Thursday, October 06, 2005

Weight Watchers Week

So, I've been on Weight Watchers for just over five weeks now and it has been going well. I started this post after week 1, wherein I lost 5 lbs, but never quite finished the post. I have now lost approximately 15 pounds and feel great! I just got my 15 lb star and am closing in on my first 10%. When I have lost 21 lbs, I will have lost 10% of my body weight. My unclothed weight this morning was 189.5! That is the lowest I have been since about my wife's second trimester with Maya. If I get down to 180 unclothed, my lovely wife has promised to by me a new mp3 player! You can't help but feel better about yourself under those circumstances. And the thing is, it hasn't been too hard! It hasn't been easy, but I've found the Weight Watchers program to be perfect for me...

It's not as oppressive a program as you might expect. I know I did. That's why I put off joining for as long as I did. I kept telling myself that I could lose the weight my own way. After a while, I decided that maybe I couldn't. I found a WW location near me, via the website and went down to sign up.

There are a number of ways to do WW. The most effective is to attend meetings with a friend. I don't have any of those out here who are interested in losing weight with me, so I decided to fly solo, which is still more effective than not going to meetings. At any rate, the meetings have different topic each week, and after your first meeting there is an orientation. The meeting consists of weighing-in, getting a new information booklet (during the first 12 weeks), recognizing accomplishments, discussing the topic of the week, Q&A, and then an orientation or newcomers or people who want a refresher.

The first thing to learn about WW is that it is not a diet. It's a lifestyle change. This is a crucial component as diets don't really work. As soon as you stop the thing that is enabling your weight loss, you go right back up again. The point of WW is to change your perceptions and conceptions about what is a healthy lifestyle.

At orientation, I learned that WW offers two meal plans. Neither requires you to buy anything special. (They make their money of meeting fees and optional products.) You can switch between the plans at the beginning of each week, if you like. Most people choose the Flex plan, but I preferred the Core plan. Actually, I kind of did both, but with a focus on the core plan. I was curious how they compared, you see. The Flex plan allocates you a certain number of points based on your weight at the beginning of the week. You log everything you eat and drink in your weekly journal and record the points on the table. The more you weigh, the more points you get. The minimum for anyone regardless of weight is 20 per day. The maximum is 34. This is to ensure that you are eating enough, but still positioned to safely lose weight.

To give you a sense of scale, here are some point values.

  • 1 cup of lettuce = 0 points
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans = 2 points
  • 1 cup of skim milk = 2 points
  • 4 oz of lean beef = 6 points
  • 1 McDonald's cheese burger = 7 points
  • 1 cup regular ice cream = 8 points
  • 1/4 of a Papa Gino's large cheese pizza = 10 points
  • 1 cup premium ice cream = 14 points
  • 1 original Whopper sandwich = 17 points
  • 1 medium size chocolate chip cookie dough Dairy Queen Blizzard = 24 points
  • Denny's Farmer Slam WITHOUT syrup or butter = 30 points!!!
So you can see that some foods work well with your points and others do not. On the core plan, you can eat anything you want, as long as you have the points for it. The only rule is, you bite it, you write it. In addition to your daily allotment, you also have 35 points to use as you see fit for the week. You can use them all at one meal, if, say, you wanted the Farmer Slam. You could also just have 5 extra points a day if you wanted a little treat here or there. Maybe you can't live without butter, so you use your points for that. They do not carry over from week to week. Point values are listed in your week 1 book for most foods. If you don't see a food listed, you also get a slide rule that correlates fiber, fat, and calories to points.

The core plan is simpler, but more restrictive. You still get your 35 weekly points for whatever you want, so there is some counting involved. However, your daily guideline is that you are allowed to eat until you are satisfied of ANY of the core foods. The core food list is pretty extensive. You can have all the fresh fruits and vegetables you want. Ditto for lean cuts of meat, fish, and eggs. You are also allowed healthy oils, high fiber cereals, and fat free milk. You can also have potatoes or whole grain pasta at one meal a day. Most sauces that are not cream based are also on the core plan. Basically, you are cutting out refined sugar and fatty dairy. You don't have to log what you eat, but it is still a good idea to do it.

Regardless of the plan, you are also supposed to follow some healthy guidelines as well. These guidelines include eating five servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 servings of dairy, 2 servings of healthy oil, and six eight-ounce glasses of water each day. It is also recommended that you take a daily multi-vitamin, and ensure that you get at least one serving of protein per day. Here is my week one daily log:

Day 1:
Veggie omelet
cup of skim milk
medium apple
1/2 large cucumber
slice of watermelon
broccoli slaw salad
1 cup of grapes
home made chicken stir fry
8 oz baby carrots
cup of skim milk
Total points: 22
Day 2:
1.25 cups of shredded wheat
cup of skim milk
medium apple
stir fry
4 oz baby carrots
sesame bread
1 banana
left over stir-fry
1/2 cucumber
cup of skim milk
Total points: 26
Day 3:
Grilled chicken salad
1 cup sugar free pudding
Celery stalks
1.25 cups shredded wheat
1 cup skim milk
More celery
Applebees Tilapia dinner
Applebees WW berry cheesecake
Total points: 27
Day 4:
1.25 cups shredded wheat
cup of skim milk
Stir fry
1 cup sugar free pudding
Whole wheat pasta
Home made tomato sauce with ground turkey

Total points: 26
Day 5:
shredded wheat
cup skim milk
4 oz carrots
celery stalks
8 oz watermelon
5 oz chicken
finger vegetables
black bean soup
grilled chicken salad
veggies and dip
Total points: 23
Day 6:
cup skim milk
ground turkey sloppy joes
cucumber slices
garden salad
Applebees Tilapia dinner
grape tomatoes

Total points: 16
Day 7:
1 cup Kashi puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup shredded wheat
1 cup skim milk
Whole wheat pasta
Home made meat sauce
Grape tomatoes
Cucumber slices
1 cup black bean soup
1 cup grapes
2 cups couscous
1 cup pearled barley
Total points: 25

As you can see, I wasn't exactly starving there. I just changed my food choices and watched my portion sizes a bit. I was never really hungry for long. When I was hungry, I ate. I averaged 23.5 points per day and had I been on the flex plan, I would have been required to eat between 20 and 26 points. So, they really are equivalent from a caloric point of view. As to my flex points, I used up a bunch of them as I made mistakes in figuring out what to eat and not to eat. All my pudding during the first week cost me because it wasn't fat free like I thought when I bought it. I got the pre-made. Now I buy the instant and make it with skim milk. I also used some points on my Applebees trips. They don't have those rated or the core plan, so I had to deduct the full point cost, even though the vegetables and fish were core. It was just the rice and the oils that I needed to deduct. But I've adopted a generally stricter posture to be on the safe side.

The other major component is the meetings. Here you can get questions answered about what is core and what isn't. Members share foods they have found that have reasonable point costs with each other. We discuss strategies for difficult situations. And we congratulate people who have reached various goals. You get a star for every 5 lbs and a key chain when you lose 10% of your starting weight. Not sure what you get when meet your goal. But once you make goal and maintain it for a couple months, then you are a life member. You get to come for free to the meetings and only have to weigh in once a month.

If you are looking to lose weight, I highly recommend Weight Watchers.