Commence Freaking Out

August 23, 2004

Well, it’s that time of year again.

Every year, Weight Watchers changes the program. Over time, these have been good changes, for sure — when I was ten, they made you eat liver once a week, and you couldn’t eat dangerous things like . . . ketchup. And there were these treacherous Food Lists, and everything had to be traded in under a particular category, so if you couldn’t figure out whether your fajitas were a Bread and a Vegetable and one-and-a-half Meats or whatever, you couldn’t have them. It was the No Ritz Crackers Diet, as I always remember it, because I remember the leader giving a little pop quiz where he said (yeah, it was a guy — I didn’t appreciate how rare that was at the time), “How many Saltines are a Bread?” And the answer was “six.” And then he was like, “How many Ritz Crackers are a bread?” And the answer was that it was a trick question, because you couldn’t have Ritz Crackers.

Even at ten, I remember thinking, “So, wait. I can’t ever have a Ritz Cracker again as long as I live?” It was stupid, that kind of unrealistic BS. They don’t do that to you anymore.

For the last year, we’ve been on this Flex Points system, which works thusly: Based on how much you weigh, you get a certain number of Points you’re supposed to eat in a day. These are your “Target” points. And then you have 35 “Flex” points that you can spend over the course of the entire week. Basically, Flex Points is calorie-counting, with slight tweaks. Points values are basically 1 point for every 50 calories, fudged up for foods with lots of fat and down for foods with lots of fiber. That’s it.

People have learned to internalize Points values to the point (heh) where Erin and I have discussed the psychological difference between the two-point snack and the three-point snack — we are all constantly on the prowl for the two-point snack. In fact, the new 100-calorie Nabisco snack packs are essentially designed to fit the “I want a two-point snack” mentality. I firmly believe they were designed for WW users, with the “two-point snack” drive firmly in mind.

Not everybody loves the Flex Points thing. Before Flex Points, rather than a set number plus an allotment of Flex Points, you had a range of points every day — same effect, really, but different psychology. Also, if you ate under your maximum, you could “bank” points so that if you went over your max on another day, you’d be covered. Some people have never liked the FP thing as much as the old one (which was called “Winning Points,” because all meaningless names are essentially interchangeable).

Sooooo, of course, now it’s a year later, and they have to change the program again. For one thing, they change it so that they can have a new marketing push. “Didn’t choose us before? Choose us now!” Furthermore, it was inevitable that WW would respond in some way to the low-carb thing. There was just no way they were going to continue to get left off that train.

Which brings us to this week — New Plan Week. Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve ever been aware of them adding the new plan but also explicitly allowing you to stay on the old one if you want to. There have always been people who have stayed on the old plan if it was working for them — that’s why there are still people who do Winning Points with the ranges and the banking and whatnot. But the company has never openly supported the old programs anymore once they’re changed. This is the first time they’ve said flat-out that you can do either. What’s more, you can change from week to week which one you want to follow. Which is . . . interesting.

So what IS the new structure? They’re calling it The Core Plan. What they’re not calling it is Something That Definitely Is Not South Beach For Intellectual Property Purposes.

Yeah. Essentially, the Core Plan has a lot in common with Phase II of South Beach, as I understand it. (I’ve never done SB, but the fact that it’s Phase II means they’re not putting you through the two-week Phase I carb-detoxification thing where you can’t even eat fruit.) They’ve come up with a list of “Core Foods,” and as long as you eat off of the list, you don’t have to write down what you eat. You eat “until you’re satisfied” from the foods on the List, and anything else you want that’s not on The List, you have 35 Points worth over the week. So there are still Points. The 100-calorie snack packs are not in danger of obsolescence.

What’s remarkable about this plan, for people who have done WW for years, is that the act of writing down everything you eat has been the absolute unchanging center of WW for as long as I can remember. No matter what they were having you count, you counted everything, and you wrote down — or “journaled” — everything.

I decided to try it. Sunday morning, after my hour on the Precor (SWEET JESUS!), I came home and made a smoothie for breakfast/brunch. Plain yogurt, skim milk, a frozen banana, some frozen raspberries, a packet of Splenda, and — the only non-Core food — a tablespoon of peanut butter. It was actually really good, but the act of making something without measuring most of the ingredients (how many frozen raspberries? umm, a handful) felt incredibly odd. Not bad, just odd. There’s a place to write down non-core Points you’re using, so I wrote down the peanut butter. But in my head, I was still adding up Points. My little brain is still muttering, “Yeah, would be a couple for the yogurt and milk, two for the banana, one for the raspberries . . . ” It’s hard to stop.

