August 21, 2012


Though the weekly informational meeting isn't until this afternoon, I walked to Weight Watchers this morning to weigh in - down 1.4 pounds. I'm surprised, to be honest - despite my best intentions, I unexpectedly went out of town for most of last week/the weekend, and didn't track with the tenacity I'd hoped for, had I stayed in Chicago. Still, even small losses are movement in the right direction, so I'll take it and focus on making this week great.

I didn't binge while I was away - little victory - but I also didn't make the best choices. Eventually, it will be easier to eat out and understand how to track it, but right now, my understanding of the Points Plus system is very basic and in need of refinement, so I'm going to stick to home cooking as much as possible (helpful for my wallet as much as my waistline).

I'm sure my thoughts about the plan will be different next week, after an actual week of committed tracking and activity. At the moment, though, I have mixed feelings.

Let me preface this by saying that I have absolutely never been interested in Weight Watchers. Perhaps it was horror stories from my grandmother and father growing up - hearing about their weight loss success eating nothing but broiled chicken and frozen vegetables. They lost weight, but as soon as they went off the plan, the weight returned. It clearly wasn't sustainable, at least not the way they followed it.

Last week, when the receptionist at the center explained the program to me, the first thing she said was that "Weight Watchers is not a diet, it's a lifestyle change." And I have a specific understanding of what they mean by this. I knew two years ago when I started to lose weight that I would not be on a diet, that my lifestyle would have to change - eating better, eating less, and being more active. Weight Watchers, though, is a different kind of lifestyle change. It encompasses all of my goals, but on their own terms. Weight Watchers *is* the lifestyle - everyone I have spoken with who has found this to be the best program for him/her has admitted that (1) they use/used the Weight Watchers plan to lose weight (2) they continue/will continue to use the Weight Watchers plan in maintenance. Forever.

I still have a small glimmer of hope that someday I'll have a mostly healthy relationship with food. That I won't have to count calories or Points until I die, that I'll be able to eat without obsessing about numbers, that  I will be able to understand hunger and find a healthy balance with food and activity that allows me to maintain my weight. I know this is all possible. I've experienced it. Right now, I am struggling, and I need the structure of a plan with imposed limits.

Still, I have qualms about Weight Watchers, and find myself perhaps overthinking a lot of it. When I started writing and reading blogs a few years ago, I didn't follow many Weight Watchers blogs. Their plan was incomprehensible to me - foods have Point values that aren't exclusively based on calories, and a while ago, the plan was revised to increase "zero Point" foods. I wasn't neurotically counting calories myself, but I had a general idea of how many calories I was eating daily, and the thought of not counting fruits and vegetables bothered me.

I don't want to lose sight of nutritional information by converting my brain to this new system of food tracking. I have a good understanding of what foods are healthy and what is a better choice to make, given two options. The positive thing about shifting the Points system to make many fruits and veggies "free" is that people may be more likely to snack on a banana if it is 0 Points than if it is 3 Points, the same as a 100 calorie pack of cookies or crackers. I don't want to choose a banana because it's a bargain, I want to choose it because it is a healthier choice. An example of this: at last week's meeting, we talked about drinks, and we opened the meeting with a quiz. The first question asked what a better breakfast choice was, an 8 oz. glass of orange juice or an orange. Everyone knew the answer was the piece of fruit, but when asked, they said "because oranges are 0 Points." My answer would've been the fruit too, but my reasoning would be "because juice often has added sugar and preservatives, and the whole fruit has more fiber than just the juice." (Of course, I've never been a juice drinker, even before, so I'd pick the fruit regardless. Maybe someone who likes juice would be faced with a tougher choice.)

I get 34 Points per day - well, I did until this morning ... thanks to my 1.4 pound loss, I am down to 33 Points. I have tried to visualize the 30something Points as 10 per meal; for example, my usual breakfast of Fage 2% plain Greek yogurt (3 Points) and a container of Jif To Go peanut butter (7 Points) is pretty filling, and a liter bottle of water and midmorning piece of "free" fruit carry me through to early afternoon.

