Weight Watchers after Bariatric Surgery
WW: Popular diets after Bariatric Surgery
The backstory on WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
For each diet in this series, I like to talk about the history before we talk about if a plan like Weight Watchers fits in after bariatric surgery.
In the early 1960s Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch began inviting friends into her home once a week to discuss losing weight. That’s where it all began!
The WW philosophy statement says “A healthy body results from a healthy lifestyle – which means mental, emotional and physical health. Weight Watchers does not tell you what you can or can’t eat. We provide information, knowledge, tools and motivation to help you make the decisions that are right for you about nutrition and exercise.”
There is a WW scientific advisory board that includes physicians and public health experts. The head of nutrition and wellness for WW is a dietitian (Jaclyn London, MS RD CDN).
In 1998, the program released the first point system. They later launched more personalized versions of the point system.
In 2009, they launched their app and in 2014 they added 24/7 live chat. The following year they added a members only digital social platform.
In 2018, Weight Watchers “reimagined” was introduced, wanting to focus on not only weight loss but wellness and healthy habits for all (eating better, moving more, having a more positive mindset).
This time also added zero point foods and point rollovers and a partnership with ‘Headspace ‘to create mindfulness content for members. They also added guided workouts with the Aaptiv app.
In November 2021, WW “Personal Points” launched in the US, Canada and UK which brings us to the most recent iteration. (14)
What does WW advise?
With the new Personalized Points system launched at the end of 2021, the website states no two people are alike, so no two plans are alike.
When a user joins they are asked a series of questions via the Personal Points Engine and then designed a unique Personal Points Budget and Zero Points food list.
Personal Points are calculated using calories, fiber, protein, added sugars, saturated fats and unsaturated fats.
Values go up with added sugars and saturated fats, and go down with protein, fiber and unsaturated fats.
Everyone gets a customized plan with a personalized zero point foods list based on likes, dislikes and commonly eaten foods.In addition to daily points allowance, they also give you weekly points and are able to “rollover” points.
This newest point system also allows the member to earn additional points. WW rewards them for healthy habits so you can now earn more points doing healthy things like eating veggies and drinking water.
Zero point foods include non-starchy veggies, fruits, avocado, chicken and turkey, eggs, fish/shellfish, tofu/tempeh, plain non-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, oatmeal, potatoes, corn (including popcorn), beans/peas/lentils, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice/quinoa/other whole grains.
Is there research on Weight Watchers after Bariatric Surgery?
There is no research specific to the newest iteration of WW “personal points” as it was released in November 2021.
The WW website published an article in February 2022 with links to research studies supporting their methods titled “What Research Says About WW.”
There is no research on WW specific to bariatric surgery.
WW does have a longstanding reputation, employs medical professionals, focuses on healthy lifestyle changes, behavioral weight management and has built in accountability for patients to check in and keep consistency.
Is Weight Watchers after Bariatric Surgery okay to try?
Because the program doesn’t tell the person specifically what to eat, a bariatric patient could utilize the WW program and stay consistent with bariatric program guidelines but with some caveats.
Because the program is personalized to each person, it would be best for a bariatric dietitian to dig into what the recommended points are and review the ‘zero point foods’ to review any changes needed.
For example, I would prefer a patient not use fruits and whole grains as a free point item because of the carbohydrate content. I would rather them pair it with protein and keep it more minimal compared to veggies. It does depend on the patient!
Something to keep in mind is that the points can feel confusing or overwhelming to learn about. For example, my PowerCrunch bar was 8 points but a certain flavor of Quest Bar might be 3 points and another 4 points. It might be more helpful to spend time and energy “getting back to basics” of the bariatric diet instead of learning a whole other number system.
That being said, one strategy could be to make a certain percentage of the points come from protein to ensure the priority is kept. You might say 60-70% of my points are from protein (as an example, I haven’t dug deep enough into the points to stand by that.)
You may also evaluate what amount of points feel more appropriate for your restriction but utilize the WW program for accountability, consistency, food tracking, and so on.
WW has a good strong, long lasting name in the world of weight maintenance. They employ an advisory board of medical professionals and many dietitians involved in the nutrition guidance.
WW also continues to adapt their program to improve and allow individualization. They incorporate wellness in many other ways including mental health and physical activity.
It is not focused on bariatric surgery patients.
Similar to Noom, I have had members use WW and their membership to Bariatric Food Coach to utilize recipes and community more specific to post-op living.
It does take digging into the specifics of the points and free foods to construct the plan to a good fit for a post-op patient. This might mean making a percentage of the points come from protein and keeping free foods to lower carbohydrate options and omitting potatoes and pasta or others from the free list.
One drawback is that you would need to sign up for the program to take the individualized quiz and get the information, then work with a bariatric dietitian to better tweak those recommendations to fit within the best practices for surgery patients.
There are also some upgrades when you first sign up recommending you buy cookbooks, water bottles, food scales and so on. They are clear about the membership pricing and there doesn’t appear to be hidden fees.
Don’t forget! If you are looking for group chats, live coaching and other more nutrition coaching and resources more specific to bariatric surgery, Premier Access Membership to Bariatric Food Coach offers all those things!
Members can email me anytime with their questions. If you are a member and have more questions about this post, click here!
More in the Popular Diets Series
We will continue our series next week on Intermittent Fasting! Keto is often paired with IF and we’ll talk about why.
In case you missed, below are links to previous blogs in the series:
The Bariatric Plate Method (and what I used instead)
(1) About Us. WeightWatchers.com: History of Helping People Lose Weight. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://www.weightwatchers.com/about/his/history.aspx#:~:text=Our%20Philosophy&text=A%20healthy%20body%20results%20from,you%20about%20nutrition%20and%20exercise.
(2) Weight Watchers. (2022, March 24). What research says about WW. Personalized Weight Loss Like Never Before-No Two Plans Are Alike! Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/science-center/peer-reviews#:~:text=Over%20the%20past%20four%20decades,weight%20loss%20and%20wellness%20outcomes.
(3) McKinnon, M., Dusing, L., Laakonen, C., Icovitti, B., Debra, Lb, Helen, Dka, Rhonda, Judy, Jane, Colemire, V., CINDy, Charlene, Diane, Hildebrand, K., Holmes, J., & Lynda. (2021, December 18). WW New 2021/2022 program: Personal Points launches! Simple Nourished Living. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://simple-nourished-living.com/ww-new-2021-2022-program-personal-points-launches/