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  • Weight Watchers Week Six: Some Weight Watchers Tips

    I’m happy to report that Weight Watchers is really working for me, so I thought it would be a good time to share some details on what I’ve been doing. Although I offer these tips in relation to Weight Watchers, the general principles are, of course, applicable to any healthy lifestyle.

    • Earn activity points. If I could share only one tip, it would be to exercise. With Weight Watchers, you earn “activity points,” which means you can eat that much more on the days you exercise. I love it, because on days when I work out long and hard, I can easily earn an extra four to six points, enough for a whole extra meal.
    • Think long term. It’s nice to see that Weight Watchers’ “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” motto is more than just lip service. At my last meeting, one of the women, A., mentioned that she leaves herself about three points for dinner, and ends up having tomato sauce with shirataki noodles.* Our leader, W., asked if A. could keep that up in the long run, to which A. replied that she figured it would be different once she was in maintenance. W. was obviously perturbed, and emphasized that the maintenance phase isn’t that different from the losing phase. She impressed upon us that now is the time to cultivate a lifestyle that we can live with forever. It made a lot of sense to me, since I am in this for the long haul – this will be the last “diet” I’m ever on. I have no intention of gaining any of the weight back and every intention of keeping it off forever. I have visions of taking “active” vacations when the boys are old enough, and watching the men’s marathon at the Olympics has even got me thinking, “I think I can do that!” (Although it would take me a heck of a lot longer than two hours to run 26.2 miles.)
    • Allow for “failure.” Weight Watchers’ Flex Plan comes with a daily points allowance and a weekly points allowance. I always eat all of my daily points, because I don’t want to send my body into starvation mode, and in fact, I usually eat more than that, since I almost always earn at least some activity points. But I save my weekly points for those “moments of weakness” – like when the kids are throwing extra-vigorous tantrums, my blood pressure is soaring, and those cookies on the counter look particularly tempting. Or when I have a PMS-induced craving for chocolate cake. I know these moments are going to happen each week, and by saving my weekly points for them, I can indulge without any guilt.
    • Prepare for the unexpected. This goes along with the previous tip and saving weekly points. There have been a couple of times when I didn’t really have an ideal low-point option, and had to settle for a food that contained more points than I had planned for. But again, I didn’t stress about it too much because I knew I had room in my “points budget” because I hadn’t eaten my weekly points yet.
    • Don’t eat all of your weekly points. Even though I save my weekly points for unexpected temptations, I have never eaten all of them. Not only will I lose weight faster because I’m taking in fewer calories, it also helps make up for any underestimating I may have done with my tracking during the week. Maybe there was a day when I actually ate 26 points but only tracked 24 because I underestimated a portion or forgot about the bite I took off of one of the kids’ plates.
    • Have a contingency plan. I keep a few favorite low-point foods around for unplanned moments. For instance, on Saturday, Alex wanted hot dogs. I’m not crazy about hot dogs, though, and I didn’t want to waste points on them. So I made hot dogs for the rest of the family and pulled a four-point frozen Smart Ones dinner out of the freezer for myself. I like to keep a few of these on hand at all times just for such occasions, and I’ve found that my meeting leader has booklets containing coupons for Weight Watchers products so I can easily combine sales and coupons. Other foods I like to keep on hand are Special K cereal, rice cakes, and Laughing Cow Light cheese.

    So those are my tips for succeeding on Weight Watchers. I’d love it if you’d share yours in the comments!

    *I just have to mention how that grosses me out. I love shirataki, but can’t imagine eating them with a bolognese.

    Weight Watchers Week Five: For me, it’s about personal integrity

    Back when I was in high school and college, I loved self-help books. They helped me figure out who I wanted to be, where I was going to go, and how I wanted to get there. One of the books I read was a book that was hugely popular at the time, Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

    The aspect of the book that made the biggest impression on me was the discussion about personal integrity. Maybe it was because my dad often talked about the importance of integrity and pointed out ways that people disregarded it. Whatever the reason, everything Covey said about it made a lot of sense to me, and I really internalized the notion that integrity is key to successful relationships – not just with others, but with ourselves.

    I’ve been overweight since I was about eight years old, when we moved in with my grandmother for a year to an area where I didn’t have any friends and got quite lonely. I learned to quash my feelings by eating, and that tendency got worse over the years. About ten years ago, I realized the connection between my emotions and food and since then, I’ve worked hard to break it.

    In the last 25 years, I’ve been on dozens of diets and tried to lose weight countless times. Sometimes I succeeded, but it was always temporary, because my emotions would get the better of me and I’d start eating again. But now, I’m finally at a place where that doesn’t (usually) happen.

    And this is where my personal integrity kicks in. During my teens and twenties, I hated myself for not being able to lose weight. I thought it made me a bad person. When I finally understood the connection between my emotions and food, I was able to be kinder to myself but I still felt out of control. But now that I am no longer hostage to my emotions (or to food), I know that failing at Weight Watchers would be a devastating blow to my personal integrity.

    It’s not so much about the numbers on the scale as it is about the effort I give it. If I try my absolute best to lose weight and it doesn’t happen, I have nothing to feel bad about. (I will, however, head straight for my doctor for some tests.) On the other hand, if I slack off simply because I lack commitment, then I’ll feel terrible about breaking a promise I’ve made to myself.

    I’ve been on Weight Watchers for four weeks now and I’m determined to succeed. The number on the scale is heading in the right direction, which is definitely rewarding. But the boost in self-confidence and self-worth that I get from keeping my promise to myself is even more rewarding than that.

