I’ve spent considerable time in weight loss surgery (wls) chat rooms, message boards and support group meetings over the past three years. The topic of bariatric patients being members of Weight Watchers comes up now and then. As with most discussions in these forums, the discussion becomes heated.
Many weight loss surgery people harbor a distinct dislike for Weight Watchers. I’ve never taken a poll or know the personal experience of the people espousing this view. I do believe a lot of the dislike comes from the individual’s history with the Weight Watchers program. Since they are in a wls forum, I am pretty certain they were once overweight and most likely did not do well on Weight Watchers.
Beyond those with an unsuccessful history with Weight Watchers, the argument I see most frequently is that the Weight Watchers program is based on a non-bariatric patient’s diet. Post-op bariatric patients require less food intake and food with higher protein content. The more restrictive and specific constraints of the bariatric diet are not addressed by the plan. It could actually encourage the bariatric patient to over eat.
I personally have been a Weight Watchers member for years, pre and post-op. Sure; I was successful at times and often unsuccessful. For me, I was unable to sustain the weight loss after my Weight Watchers sessions ended. I failed the program. The program did not fail me. With wls, I made a dramatic change in my life and how I view food, diet and exercise.
As I approached my Lapband surgery, I was a member of the Weight Watchers at Work program. I was doing OK and had really formed a good support network at the meetings. I was maintaining and at times losing. I knew my history and how my mind worked. I knew that I could lose maybe 10-20 additional pounds with Weight Watchers, but I could not lose the 80-90 pounds I need to improve my health.
I chose surgery since I knew I needed to improve my health to avoid another heart attack and subsequent cardiac surgery. The combination of being obese and my family poor heart health history made the risk of a cardiac incident very high. Surgery combined with a strong commitment to be healthy was the best option I had. It has indeed proved to be the right decision for me.
I personally decided to remain a Weight Watchers at Work member. I knew that I needed support during my weight loss journey. Bariatric patients at my local weight loss surgery support group and on-line helped me though the weight loss bariatric issues. My Weight Watchers at Work family continued helping me with their commitment to weight loss and open discussions. You see, support comes from many angles. The Weight Watchers at Work folks gave me a type of support I could not get elsewhere.
Beyond support, I believe Weight Watchers is a good tool for bariatric patients for accountability. There’s something about facing that scale every Tuesday at Noon that motivates me to stay on track. I know that this type of accountability is not for everyone. It is a key to my success. As I continue my weight struggles, I rely on this weigh-in to be my safety guard. I did say struggles. I know I will always need to work on my weight loss and be vigilant.
Most people are curious about what I do to stay on the Weight Watchers program. I don’t normally count points. I do when I think I am getting out of control. You would be surprised at the amount of food and points you use when your journal your day’s food intake. In terms of applicability of the points to my bariatric diet, the points are slightly more than my bariatric diet. I follow my nutritionist’s guidelines rather than the points. Weight Watchers points are good indicators of a food’s healthiness. I buy Weight Watchers products in my grocery. I find the points on the packages relate directly to the healthiness of the food. Many other vendors now publish the Weight Watchers points on their products. It’s simple: high points = bad choice; low points = good choice.
The new Weight Watchers Points Plus program is so much more aligned with the bariatric diet. It rewards you for consuming low fat, low carb, high fiber, and high protein foods. You will find that the low point foods are pretty bariatric friendly. Free fruits and vegetables are a nice new component of the program. It is similar to the Weight Watchers core plan from a few years back that encouraged you to eat unprocessed, natural foods and was heavy on lean protein and fruits and vegetables. In other words, the new plan encourages a very healthy diet.
I believe the four pillars of the Weight Watchers approach are very sound and apply to our lives as bariatric patients. They are: promoting the importance of developing healthy habits, building a supportive environment, and getting enough exercise, in addition to making smarter food choices. As I mentioned earlier, the support and accountability of Weight Watchers is a key component of my success in maintaining a healthy life and diet.
My advice is to take a look at the Weight Watchers program. If you need accountability and personal support to help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, the program may be a fit for you. Follow your surgeon’s and nutritionist’s dietary guidelines first. This may mean that you don’t religiously follow the points program. Are you gaining weight? Then, start logging food and count the points. It’s a good indicator that you are on the wrong track and need to make an adjustment.
Just remember that surgery was a tool for you to lose weight. After surgery, you are no different than everyone else. If you use more calories than you take in, you lose weight. It’s that simple. Weight Watchers can help you balance the calories in and out and lead to a healthy life.