Healthy Living: The new WW program


Many will make health-related resolutions for the new year and some will consider weight loss programs to help reach weight-related goals.

WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers, has been around for 55 years.

The program’s website says WW is a “scientifically proven program for weight loss and wellness, with Digital, Studio and Personal coaching solutions to help meet your goals.”

Two local women shared their WW successes with Daybreak’s Amanda Peterson.

Stacy Koppenhaver lost more than 100 pounds using WW for 18 months.

Stacy Koppenhaver started WW in July 2018 and has lost more than 100 pounds since. She credits WW’s program saying it was a lifestyle change that combined weight loss, exercise and mindset.

Melissa LaCagnina also used the WW program, losing 70 pounds in a year.

Melissa LaCagnina lost 70lbs by following the WW program for one year.

When did you start your weight loss journey? My journey with Weight Watchers started on October 20, 2018, after realizing I needed to do something about my weight.

How long did it take? As of my 1 year anniversary, I was down 70 pounds.  This journey is ongoing for me.  

Did you find success? How so? I have had much success with Weight Watchers.  Weight Watchers teaches individuals to be more aware of what they are eating without eliminating food from their diet.  
Weight Watchers looks at your weight, height, gender, and age to determine how many points an individual can eat each day. The food we eat all has a certain point value. For example, the Dannon light and fit greek yogurt I eat is 2 points.  The Tumaro’s wraps I eat are 1 point.  The great news is, that there are so many zero point foods!  These are foods that Weight Watchers has deemed as foods that they found individuals don’t tend to overeat, such as fruits, veggies, and so many other options. There is also a bank of “Weekly” points you can use throughout the week in addition to your daily points.  You can use these as you see fit with your lifestyle. I like to save those extra weekly points for the weekend when my family and I like to eat out.  You can roll up to 4 points over each day.  You can also earn fit points if you like exercising.  I personally do not  exercise at all during my journey.  So much of my success is due to my mindset and the food choices I am making. As you eat food, track it in the helpful Weight Watchers app and it will subtract what you have eaten from your daily points.  This way you can visually see what you have left for the day.  In my opinion, it changes the way I look at food in a healthy way.  There is a lot of flexibility with this program.

The app Weight Watchers has is extremely useful.  It has a bar code scanner you can use to scan food which will tell you how many points the food is per serving.  It also has a community of individuals who are on the program to that you can reach out to for support. The app will keep track of your points if you track the food you are eating.  There are many different tools to help you be successful with the program such as recipes, restaurant names with point values for food, exercise ideas, and a personal coach you can chat with at anytime.

If you choose to do the program with the workshop option, you can attend weekly meetings to get extra support from others as well as the leader running the meeting. At the weekly meetings, you can also choose to weigh in and have your weight tracked in the app as well. You can choose to do Weight Watchers with the online only option as well.  This will allow you track your own weight with the same great benefits of using the app. Both options have a monthly fee.

Melissa LaCagnina

Over the last 55 years, WW has changed. Currently, there’s a plan called myWW that allows users to fill out a personal assessment and get matched with an eating style.

For more information on myWW, click here.

With the new program, WW also upgraded their app and added an online support group called “connect” which allows program participants to connect with people around the world.

While Stacy and Melissa are supporters of WW, there are a lot of critics of the program. Some say it may promote disordered eating by labeling foods as good or bad.

Here’s a statement from Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Amy Porto who is the President of the Central Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Messiah College:

Diets are out and Wellness and Lifestyle changes are in and so it isn’t surprising that every commercial diet program has claimed it is not a diet and instead is a lifestyle. Weight Watchers (now simply known by WW) is a perfect example of this re-branding in order to stay relevant to a new generation of dieters. And while WW claims the focus is on behavior goals and not weight goals I can’t imagine that anyone joining WW is not looking to lose weight.

While the program does focus on diet and exercise and not a miracle product, it is possible to eat a lot of low-nutrient dense foods and stay within your allotted points.

It’s WW’s point system that takes away from true healthful eating. Points send the message that some foods are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that ZeroPoint foods can be eaten in unlimited amounts which can lead to disordered eating habits when looking for ways to get the most food for the least points rather than learning about balanced healthy eating.

Using points to determine what, when and how much to eat rather than getting in touch with the body’s innate cues is often why diets like WW are not sustainable long term. A 2015 study of more than 176,000 higher-weight people age 20 and older found that 95 percent to 98 percent of those who lost weight gained back all of it (or more) within five years (1).
Most concerning is WW facilitators are not equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to address questions related to the complexities of nutrition or the concerns of a person with a dysfunctional relationship with food.

Diet advice should not be one-size-fits-all. A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) has the knowledge and skills to review your health history, favorite foods and exercise habits and is your best resource to assist you in developing a safe and realistic eating plan that you can stick with long term.

Rather than spending money on a diet program, the best investment you can make in the New Year is to spend more time in your kitchen. Eating meals that you prepared from the best ingredients you can afford will have the greatest impact on your health long term. And you don’t have to wait until the New Year to get started – because if it truly is a lifestyle change you want, then that includes the holiday season.”

1. Fildes A, Charlton J, Rudisill C, Littlejohns P, Prevost AT, Gulliford MC. Probability of an Obese Person Attaining Normal Body Weight: Cohort Study Using Electronic Health Records. Am J Public Health. 2015;105(9):e54–e59. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302773

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