Developed in 1963, the Weight Watchers point system is a popular wellness and weight loss program. It is based on allocating points to each kind of food based on different parameters like calorie count, content, and type of the three macronutrients, etc.
Several people, including popular celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Hudson, use and endorse Weight Watchers online calculator, which proves it a helpful plan for healthy and sustainable weight loss.
In this post, we explain how the Weight Watchers calculator works, its variables, pros, and cons, and how each individual can use it to curate a personalized diet.
Daily Weight Watchers Points Target
Generally, a diet that adds up to 30 Weight Watchers points is recommended.
However, for a better and more personalized approach, the Weight Watchers diet plan assigns you a daily and weekly allowance for total points value in diet. This is based on your current weight, height, age, gender, and physical activity.
Here it is essential to mention that to prevent calorie deficit, minimum daily allowance is 26 points and with the maximum being 71.
Your body composition and metabolism change as you grow old, which is why age is an important factor when devising a weight loss plan.
After you hit 20, your metabolic rate starts slowing down by 2 to 3% every ten years.
Metabolism is the process of breaking down food content and energy reserves (fat) in the body into calories. These calories are then utilized to carry out normal physiological processes and day-to-day functions.
When metabolism slows down with age, it takes a longer time for the body to break down fat. Fewer calories are burned, which causes you to gain weight.
Due to a reduction in metabolic rate, the body composition also changes. The high body fat percentage leads to decreased lean muscle mass. This risk of obesity poses several health complications like cardiovascular and kidney disease, fatigue, cognitive decline, etc.
Therefore, seniors are often advised to restrict their calorie intake, and hence, low Weight Watchers points.
In contrast with the elderly, children and young adults have high metabolic rates and burn more calories. Additionally, they need a lot of energy for adequate growth and brain development, which is why the Weight Watchers points calculator sets a high daily allowance for them.
After age, gender is one critical factor determining your calorie intake, and hence Weight Watchers points.
We know that a higher body fat percentage is associated with obesity, and related metabolic syndrome, whereas high lean mass (total body weight minus the body fat weight) is an indicator of good health.
Men tend to have higher lean muscle mass than women. This is primarily due to the high metabolic rate for macronutrients, which allows the body to burn more fats.
Women, on the other hand, have low muscle mass and high body fat, which is why they are more prone to obesity if low fat content in diet is not ensured.
Due to these differences, the recommended daily calories are 2500 for men and 2000 for women.
Physical activity determines the metabolic rate and energy expenditure, which factors in when estimating your daily calorie intake, and Weight Watchers daily target (via activity points).
Understandably, a person who engages in intense physical labor needs more energy to function (high total daily energy expenditure), has better metabolism, and hence, needs more calories.
On the other hand, anyone who leads a comparatively inactive lifestyle needs to restrict their calorie intake to minimize the risk of accumulating body fat and developing obesity.
In the old daily target calculator (used before 2015), physical activity was classified into four categories;
- Mostly sit during the day
- Mostly stand during the day
- Mostly walk during the day
- Doing physically hard work during the day
However, in advanced systems and calculators, there are six more elaborated levels of physical activity:
- Sedentary: Little to no exercise
- Light: Exercise 1 to 3 times a week
- Moderate: Exercise 4 to 5 times a week
- Active: Daily exercise or intense exercise 3 to 4 times a week
- Very Intense: Daily intense exercise
- Extra Active: Very intense exercise daily or a physical job
In the above classification:
- Exercise – 15 to 30 minutes of increased heart rate
- Intense exercise – 45 to 120 minutes of high heart rate
- Very intense exercise – 2+ hours of increased heart rate
Your current body weight is another factor that affects your Weight Watchers daily target.
Based on age, height, and gender, everyone has a specific healthy body weight which corresponds with the lowest risk of metabolic syndrome, health complications, and mortality.
Depending on how your current weight relates to your normal ideal body weight, your Weight Watchers points are set to help achieve the ideal level.
There are several individual factors that affect your body weight, which is why it is not practical to have one fixed value for everyone sharing the same height, age, and gender. Therefore, a basal metabolic index or a BMI system has been developed to help gauge your fitness based on your current weight.
Basal metabolic index, or BMI, is the ratio of your weight (in kg) to your height (in m2). The results are divided into four BMI ranges:
- Underweight = < 18.5
- Normal weight = 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight = 25.0 to 29.9
- Obese = > 30
If your current weight falls in the overweight or obese category, your Weight Watchers points will be low. This implies low daily calorie intake (estimated on the basis of how much weight you need to lose), which allows the body to burn stored fat. This helps lose unhealthy weight.
It is important to mention that in the case of children and teens, BMI percentile growth charts are used.
Your body height and surface are other factors affecting your daily Weight Watchers points target. A tall person has high energy needs, which allows him to consume more calories. On the other hand, someone of short stature needs fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight.
