Everything changes. Again.

Warning: This post is directed to members and former members of Weight Watchers. Others may be confused by the talk of Points, the WW calculation that takes into consideration nutritional elements besides calories–things like protein, carbs, fat, and fiber. The program and formula have changed over WW’s 50 year history, causing much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Every time.

changeIn 2001, I weighed over two hundred pounds. How much over, I’ll leave to your imagination. It only took me two years to reach my goal. Am I just slow-learner or do I suffer from attention deficit issues? Maybe both? You can read about my weight loss journey here: Gains and losses go beyond the scale. But I’m not talking about that today. Today, fifteen years later, I’m talking about perspective, trust, and looking at the big picture when it comes to change. 

First, I know that the support and accountability I received from staff and other members at Weight Watcher meetings were key. Anyone can hand you a diet. That’s easy. But with WW I learned strategies to replace a lifetime of unhealthy habits with healthier ones and to make myself a priority. We commiserated and celebrated. Where else could I get applauded for losing two-tenths of a pound, eating only half a doughnut, or being able to cross my legs?
Long story short, I lost weight on the Points program, living on 19 Points a day with a few extras thrown in from a weekly slush fund we were given. The little extras were to make the program livable so we wouldn’t feel deprived. Back in those days, we still had to count Points for fruit. That seems like the dark ages now. Not as dark as the 60s, when you had to eat liver and couldn’t eat pasta, but still, dark.

I became a part-time leader when I retired from teaching. It seemed like a natural fit, passing on the lessons I’d learned and encouraging others along the path.  You can learn some of those strategies by clicking on the HH4HH tag on this page.
A few years later, Weight Watchers unveiled PointsPlus at leader training. All of our daily points increased from 19 to 26. You’d think we’d be happy. Nope. We were afraid. Everyone cried and fussed. Remember, leaders are successful Weight Watchers. We LOVED and were committed to the old program. We KNEW it worked. We KNEW we’d gain weight on this “new and improved” program. Who were they kidding? We whined,“I can’t eat that much and maintain!” and “Why do I have to change?” and “Can’t I keep going on the old program?”
What we were told, with a smile, was this: “Weight Watchers offers and supports the best program, supported by the latest research. If you don’t feel you and your members deserve the best, feel free to stick with the old program, but without our support.” Ouch.

Still grumbling a bit, we thought more about it. We realized something. With the new PointsPlus formula, while the points for some of our favorite foods (like carbs) had gone up, now all fresh fruit and most vegetables were free, as in ZERO points. Essentially what WW did was drag us (sometimes kicking and screaming) toward healthier choices. Under the old system a cookie and an apple were roughly equivalent choices, point-wise. In the new system, a cookie would cost you points, whereas the apple was free. Zero points.

Okay, I got it. I was supposed to eat more apples, fewer cookies. And I did. I also ate fewer processed foods, cut my oatmeal serving from 1/2 to 1/3 cup, and added fresh fruit to it rather than raisins. Small changes, really.

Apple-Cookies.apples
Little by little, we adjusted. More people joined WW and lost weight. And if they’d never experienced any of the previous programs, PointsPlus was WW. And as always, it worked if you worked it.

Nevertheless, time and science keep marching on, so now, along comes the latest research-based (r)evolution, SmartPoints. And guess what! This time calories, sugars, and saturated fats were added to formula, so lots of the foods in the WW data base changed values. Again!  But, once again, they gave me MORE points to eat every day. Now I get 30. (Remember, I used to get only 19!) And I still get extras every week.

If I’m honest about how I’ve worked the program over the last few years, even though my daily target was 26, I ate about 30 points a day. I also traded my Activity Points for food, so that most of my extras remained (ahem) on the table. So this “big change” isn’t such a big change. For me. I changed which tortillas and salad dressing I buy. I use the bar code scanner on the WW mobile app more often to discover the best SmartPoints bargains.

While I no longer work for WW, I do trust them to provide me with the best program. And I still weigh in at a meeting every month, because as long as I stay at goal, it’s free. And because it works.
Thanks to WW, I weighed less on my 60th birthday than I did on my 50th. So now I try to keep the big picture in mind as I adapt to this particular change and continue to take baby steps toward a healthier me.

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Healthy Habit #9: Step away from the scale!

blog scale crySometimes, in spite of our best efforts, the numbers on the scale don’t budge. Or–God forbid!–they go in the wrong direction. There are lots of reasons that can happen, but I know my weight can vary as much as four pounds without doing anything “bad.” We retain water, our digestive system slows down, or we’ve started new medications. The dangerous thing is when we allow the scale to mess with our brain. Down? Great! Maybe I can have pie. Up? What’s the use? I give up. Let’s have pie. See?

Ups and downs are part of the journey. Even people at healthy weights fluctuate day-to-day. It just happens. And while I can’t keep the scale’s roller coaster from happening, perhaps I can help with the emotional roller-coaster.

  • blog scale does notFirst, if you find yourself obsessing over the scale, weigh yourself less often, like once a week. And always at the same time of day. Or do as one friend does and hide the scale entirely. She trusts the process–eating what she should and exercising–to get the job done.
  • Take your measurements. If you are exercising and building muscle, your body is changing. You may see inches disappear without an appreciable loss on the scale.
  • Pay attention to how your clothes fit. Can you button those pants now? Can you wear your rings again?
  • How do you feel? Can you walk for 30 minutes now? Can you climb stairs without getting winded? Tie your shoes? Cross your legs? Touch your toes? Do your hips and knees hurt less? All of those are signs of progress.
  • You look great! Compliments are always a mood-lifter. Be gracious and thank the giver of the compliment.
  • Remember how far you’ve come and what good habits you’re developing. Give yourself a little credit!