    Weight Watchers Week Four: The Power of the Mini-Goal

    I didn’t start out intending to give weekly updates on how Weight Watchers is going for me, but I seem to make a discovery each week that’s worth sharing. For instance, I realized this week that one reason Weight Watchers is really working for me is that I can set as many mini-goals as I want, and it’s easy to track my progress.

    For example, every day, I aim to stay within my daily points allotment and I aim to earn some activity points. I also have weekly goals for total activity points and leftover weekly points allowance. (The way the Flex plan works, you get a daily Points allowance and 35 weekly points that you can “spend” any way you’d like, but I try not to eat all of the weekly points.) I do try to eat all of my daily points, including any earned activity points, so that my body doesn’t go into starvation mode, but I figure I’ll lose weight all the faster if I eat as few weekly points as possible.

    The Weight Watchers E-Tools function has a daily check list for glasses of water, fruit and veggie servings, dairy servings, multivitamin, healthy oils and activity. When you reach your daily goal, it gives you a happy face, and I try to get that happy face in all categories every day. (The dairy and healthy oils are my weak points – I love both, but I end up not eating them since they tend to be somewhat high in points.)

    All of this has made me realize the importance of mini goals and their power to help me achieve larger goals. My main goal is to get down to my goal weight but I don’t really focus on that final number on a daily basis. Instead, my focus is on whether I am achieving my mini goals and whether my weight is decreasing on a weekly basis. And of course, continued success in achieving my mini goals will result in the overall achievement of my main goal.

    Most importantly, however, I can see how the power of mini goals applies to all areas of my life. And it probably applies to your life, too. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to achieve, try breaking it down into daily mini goals. I bet you’ll see some amazing progress before you know it!

    What about you? Have you had success with mini goals?

    Weight Watchers Week Three: Volumetrics is definitely onto something

    I’m loving Weight Watchers for the fact that I can work any food I want to eat into the plan. I can have anything I want, just not everything I want. Fair enough – life usually works that way.

    But I don’t have a lot of points left after eating foods like kalua pork, which is so good that my mouth waters just thinking about it. I normally eat kalua pork with white rice, but that’s it’s eight points for a mere four and a half ounces of pork and a half cup of rice. That’s not enough for a meal for me. So I filled it out with veggies. Lots of veggies.

    In fact, I’m eating more fruit and vegetables than I ever have in my entire life because they’re low in Points. I sometimes feel like I’m on the Volumetrics diet, which is about filling up on foods that are low in calories. The idea is that people like to eat and to feel full, so they just have to do that on low-calorie foods in order to lose weight. Volumetrics just didn’t appeal to me because I don’t want to eat mostly fruit and vegetables. But of course, that’s a big part of what I’m doing now.

    I guess the difference with Weight Watchers is that the ability to indulge is built in. It seems I needed the structure that Weight Watchers provides, while still giving me the flexibility to eat what I want and when.

    One fabulous site that was recommended to me by friends who were already doing Weight Watchers is Dotti’s Weight Loss Zone. The Restaurants section lists the Points value for hundreds, if not thousands, of foods from restaurants and even some stores. If I know I’m going to grab something from a restaurant while I’m out, I consult this site before I leave the house.

    Weight Watchers Week Two: So far, so good

    The best part about Weight Watchers so far isn’t that I’ve lost weight (although that’s pretty awesome) but that the way I’m eating now is a way that I can live with for the rest of my life. Weight Watchers says they’re not a diet, they’re a lifestyle, and it’s true. In the last week, I’ve eaten chocolate, pie, and some absolutely heavenly soppressata and Spanish chorizo. It’s all about portion control, and I’m learning to eat my favorite foods while staying within my Points allowance.

    In fact, I’m now eating the way I’ve always known that I should eat: mostly fruit and vegetables, with some protein and dairy, and small portions of treats. I don’t know why I needed to join Weight Watchers in order to make this change, but it’s really working for me.

    The greatest difficulty is preparation, because my family doesn’t eat the way I do. The boys will eat the same fruit, and Marc will eat (most of) the same veggies, but the boys won’t, for example, eat a salad for dinner. So I am spending more time in the kitchen. I’m not too happy about that, so I am trying to figure out ways to streamline the whole process of making two dinners. Sometimes the solutions are obvious, like when I made beef nachos – everybody else got the nachos, while I topped a plate of greens and tomatoes with some of the beef mixture and a quarter cup of shredded part skim mozzarella cheese. I’m working on coming up with more easily adjusted meals like this.

    I can’t really assess the impact of Weight Watchers on our monthly spending yet, because I haven’t been buying much meat. I’ve had a pretty good stockpile in the freezer, which we’ve been eating for the last couple of weeks. I don’t break my grocery budget down by category, so I’m really just going to keep an eye on the trend of my spending at grocery stores. It goes without saying that even as I eat healthier, I want to keep my spending in check.

    One of the best things about joining an At-Work program instead of meetings at a regular Weight Watchers center is that I have a built-in timeline. The At-Work program requires a minimum of 15 paying members to continue each 17-week session. The group I joined just barely made it to 15 members for the current session, so there’s no guarantee that there will be another session when this one ends right before the holidays. Because of that, I feel extra motivated to reach my goal weight by the end of this session, and fortunately, I don’t have that much weight to lose so my goal is pretty realistic. I don’t think the same motivation would be there if I’d simply joined regular meetings with no (forced) end in sight.

    Right now, my plan is to keep doing what I’ve been doing since it’s obviously working. I just need to make those adjustments in the kitchen so that I can keep up the progress without losing my mind.

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