Weight Watchers Freestyle Review: Your Guide to the Weight-Loss Program

By: Alyssa Langer, R.D., L.D.N.

The new Weight Watchers Freestyle program changes the points count of more than 200 foods (most lean protein is now zero points, for example)—and that's not all it does. Here's our review of the new updated weight-loss program.

Soup

Pictured Recipe: The Only Weight-Loss Soup Recipe You Need

Weight Watchers, one of the most popular weight-loss programs in the country, just introduced a new points program called Freestyle.

According to Weight Watchers, "The WW Freestyle program builds on our incredibly effective SmartPoints system and bumps up the benefits even more!"

That's not all it does. It removes the points counts for over 200 different foods, and it continues the weight-loss brand's transition toward embracing healthy, whole foods and away from processed foods.

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What Are Weight Watchers SmartPoints?

Weight Watchers

The company's last major update took place in 2015 with the launch of their "Beyond the Scale" program. For this initiative, foods and drinks were assigned a SmartPoints value, which is determined by a food's nutritional density—specifically calories, saturated fat, sugar and protein.

Foods that are fried or full of sugar, for example, are higher in SmartPoints, while foods higher in lean protein are lower in SmartPoints. Each member was assigned a daily and weekly point budget determined by their gender, age, height and weight, with the goal of losing one to two pounds per week.

The program also included fitness incentives and a focus on behavior and mind-set. For support and encouragement, participants had access to in-person meetings, phone counseling or online help with people who had experienced success using Weight Watchers.

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What Makes Freestyle Different?

What Makes Freestyle Different?

For those who've become accustomed to the SmartPoints system, there's no need to panic—the points are still important in the Freestyle program. However, there are now over 200 foods that are considered "zero points." They do not need to be accounted for when tracking points or thinking about portions.

In addition, for the first time, participants can roll over up to four SmartPoints per day to their weekly SmartPoints budget, increasing the program's flexibility and making the diet more empowering and realistic when it comes to special occasions, holidays and restaurant meals, or even just for those days when you need a glass of wine after work.

What are these 200-plus freebie foods? Here are just a handful:

  • Skinless chicken and turkey breast
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Nonfat, unsweetened yogurt
  • Fresh fruits (this does not include fruit juice or dried fruits, which are higher in sugar and do contain points)
  • Vegetables (even starchy veggies like peas and corn don't count)

Roasted Root Veggies & Greens over Spiced Lentils

Pictured Recipe: Roasted Root Veggies & Greens over Spiced Lentils

The overall message still stands—to eat more lean protein, fruits and veggies, and limit sugar and unhealthy fats. Many of these aforementioned foods, which any dietitian would endorse as healthy options, had previously had point values from one to four points. That potentially sent the wrong message to members.

The goal with the new Freestyle plan is that "by combining zero Points food and foods with SmartPoints values, you have more freedom when building meals and snacks."

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What the Science Says About Freestyle

Spicy Ramen Cup of Noodles

Pictured Recipe: Spicy Ramen Cup of Noodles

According to a Weight Watchers' press release, a six-month clinical trial of the Freestyle program, conducted at the University of North Carolina Weight Research Lab, had positive outcomes. Participants noted they had fewer cravings and less overall hunger, they felt healthier and, after six months, three of four people were satisfied with their weight loss. More than 82 percent of those surveyed who had tried to lose weight in the past agreed that WW Freestyle was easier, and almost 93 percent said the program provides more food-choice flexibility than past weight-loss schemes.

A big part of the program still involves tracking, as it makes participants aware of what and how much they're eating and helps them stick to their SmartPoints daily and weekly budget. However, Weight Watchers hopes that tracking is significantly easier with so many foods now containing zero points (meaning they don't require weighing, measuring or tracking at all). To make things simple, there is an app that helps track physical activity and weight.

One of the perks of this program, and what makes it so appealing to dieters, is that no food is considered "off limits." However, having a personalized SmartPoints budget to stay within helps members determine which foods are worth using their allotted points on.

Try These: Healthy Smoothie Recipes

Berry-Coconut Smoothie

Pictured Recipe: Berry-Coconut Smoothie

The Bottom Line: More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, so it's no surprise that so many weight-loss options are on the market. Losing weight is difficult in and of itself, but the first step—finding a program that works for you and your lifestyle—is the key to long-term success. This new Weight Watchers Freestyle plan reflects a mind-set shift in the country, as we focus more holistically on the diet and try to emphasize an overall healthy diet that's less focused on restriction and more focused on nutrient density and balance.

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