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.