If you recently joined Weight Watchers, or you're just curious about how it works, you might be wondering how many calories you should average per day on the program. The tricky part is that Weight Watchers — which recently rebranded as WW — encourages members to track SmartPoints instead of counting calories. And while SmartPoints are related to a food's calorie content, it's not a simple 1:1 ratio.
Here's more about SmartPoints vs. calories and how to calculate the right amount of calories for weight loss.
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What Are SmartPoints?
The WW plan changed from PointsPlus to SmartPoints in December 2015. The PointsPlus system used to focus on protein and fiber to calculate points, while SmartPoints now takes calories, protein, saturated fat and sugar into account.
Just about every food and drink you might desire is assigned a SmartPoints number, and as a WW member, you're given a personal allocation of these points to consume each day and week.
In 2017, the WW Freestyle Program was created, with an expanded list of over 200 zero-point foods.
Weight Watchers Points vs. Calories
While you may be tempted to simply equate calories for points on the WW system, the SmartPoints values weren't designed this way. In fact, according to WW, calories aren't exactly equivalent to SmartPoints because these points translate complex nutritional information into a simple number. That's why it's just about impossible to calculate the average calories per day on Weight Watchers.
In general, calories establish the baseline point value for each food, but protein lowers the point value while sugar and saturated fat increase it.
Average Calories Per Day for Weight Loss
WW encourages its members to follow a daily diet that includes lean protein, fruits and veggies, and to cut down on foods high in sugar and saturated fats. So with this eating pattern in mind, take a look at some basic math, per the Mayo Clinic, which notes that 1 pound is equal to about 3,500 calories.
To drop a pound each week, which experts (including WW) agree is a safe and sustainable rate, you'll need to cut out 500 calories each day. (Keep in mind, the amount of weight you lose also depends on factors like metabolism and level of physical activity.) For example, if you normally eat 2,000 calories per day to maintain your current weight, you'll want to create a calorie deficit of about 1,500 calories. By the end of one week, you'll have cut out a total of 3,500 calories.
Weight Watchers applies this same concept — identifying how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and then creating a calorie deficit to spur weight loss — to its points system. Members are assigned a specific SmartPoints number that will help them create the proper deficit needed to shed pounds at a healthy pace.
Focus on Whole Foods and Exercise
Along with the WW points system, another program aspect is to fill up on low-fat lower-density foods that are high in fiber and water. Combined with portion control, Weight Watchers relies on low-density foods such as soups, fruits and vegetables that are also high in nutrition. And according to Harvard Health Publishing, focusing on low-density foods like leafy greens and whole grains can increase the amount of vitamins you get without adding a lot of calories.
And don't forget about exercise, which is an important component of any weight-loss journey. In 2018, WW shifted to include overall wellness, including exercise and mindfulness.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (think: biking or jogging), or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise (like high-intensity interval training) each week. Aerobic or cardio activities should be spread throughout the week, and strength-training exercises that involve all the major muscle groups should be done at least twice per week.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Add more nutrient-dense foods to your diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"
- Obesity Reviews: "Mindfulness-based interventions for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis."
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: 2nd Edition"
- Calculator.net: Weight Watcher Points Calculator
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