Weight Watchers vs. MyFitnessPal

I feel like I’ve typed the above into the Google Chrome Omnibox about 100 times over the past weekend.

In actuality, it’s probably been closer to 10 times.

While this blog actually came out as a “spin-off” of sorts to my old blog (Originally, “From the Mind of Lissa Kristine”), the earliest post here dates back to 2009.

It is now in the final quarter of 2016. I’m still fat. Ok, I’m not NEARLY as fat as I was 7-8 years ago. Take these comparison shots from September 14, 2008 and September 18 of this year:

*Note: My hairstyle of choice was out of boredom- and it has nothing to do with me personally having cancer, or in support of someone who has cancer.

That’s not even the worst photo I have of me!

I’m sure many of you can relate to me when I say that I’ve tried countless weight loss programs over the past several years. However, the two that seem to be pulling at me today are MyFitnessPal and Weight Watchers.

Currently, I have an active account on MyFitnessPal (FtSoLK) and I have an inactive account on Weight Watchers (QueenLissa). I have been going back and forth as to whether I want to renew my membership with Weight Watchers.

There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to both programs, in my opinion. I am trying to keep this post as impartial as possible, but I do hope that it appears that I am leaning towards one program over the other. After all, I am trying to make a decision.

Financially, the decision should seem like a no-brainer. Weight Watchers, here in New Jersey, is about $20 a month for Online membership and $46 a month for Meetings. If you go to meetings, that’s $552 a year- not including any additional purchases. (Of course, there are always deals/special offers available to help offset the cost).

In comparison, MyFitnessPal is free for the BASIC membership. Personally, I decided to shell out the non-refundable $100 or so for a yearly Premium membership. Honestly, I definitely see some pros to the Premium membership. The biggest being their new “Calories per Meal” feature. With this feature, you can set meal goals. So, if you want your meals to be “clean” while allowing yourself 20% of your calories for a snack, you can say that you want 20% of your calories to be part of your snack, and divide the remaining 80% up among Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

So, MyFitnessPal is the clear winner- UNTIL you reach your goal. If you opt for the Premium membership, and you find that you still need those features when you reach your goal (especially if you start tracking your macros, etc. more closely), then you’ll be shelling out $100 every year.

In contrast, once you reach and maintain your goal weight for 6 weeks as a meetings member, you are allowed to use the online tools and attend meetings FREE for life.

Still, as broke as I am currently, the cost factor isn’t enough to sway me in either direction.

Sometimes, I feel that I like the transparency of MyFitnessPal. It’s fairly straightforward. If you want to lose 2 pounds a week, you need to burn an average of 1,000 calories more per day than you eat. Sync your FitBit or other fitness tracker, and you’re golden (if you understand that the numbers are all estimates). If you eat 1,500 calories, and burn 2,500, you’re on track. If you eat 2,000 calories and burn 1,900 because you sat around all day, then you need to step it up to reach your goals.

Since Weight Watchers uses a proprietary points system (SmartPoints), the schematics of the program aren’t as clear. There’s no information as to how many calories are factored into the “free” fruits/vegetables you are allowed each day. Sometimes, that bothers me, as there’s really no clear way for me to know if I’m overeating. The official stance from Weight Watchers, however has been: “Let your weight loss be your guide.” Seeing as we aren’t all computers, I guess this makes more sense than obsessing over the numbers.

Tracking on both sites are fairly easy, but it’s a little different. Let’s take a favorite breakfast of mine: Avocado Toast with a Fried Egg and an Apple.

On MyFitnessPal, you’d track the 100 calories for half an avocado. 160 for the two slices of bread. Another 140 for the eggs. 80 for the apple. (Plus, I like a little arugula on my toast, so that’s another 2 calories or so).

There’s less work to do with Weight Watchers: 4 SmartPoints for the avocado, 5 for the bread. 4 for the eggs. The apple and arugula don’t have to be counted because they’re 0 SmartPoints.

I love the freedom to grab a pear to snack on while I’m cooking dinner because the 30 minute one-pan dinner is taking an hour. Sometimes, I feel that’s Weight Watchers’ strongest asset. Since there are the free fruits and vegetables, and the system does guide you towards things like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (and away from processed foods that are high in sugar), it can more easily translate into a lifestyle. I don’t feel like I would have to keep such close track of my Points forever.

Of course, there’s also a downside to that. It does bother me at times that a 600 calorie meal (roughly a third of my allowance on an average day on MyFitnessPal) can cost me upwards of 25 SmartPoints on Weight Watchers. (I get 30 SmartPoints a day).

While Weight Watchers does seem to encourage healthy lifestyle choices for those simply looking to shed excess weight (not those who are focusing on fine details of body composition), I do feel MyFitnessPal can promote disordered eating. Not in the sense of Anorexia Nervosa, but in the obsessiveness and perfectionism it seems to encourage. You get a single number for a calorie goal. You can exercise to earn more calories, but you’re still stuck with one number. You eat 1,501 calories and your goal is 1,500, then you’ll see a red “-1” on your tracker. So, you try to stay under your goal. This can lead to issues in itself. If you go over, the negative number can be damaging to your psyche. If you stay under by too many calories, you could cause serious damage.

Weight Watchers negates these issues with the way their system is set up. You get your daily SmartPoints allowance which is the minimum they recommend you eat each day to lose weight at a healthy pace. However, there’s less pressure for perfectionism. If you have 30 SmartPoints a day, and you eat 35 one day, a big red “-5” won’t stare at you. You also have a weekly allowance for treats, special events, the occasional “slip”, or for any other reason you might find yourself eating over your daily allowance. Fitness points (FitPoints) are also available to swap out at your discretion. This helps to decrease the chances of the “Well, I’m already over so why don’t I just finish the whole cake?” binges.

To be honest, I’m still a little torn as to what I want to do. I love the current impact to my bank account I get from MyFitnessPal, and the transparency is nice. MyFitnessPal also has a superior database, and it is a better source for more detailed, technical information regarding weight loss.

However, Weight Watchers does encourage more of a lifestyle change, and is more flexible and forgiving.

Does anyone here use either plan? What are your reasons for choosing one over the other?