10 Things I Love About the Weight Watchers Simply Filling Technique
This post is not sponsored by, endorsed by, or officially affiliated with Weight Watchers International, Inc. The content in this article is based purely upon my own personal experience with the Weight Watchers Simply Filling Plan as outlined on the Weight Watchers website. I am not a Weight Watchers counselor, and I did not consult with a WW counselor while writing this post.
Weight Watchers and I have had an on-again-off-again relationship for over 10 years. At first I loved counting points; then I hated counting points. Then I felt like I had to count points to lose weight. But then Weight Watchers changed their points system and I hated it again.
And then I decided that I didn't want to make my eating habits only about losing weight– I wanted to find a way to have an overall healthier eating mindset in general without trying to meet a points or calories quota. So I quit counting altogether. But then I gained weight because I was eating entire jars of almond butter, since it's a “health food” and all…
Anyway. You see the cycle. And I've talked all about body image and struggles with a “diet mentality” before— but that's not what I want to talk about today.
At the start of this New Year, when we're all so excited to find a “new” diet and exercise plan (that we're “really gonna stick to this time!”), I'd like to share with you my favorite method I've found for healthy eating (and even weight loss) without counting calories or points and effectively ending the diet-crash-diet cycle: the Weight Watchers Simply Filling Technique.
Yes, it's Weight Watchers. No, it's not counting points. And (don't tell them I said this, but…) no, meetings and an expensive membership fee aren't exactly necessary for this one. (Although, I don't want to minimize the value of group support if that's something you really need!)
You can check out this plan on their website** (you don't have to be a member to see it, just click over!) if you'd like to see how they've officially outlined it for use. But I'm also going to share with you the reasons why I love this eating plan, what makes it so special, and how I've made it work for me…
1. There is NO counting.
Nope. NO counting for like 99% of the food you eat!
With the Simply Filling Technique, you can choose from any of the foods on the long list of Simply Filling “plan-approved” foods (in a nutshell: fruits, veggies, whole grains, non-fat dairy, lean proteins) to eat in any quantity at any time of day. No strings attached.
>>You can opt to use 49 WW points per week on non-plan food if you'd like, which is nice for special treats or small daily indulgences. But you don't actually have to use those points, and you may be surprised at how satisfied you are (sweet tooth and all) when eating only the foods outlined on the plan and not using those extra points at all.<<
I like the no-counting part of this plan for a couple of reasons–
First, because counting is just such a pain. All the exact measuring and weighing and the math! Not to mention the impossibility of gauging points or calories correctly when eating at a restaurant or (heaven forbid) at somebody's else's house where they've used who-knows-what kind of a recipe! Counting it just hard, plain and simple.
But second (and more important), I think counting calories and points really encourages an unhealthy attitude towards food. When I'm counting, I feel like I'm entitled to every last scrap of food on my plate– because I'm counting it for gosh's sake! And I also feel like I must use every last allotted calorie or point for a given day. Even if I'm completely satisfied at the end of a day– if I have points left, I will absolutely find a food to use them all. Which completely counteracts all of the natural signals our bodies send us telling us when we're satisfied and when we need food. It confuses us, ultimately leading to overeating with less satisfaction.
2. You get to eat carbs.
Real carbs, people! Breads, oatmeal, pasta! You get it ALL on the Simply Filling plan.
The catch? It's gotta be whole grain. And real deal whole grain– not just white grains with a little coloring in it.
The website specifies:
- Brown and wild rice
- Hot cereals, cooked (without added sugar)
- Whole Wheat, Whole Grain pastas
- Air-popped popcorn/94% Fat Free Microwave Popcorn
- Whole Grain ready-to-eat cereals with 4g+ fiber and less than 1g sugar
As someone who has a lot of experience with dieting, I can tell you that this sort of a carb “allowance” is pretty much impossible to find anywhere else.
But more than that, I love that it includes healthy grains because they really can and should (for many of us) be a part of a healthful lifestyle. Grains provide a lot of nutrition and sustenance that we need. I think we live in a carb-fearing society, and we often forget that the right sorts of carbs are actually very nutritionally fundamental for a well-rounded diet.
A side note: while the plan does not mention “whole wheat bread” specifically, it does list reduced calorie breads (in whole grains). Upon further inspection, I found that the nutrition of the “reduced calorie” breads was the exact same as regular whole grain breads, just in a smaller portion. But since this plan does not restrict portions, I see no reason to not include whole grain breads, no matter the size of the slice.
3. It encourages whole food and clean eating.
Again, as a chronic yo-yo dieter, I've done my fair share of giving up sugar, giving up carbs, giving up fat, living solely on meal replacements, only drinking chocolate shakes, juicing 5 times a day… and it's just not healthy.
Weight loss does not necessarily equate health, but that's not what most diets would have you believe.
