Dec. 5, 2010 -- Weight Watchers, the weight-management and packaged food empire, surprised its legion of users last week when it updated and overhauled its immensely popular points-based dieting system.
Introduced 13 years ago and not changed since, the system has been a huge success for both the company and for the thousands of users who have successfully shed unwanted pounds.
The company's new dieting system -- called PointsPlus -- which was unveiled on Monday, seeks to guide users toward healthier and more satisfying foods, the company said. Weight Watchers has said the new system will help dieters realize that a 100-calorie apple is a better choice than a 100-calorie bag of chips.
The new system focuses on fruits and vegetables, which are now zero points, while dried fruits and starchy vegetables -- like potatoes and corn -- still have points assigned to them.
"We've learned so much more [since the original points system] in terms of weight management science. It was time for an overhaul," Karen Miller Kovach, the chief science officer of Weight Watchers, told Reuters. "We've translated the new science of the last 13-15 years into a livable system."
What this new weight management science takes into account is the energy contained in each component of a calorie and how much effort the body must exert to process each calorie, according to the company.
In a statement introducing the new program on the company's Website, David Kirchhoff, president and CEO of Weight Watchers International outlined the new outlook.
"Philosophically, the PointsPlus program is allowing us to step in front and into the future," he said. "We are taking a stand for unprocessed food. We are taking a stand for fruits and vegetables. We still recognize the need for a lot of flexibility and some indulgences, but just in a much smarter way."
Some Weight Watchers users expressed concern over the overhaul.
"If you're going to a party, for instance, and don't know what's going to be served there. I don't know what I can or can't enjoy as a treat because I'm not entirely clear, without taking a second to go into the ladies' room and go look up the point value on Weight Watchers mobile," Kate A. Mack, 28, a high school English teacher in Allentown, Pa., told the New York Times.
Ann Yoo, a 32-year old New York resident who left Weight Watchers after years of adhering to the former points system, said she will return to the program in hopes that the new system will help her maintain her weight. On Weight Watchers, she said, she went from 198 pounds to 160 pounds in a few years.
"This new plan will be great because it will make people realize that you'll get your points from something healthier; focusing on the content rather than the result," Yoo, who stopped going to Weight Watchers meetings midway through 2008, told ABC News.
"I think the new system is going to make people go to meetings, or join online," she said. "Everything that's online now is now obsolete. They're going to get old members like me that need the tweaked system."
Yoo said she thinks the new system and the new emphasis on nutrition and health -- rather than accepting unhealthy foods as long as one stays within the points limit -- is a step in the right direction for the program.
"If the monthly pass is $50, or each meeting is $12, more people will come in," she said. "But the end result is your health. So I'm willing to put down the money as an old member. We'll see what happens for me in 2011."