This is the weekend when many of us are writing down our New Year’s resolutions. For quite a few of us, I would even assert that these entail improving our health, our nutrition, our fitness level and—yes—our body. In other words, this may be the perfect time to take a look at the brand new Weight Watchers program.
Before you roll your eyes at the thought of their simplistic model of a diet based strictly on calorie-count, please take a moment to consider this: as of last November 29, the leading dieting institution has been implementing a reformed “points” system (PointsPlus™) born of the simple—yet vastly ignored—fact that all calories are not created equal. As a result, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in nutrients and satiety-factor, count for zero points while processed foods, heavy in empty calories, weigh significantly more than they did in the original system launched in 1997. Weight Watchers still grants a few points to starchy vegetables because of their obvious energy density, including legumes, sweet potatoes and corn. It also warns its members to not abuse the new model as a license to gorge on fruits mindlessly. (The extra virtues of raw food have been omitted from the equation so far, but I digress.)
The impact of this quiet revolution cannot be overstated.
“We are changing the way Americans view calories and select their food,” said David Kirchhoff, president and CEO of Weight Watchers International, Inc. last November. “Our new PointsPlus program will not only deliver weight loss success, it will help transform America’s eating habits and the way we make our food choices.”
We’re talking 750,000 members in the United States alone, from all walks of life and persuasions, who are now learning to distinguish between the merits of fresh produce and processed food, day in day out. For their benefit and, one speculates, the benefit of their families.
Weight Watchers has yet to announce when they will roll out the new program abroad.
Now, I can’t shake a couple of nagging questions off my mind: when will Weight Watchers incorporate such factors as chemicals, hormones and genetically modified organisms in its points system? How about point “credits” for organic produce and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and dairy? If Weight Watchers truly aims at helping people lose weight while learning “how to incorporate healthier habits into their life,” as its press release stated, it may want to consider taking that extra step.
I understand such a stance would smack of elitism in the eyes of many, given the price premium attached to such foods as mentioned above. But Weight Watchers is already half-way there if you consider that one head of romaine is typically double the price of a fast-food hamburger. I certainly hope that the company contributes to opening the gates of the mainstream market to what are still considered in most cases niche-market products. Let’s hope it does so before we’re collectively hit by the sudden realization that what’s truly at stake is the resilience of our food chain. And our own.