I also get 49 Weekly Points, which I plan to use rarely/never (several commenters on my last post said they try not to use them, and that, given my proclivity to binge eating, it may be more useful to add 7 Points to each day rather than see it as a big pile of 49 Points), and I can earn Activity Points by being active. There's a little gadget you can buy to track your activity, and if I decide to stay with Weight Watchers after this first month, I might invest in it. (It's something they're trying in the Chicago area, and a few other big cities, before launching nationwide. It seems neat, and if anyone uses it, I'd love feedback!)

For tracking, you can use a paper tracker (they give out free small paper ones at the center, or they sell a fancy notebook):

Or, with certain membership options, you can use eTools, which is sort of like MyFitnessPal, except using a different currency, so to speak. I'm trying both right now to see what I like better - I like the convenience of being able to calculate Points with my iPhone while I walk through the grocery store, but the app isn't as good as the MyFitnessPal one - namely, the barcode scanner is a separate app from the tracker.

This week will be a real test - to see how I work with the program, and how the program works for me. I have my skepticism, but I'm trying to let it go - a mantra I've been trying to keep in mind is a quote from one of Kris' latest brilliant posts: "give myself over to the program and follow it without question." (I absolutely love her recent series of reflections on Weight Watchers, especially since she's in a similar position - trying the program to jump start motivation after experiencing success on her own.)

I want a plan with rules, so I have one. Now, to follow it, and observe the results.


Amy said...

I think it'll be interesting how this works for you given that you've been successful on your own without a program.

One thing I know that I read somewhere sometime is that fruit and veggies are only worth 0 if they're eaten alone, they actually count in recipes.

I didn't like Weight Watchers. I can never stick to a plan, and if I couldn't keep up with tracking then I lost interest.

The thing that has been working like crazy for me is stopping gluten and eating cleanly (and reading the book WheatBelly). I have lost 8 pounds since August 6... and I haven't been exercising (bad, but true).

Bailey @ Onederland or Bust! said...

I look forward to reading your future posts about WW. I have mixed feelings about it as well. I also can't afford it and MFP is free. I do however like that meetings hold you accountable..

Anonymous said...

I've been on WW on and off for the past 10 years. When I didn't take it seriously, it didn't work. When I took it seriously (over the past 2 years), it worked. I just returned to meetings after having a baby.

I love the meetings because of the accountability, and, honestly, the stickers. I can't stand, though, the focus on low-point foods for the sake of their low-pointness. I want to learn about nutrition, and how to be healthy.

The beverage talk frustrated me because it ended up focusing on alcohol (thanks to the leader), and point values for drinks. Helpful to some, I'm sure, but it was a waste of time for me.

What I try to do is speak up when I have something to offer, and try to redirect the discussion toward more healthy things. It's the teacher in me; I know what I want to get out of the meeting, and I try to make it happen.

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

Unfortunately for me, I think I'll always have to follow some sort of "plan," whether it be counting calories or exercising for at least an hour every day. I'm accepting the fact that I won't ever have a normal relationship with food. Sad, but true.

Tim said...

I've always avoided weight watchers because I didn't like the idea of being restricted when it comes to food and lifestyle, so it will be interesting to see how you do, considering you shared similar thoughts. Good luck!

Sarah said...

I wish you all the success in the world! Personally, WW was not for me. I put the effort into calories and fat grams though, instead of points. It just works for me. :)


Chubby McGee said...

You're going to be just fine. It is a lifestyle is any change in eating/physical activity that you take on in order to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life.

You're going to rock this, girl. I know it!

A said...

I read something on a blog the other day that was something like...

The weight loss plan that works is the one that works for you.

I think this is so true. I think we will find people who like any diet and people that don't like the same one.

What stands out to me is that you are THINKING your way through it. Like when thinking about the orange, or thinking about what you usually eat and how it factors in. So if WW helps, good for you for doing it. If it doesn't, then good for you when you stop. The thinking part seems like it will always work!!

E. Jane said...

Weight Watchers works when you work it. I think it is a difficult program for some of us, because we are often food addicted, in terms of using it for other purposes than nutrition. I think it's a good program for someone who has less of a problem and therefore less of a chance of going back to old habits. I also don't like the points program and have never been successful with it--but many have. I guess everyone's different.

Jitterfish (WJW) said...

