We all know Flex Points are part of what makes Weight Watchers popular for long-term success. In addition to your Daily Points Allowance, Flex Points are your weekly “bonus points” that automatically reset each week that make splurges or unavoidable social treats work with your diet rather than against it. (For more about Flex Points and how they work within the program, read this.)
Altering the way I look at Flex Points from time to time is a great way to assess my own habits and also see where I can do better. Over time, I’ve developed the following totally awesome hacks to help me to see what I need to work on and start losing again.
You can look at Flex Points a number of different ways. You could follow plan all week long and then go on one awesome day trip and blow the week’s worth on restaurant food and ice cream. Your week hasn’t been ruined by doing this. (You’ll probably want to avoid weighing in the very next day, that’s for sure, but in the end managing your points this way is technically part of the plan and why they’re there. We all have weak days.)
Conversely, you can log your daily points as you go, and if you get to the end of a day and still feel hungry, raid a few Flex Points from your weekly stash to curb your night hunger.
I use these tricks below to use Flex Points to my best advantage when the basic plan plateaus on me for a while:
1.) The “Savings & Loan” Flex Point Strategy
If you look at the numbers 35 & 49 (the new and old Flex Points allowances) you’ll immediately notice they’re both multiples of 7. It stands to reason, then, that you could go the route of allotting yourself a set amount of extra optional points per day based on this mathematical rule. For instance, I’m currently following the newer (PointsPlus) plan, which allows for 49 Flex PointsPlus (FP) per week on top of my personal Daily Points Allowance (DPA) of 26 PointsPlus. I have found success sometimes in setting myself up on a system in which I give myself a daily range of 26 (DPA only) to 33 (DPA + 7 of my week’s Flex Points, or the percentage of the week’s bonus that I have “accrued” by Day 1). Obviously, I still strive to hit the 26 mark more often than the 33 mark, but it keeps my anxiety levels lower when I start to stress about every meal for a long period of time to adjust my perspective. I start to panic if I calculate my meal plan for the day and see that it’s at 25 PP without accounting for any licks or this or tastes of that. This is technically the broader idea of Flex Points in general, but here’s where the plateau-busting hack comes into play:
Now, if I stay at 26 Points Plus for one day, I tell myself I can carry over that day’s fraction of weekly Flex Points (7 PP) onto the next day, which would also already have a range of 26-33 for that day. Thus, my new range for Day 2 (assuming I ate no Flex Points on Day 1) becomes 26 – 40 (DPA + 2 days’ worth of FP). On the other hand, if I have a week where on Day 1 I eat not only my 26 DPA Points and then 12 of my Flex Points on top of that (all of one day’s 7 Flex Points plus 5 extra Flex Points that I haven’t accrued yet), I then tell myself that the following day (Day 2), I have a range of 26 DPA PointsPlus + only 2 Flex Points (the remaining 2 for that day that I haven’t already “borrowed”).
The Hack: This being said, I make it a strict policy when following this system to keep my borrowing and accruing to a 2-day period at a time. For example, if I go two days in a row hitting my target DPA of 26 PointsPlus without using ANY of my Flex Points that day, I can add 14 Flex Points to my bank for Day 3, but if I go a third day without using any Flex Points, my Flex Points to spend are still 14 (on top of that day’s 26 DPA) even though normally they’d be at 21 if I didn’t restrict my accruing. In other words, I can never carry over “saved” flex points beyond 2 days’ worth (14). If I have a terrible day where I blow all my DPA and more than 2 days’ worth, even if I’m on Day 5 of the week without using FPs yet, I borrow from the NEXT DAY’s accrued Flex Points rather than dipping backwards too much.
This helps me to bust through a plateau by eliminating the idea of getting to the end of the week to a Saturday when I’m home all day and realize I can eat my DPA plus a whole week’s worth of FlexPoints just for the heck of it. On the regular plan, it’s fine to do this, but if you haven’t seen the scale move in several weeks, this hack can help get weight loss kicked back into gear. You’re not going without your FPs in general, but you’re being smarter about using them, and eliminating the risk of binging on a Saturday and then making your body crave a similar binge a day or two later, which is bad news.
2.) The “Double-or-Nothing” Flex Point Strategy
I tend to plan my days around hitting my Target DPA goal with little or no extras (FlexPoints) factored in, even on days when I know I’m having lunch out or something, because I have a tendency to snack after the kids go to bed, or wake up in the night and wander into the kitchen for a nibble of something at 2:00 a.m.
That said, when I’ve gotten too comfortable hitting DPA or just over, and then start finding my bad nighttime habits contributing to a consistent maxing-out of Flex Points hit a weight loss stall, I invoke the “Double-or-Nothing” policy when it comes to using my Flex Points at night until my weight loss picks up again.
The Hack: This one’s a simple one. Anything eaten after the dinner dishes are cleared from the table (evening TV/bedtime/middle-of-the-night snacks) has to follow this rule. If I’m still operating off of my DPA allowance, the PointsPlus on evening eats is the same as it would be during the day. If I’ve moved into my Flex Points allowance when I go for that nighttime snack, it counts DOUBLE the FlexPoints it would mathematically calculate to be. Over the course of many days, I can usually beat down a plateau caused by night snacking this way, either by eliminating the desire to have the nighttime snack if I know it’ll count double, or at the very least having it, but then seeing it reduce my weekly FlexPoint budget by twice as much as it normally would have if I hadn’t invoked the Double-or-Nothing hack. Therefore, I have to decide if I’m going to eat something that takes double FlexPoints from me, or nothing at all. Either way, my body wins.
Disclosure: Never having attended an actual Weight Watchers meeting, I have no idea if the actual Weight Watchers community discusses a variation of either of these tactics; they are just two different means of conquering a plateau that I’ve discovered on my own over time. Regardless, I’ve had success with both methods when I needed to kick-start my losing after a stall, and recommend trying these methods to see if they work for you. Because both of them only involve monkeying around with Flex Points and not your Daily Points Allowance, you’ll still be hitting your healthy target without dipping into the realm of too few calories consumed, starvation mode, etc.
Best of luck, and be sure to comment if you’ve used either of these tactics yourself, or if you have another great Flex Point hack you can share with us!