Each quarter, our wellness team tries and reviews a popular wellness trend. This quarter, we're trying weight management apps, and Holly is checking out myWW.
WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers, is a program based around wellness with a significant focus on weight loss and management. WW prides itself on the scientific basis on which their programs are created and the 55-year experience in weight loss they bring to the table. myWW is the newest program under WW that replaces the WW Freestyle program. This program just rolled out in the last few months of 2019 and was extensively researched globally for the last two years. According to WW, this program combines science and personal needs to create lifestyle habits that will stick. The flexibility of this program is an attractive feature for the busy and on-the-go lifestyle many of us live.
How It Works
Everyone is allotted a SmartPoints Budget that is personalized to you based on many factors including age, gender, height, and weight. Your SmartPoints will vary between the three different versions of the myWW plan: Purple, Blue, or Green. Each plan will give you a different SmartPoints Budget and a list of zero-point foods based on your eating habits. Green has the most SmartPoints with the smallest variety of zero-point foods, which are basically fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Blue is the exact Freestyle program that was offered before myWW with a moderate SmartPoints Budget and list of zero-point foods which include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Purple is the version with the lowest SmartPoints Budget but the largest variety of zero-point foods that includes fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains.
WW has mentioned multiple times that not one plan is better for weight loss than the other. They believe and advertise that the weight loss between plans is similar so one plan isn’t better than the other in that aspect. The thought is that if you are able to choose a plan that fits with your behaviors, you are more likely to stick with it and have more success.
For those new to WW, upon signing up to the program you are given a “self-assessment” to help match you to the right plan for you based on your eating habits and behaviors. However, once you get started, you are able to change to a different plan at any time if you find it doesn’t work for you.
Bad news for those of us that are already WW members – I have not found a way for us to take the assessment although that was an advertised feature at some point. If you are already on the plan, you are able to choose which you find most appealing or if you don’t like change or what you are doing is working for you, you can continue on the blue plan that is the exact same as the original Freestyle program. I enjoy my whole grains so I chose to go with the purple plan for now.
Fitness Tracking – ★★★★
The WW app allows you to track fitness and awards you FitPoints for the activity you do. Everyone gets a personalized FitPoints weekly goal based on your lifestyle or you can change it yourself. FitPoints can be swapped for SmartPoints. This is useful if you have already met your daily and weekly SmartPoints Budget, but wanted a treat. However, I did not do this feature personally because my focus was more for weight loss and eating too many SmartPoints could stall your progress.
The great thing about the WW app is that it is able to sync with your wearable activity tracker or another fitness tracking app. Syncing to your app is fairly easy and there are multiple help articles on the app that can assist if needed. I was able to sync my FitBit within a couple of minutes by simply hitting “Connect Your Device or App” and selecting my device. Once my Fitbit was synced, I didn’t have to do anything else but open the WW app to allow my fitness data to sync. The data WW retrieves from my FitBit are steps and minutes of physical activity. This is automatically converted into FitPoints. I found this to be extremely helpful as it was one less thing I had to track. The only downside is that it won’t automatically track if you are cycling, doing yoga, lifting weights. So you would manually have to add that activity and you run into the potential of doubling up on FitPoints with the “steps” you received from the time you were doing the workout.
If you don’t have a fitness tracking device or app, you can also simply track your activity by using the search bar. WW has numerous activities loaded into the system to choose from and automatically converts it to how many FitPoints you earned based on the length of time you performed the activity, and for certain activities, you can choose the intensity. There is a wide range of activities to choose from such as vacuuming, scrubbing surfaces, and gardening. I never had a problem finding my activity.
Food Tracking – ★★★★
I am pretty surprised how simple the food tracking piece is on the WW app. There are so many foods to choose from in the WW database so you very rarely have to calculate a food’s SmartPoints yourself. Even for eating out, there are so many restaurants in the app. The downfall I have come across with eating out is that not every food item from the restaurant is on the app and finding all the nutrition information you need to calculate the SmartPoints from the restaurant for that particular meal can be a hassle.
Another thing with tracking that is a little bothersome with this app is that you have to add all the condiments and ingredients separately for meals – but honestly, that is probably a thing with me and not the app. However, they do have the functionality for you to create your own recipe or meal so you add all the ingredients once and save it as a meal or a recipe. This is great for your favorite salad that has nine different ingredients.
A few other features that I frequently used are the barcode scanner, the quick add function, and the favorites. The barcode scanner helps you while you are grocery shopping to decide if you want to purchase an item, and you can also track directly from scanning the barcode of a particular item. This makes life so much easier for me. The quick add lets you go in and create a name for your item you are going to track, and you can just type in the smart points as opposed to searching for the item. This is nice when you already know how many SmartPoints your meal is and don’t have to add each individual ingredient. Because there are so many foods in the WW database, sometimes finding the particular item through the search function is time-consuming, but you can favorite an item or a recipe for easy reference. The app also keeps tabs on your frequently tracked foods, which I find helpful when I need to quickly track something.
WW engages the member by using a rewards platform called WellnessWins. This is a point-based rewards system where you receive a certain amount of points for tracking breakfast, lunch, dinner, activity, or attending a workshop. Once you reach a certain amount of points. you can cash them in for prizes, gifts, or even fitness memberships. What I like about this is that you are getting points for what you are supposed to be doing anyway. I feel like it motivated me to track more. The downfall to this is that it can get discouraging and the motivation can wear off easily, since it takes quite a bit of time to bank points to be able to cash them in, especially on the items you really want.
Other than the WellnessWins, there wasn’t much other engagement. I did not receive any notifications reminding me to track or anything motivational. I found that a bit discouraging especially when I would come out of a workshop pumped to work hard for the next week, but throughout the week my motivation declined drastically as there wasn’t anything to keep me engaged.
I was a part of the digital + workshop membership so I attended the workshops weekly. I felt like the workshops offered a lot of support as everyone always had great tips, tricks, recipes and ideas to share. The workshops provided a way for me to make connections with other members and we would also catch up on how we did that week before and after the workshop.
Outside of the workshops, every member has the opportunity to find support with the entire WW community through Connect. Connect is a social network platform on the WW app that resembles Instagram. The unique part about Connect is the numerous support groups for anything and everything you may need help with. I made a post asking for easy lunch suggestions and got many ideas to choose from. I really enjoyed the supportive and helpful atmosphere of Connect.
Ease of Use ★★★
The app is a great tool. It is, for the most part, self-explanatory. There is an abundance of information housed on the app that it oftentimes is overwhelming and frustrating. For example, I had a hard time finding where the foods and recipes I added to my favorites were going. The My Foods tab is hidden on the tracking feature and I only came across it by accident. I also had trouble locating where my weight was logged after weighing in – you would find it by going to your account profile instead of it being accessible on the home page.
WW always has great promotions for signing up – getting a starter pack, waiving the starter fee, paying $12-$27 a month (but in a tiny disclaimer that you will inevitably miss it says for two months, then you’ll pay the standard fee). If you are considering getting a WW membership, I recommend looking at the standard fees before deciding.
Digital Only: $19.95/month
Digital + Workshop: $44.95
The prices are steep, but I would advise checking with your insurance as well to see if they offer a WW Membership Discount program. As a GatorCare member, I only pay for half of my membership fee and GatorCare pays the rest. So I only pay $20 per month for the digital + workshop membership while the digital-only would cost a GatorCare member $10 per month. GatorCare Members can find more information here.
In a nutshell: myWW is a great tool for anyone who is looking to lose weight and learn healthy lifestyle habits, with an easy-to-follow program and a wide variety of foods to choose from.