August 29, 2012

Reflections, part two

My second week of Weight Watchers went better than the first, if only because almost everything I ate was at home instead of at restaurants. I missed the meeting yesterday - I had a very busy day, lots of errands to run - but will be heading to the center this morning to cancel my membership.

Weight Watchers is a great program for a lot of people. After a few weeks, though, it's abundantly clear to me that I am not one of them. It's a shame, because I wanted it to work out. Though honestly, I think what I wanted most of all was somewhere to go, a new group of folks to reach out to.

My Leader, Lisa, was fantastic, and if anyone in Chicago is thinking about Weight Watchers, I can't recommend her 4 p.m. Tuesday meetings on Clybourn (between Racine and Southport) enough. I talked with her a lot about weight loss, about running, about my struggle to find balance, and about the necessity for understanding nutrition in order to achieve successful sustainable weight loss.

The meetings, though, were not what I hoped or expected. I guess I thought it would be more support-based, and maybe if you stick it out long enough or have a particularly friendly group, you might find that kind of help in a meeting. But they're honestly more like lectures with some audience feedback and participation, not talking in terms of nutritional value or activity merit, but in Points, the currency of Weight Watchers. After the first talk about beverages, I was skeptical - the understanding of certain foods as better because they are zero Points instead of the reasoning why they are zero Points - but the second week's topic of sitting and activity levels really got to me.

In defense of the program, the talk may have been really fascinating and informative outside of Chicago. And Lisa *did* bring in a lot of interesting magazine and newspaper articles, though not much time was spent discussing their content. The focus instead was on the Active Link, a new tool for calculating Activity Points that is being tested in a few metropolitan markets, Chicago included. Everyone's questions revolved around the gadget, and not why "sitting disease" is a risk even for people who go to the gym often.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm asking too much. Perhaps someone walked away from the meeting with a good idea about how to make this a great week for his or herself. But sitting there, in front of a table covered in boxes of Active Link monitors and prepackaged Weight Watchers meals and snacks, I couldn't help but be reminded that Weight Watchers is, above all else, a for-profit corporation. Not that I'm radically anti-corporations - I'm sane, I promise - but the focus of the meeting seemed to be sales rather than education, and it irritated me. I paid to be in a meeting where I heard about something else I could buy. That isn't the plan for me.

As for a plan that *will* work? My next step is to investigate Overeaters Anonymous, since that sounds a bit more in-line with what I am hoping to get out of a meeting. (Is "Mike and Molly" still on? I watched about half of the first season and enjoyed the emotion and candor of the OA meeting scenes.) If that works, great. If not, back to the drawing board.

Something I've discussed with a few local folks is starting my own sort of meeting - an informal get-together of people of any size who are interested in discussing health, nutrition, fitness, etc. I actually discussed it yesterday with Lorelei while out for a walk, and she thought it was a great idea. If you can't find what you're looking for, create something. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.

What about you? I'm really interested in hearing reactions to last week's activity meeting topic from folks who aren't in Active Link test areas. And for both WW and non-WW folks: how do you balance activity and your daily tasks - for example, if you have a desk job, how do you assure that you aren't sitting for eight hours straight?


Jill said...

Wow - your idea about starting your own healthy living discussion group is a REALLY good one! If I lived in Chicago, I would definitely join :)

I know what you mean about WW meetings. They are not very helpful, IMHO, regardless of the enthusiasm of the leader. WW is a money-making business and that really comes through in the meetings. That being said, I have found a lot of value in the online tracker, which you can use without the meetings, because the free fruit and veggie choices help me increase my intake of those items. Also, the smartphone app is really good so it's easy to track food wherever you are. As long as you don't fall into the trap of buying all the WW prepackaged foods, it's a pretty good program.

Keep up the great work Mary! Love reading your blog!

timothy said...

i must say i felt like a failure when i dropped out of ww, even though in my head i KNOW it wasnt for me. i have friends who do wonderfully on the program. i am and will always be a carb addict and they're food plate was simply too much it caused cravings/binges after i was on it for a couple of weeks. i even went back and tried a round 2 with the same results. i think you should start your own group that sounds like a BRILLIANT idea!

Bailey @ Onederland or Bust! said...

I think your thoughts on the program are valid and very true. I don't blame you for wanting to cancel your membership. I also think the idea of starting your own group is awsome and I would definitely attend if I lived in the area!

Kelliann said...

I've been there. WW didn't work for me because I am, above all else, a food addict. But also, not to sound over-confident, but I KNOW better. Tell me those fruits and veggies are 0 points, but I KNOW better than to take high calorie fruits and whip them into a "0 Pt" smoothie, when it could actually be upwards of 400 calories. Its too easy to do. YOU also know better. AND you also know that all the pre-packaged garbage and fake foods just keep you addicted to their "real" counterparts - sugar and fat.
It was quite a valent effort. Sometimes we try things that don't work for us. But even when that happens we are moving forward. :-)

Caron said...

Weight Watchers was started in a lady's living room with other people who wanted to lose weight. You never know what you might start. Go for it! :-)

Big Clyde said...

I really respect how thoughtful and fair you were about WW. I know nothing about it, but agree that the promotion of food and devices would be frustrating.

I have no answers for consistency, unfortunately. At 46 ys old, I've basically come to the conclusion that I will someday be monitoring my blood sugar each day, or counting calories. Calories are easier and healthier, so I am sticking with that. Aside from avacados, most of calorie-counting becomes pretty intuitive as well.

You have done so well. I am sure that you will continue to refine your plan.

Unknown said...

I agree with you about WW. It didnt work for me either.
I found a program that does teach you how/whys of things. I started this life changing program on Oct 25, 2011 at 305 lbs. As of today I am 190 lbs. Most of my weight loss has been with diet. I am now training for my 1st 1/2 marathon. I will run it on Thanksgiving day. What better day to be thankful for everything that I have now. My health coachs name is Tara. Maybe this plan will work for you. Good luck!!
Tara C Hutto
Health Coach- TSFL # 30243748
Cell # 404-317-2290

Sarah said...

The bit about "free food" always bothers me. I see people on MFP all the time who forget to track fruit and veggies because they're used to it "not counting". What they don't realize is that a banana can have 80-100 calories. If you're restricted to 1200 calories per day, that's a HUGE thing to leave off your tally.

Also, I'm a label person. Not everything lists points, but everything lists calories, fat, carbs, sugar, sodium, etc. I think the points system would confuse/irritate me. I like dealing with raw numbers that are easy to track.

I'm not knocking WW at ALL. I know it works very well for many people, and three of my friends have maintained their goal weight for over a year by continuing to use the Points system, so I think WW is a Very Good Thing. It's just not for me. :)

I have a desk job, but I make sure to get up and walk every two hours when I have my breaks and lunch. Sometimes, I stand at my desk and stretch between calls because I *hate* sitting all day. I can practically feel my butt expanding. ;) Some employees actually have those desks that you can raise and lower so you can sit or stand whenever you want. My company requires a doctor's note, since those desks are expensive, but I might be able to get my doctor to write one. Since I'm obese, I have a higher risk of blood clots in my legs, blah blah blah. I honestly think they should install those desks in every cubicle. Sitting all day isn't good for *anybody*, even people who exercise every day.

I've seen treadmill desks in some offices. I would LOVE one of those, but they've already said "no" since the risk of injury is too great. Boo. ;)

Jen said... might be helpful to you with starting up a new group in your area. I would join your gruop if I were in Chicago, too.

I admire you for being brave enough to follow your instincts and trusting in your own evaluation of the program.

I've done some yoga, particularly Iyengar yoga. When I'm sitting or standing for extended periods, I try to apply what I've learned about alignment from my yoga classes. It gives some activity to my sedentary tasks. It also helps me live in the present.

Ann said...

If you create a group, make it a virtual one. Let people (ahem - ME!) join via skype or facetime. :) Lots of love, and clarity in finding a program or plan that works for you. <3

Caroline said...

I've been a lifetime member with WW since 2001 and I'm afraid I have to agree with you. I no longer attend thier meetings for the very same reasons you have given. That, and the fact that they can't tell the difference between a simple or a complex carb.(IMO);-)

Good on you for trusting your instincts! Oh, and I love the Skpe meetings idea Ann has!

Margot said...

I work at a desk job and have found a few things that help. When I'm reviewing materials or reading something on paper, I put on headphones and stand in my cube while reading. Some times I even sway or stretch a bit. Also, I walking down to our cafeteria and back every 2 hours to refill my water. I have an app that reminds me it is 'break' time. Third, both positive and negative, I head out at lunch time. I spend less money when I stay at my desk, but I get more activity if I get out of the office and go shopping for 30 minutes or have lunch with a friend.

Good luck!

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

Well I've heard that complaint that some leaders or meetings can be pro-buy this or that but I can honestly say this is not my experience at my location in Joliet. It's 2 mins of this or that and we talk about everything in regards to food and support. I think you had a crappy meeting location and maybe leader.

My meetings are packed and I know it's because I have a leader that's been there (lost 80lbs) and is there to help people not sell stuff.

For what it's worth I don't buy the foods either. I did by the activelink that has helped me determine the amount of activity points I have earned. That was an eye opener.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree about using to find a group. It's how I found my kickball league!

I was a part of WW a while ago, and it seems like it has changed a lot since I've gone to any meetings. When you think about it, you are really paying them to go weigh-in and sell you their products instead of going for a supportive, nutrition based 'talking' group. I suppose it's worth it for a sense of accountability, though. It didn't work all that well for me... I mean I lost weight, but gained it all back in a snap. I am happy for the people it does work for, though!

As for the second question, I try to park far away from my building (college campus) even though there's a lot right next to it so I will have to walk to and from my car. I only forgo this when it rains of course ;)

Kami said...

I think you should go for it and start a group! I would love to be able to go to a meeting like that, but is about an hour car ride or a little shorter train ride to Chicago for me.

As for the staying active at work, I think I got it easier than many people do. Since I teach elementary music classes, I expect myself to do every activity that the students do. If they play freeze dance or do motions to a song, I do them too. I don't get to sit down except for lunch and prep time.

OpsDiva said...

Google + and Google Hangouts would be perfect for starting something like that. I'm a "member" of a circle that is +TBFitClub - a bunch of people in the Tampa Bay Area who post daily to the circle with #TBFitClub and post their activities and encouragements... and a group chat via Google Hangout is easy and allows for a group for free (Skype charges for that). Just a thought! Much luck to you ;)

Unknown said...

I'm sorry to hear that WW wasn't right for you. Although it's good to know this early on because now you'll never have to wonder. I followed the program for over a year when I was trying to get the last of my weight off but didn't attend meetings or sign up online. I just borrowed the books and slider from a friend. Since I have never been to a meeting I shouldn't comment on them but if I'd attended the meetings you had, it wouldn't have taken me long to find out they weren't for me, either. Frankly, I would think you're too advanced for attending meetings as they seem to discuss things you already know. If it were more of a 'give and take' type discussion group I'd be on board, that way everyone can share ideas and such. I nod my head as I think of OA. Falls in line with me as well. Good luck, Mary.

NicoleGrace238 said...

Try OA...went to my second meeting tonight and the honesty and support is like nothing I have expierenced before.

Book Dragon said...

wow, our meetings were loud, fun and usually off topic but helpful. So glad you were able to make that decision.

If I was in your area, I'd totally join up with you.

Sitting disease? Love it! I totally have it and can't complain about a desk job. Looks like I need to jump up between chapters.

keep us posted and have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment of Weight Watchers. Their new plan (well it's almost 2 years old now) brought more focus to the nutritional values of foods, but not enough. And all the meetings I have attended are basically filled with older ladies who don't work and have nothing better to do than attend the meetings. It was like their "day out" program or something, lots of them not even losing weight or working the plan. Also, a lot of the leaders I have met lost their weight like 20+ years ago and I can't relate to them at all.

I am a lifetime member of WW and I do think the program can work if you follow it. (I much preferred the POINTS plan to the POINTSplus, though.) Their plan can make it easier for some people so they only have to count Points and not nutrients. For me, I just don't like the commercial focus, product pushing, and advertising. And most (maybe all) of their foods in the meeting room are packed full of preservatives. I cannot embrace that for myself. I want more whole foods and that's what I want "preached" to me if I attend meetings.

I'm glad I read this post today. I cancelled WW last week, but I have questioned that decision a few times. I have been a member so long, I kind of feel like a piece is missing. I know, weird. But anyway, reading your post and the comments, I know I have made the right decision. Unfortunately, I'm much better at figuring out what doesn't work for me, or what programs I don't like, more than figuring out what WORKS.

Good luck to you, Mary.

Pirate Alice said...

Hey Mary! I'm a little late to this post but I wanted to comment anyway. I did Weight Watchers a couple of times and I have to say that the meeting "vibe" all depends on the leader. Some leaders are more about sales while others are about support. A meeting I went to in Downers Grove was amazingly supportive and I always felt uplifted, no one pushed selling the products although they lined the walls. A meeting I went to across the street from my office was all about pushing WW products, no one got even a sticker as a reward when losing any weight. I really let me down so I stopped going.
If you were to start a group, I'd join you! I could really use something like that.

Good luck Mary!!