Variables Of Weight Watchers Point Calculator
Here are the several things that factor in the points calculator:
The total number of calories present in your food is another factor considered by the Weight Watchers calculator.
If you want to lose weight, your calorie intake simply needs to be lower than what corresponds to your total daily energy expenditure, as this allows your body to burn stored fat.
Your gender, activity level, age, genetics, environmental temperature, drugs, sleep schedule and pattern, and several other things influence metabolic rate and thus determine how many calories you need in a day.
Typically, in the Weight Watchers points calculation, 1 point equals 30 to 35 calories.
Another thing considered when assigning points to a portion of food are its content of saturated fats.
Fats are made of small units called fatty acids. The arrangement and chemical structure of the fatty acid structure differs, based on which fats are classified as saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that increase low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol in your lipid profile.
LDL cholesterol tends to solidify at room temperature, which causes plaque formation (hardened fatty deposits). This forms an embolus (clot) that travels in the blood and can get stuck in the vessels, obstructing the blood flow. As a result, a person is at a high risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease (like angina or heart attack), and stroke.
Therefore, foods rich in saturated fats have high Weight Watchers points.
Saturated fats are present in oils like olive and canola oil, avocados, nuts (hazelnut, pecans, almonds), and pumpkin seeds.
According to the American Heart Association, 5 to 6% of saturated fat intake is recommended per day.
It is essential to mention that in contrast to saturated fats, unsaturated fats are healthy and increase the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol. HDL is liquid at room temperature and hence does not add to the risk of health complications as long as its intake is moderate.
Therefore, food containing unsaturated fats will have low Weight Watchers points.
Proteins are macronutrients made of small blocks of amino acids. They are one of the three important macronutrients and primarily contribute to the lean muscle mass of the body.
Proteins are vital for several physiological functions of the body. They help form enzymes (chemicals) that maintain homeostasis. Homeostatic mechanisms focus on keeping the intracellular structure stable, which involves regulating blood pressure, arterial dilation, temperature, etc.
Without enzymes, cells won’t be able to function normally, which is why proteins are essential for survival.
Proteins are also crucial for energy. Plus, a gram of proteins breaks down into four calories (in contrast to fats which generate nine calories per gram). Therefore, food rich in protein will generally have low Weight Watchers points.
Sugar (carbs) is an instant source of energy. They are also crucial for brain development, which is why food deficient in carbs can lead to cognitive decline.
However, a lot of sugar can lead to unhealthy weight gain, as excess glucose is processed and converted into fats in the liver. Weight Watchers points are adjusted accordingly to incorporate healthy amounts of sugar in your diet.
1 tsp of white, granulated sugar equals one smart point of the Weight Watchers calculator.
Fiber is a type of carb that cannot be digested in human bodies due to the absence of the required animal enzyme. Therefore, when you consume fiber, it travels through the gastrointestinal tract and is eventually eliminated from the body as is.
Thus, a diet rich in fiber keeps you feeling full and satiated for long hours without adding any calories to the system. This helps lose weight.
In the Weight Watchers system, for every gram of fiber (for up to 4 grams), ⅕ of a point is deducted.
Zero Point Foods
Weight Watchers’ diet believes in flexibility and wellness, which is why certain foods that are healthy and do not cause an excessive rise in blood sugar are termed are not assigned any points. These are called zero-points foods.
Zero-point foods rich in fibers, proteins, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Adding them to your diet ensures the intake of healthy calories that improve overall health and fitness.
Here are some of the main zero-point foods:
- Cottage cheese
Eating these and similar foods in normal portion sizes, such that they don’t exceed your calorie requirement is ideal.
Using Weight Watchers Plan to Lose Weight
Free Weight Watchers tools like Weight Watchers calculator have made losing weight (attaining and maintaining the weight loss goals) easier than ever.
Start with a daily target calculator to calculate your daily points allowance. Then check how many actual points each type of food holds point system.
Incorporate healthy calories like lean proteins, low fat food (especially low in saturated fat), nonfat Greek yogurt, fresh fruits, whole grains, and other zero points foods as they help feel healthier than fatty and carb-rich diet.
Other than zero point foods, minimize your alcohol intake, quit smoking, and practice an active lifestyle.
Keeping track of your macros, making sure they don’t exceed ideal limit (45% to 65% carbs, 20% to 35% fats, and 10% to 35% proteins) also helps.
Pros and Cons Weight Watchers Weight Loss Plan
Here are some of the advantages of using Weight Watchers point calculator for weight loss:
- Personalized plan based on your age, gender, height, current and normal body weight
- Sustainable weight loss
- No foods are off-limits
The system also has certain limitations and cons, which are as follows:
- Keeping up with weekly weight weigh-ins can be difficult
- Obsessively keeping a score can lead to an eating disorder and excessive weight loss
- Signing up for Weight Watchers program is often expensive