My nutritionist is anti WW because he says he doesn't really teach people about nutrition. Just like you said eat a cookie or eat a banana, its got to be more than points. But you've got so much experience now in terms of nutrition that incorporating it with WW I'm sure you'll do great. If anything it is just another way to get yourself focus again.

Gabrielle said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog for ages but have never commented until now.

I'm based in the UK and have been doing Weight Watchers for six months. I've always struggled with my weight and it had gone as high as 230 pounds in recent years (I'm 5'4" when I stand up straight!). I managed to get down to 223 lb by myself, before deciding that I needed extra help. Since then I've lost another 26 lb and am now 197 lb.

I'm not trying to lose weight quickly; I just want to make a sustainable change to my life. And I want to change my relationship to food - it's always been unhealthy and I've done a lot of emotional eating and binge-eating. So I’m very happy to be losing a pound a week. I'm not doing much exercise, just focusing on developing better eating habits. I have some kind of embarrassingly small exercise goals that I'm working up to, but nothing huge.

I tried the old WW system in the past but I would say that the new points system is MUCH better. I notice it seems to nudge me away from carbs a little more than the old plan used to - or towards low-GI carbs, anyway.

I like that it nudges me towards healthy food choices without having to analyse too much (I do understand the nutritional stuff but sometimes can get obsessive thinking about it, and that’s not sustainable for me).The zero point fruit and veg thing really works well for me. I eat every single one of my daily points - I'm down to 30 now - and every single one of my 49 weekly points. I've always 'known' why fruit/veg were healthier, but it's only since I've been on WW that I've actively substituted them for other food.

The weekly points are an interesting one. Yes, on a calorie-counting level, I can see that you might be tempted to skip over them. But they are SUCH an important part of my rebuilding a healthy relationship with food. When I've done restrictive calorie diets in the past, it's worked well up to a point - and that point has been the moment when I've cracked and eaten something 'bad' and felt like a failure and then eaten more. The weekly points make me feel able to go out for meals with friends, without feeling deprived or stressed out. I can have a few glasses of wine, or a dessert sometimes.

Actually, although I do have weight loss goals, the most important thing to me right now is sticking to the plan. If I manage to do that, I'll have succeeded, and bit by bit the weight will just come off as if by magic. I don't have to worry about how much, or when. I just know that if I keep doing it, it will happen! It's very freeing.

I don't attend meetings - I hate em! So I just do it online. I track literally everything I eat. As you start to get to know the points values of food, and develop WW-friendly 'favourites', this gets easier and less time-consuming. I also have a free Android app on my smartphone that calculates points - that makes it very portable.

I like the forums, and taking part in weekly challenges has been a good motivator and way to check in with other people and share highs and lows.

The points system has made me appreciate my food so much more! Rather than eating lots of empty calories, I am picking the things I really enjoy. I'm also discovering new ways of adding flavour, and I use many more flavour-intense things like lime juice, lemon juice, interesting vinegars, soy sauce, chillies, fruit etc. I also buy really high quality produce now, and especially amazing fruit (properly ripe mango! organic grapes! papaya and lime juice! strawberries from the farm!) so it really feels like a decadent treat.

I hope my enthusiasm for Weight Watchers is coming across here... I really do feel quite evangelical about it. It feels like a real change in my life, not just a diet, and I've found it a very helpful tool. I hope you'll have an equally positive experience with it.

Jen said...

Go Mary!!! :)

1. Even if WW doesn't end up being your forever method, I think it is worth a try for a month or a few months. I bet you will learn some things from your time with WW that you will be able to integrate into your own, personally-designed healthy lifestyle method.

2. I love the idea that fruits and veggies are zero points. We know many people don't eat enough fruits and veggies. It seems just a way to encourage eating more fruits and veggies. And your reasoning for the orange being the better choice over orange juice is definitely more accurate than WW's. You're smarter than this program, no doubt about it. That's why you're going to learn about yourself while you try it.

3. Have you heard of or read The Hunger Within by Marilyn Ann Migliore? If not, I encourage you to check it out!

4. Oh and tell those memories of your dad's and grandma's experience with WW to hit the road and reclaim that space inside you. It sounds to me they didn't follow the plan and instead they dieted and of course it didn't work for them.

Go Mary, go!!! :)