Atkins vs. Weight Watchers

Continuing my series on popular diet reviews this week. As requested, I’m taking a look at the Atkins diet and Weight Watchers.

Atkins: in the  most updated versions, there are two plans, Atkins 20® and Atkins 40®, meaning you are allowed to consume 20 grams net or 40 grams net carbohydrates per day, preferably coming from vegetables only. What’s a net carbohydrate? Total carbohydrates minus the fiber content in a food since fiber is nondigestable (fun fact = if you go to Canada, these carbs are already subtracted for you on food labels.) Most of us have tried or known someone who has tried this one, and succeeded. Pretty basic to follow, consume no carbohydrates exceeding the daily limit including fruits, breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugary snacks, cereal, candy, etc. Basis is you will force your body to go into ketosis, which means it will begin to burn stored fat for energy rather than it’s preferred source, dietary carbohydrate. This equals rapid weight loss.

Pros: you get quick results. It’s also fairly easy to follow, which is pretty attractive – no real planning, counting, or real thought process like many other diets out there. And, in spite of what you may have heard, if you go to their website, they actually do have a maintenance plan which does involve adding carbohydrates back into your diet. Unfortunately, I’ve never met anyone that has done this in a planned way, however.

Cons: while not particularly harmful long term, ketosis can be rough. Many people have a real difficult time with the lethargy, headaches, dizzy spells, and possible stomach upset (nausea, diarrhea, and/or constipation) that occurs when they first take out fiber and other important nutrients that only carb-containing foods can provide. This is why I don’t recommend any diet that advises less than 100 grams total carbohydrate per day – and that is still LOW. The majority of Americans consume upwards of 300+ grams daily. If you drop down to 100, I promise you’ll see results. And here is the biggest con of all with the Atkins diet: I have worked with hundreds of patients and clients in weight loss for the past eleven years. The Atkins diet is almost always on their list of tried (and result-producing) past diets. I have NEVER, not ONCE, met someone who has not regained it all back (and often more) once they stopped the diet. Never. In my book, the end results of this diet is an additional ten or more pounds. Don’t do it.

For more information on their program, visit www.atkins.com. Who knows, if you give their maintenance plan a chance, maybe it might work?

Weight Watchers: this one is probably equally as popular in past diet attempts that I’ve heard from well-meaning dieters. They’ve changed it up over the years, which I believe is an improvement. Rather than counting calories, you use a system they call SmartPoints®, which are based on calories, saturated fat, sugar and protein. You get a “budget” to work with throughout your day and if you want to maximize that, you will need to earn “FitPoints ®” by increasing your daily physical activity.

Pro: I’ve always been a fan of this program if someone really needs accountability and guidance. Overall, they encourage consuming healthy foods but allow some flexibility. If you consume a high point food, well, you will quickly see the “cost.” And I really like the weekly meeting concept and view it as the biggest benefit they offer, although not everyone utilizes it. If you aren’t into the group thing, you can get a personal coach instead. With today’s growing technology and fast-paced lifestyle, they have grown with the times and offer online support systems now, too, all at very reasonable costs.

Cons: when you reach your goal weight, you earn a free lifetime membership – this means no registration fees ever again and free access to all of their digital tools and weekly meetings. Really great way to help people maintain their success. However, here’s the rub: as a lifetime member, you must weigh-in at a weekly meeting once a month, every month. Fair enough. BUT, if you gain as much as three pounds, you get charged a weekly fee for the next month until you can bring it back down within a two pound range. So, if you gained some water weight, got constipated, went out to eat and ate a salty meal the night before, well, your wallet is going to pay for it. While I agree with the concept, I don’t agree with the two pound window – it’s not based on normal weight fluctuations. But hey, they are a business and if everyone is considered a success, they don’t make their money. (If you want to read why I feel this way, head over to my previous post here.)

For more information on their options, visit. www.weightwatchers.com

So there ya have it. Two more diets for you. If you are totally in love with either of these diets, I’m only offering my insight and opinions with some facts mixed in. If you would like to learn more about a specific diet, let me know in the comments section.

P.S. If you’d like more information on the diet that I do recommend and how I’ve helped others lose 30-80lbs following simple steps, contact me here.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN