I'm a veteran Weight Watcher. I started about 15 years ago in the late 90s, when I was
26. I lost 30 pounds. Over the years, I gained ten here, took off five there, and basically settled about five pounds over my lowest point. I've been happy with that (I love my wine and I gave up on having an 18 year old body years ago!). Then, I turned 40 and it all went downhill. I had put on 12 pounds over my comfortable weight and it just
wouldn't come off! Last spring, I was diligent about tracking points for three weeks and didn't lose an ounce! Talk about a motivation killer! I hiked all summer, five or six days a week for at least two hours - NOTHING!
A couple of months ago, a friend was visiting me and mentioned a few activity trackers that are on the market - Body Bugg, FitBit, and ActiveLink - the Weight Watchers competitor. She is an avid Weight Watcher too and really pushed that (although she didn't have one at the time) because "it's what we know" - meaning we understand how to count Weight Watchers Points to lose weight. After researching the three, I was leaning toward the FitBit, but I took her *Point* to heart and decided to try ActiveLink first. At $40 (and $5 a month web fee), if I decided I really didn't like it, I wouldn't be out a whole bunch of money. FitBit comes in around $100 (no web fee) and Body Bugg is about $150 (with an added web fee of $10 a month).
Before I continue with my story, I'll tell you a few things about how the ActiveLink works. If you are new to Weight Watchers, I suggest reading up on it here (http://www.weightwatchers.com/plan/index.aspx). ActiveLink operates on a Wii technology, which means that it's picking up on the movement of your body. You wear it around all day, and it calculates Activity Points for you, based on how much you move. There is an indicator on the device which will give you an idea of your progress toward your Activity Point goal during the day. However, you can only see how many Points you've earned by plugging it in to the computer. From there, you have the option of labeling periods of activity (aerobics, running, swimming, etc). For some exercises, like aerobics or running, it seems to be pretty accurate. By accurate, I mean that if you label the activity, the number isn't going to go up. For other activities (swimming, elliptical, skiing, etc), you HAVE to label the activity to get a number because these activities involve resistance, but not enough movement for it to work properly.
Another important thing to know is that Weight Watchers (and I suspect other diet
programs) expect you to use a baseline of calories every day. That means you will NOT get any Activity Points until the baseline is met. I've read a number of reviews where people indicate they did 30 minutes of some exercise and they know they burned 300 calories, but didn't get credit for it. Well, they did, but if you do that exercise first thing in the morning, it's getting credited to your baseline. You won't get any Points until you've hit the minimum. At the end of the day, you'll have an accurate count. This may seem like a flaw, but at the end of the day, I want results and miscalculating my Activity Points wasn't getting me there! The baseline WILL NOT be met by sitting at a computer or in front of the TV all day. I've found that 45 minutes of walking first thing in the morning gets me to about 50 or 60% of my baseline. About an hour and a half of skiing will get me to 100%.
I was so excited to get my ActiveLink, but my hopes were immediately dashed when I
realized the first week is an assessment period. The assessment is intended to
determine how active you are and set a 12 week goal. During the assessment, you can't add Activity Points to your online tracker, nor will it let you label your activities or give you any results. You can skip the assessment and do it at a later time (I didn't realize this when I started). The first week felt like a complete waste of time. I skied about 18 hours, which in hindsight might've been a problem if I had been able to label the activity because my goal would've been nearly unattainable. However, I wasn't going to give up a week of great skiing for a piece of technology! Since I couldn't manually track anything, I was completely in the dark and ended the week ready to pitch the thing out the window and give the folks at Weight Watchers an earful!