I’m not sure how it’s going to work for me. While the plan isn’t low-carb, really — it allows all the fruit you want, along with quite a number of whole grains — it does have some pretty severe restrictions in terms of stuff that isn’t on the List and will have to be counted as Points. Bread, for instance. All bread, any bread, any bagel or cracker or piece of toast. There is no bread or bread-like substance on the List.

They’re very picky about certain things, too. I love the Louis Rich cooked chicken breast strips, for instance — they’re convenient, fast, and I don’t have to go through the pain in the butt of cooking a big pile of chicken breast fillets. The catch is that Core is, among other things, trying to get you to eat less processed foods, so while plain chicken breast is Core, my precious strips are not. Neither are most of the kinds of very lowfat deli meats I like — so, for instance, very lean ham is Core, but not the thin-sliced stuff I like to put on sandwiches.

Of course, sandwiches aren’t so hot, now that bread is limited.

Having done this for about three days, though, I have to say . . . I really like it. I do like not having to measure Egg Beaters and weigh chicken breasts and all that. And I like being able to eat all the fruit that I need to feel satisfied.

It seems to me that although they’re responding to the low-carb thing for sure, they’re dealing with another problem, too. Basically, when I was growing up, there were two things that your Terribly Restrictive Diet told you: What, and How Much. The result of trying to tell you What and How Much was that you would have commands like Two Milks, Two Fruits, Four Breads (or whatever), usually for a day at a time.

These plans sucked, in several ways. They didn’t accommodate multiple-ingredient foods very well, and they had no room for things like special occasions or wanting an occasional beer. You were On The Diet or you were Off The Diet, and you know how you could get Off The Diet in four seconds? Eat a Ritz cracker.

So ever since then, they’ve tweaked the What and the How Much. They’ve tried being less picky about the What, while being strict about How Much — as when you had to count everything, but the only things you had to count were fat grams and fiber grams. The move to Points was basically the victory of How Much over What. In Points, they told you How Much, but they didn’t really tell you What at all, even though there were technically guidelines that told you to make sure you got two servings of dairy and five fruit/vegetable servings a day. People didn’t really take missing those marks as taking you “off program,” as we would say. Perhaps they should have, but most didn’t.

The problem with counting How Much and not What is that although I lost weight on it, I always was very aware that I wasn’t necessarily making entirely good choices. For example, I would get lazy and not want to make lunch on a weekend day, so I would have two fat-free hot dogs on two super-light, artificially fiber-pumped rolls, with mustard and pickle relish. The pickle relish was probably the most nutritious element of the entire meal, even though it only had — ta-da! — four points. (That’s only as much as two glasses of skim milk, if you’re keeping score at home.) And although I tried to eat salad and stuff, some of those decisions weren’t all that sound.

Basically, the Core plan represents Weight Watchers offering you a What-centered plan instead of a How-Much-centered plan, even though just as Points still had some rules about What, Core has some rules about How Much — particularly the fact that everything that’s not on The List is limited to 35 points a week. Which is not much. Ultimately, though, Core is mostly a What-based plan.

My personal theory is that there are people who are pretty comfortable that they don’t eat too much, really, they just eat goofy things at times — I am this kind of person. The other kind is the kind that got fat on giant plates of theoretically healthy food. That second group is the group that’s freaking out about Core not restricting portion sizes for Core foods. “If I could stop eating when I’m satisfied, I wouldn’t beeeee here!” they say. And I totally feel for them, I do. But I don’t feel that way. I do stop eating when I’m satisfied. My problem is more, as I said above, that I go for a lot of low-point foods that don’t have much actual food in them. So when I eat more later, it’s because I’m hungry.

I am theorizing, based on my vast three days of experience, that the first kind of person will do better on Core, and the second kind will do better on Flex. That’s what I would call my First Theory of Flex People and Core People.

My Second Theory of Flex People and Core People is this: Core will work quite well for people who are at least moderately active, but people who are not exercising will find it to be a bitch. Because really, 35 FP a week for non-Core foods is not very damn much when bread puts you in a hole.

