeine (preferably non-calorie as well) liquid per day. Get in the habit of bringing a large bottle of water, seltzer or whatever you prefer to work each day, and drink it!
Read those labels
Just because a product is marketed as a “healthy” or “lite” or “sports” product, does not mean it’s low in fat/calories/points. Check out those “fitness” bars that are very popular, they are loaded with calories.
Eat “real” food
Energy bars and protein shakes have lots of calories and you will still be hungry. If you need more protein, eat some grilled chicken.
Know your yogurt
Yogurt comes in a mind-numbing number of varieties. Ranging from full-fat, fully sweetened to non-fat, non-sugared and everything in between. The point counts can vary tremendously, so read the labels carefully. I’ve seen two different brands of plain, non-fat yogurt have 100 and 130 calories (both for a 1 cup serving).
Save the gimmick yogurts with the sprinkles or crunchy add-ins for your kids.
Augment your yogurt
I container of yogurt is tasty, but it's gone in 60 seconds and does not leave you very full. Mix in some high-fiber, low fat cerial, and it's a different story. I like "Kashi Good Friends" cerial, but there are plenty of others which fit the bill.
Ditto for granola bars
I’ve seen granola bars with point ranges from 2-6. Don’t assume they are “all about the same.”
Use skim milk only
There is no reason for using whole milk, 2% or even 1% milk. Coffee and cereals taste practically the same with skim as with 2%, plus you are saving lots of fat.
Beware the fruit
Fruit is healthy and you should be eating some every day, but they have points and some of them (bananas, pineapple) have quite a few points. You cannot eat an infinite amount of fruit and lose weight. The same goes for carrots, if you are going to be munching handfuls of carrot sticks, make sure you count the points.
De-Cheese your pizza
Your friendly neighborhood pizza purveyor will be happy to make you a pizza with no cheese. Load it up with peppers, mushrooms, spinach, fresh tomatoes, etc. You will hardly miss the cheese and there will be a drastic reduction in points.
Just Do It
Diet alone will only get you limited results. If you are overweight, chances are you are not getting much exercise. Do it. Do it every day. Joining a gym is fine, but are you really going to get there every day? Try and find something that you can do at home, whenever your schedule permits.
Track those points
I use a Palm Pilot program called WWCalc[*], but you can use a notebook, the Weight Watchers diary pages, or whatever you prefer. Tracking your points and being able to review what you ate for the prior week can give you insight into why you lost more weight some weeks than others.
Don’t settle for holding even
You want to lose weight every week. Stick to the program and you will.
When in doubt, overstate
When you are not exactly sure how many points a given item contains, round against yourself.
Make sure you consume your minimum point count each day
This is a diet, not a fast. There is a 5 point range for each day. You can only bank 5 points per day, so make sure that you consume at least the low end point number for each day.
Set both short-term and long term goals for yourself
You should first shoot for a reasonable short-term goal (perhaps a 10% weight loss), then a longer-term goal (perhaps your target weight, or something close to it).
English muffin vs. Bagel
Instead of that bagel, have an English muffin. Bagels are 6 points and an English muffin is 2. Any questions?
Working for the Weekend
Don’t use the weekends as an excuse to overeat. Instead, view the weekend as an opportunity to exercise more.
The Cheese of Death
Cheese has lots of points and in my opinion, is basically just a flavoring. So go ahead and have that turkey or roast beef sandwich, but hold the cheese.
Get a Support System
Find supportive family members, friends and colleagues. This is a tough program to stick with if you are completely alone. Bounce ideas off of your associates (or better yet, find someone to do the program along with you).
Salsa: The Magic Sauce
Stuff that I don’t like tends to taste a lot better when I pour salsa all over it. Plain baked potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, etc. all become much more palatable when covered with salsa (and without adding points!).
Proud to be Hungry
This tip is kind of philosophical. There will be times (perhaps many times) that you will be hungry. Instead of exceeding your points and eating something, wear your hunger as a badge of honor. The hunger you feel lets you know that the program is working. I’d be surprised if you can go around feeling full all the time and still lose weight. However, this should be the exception rather than the rule. If you find you are hungry all or most of the time, speak with your Weight Watchers leader.
Some products that I recommend:
Quaker flavored rice cakes
These are pretty tasty and satisfying and only 1 point each. I’m partial to the banana nut variety, but they come in many flavors.
The Skinny Cow
They make several low-fat, low-calorie desserts which are all pretty large and very tasty, most are only two points each.
These meat-free hamburger clones are only 2 points each. They come in a variety of flavors (salsa, cajun, vegetable, etc.) and can be either cooked on a grill or microwaved. They even have the “grill lines” stamped on them.
This is an entire product line of entrees and desserts from Weight Watchers. The desserts are very good and range from 1-4 points each. The entrees range from 4-6 points each and are tasty, but should be accompanied by a salad to make a complete meal. If you have enough points saved up for dinner, you can even have two!
Salsa has no points and makes a great topping to Boca Burgers, baked potatoes, etc. A green or red pepper cut into strips and dipped in salsa makes a great zero-point snack.
This sandwich, when ordered without cheese or dressing is very hearty and tasty and only 7 points. Along with a salad it makes a pretty good low-point dinner.
Weight Watchers Breakfast Bars
These are sold at WW meetings. They are pretty filling and are only 2 points. They make for a nice “light” breakfast.
Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods
These are instant “meals-in-a-cup” that taste quite good and are very satisfying. They are all vegetarian and come in many varieties. Be careful, some have quite a few points, while others (ramen noodle soup, etc) are pretty reasonable (e.g. 3 points). Ordering and nutritional information can be found at http://www.rightfoods.com.
Wal-Mart “Extreme” fruit sodas
No-calorie, no caffeine and really tasty, they are available in apple cider, ruby red grapefruit and watermelon flavors.
Some Meal Suggestions
I tend to favor filling meals; I hate using points and still feeling hungry.
Yogurt Breakfast (5 points)
Grilled Chicken Salad Lunch (6 points)
Big-Point Dinner (11 points)
Brunch Special (8 points)
Ultra-lite Brunch Special (4 points)
Something else you might be interested in trying (perhaps in conjunction with Weight Watchers) is the "Shangri-La Diet"
Check out my Shangri-La Diet Blog for further details.
[*] No, I can’t help you get a copy of this program. Ask around, find friends who have Palm Pilots and you will find someone who has it. It is a very popular “passed-around” program.