I began week two frustrated, but determined to give it at least a month before chucking it. My goal turned out to be three Points per day. As it turns out, I'm INCREDIBLY sedentary when I'm not exercising, so attaining those three points on days when I'm not out skiing is actually an effort! I suddenly realized I had to figure out ways of moving around just to get to my baseline! I work from home and if the weather is really bad (single digits, freezing rain, etc), I don't leave the house unless I absolutely have to. So, I started walking around the room when I'm on the phone or watching TV and climbing the stairs during commercials. One day I did 30 minutes of step aerobics, 30 minutes of upper body weight lifting and 30 minutes of a ballet barre video and got ONE point for the whole day! I know you are thinking that can't be right, but keep in mind that I was sitting around on the computer the rest of the day! At the end of week two, I had lost 2.4 pounds! I was at my lowest weight in over a year! FINALLY! I'm getting results!
I've been using the ActiveLink for several weeks now and I'm happy to say I've lost 13
pounds! I consistently lose each week, so I'm incredibly motivated! Because of my snafu with the assessment period, I quickly got to the stage where the site asked me if I would like to increase my 12 week goal of three activity points to five. I did, but bumped it up to six a few days later. I think of myself as an active person who wants to lose weight and keep it off. That is the recommended activity level for keeping off weight, so it seems like a logical, long term goal. I'm generally feeling better physically because I'm moving around more, as an added benefit.
While I'm happy to finally be losing weight, again, I'm also really angry at Weight
Watchers. I went for months using the online program and didn't lose any weight. My
fault for giving myself too many Activity Points? Maybe. But, here's the thing - when I go out skiing for an hour, I get about FOUR Activity Points (after my baseline is met). If I put an hour of snowboarding in to Weight Watchers Online (downhill skiing isn't an option and I have friends who snowboard and they spend just as much time on the lift as I do!), it gives me 12!! Twelve points is the amount I would get for an hour of HIGH INTENSITY exercise! Downhill skiing, when assessed through ActiveLink, is considered LOW! One thing I've learned from using ActiveLink is that there is basically NO SUCH THING as HIGH INTENSITY! So, why is it even an option? I read somewhere that one can
basically value an Activity Point at 80 calories. That would mean that one hour of
exercise would have to burn 960 calories to qualify! Even when I was training for the
Army Ten Miler, I wasn't burning that much. IF there is such an exercise, I'd like to know
what it is, even though I would probably die doing it! I'm not the only one that has made this observation -
http://community.weightwatchers.com/Blog/ViewPost.aspx?threadID=1727015. Remarkably, Weight Watchers seems to have ignored the post instead of addressing the issue. I suspect they realize there are a bunch of us who would like to get some money back for the time we wasted.
The bottom line is that I really like the ActiveLink and I'm getting results. In short, if you are going to try Weight Watchers Online, invest in the ActiveLink. Otherwise, in my opinion, it's a waste of time and money because you probably won't calculate your Activity Points correctly for one reason or another and the whole experience will be depressing. That said, at some point I will probably get a FitBit. I don't like paying a monthly fee, but I do like having a daily baseline of activity that I'm working to achieve. I'm goal-oriented like that!
What I don't like about it:
• You can't label activity, get any numbers, or manually add activity during the
• There is no way to add activity manually if you are using it (what if I forget to wear it or
can't wear it? I'm still not sure if I can wear it at 100 ft while SCUBA diving)
• The monthly fee
• It's completely useless unless you are doing Weight Watchers (if you have met your
goal and just want to use it to be sure you are as active as you want to be, you'll have
to find something else)
• Even Lifetime members have to pay for it
What I LIKE about it:
• It clued me in to how sedentary I was when I wasn't exercising
• It has motivated me to do the most basic things - like walk around the room when I'm
on the phone or watching TV
• I can easily see if I've achieved my goal for the day (provided my exercise doesn't
include one of the resistance exercises)
• I'm a Point counter, not a calorie counter, and it integrates easily with Weight Watchers
(I'm sure FitBit would work, but I would probably have to tinker with it to get it right)
• I'M LOSING WEIGHT (and who can argue with results???)
Got questions? Send me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
**This article was written based on my experience with Weight Watchers and ActiveLink and are solely my opinion. Neither Little Black Dress Club, Inc nor I were compensated in any way to write this article.**