But. As stated above, I’ve just discovered the Precor. This, for those of you who don’t know, is an elliptical trainer. And I will eventually be writing an entire entry about the Precor, because I love it. And I can do it for an hour, working very hard, and it will spit out (as it did this morning) that I burned over 700 calories. Roughly, WW likes to give you an activity point (meaning an extra point that you can eat) for about every 100 calories that you burn — and yes, this means that since food is only about 50 calories per point, you always come out ahead from exercise. I give myself a conservative 6 for that hour spent on the Precor. So now, instead of 5 (the average 1/7 of my weekly 35) to spend on non-Core today, I would have 11. And 11 points worth of non-Core food, I can work with. What I’m trying to do is only use the APs for stuff like bread and nuts and things — stuff that’s good for you but has to be counted — and then I’m saving the 35 for actual “extra” stuff — little cookies or beer or whatever.

It’s scary, change. There are a lot of very freaked-out individuals out there, which is partly a compliment to the fact that Flex has been a pretty happy plan for a lot of people. We’ll see how the new thing goes. Fortunately, if all my theories go south, I can always go back.

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44 Responses to “Commence Freaking Out”

  1. Joelle Says:

    I think I might try Core next week. I am one who sort of panicked about Core. Not because of How Much, but because it seems like a lot to remember. All the foods on the list, having to look them up… blah blah blah. With Flex, it’s almost mindless, like you said. I can calculate points on anything. (and, for the record, I like Winning Points best so far.)

    Though, it occurs to me that we probably like the Plan we started with more often than not. You lose the most at the beginning, so you tend to associate that with whatever Plan you were doing.

  2. Hannah Beth Says:

    And you totally nailed why I will not be switching from Flex to Core. It’s too much to remember and too much “freedom.” (Even though the freedom to eat whatever I want as long as I count the Points is why I love WW and why it’s working.)

  3. Jessica Says:

    I totally started reading the Core explanation on WW.com today and thought, “feh, this is too confusing.” I hate change, and also, it felt a little bit like math: hard work for me. But I was also intrigued….so this was very educational. I have been sort of off program for a bit lately [I haven’t really gained as much as just maintained, and I haven’t got much left to lose, but I could, you know, actually go ahead and lose it any time now], so I have to admit, I wondered if Core might get me off my lazy plateau…

  4. Libby Says:

    I just switched over from Flex to Core. I’d been tracking calories for the last few months, because Flex just didn’t give me enough food, even with good choices, to keep up with the amount I worked out. Core allows me to get those 1500 calories a day that I need to lose these last 5 pounds without going into starvation mode, plus it goes along with how I normally cook and eat–I really don’t like bread or white rice or pasta all that much. Only bad thing is that I now have a freezer full of Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones that my FH gets to finish.

    I’ve been talking to people who actually do meetings (I do online) and they say that deli turkey breast is fine as long as it’s not the prepackaged processed stuff–if you buy it at the deli counter at the supermarket, it’s okay.

    I am going to miss my daily turkey pepperoni and string cheese, though. I guess being able to drink a glass of skim milk a day without worrying about “drinking my points” is worth it, though.

  5. Shawn Says:

    My introduction to Core was tonight at my weekly meeting. At first glance, the plan suits the way I eat in general better than Flex does. The types of food I eat are about the same most of the time and the Core plan appears to lend itself to that. (Not that I eat the exact same foods all of the time, but I tend to gravitiate towards the same types of meals, such as yogurt and fruit or bran cereal/skim milk for breakfast, a salad for lunch to get most of my veg servings in, and a lean meat or fish and more veg for dinner.) I also don’t eat bread and pasta very often, but I am a popcorn junkie and you can have air popped popcorn without having to count it as points.

    By narrowing down the major choices of what I eat to the Core list, I think I will feel a lot more freedom than when I go into a panic from having to dip into my flexpoints at the end of every day because the points range I am on doesn’t seem like enough food to get me through my day, even with activity points added in. The lack of a set portion size is intimidating on the surface, but it will also get me into the habit of really paying attention to whether I am eating because I am actually hungry as well as what and how much what I am eating when I am. I always have found when I have done meal plans that offer a free day, the first couple of days were binges, but then I started to scale back what I was having so that what I was eating still felt like a treat rather than stuffing myself into oblivion.

    My leader suggested trying Core for a week to see if it fits, then switching back to Flex if it doesn’t seem as though it will work. I am going to try it for this week and see how it goes.

  6. ladymisstree Says:

    I’m reading all this with interest, because it seems that the program is completely different here in Australia.

    I don’t even know what program it is we do down here, but it doesn’t have flexpoints and nobody has mentioned anything about changing the current program.

    As you say though, I know what I’ve lost weight with and I’m happy to stick to that. Anything that keeps me from my precious carbs won’t last 30 seconds with me anyway.

  7. Jennie Says:

    Hi – I’m actually a South Beach dieter, and liking it, and I just want to note something that I personally find pretty neat about having a core list of food you choose from. I’ve always been into bread and potatoes and pasta and thought I was eating pretty okay.. yet kept gaining and gaining weight. What I like about the core list of food is how easy it is to shop now. I just pass entire sections by when at the grocery store and feel really focused.

    I’m having an off-week right now because eh, I felt like it, but so far, things have gone pretty well. I’ve gotten a lot better at cooking food regularly because I know what stuff I have to work with and just try putting it together in different ways.

    And I love that I don’t have to over-think the food part, if I’m eating “too much” – I’ve put together some simple stews with vegetarian chicken bits, red bell pepper, crushed tomatos, zuchini and loads of herbs and spices that average around 150-200 calories a serving, and know I can eat as much as I want and still hit around 1400 calories a day.

    Hmm. Just prattling on. 🙂

  8. Dez Says:

    Dude, there are some people are still doing the “Fat and Fibre Plan” and whatever came before that. There are people that, if it’s working for them will not change over to a new program come heck or high water.

  9. Brianna Says:

    I haven’t been to a WW meeting in 12 years, I think. The only diet I’ve been on in the past two years has been a low(er)-carb diet. Reading what I’ve read here and knowing the way a lower-carb diet can initially affect weight-loss, I worry for those who’ve been told to switch from Flex (or whichever WW plan they’re working with) to Core.

    If you drop enough carbs per day, at the end of the week you’ll see a decrease in water-weight. This could be the case for the first week or two. If people look and base their choice on the weight-loss and how they feel/react/like the actual plan, they may turn themselves inside out going crazy over how to introduce a possibly more complicated style of weight-loss.

    I’m rather interested though in what people will say about it in the coming weeks.

    Also, I couldn’t possibly afford a Precor, which looks great, so I’ll have to stick with my elliptical Gazelle. 🙂

  10. cc Says:

    I went to my WW meeting last night. I had an open mind while my leader spoke of this new program. When I opened the book, and saw the dairy choices on core; fat free cheese in particular, my mind snapped shut. There is no way you can make me eat that stuff, and I have issues with being told there are foods I can’t eat. I think I will stick with flex points. I enjoy the discipline and freedom associated with flex points; the portion control, my choice for what is for dinner. I fear with the new plan my flex points would get used for bread and cheese and 1% milk instead of my occasional indulgences.

  11. sara Says:

    I think I’m definitely a flex points girl. Although, lately, I’ve been an eat-whatever-I want-whenever-I-want girl which would explain the recent plateau I’ve been on.

    Since I just did the grocery shopping (including buying some of those pre-cooked chicken strips… I like the southwestern ones for my quesadillas), I won’t try Core for at least another week or two. But I might try it then. It’s just going to be tough for me because, when I get home from work, it’s much easier to throw some processed food from Trader Joe’s in the oven for a half an hour than to actually cook stuff. But I’m almost 29, maybe it’s time I learn to actually cook stuff. So, I don’t know. But I’m willing to try it.

    Oh, and I love the Precor at the gym. But even more than the Precor, I love the elliptical machine that has the arm dealies so I feel like I’m getting twice the workout.

  12. Linda Says:

    Oh, Lord, I couldn’t afford a Precor, either. I use the one at the gym.

    I hear you about the fat-free cheese. To me, it would have been better to just say that the only Core foods that are dairy are plain fat-free yogurt and skim milk, and leave it at that. You know how I feel about fat-free cheese.

    And I hear you about foods you can and can’t eat, but on the up side, it remains true that there aren’t any foods you can’t eat. I think one of the keys, for me, to getting my head wrapped around the Core thing is that the non-Core foods aren’t BAD for you — nobody is suggesting that whole wheat bread is bad for you, or that peanuts are bad for you. And nobody is saying you can’t, or shouldn’t, eat them. They’re just saying you limit those foods to a pretty modest amount as compared to the other stuff. I agree, though, that for people who really value the ability to switch any food in and out of their day for any other food as long as the calories and fat are the same, it’s not a good program.