Good health is a journey, not merely a destination. There will be ups and downs along the way. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

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Healthy Habit #5: Two lessons about plate geometry

Lesson I: Diameter blog Plate size by yearsWe can easily see that the size of our dinner plates (and coincidentally, our pants) have increased substantially over the past 50 years. We also know that we prefer the look of a full plate and that–thanks to many of our mothers–we are charter members of “the clean plate club.” We feel obligated to eat what is put before us, even if we are no longer truly hungry.

So here’s a baby step for you. Try eating from a smaller plate, like the nice luncheon or salad plates you have in the cupboard. Or eat your cereal or soup from a smaller bowl. That’s it. Try it for one or two meals. Notice anything? If your spouse is anything like mine, you might get asked, “Are you sure that’s enough, honey?” Bless his heart. As I’m ever gonna eat less than I need. As if I’m wasting away before his eyes.

Lesson II: Fractions. How can a normal human being balance his or her diet without having to weigh or measure everything? This little bit of Plate Geometry may be helpful, especially at potlucks, buffets or Sunday dinners at Grandma’s.

Think of your dinner plate as a circle. Draw an imaginary line down the center, dividing the plate in half. Half. That’s how much of your meal should be non-starchy vegetables and fresh fruits. If you have blood sugar issues, you may need to reduce the amount of fruit, but for most of us it’s not a problem.

Now divide the other half of your plate in half again. Each section is now one-fourth of your plate. That’s where your starchy vegetables (corn, peas, and potatoes) and other carbohydrates (rice, noodles, and bread) go. The last quarter of your plate is for protein, preferably lean protein, but that’s another topic.

blog divided_plate_630Do you see how Plate A is different from Plate B? Do you see that the same kinds of items are present, just in different proportion? More veggies and fruit, a little less carb and protein. That’s it. This tip works best of course, if those items are relatively “clean.” To me that means that the meat’s not breaded and fried, that carbs aren’t cheesy, and the veggies, not creamed. But still, it’s a place to start.

blog eat food Geometry Homework: Eat from a smaller plate or in these proportions for a few meals this week. Ask yourself: How did it go? What got in the way? What would make it easier to establish this habit? What’s your next step?

Gains and losses go beyond the scale

This was first published in The Nevada Appeal on June 18, 2003, but might give you a little insight into the motivation for my weekend Healthy Habits for Happy Humans series.

blog balancePerhaps this story begins in February of 2001 when I renewed my driver’s license. You know that space that asks for your weight? I told the truth for the first time in over twenty years. I came clean with the DMV and myself.
Perhaps the story begins much earlier. Like many women, I’d gained weight with babies, birthdays and bread machines. I had begun avoiding cameras, shopping at “the big girl store” and looking, well—matronly. For the past eight years, I hadn’t been able to lose more than a few pounds before giving up and gaining it back.
No, I am not new to dieting. I’ve been chubby since about sixth grade with only momentary glimpses of my hipbones in the intervening years. I’ve even lost forty or more pounds several times. So in September 2001, when a Weight Watcher leader agreed to come to school if twelve people signed up, I interpreted it as a sign from the universe that it was time to learn to manage my weight—once and for all. I was determined to figure this out. I would do it —not for a reunion or a cruise but for good, and for myself. Continue reading “Gains and losses go beyond the scale”

Healthy Habit for Happy Humans #1

what you doI’m beginning a new weekend series here focused on developing habits and routines that help us reach our own health goals. I’m a firm believer that better health (including a healthy weight) can become a happy habit, one teeny-tiny baby step at a time.
Full disclosure:
First, I am human. I am not perfect. I reject rigid rules which will inevitably be broken. You’ve heard them before. Nothing fried, ever. No fast food, ever. Nothing processed, ever. Nothing white, ever. Bah! I also refuse to do anything to lose weight that I’m not willing to do to maintain it. Furthermore, I won’t make moral judgments about foods being “good” or “bad.” Pie is delicious, not evil. Food is just food. It may help me along the path to my goals or not, but I won’t feel guilty about what I just ate. That is, unless I stole it from a starving child. That would be evil.
Second, while I have been a Weight Watcher leader for eight years, I won’t use this space to sell you on that program. Please don’t try to sell me yours. I’m happy if you’ve found something that works for you. This works for me.
Your first baby step is to stop by next weekend. See you then!

It makes me feel like dancing

insanity-einstein
When I started wearing my Fitbit, I was pretty much convinced that I was already moving enough to maintain my weight. After losing 35 pounds twelve years ago with Weight Watchers, my healthy eating and activity habits are pretty well-documented and well…habitual. I refuse to eat less than my recommended budget. My mantra: Don’t do anything to lose weight that you aren’t willing to do to keep it off.
Moreover, I’ve been a WW leader for seven years. I know this stuff. But I’m also in my sixties and retired. And the scale was giving me feedback I didn’t like. But seriously, shouldn’t that sweaty 45 minutes on the elliptical four times a week, a yoga class, a long walk every Friday, little walks in between, and living in a three-story house be enough? I mean I’m not THAT sedentary, right? Continue reading “It makes me feel like dancing”