Most fad diet products are full of chemicals, especially artificial sweeteners, designed to confuse your brain– tricking it to think you're satisfied when you're really not. Our bodies generally feel and function better when we fuel them with whole (or close-to-whole) foods that have had minimal processing, and that's what the Simply Filling technique really encourages by outlining a diet comprised of lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and proteins, low-fat dairy (or dairy subs), and whole grains.
Now, in full disclosure, if you take a look at the approved food list you'll see plenty of typical fad-diet foods like fat-free cheese (ick), sugar-free Jell-O, fat-free margarine, etc… but that doesn't mean you have to eat those foods if you don't want to.
Largely and overall, the plan really encourages whole foods and clean eating. I feel like you can make exceptions where you'd like to and if you'd like to include any of the approved “diet” foods on the list. I'll talk more about this in #7.
4. You can eat what you want and how much you want.
The list of approved foods is HUGE. Gigantic. There is so much you can eat that you really don't feel limited at all.
Which is the point.
When you don't put crazy restrictions on yourself mentally, you'll most likely find that you actually do want to eat healthier foods. When you honestly believe that you'll let yourself eat anything that you want (even if it uses up your splurge points), you'll find that you feel a little less crazed about eating an entire pint of ice cream or full bag of Doritos. When you tell yourself that those foods aren't going anywhere (aside from that one time we actually ran out of Twinkies), and that if you really do want them it's okay to eat them… a lot of the appeal goes away.
And with no limit on the healthy, plan-approved foods, there's NO going hungry. If you want 5 eggs for breakfast, eat 5 eggs for breakfast! Still hungry? How about a bowl of yogurt with strawberries. Still hungry? You can have some Cheerios and skim milk too! See what I mean?
But odds are… when you're eating these sorts of foods and listening to the signals your body naturally sends out, you'll probably stop eating right when you need to. So overeating isn't all that much of a risk on this plan– you don't need to be scared of the lack of portion control!
It may take a week or two to get used to being allowed to eat as much as you want (especially without having to track it), but you'll adjust soon enough and start to feel comfortable with only eating the amount of food that satisfies you with a frequency that works for you.
5. You can follow the plan while pregnant or nursing.
Before I go on, just to be clear– you should always clear any sort of weight management and/or diet plan with your OBGYN when pregnant or nursing!!! I am not any sort of a trained medical professional. These are just my opinions and my own understanding of how to use the Weight Watchers Simply Filling Technique. Please consult with an expert if you have questions about what is okay or not okay for you to be eating while pregnant or nursing. And again… I am NOT an expert.
Obviously, this is a big selling point for me since I am currently pregnant and plan to nurse.
I had serious complications with my last pregnancy (that I considered to be weight and diet-related) and I've always struggled with healthy eating. So it's especially important to me to find a way to manage a healthy weight gain during pregnancy and make sure that I'm eating nutritionally appropriate foods without actually “going on a diet.”
I like to have a little bit of structure to guide my eating, just to help me feel like I'm in control. But being pregnant and soon-to-be-nursing, I really can't do any sort of diet that restricts my calories or entire categories of foods even if I wanted to. I need to be able to eat a lot of different foods that have different nutritional qualities. And I need to make sure I'm getting enough calories for me and baby– and it's hard to put an exact number on that; I have to listen to my body.
Which is why I think the Simply Filling technique is really perfect for anyone who is pregnant or nursing and looking for a great nutritional guide to follow.
On a side note– I allow myself to eat additional healthy fats like almond butter and avocado (without counting) while pregnant and nursing. I try to eat those foods in “reasonable” servings though, and I'll likely continue to do so even when I'm not pregnant or nursing.
6. It doesn't mess up your social life.
You can actually go out to eat or dine at a friend's home without having to nitpick and guesstimate every little calorie or point in a dish. It's seriously a game-changer.
Okay… I admit, if you're friend is serving nothing but the likes of Velveeta-covered nachos for dinner, you might be in trouble. But, so far— I have yet to be in a social eating situation that wasn't made SO MUCH EASIER by following the Simply Filling Plan.
A) you will be able to find something at 99% of restaurants that will fit within the plan. Look for salads (obviously), sandwiches served on whole wheat, and broth-based soups. My personal favorite eating out orders are: grilled chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, pita platters, California rolls, and Brunswick stew. I try not to order a salad unless I absolutely have to (all those years of extreme dieting have ruined me for grilled chicken salads for life).
B) most people who invite you over to their home for a meal will have a healthy eating option for you. But if I suspect that my host won't be making anything that is super-duper plan-approved, I always let them know I'll bring something to contribute to the meal (salad, whole wheat rolls, mixed fruit, steamed vegetables, filled crepes– something hearty that I can eat a lot of, if needs be).
I love that this plan doesn't completely wreck my social eating agenda. And it's not embarrassing. I'm not staring down my food, trying to guess it's nutritional value. I know what I'm willing to eat and what I'm not, and I can eat “normal” portions that don't require a measuring cup or scale.
7. You can get creative and make it work for you.
Again, I am not a Weight Watchers employee. None of these statements have been approved by the company. This is just the Simply Filling Technique According to Ashton. And it works for me, and I love that. The Simply Filling Technique gives you great backbones for a really nutritionally sound diet. But I've found that you can tweak here and there to make it work for you.