    It’s also just got flaws, I think, like any program. If I were designing it, I would have added the ability to have whole grain bread at one meal a day and count it as Core, just like you can have potatoes/rice/whole wheat pasta at one meal and count it as Core. I don’t think that would have hurt anybody, and I think it would have really eased a lot of people’s concerns about trying it.

    I also don’t totally understand some of the processed/unprocessed choices. I can’t have deli turkey from a package because it’s “processed,” but I can have . . . canned tomato soup, and that’s Core? Whaaaat?

    I’m not totally sold on it myself, but I’m giving it a week. I have sometimes really been hungry on Flex, because — like I said — I haven’t always made good choices. I think for people who feel like they make choices within Flex that keep them from being hungry, and who feel like overall, their eating patterns are balanced and good, they’re going to have very little incentive to switch, and I don’t blame them.

  13. Kimmy Says:

    I guess I’m definitely a Flexer. My meetings are on Saturday morning, and my leader wasn’t introducing the new plan until Sunday, so I haven’t gotten the official spiel yet. But I get enough to eat on the Flex points (almost too much these days, to tell you the truth, I’m going to talk to my leader about what you do if you don’t want all your points). I think I’m eating healthier, and I know the plan by heart. For those reasons, unless I hear some very startling successes or news about the Core thing, I’ll probably stick with Flex. I’m glad WW is going to continue to support it. Makes me feel better.

  14. Rita Says:

    My WW meetings have been at a test site for the Core program and I have been on it since January. I am this close to losing 50 pounds on it – I’ll know at my weigh in tomorrow. It’s worked for me!

    On the test program originally whole wheat breads were listed on the core list. But they revised the list and removed it – I guess people were eating too much bread when they thought they were allowed an unlimited amount.

    I find that when I eliminated sugar, white flour and processed foods, I also eliminated my cravings for sweets and junk foods. I find I can eat large portions of core list foods if I want to, and I never get hungry between meals. (Well hardly ever – but if I do I can use flex points for a snack!)

    This plan probably won’t work for anyone who eats out a lot because you really have to know what you are eating, and read labels for ingredients on everything. But I love the fact that I no longer have to journal or count points for everything that goes in my mouth.

  15. DeAnn Says:

    As complicated as it sounds, you now have convinced me to give Weight Watchers a try (I did it before it was the “Flex Points” thing, I think, because I had points each day). Anyway, I work weird hours/days, so I’ll be trying the online version. And I’ll be working out more. Maybe I’ll even try the elliptical machine!

  16. Zeb Says:

    And you nailed it once again.I just love your writing style!
    I’m hardcore Winning Points.Flex was too much freedom for me.Even though it’s just as you said,the same thing,different mentality/ psychology!

  17. Allie Says:

    I’m on the South Beach diet, and there really are a lot of similarities with the Core program. South Beach also follows a list of good foods without giving set portion amounts. I found that once I knew the logic behind the diet, it wasn’t so much about memorizing the food lists as it was about understanding what was good and what was bad. Sort of like algebra.. if you have the base knowledge, you can figure out most anything. So… right, point much? Don’t let the laundry list of the Core plan make you too nervous. Besides, all the WW people I know can rattle off the point value for most anything, so memory usually isn’t an issue. : )

  18. Hotsteno Says:

    You totally hit it on the head. Thank you so much for your insights. By the way, I am trying out an experiment tonight to have some bread-like substance that is still a Core Food: fried (in the now-required olive oil) polenta. I’m going to have that with some tomato soup. I can’t wait to see what kind of results — if any — show up next week on the scale for me.

  19. Christina Says:

    Great essay, as usual. I am definitely trying this new Core plan. It’s pretty much what I try to do anyway (failing most of the time) but there’s that added “structure” that I think will help. Let’s see how this goes!

  20. Karen Says:

    I haven’t heard about Core yet, but what does sound good to me is limiting processed food. That’s one of my biggest problems with WW is all the fake foods that some of us end up eating because it’s low in points. I don’t like eating things that I can’t pronounce the ingredients for! I look forward to Saturday

  21. Desire Says:

    I’ve never done WW, so sorry if this is a stupid question, but the thing I don’t understand about Flex Points is why it’s easier than just actually counting the calories (which is what I’m doing). The problem I have with plans like the Core plan is that I like to eat too many types of things where I can’t deconstruct the food to apply it to one list or another. With decent package labelling, and trying to really limit my restaurant eating, I find calories are the only thing I can consistently figure out.

