The new program, called “Beyond the Scale” is in response to both changing science about nutrition and consumer sentiments, says Gary Foster, Weight Watchers’ Chief Scientific Officer. “The way we think about it is that we used to have a very narrow focus on weight, and now weight is one of things we focus on but it’s not the only thing,” he says. “The consumer sentiment is, ‘I still want to lose weight but I’m thinking about in a more holistic way.”
The rollout of the new program had some bumps, with some customers taking to Twitter to complain that the app, which is popular with Weight Watchers members, was not working. Some users also reported that their daily “points”—a figure Weight Watchers allots users that, if followed, is designed to help with weight loss—changed without very much public explanation. Indeed, the points for certain foods have changed, with a new points program called SmartPoints.
TIME asked Foster to explain the changes—and the reasoning behind them.
Food calculations: The brand has always taken complicated nutrition information and used an algorithm to turn that food into one simple number. In the past, the algorithm was based in part on broad categories including calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates. Now, Weight Watchers is using a new formula that looks at the type of fat in a given food, for instance, with saturated fat pointed more heavily. Lean protein, too, has fewer points that other meats. And while the old formula lumped sugar in with carbohydrates, they’re now calculated separately.
Roughly 40 to 50% of the foods in the system remain relatively the same points-wise, while the rest goes up or down. Fruits and vegetables still get zero points.
Daily points: Weight Watchers customers may also notice that their own personal daily and weekly allotments have changed. That’s because of another formula tweak based on a new way to calculate a person’s resting metabolic rate. “The old formula was more based on folks that weren’t overweight, and the new formula is more accurate for folks who are overweight,” says Foster.
Weekly points: Members may notice changes to their weekly points, which is a cache of extra points that can be used if a person thinks they are going to exceed their daily points. In the past, everyone got 49 extra points a week, regardless of their resting metabolic rate. Now, the weekly allotment is specific to individuals’ metabolic rates, and ranges from 14 to 42 points, says Foster.
Exercise points: “In the past, we framed physical activity as something that was nice to do. It wasn’t necessarily a core part of our program,” says Foster. Under the old system, every exercise point translated into extra food points. Now, users have both an intake goal, and a physical activity goal. (If members want to use their activity points as food points, they can go into the program and change their settings.)
Inner strength: Weight Watchers is also encouraging members to do non-food related things that make them feel good. This will become a greater aspect of Weight Watcher meetings.