There are several allowances I give myself without counting points, like: Cool Whip Free, a drizzle of honey here and there, nonfat frozen yogurt in reasonable portions, dried dates, and healthy fats like avocado and almond butter in reasonable portions. I also don't go crazy over wondering if the whole-wheat bun on the sandwich I ordered at my local deli is reallllllllllllly whole wheat or mostly white wheat.
I also let myself eat some of the more “diet-y” plan-approved foods that aren't very “whole foods-like.” For instance, fat-free cream cheese is a major part of my menu– I use it in soups, to fill crepes, on sandwiches, and even in smoothies.
On the flip side, I think most fat-free cheeses (aside from cream cheese of course) are evil and awful. So I refuse to eat them. Instead, I've compromised by buying Sargento Ultra Thin Slices of cheese. I'll use one slice to make a personal pizza on a whole wheat pita or in between wheat bread for grilled cheese. It's not reduced fat, but it's definitely a reduced portion.
And, of course… I take a bite of what I've made for the blog. It's my job, there's no way around it. I make desserts, and I have to make sure they taste great before I post the recipe. And it's just way too much energy to feel guilty about eating what I make. So I try to take just one normal bite (two if I need to try it again a day later or something), and then get rid of it.
This plan (especially if you give yourself a few minor allowances like I have) really allows you a LOT of room for getting creative with recipes. Some of my favorite foods and meals to make have been:
- Whole Wheat Crepes, filled with strawberries and Fat Free Cool Whip or cream cheese and ham.
- Oat Flour Pancakes (make them with fat-free buttermilk, and they are INCREDIBLY fluffy).
- Roasted potatoes and scrambled eggs with Siracha.
- Turkey burgers on whole wheat buns with an egg and avocado.
- Huevos Rancheros
- Whole Wheat Spaghetti with turkey meatballs and semi-homemade sauce (I use crushed tomatoes and season it on my own).
- Chocolate Banana Smoothies (using cocoa powder is on-plan).
- This Strawberry Basil Oatmeal is mostly on-plan. I let myself eat it without counting.
- Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas with pineapple and green peppers.
- Whole Wheat enchiladas.
- Whole Wheat French Toast.
- Chocolate yogurt bowl (it's a lot like this Skinny Brownie Batter Dip) with berries.
And the list goes on and on…. seriously. You can do so much with these foods!
8. You won't feel tired or depleted.
Because you're eating. Real food. Real portions.
This is so major for me. I've done the starvation diets. And even the not-starvation diets. And when you're not getting enough calories or the right kinds of calories, you don't feel good. And when you don't feel good– you don't make good decisions, regarding food choices or anything else.
And you're probably not nice or happy.
I know– I've been there. And feeling properly fueled is a way better way to be.
9. It's not expensive.
One of the many things I love about this plan is that it's not going to cost you any more than what you would normally spend on groceries and eating out (unless you exclusively eat Ramen and off the dollar menu– in that case, you'll have to make a budget adjustment. Sorry).
You don't to spend money on meal replacements (which I've totally done, and it is SO budget-wrecking).
AND you technically don't need to pay a membership fee. I'm a fan of Weight Watchers, and I do feel a little guilty touting their product while saying you don't have to pay for it (I have personally given them plenty of my dollars in the past 10 years)…. but they put the plan online for anyone to see even without a membership (here), which is pretty awesome. And– by the way, if you were wondering– I have actually paid for the membership and seen the Simply Filling Plan guidelines in members-only areas, and it's the same as what they've posted publicly. So this is the same Simply Filling plan that paying members are following!
10. It's a long-term sustainable lifestyle for an entire family.
And that's the most important thing. I could eat like this forever– pregnant, not pregnant, feeding my family, feeding just myself, entertaining guests, on special occasions, whatever!
The Simply Filling Technique is completely do-able for just about any person in any lifestyle. It takes just a little bit of intention to eat healthy foods and that's really about it. Combine it with a reasonable and fun exercise routine and count your points for non-plan foods to lose weight!
Since this is the plan I'll be adhering to, and since I've taken alllllllllllll this time to tell you guys about it, I'll be making more of an effort this year to post Simply Filling plan-friendly recipes in addition to my dessert recipes. And big news– that means some (few) savory recipes too!
I'm looking forward to sharing this part of my lifestyle with you all, and I hope that at least some of you found this post to be helpful and encouraging. Happy New year, and best of luck with all of your healthful resolutions for 2015!!!
>>If you have specific questions about the plan or for for more details on the Simply Filling Technique from Weight Watchers, including the full list of approved foods, click on this link.**
**UPDATE 2018: I was just reading through this post, clicked over to the new WW site using the links above and discovered the list of Simply Filling foods is GONE!! Ah!! Fortunately, I've had the list saved on my phone for years. If you're interested in the list of Simply Filling foods, here you go…