    Even then, I’m frequently flummoxed by ethnic foods. I’ve never been able to find nutritional information about bean thread noodles (like vermicelli, but made of beans, not rice), for example. I mean, I’d guess they’ve got more fibre and a slightly higher protein quotient than rice vermicelli for approximately the same number of calories (and a more interesting flavour) but I have no idea.

  22. mediaman Says:

    My problems with portion control and for eating because of many other reasons besides hunger, is what has stopped me from trying the core plan. Your “First” theory is exactly what I have been thinking since I heard about this new plan. Core might be my next step when I’ve reached some more goals. But I think, for me, I’ll need the structure of points and the accounatbility for serving sizes for a while.

  23. Glib Gurl Says:

    I, too, will be sticking with the Flex program. I think I know why they’re keeping it along with the Core Program . . . they know this low-carb thing is just a phase. Based on my quick glance at the Core Food List, I really don’t think it will work. I mean, if you tell people (like me, at least) that they can eat as much as they want of any particular thing, they will go overboard. (Well, at least I would.) I really don’t think it will work in the long term. I like the Flex program because it teaches me portion control . . . and when I actually follow the program, it works for me! Once people get over this low carb thing, the WW people will probably reintroduce the Flex program. Just my guess.

  24. Linda Says:

    It’s not low-carb, though, really. You can eat potatoes, cereal, all the fruit you need to feel satisfied, and not count any of it. You can use every one of your 35 Flex points in a week on carbs if you want to.

    My sense as I get used to it is that it’s lower-carb than HIGH-carb, which is how a lot of people in the fat-phobic Meat Is Bad era learned to eat. I know that I learned for a long time that you should build a meal around a big pile of something starchy, and I think that advice wasn’t great either.

    I’m not a fan of low-carb diets, believe me. But this really is not that, or I wouldn’t be trying it. South Beach is more “real food” than “low-carb,” and so is this. Furthermore, it doesn’t have the eat-all-the-fat-you-want stupidity of some of the more mindless low-carb diets. Sure, bread isn’t Core — but neither is butter, and neither is bacon, and neither is full-fat cheese.

    Furthermore, the biggest misconception about it, I would say, is that it says “eat as much of these foods as you want.” It’s actually really specific about the fact that you need to work on paying attention to whether you’re hungry and not eat beyond when you’re satisfied. In other words, “eat until you’re satisfied” means that you shouldn’t be eating when you’re not hungry — even stuff from the List.

    I don’t know if it will work, but if it doesn’t, I don’t think it’s going to be for the same reasons that extreme low-carb diets don’t work. I had a beer AND ice cream last night, and I’m still way ahead for the week.

  25. Folly Says:

    I think the core plan is how ‘normal’ heathly people look at food ( those whose weight has never been an issue) They eat healthy, moderately and they only time they think about their food intake ( to the degree we on WW do ) is when they make a choice to eat ‘poorly’ in comparison to the rest of the day. Lets say going out for dinner and having a decandent dessert, eating a choc bar or that big bowl of pasta. That’s when they think rationally that they must exercise more the next day or watch what they choose. Again exercise and moderation is always key!

  26. Michelle Says:

    I have been SO apprehensive about the changes in the program for the last week. I won’t get the spiel until my meeting on Saturday but I’m somewhat relieved hearing that the new program is optional and we can still do the FlexPoints program. For me, writing down everything I eat is very important (although a pain in the ass), and paying attention to portion sizes is equally important. One of the things I like about the FlexPoints program is that there are no “food lists” as in “good” foods and “bad” foods (“core” foods and “non-core” foods). I like that I can anything in the world and just count the points for it.

    However one of my main motivations for being in WW is not only to lose weight but to lower my cholesterol. So I’m already trying to eat more whole, un-refined foods and less processed stuff. I’ll think I’ll stick with FlexPoints for now, thank you.

  27. Sam Says:

    I really like the flex points and I really NEED to write down my food, so I’m not trying the switch, but I appreciate having the core foods list. I try to eat mostly whole foods anyway, but the new booklet with core foods checked off next to things that are good for me is nice–like Cliff’s Notes! I plan on trying to factor more of those foods into my daily points allowance. I wish the website indicated core foods on the flex plan too.

    I also think it could be hugely helpful for maintenance. If I ever get there…

  28. emily Says:

    For Desiree above: if you look up “cellophane noodles” at the USDA nutrient database, you can find out the nutrition info you’re looking for:

    http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

  29. Jeanne Says:

    Several Years ago – maybe in the mid 90’s, WW had two plans that you could choose from – their “normal” plan and the Fat and Fiber plan. So this is not the first time they have offered two at the same time.

  30. Steph Says:

    I am a Flex person. I need guidelines, I need structure– Flex is basically weight loss for dummies. You start with your point value in the morning and subtract until all points are gone- pretty simple concept. I do not trust myself to “stop eating when satisfied”– if I like a food I will keep eating it until I feel stuffed. I love measuring and setting out portions- I even enjoy journaling. I will stay with Flex myself, but I am interested to see what you Core people out there think about the new program.

  31. Amanda Says:

    I just joinged WW about three weeks ago, and I would have been disappointed (and felt cheated out of my money) if they had switched to just Core. This is the first time I have ever enjoyed sticking to a diet.

    I don’t tend to eat much in the first place, so portion control isn’t a problem for me, but I like being able to have treats and not feel guilty. On the Flex plan, I don’t feel guilty because I’m accountable for it, and I don’t feel like I need to hold off so I don’t run out of points–there’s more points tomorrow!

    I like the Flex plan because I can eat absolutely whatever I want whenever I want. For me, the Flex plan offers more freedom within my natural way of eating than the Core plan. I don’t think I’m the only one who would’ve been annoyed if WW had switched whole-hog to Core.

  32. Shawn Says:

    I wanted to share this information with y’all from a handout that my leader gave us at meeting this week where Core was introduced:

    1. You may not switch on a daily basis between programs. You may switch weekly if you feel you need to.

    2. Dairy is required (the same amount) on both programs. There is no getting around this. Don’t.

    3. Core foods can be combined with other core foods in a recipe and it is still considered core as long as the only ingredients are core-based.

    4. On both programs, get in touch with proper serving sizes. Flex points work because POINTS are assigned based on serving size. If you double a portion, you have to double (or recalculate, which is more accurate) the points.

    5. Core emphasizes serving size as well – the idea is to know your hunger level before you eat, and eat until you are satisfied, not until you are so full that Alien emerges from your abdomen.

    6. Core is not an “all you can eat” concept. How big is a serving? How big is the chicken breast? How much rice is on the plate? Eating until you are satisfied is not the same as eating Thanksgiving dinner. This plan will succeed if you own up to your hunger level and truly get in touch with how you feel before and after each meal.

    7. If you are accustomed to, used to, and comfortable with Flex, Winning Points, Success 1-2-3, The 10% Difference, you don’t have to change lovers mid-affair. Stick with what you like and what you know.

    8. If you need a change, or want to try something completely different, give the Core plan a whirl.

    9. No matter what you say or do, bread is NOT a Core food, no matter what it is made of. Period.

    10. After eating what we have determined is the recommended serving of Core foods, take a minute to think it through. Are you in the comfort zone, and does your body/stomach (not your mind, hands or mouth) need more food? Focus…and take the need out of your mind and put it in your stomach for the Core plan to be successful.

    11. Remember…it is not enough to say “I go to WW” and “hope” to lose weight. You actually have to actively engage in these plans, strategies, behavior changes, all the while continuing to raise your consciousness about your own reasons for (over)eating.

  33. Desire Says:

    Emily, that database is fantastic! Thank you so much. I notice that it lumps the bean noodles together with rice noodles. Still — excellent! I feel like spending the next hour just looking obscure things up.

  34. Stacey Says:

    Well said.

    I’m trying Core and so far I like it. It seems much more of a lifestyle solution than flex in that there are no ‘gimmicks.’ For example, there is no allowance for crappy foods. Yes you get a points allowance but in my eyes, in this context, they’re ‘penalty points’ vs. ‘treats’ in that a smidge of butter, a tbsp of mayo or a slice of bread “costs” you points rather than looking at it like, “Oh, I have 35 points. Bring on the wine and chocolate!” Also, there is no joy to be had in the end of day on Core vs. Flex – there is no ‘do over’ with a fresh day of points after a day of bingeing. With Core, there is no distinct advantage to track points dinner-to-dinner vs. breakfast-to-dinner because it makes no difference when you eat what you eat. This is how it should be. This is lifestyle eating. It’s a reasonable solution – eat good foods when you’re hungry, stop when you’re not. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out but I’m liking it so far…

  35. Linda Says:

    Loved the essay!! I, for one, am so glad to be able to drink skim milk without the guilt!! I used to think “for chrissake, i did NOT get fat drinking too much skim milk…” And hooray for not feeling guilty for not measuring my oatmeal.

  36. JudyZ Says:

    I think right now I’m still a Flex Points girl, mostly because I’m too lazy to revamp my eating habits and I like using my Flex Points for eating out. That said, I am almost at goal (2 lbs to go) and it strikes me that Core will be a reasonable way of maintaining my weight loss. This is especially true because I crave skim milk and 22 points a day isn’t enough to fit in all the milk I would drink.

    Portion size was very important for me when I started because I generally eat healthy food. Now that I have a handle on it I think I’d like to start looking at the “Am I hungry” question.

    Linda, as a note, my group leader last night said that she tracked for the first six weeks she did Core and it worked out to a similar number of points.

  37. divaquest Says:

    I just LOVE your blog! I really, really do! Thank you for writing!

  38. Mary Says:

    Hi, first time reader…Zoot sent me over! *waves*

    I, personally, am going to stick to FP till my dying day. I cannnot…WILL not….live on vegetables and fruit. I just can’t do it (hence the reason I’m on WW in the first place).

    The reason I fell in love and had so much initial success with WW was because of the points. It meant I could still treat myself some days — to a McDonald’s cheeseburger, or a “real” Coke or whatever. Me + no carbs = a four-day binge waiting to happen.

  39. christina Says:

    i have been trying to rejoin weight watchers all summer, but was having such a problem with flex points that i ended up gaining weight – the last time i was on it it was 123 or something akin to that. i felt way too restricted in what i could eat – since it was less points for a crappy frozen dinner than some home cooked chicken and rice, i would have the frozen dinner and usually i ended up hungry and eating more. i’ve been doing core since sunday and i agree – it makes me full with less food. i am suprised, but if i count my points at the end of the day, i am usually around the points goal, or slightly under and that’s with eating a real egg! so i guess i could go back to flex but i don’t see why – maybe in a week that i knew i would be eating out a ton or during finals.

  40. Nancy Says:

    I am with whoever said Core looks like it will be good one you get to goal. I can see maintenance on Core going pretty well. But the portion control side tells me I am best off sticking with Points for now.


  41. Linda, I just wanted to let you know I’ve written a post on my blog that was directly motivated by your “Off the Field” post. I’d be honored if you wanted to take a look at http://www.chicanaontheedge.blogspot.com. Thanks for the inspiration. – Regina

  42. bosch Says:

    Incredibly well written, as usual. Thank you.

    I’m leaning more towards the Core plan because I’m prone to eating more junky food that may be low in points, but is also less “nutritionally dense” and it definitely leaves me hungry. Still trying to wrap my head around the mental changes (and change my refrigerator’s contents to reflect the changes).

    One question, though: has anyone else been told that there is a max on activity points per day that one can earn? My leader said that I can’t earn more than four points in one day. She also said that the activity points calculator on the WW website might not be accurate. (Which I figured when it said that an hour of Bikram yoga would get me 11 points. Which would rock, but seems a bit much, despite all the sweating.)

  43. MissThing Says:

    Bosch: I think that refers to the activity points you can exchange for food points. Also, my leader said if you want to cash in activity points for a snack it has to be on the same day you exercised. Is the max really 4 points? That sucks. I’m sure you could fudge this rule and still lose weight.

    Really love this site. I’d like to try the Core plan but I live on frozen dinners as I don’t have much time to cook. Maybe I’ll gradually switch over.

  44. ali Says:

    I definetley agree with Christina, I hate the thought of eating fat-free this and that for the sake of some calories. WW worked for me because I could have real cheese and real yoghurt and still lose weight. It just doesnt seem right to eat all this food thats been mucked around with so much. So from what I’ve heard about Core, it’s good to see WW trying to steer people away from all this processed and fake food we eat because its low-points.


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