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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Frugality vs. health (or, I’m joining Weight Watchers)

I’ve tried losing weight on my own. Many of you can probably relate. I am less than 10 pounds heavier than I was as a teenager, but I was not a svelte teen. In other words, I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my life and I’m sick of it. I’ve made some good changes in the last few months, most notably making time for exercise again. While I’m not working out every day like I was back in the spring, I do exercise 3 to 4 times per week. And I can run 2 miles without a problem.

However, I could use some a lot of help with my eating. I’ve tried FitDay and even SparkPeople after some readers recommended it. But I have to be honest, I fall off the bandwagon pretty quickly.

I’ve thought about joining Weight Watchers many times. I considered the online program but felt my attitude towards it wouldn’t be any different that it was toward FitDay and SparkPeople. Yet as a mother of two young boys who works full-time, it’s impossible to find a minimum of 1 1/2 hours each week to attend a meeting without sacrificing something that’s very important to me.

And then I discovered that there’s a weekly meeting held in the office building where I work. I attended an open house session on Monday, and discovered that I liked the leader. The jury is still out on the other members - I was at least 10 years younger than the person closest to me in age, and more like 20 years younger than most of them, so I felt quite out of place. However, about halfway through the meeting, a woman about my age who looked fabulous came in, holding pictures of herself from two years ago, to show just how far she had come. It was inspiring, to say the least.

The cost for workplace meetings is different from plans held at Weight Watchers centers, so I’ll be paying $208 for 17 weeks, or $15 per session. That seems a little steep, but let’s be honest, nothing else has really worked for me. I’ve never done Weight Watchers before, and it’s obviously worked for other people, so I feel I have to give it a try.

Good health is one of those things I believe in spending money on. So I hope that this will be money that is more than well spent.

I was talking with a friend who is currently doing Weight Watchers and she mentioned something I noticed at the open house meeting: there’s an encouragement to eat whatever is low-calorie, even if it is fake or processed. Not surprisingly, the meeting leader was selling Weight Watchers food products, including nutrition bars and snacks. I was more surprised when she said she carries spray bottles of butter and salad dressing with her when she goes out to eat, and that she only buys low-fat, reduced calorie snacks for her children.

That’s not something I plan to do. I just need help learning to eat a few bites of cake instead of the whole piece. And I would rather have a few bites of the real thing than a big piece of fake cake. I also think the weekly meetings will serve as a huge motivator for me, which is what I need most of all. It’ll be a chance to re-commit each week to losing weight, with some guidance on how to make that happen.

One thing this means for CFO is more recipes. I don’t plan to change what I eat, except to add more fruit and vegetables, so I will have to focus on cutting back on how much I eat. And that means measuring, and that means I’m more likely to write down a recipe instead of just throwing it together like I usually do. I will probably also make more Cooking Light recipes, since I find them to be pretty reliable.

In the meantime, if you've done Weight Watchers before, I would love it if you would share your tips on making the most of the program in the comments. Thanks!

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  • At 7/17/08, 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We sound so much alike! The difference is, I have tried all these programs you mention, even weight watchers, all with short term success. Always gained the weight back. Now, though, I'm at my goal weight. How did I do it? Well, it took a year, but I feel the highlights are...

    1. Forgive yourself. Odds are against you. Easy access to foods and busy lives make maintaining your ideal weight very hard. Don't beat yourself up. It won't help you. Be kind to yourself.

    2. On the other hand, don't do NOTHING. Keep exercising (especially light free-weights at home 3x/week). Look for quick, healthy dinners. Do the common sense stuff, like plan for snack attacks and try to stay away from processed foods. You probably know a lot about this stuff.

    3. Take a hard look at your state of mind. Unresolved emotional issues, difficult relationships, etc. can contribute to overeating. I had to do this before I saw lasting success.

    4. Find a passion, a hobby. Something that gives you pleasure that will help you balance the pleasure that eating gives humans. Eating is such instant gratification! Find something that can at least compete with that.

    That's my formula. I worry less about food and weight now than I ever have, and ironically, I'm the thinnest I've ever been.

  • At 7/17/08, 9:08 AM, Anonymous michelle allen said…

    WW is the one program that I know can work for me. My husband also subscribes to no-fake food theory and would prefer to eat less. I think learning how to use 0-point foods like vegetables and forcing oneself to actually measure out portions is the best way to accomplish weight loss if you don't want to eat the fake foods. I also thinks it's easier as one gets closer to fall because there are lots of great recipes for soups, etc. that are more filling for lower points.
    I have a huge word doc of ww crock pot recipes with the nutritional info, if you're interested, I can email it to you.

  • At 7/17/08, 10:20 AM, Blogger Rachel said…

    Good luck! I recently lost 26 lbs. on WW. You can do it!!

  • At 7/17/08, 10:34 AM, Anonymous That One Caveman said…

    I'm of the opinion that spending money on weight-loss products isn't a waste if you keep the weight off when you're done. (I wrote a post on it, but won't link it here.) I'm in the process of losing weight, too.


    I've lost weight before, but always gained it back and then some. This time I'm down nearly 15 lbs since mid-March. I'm taking it slow and purposefully so I don't gain it all back again.

    I decided that I would be best served with lifestyle changes that were sustainable in the "real world" outside of diet plans. As such, I've subscribed myself to The Hacker's Diet methodology. I would recommend looking it up (it's completely free) to anyone wanting to lose weight, even if you're already paying for similar services.

    Good luck! I wish you all the best. It's hard work, but it's so rewarding.

  • At 7/17/08, 10:37 AM, Anonymous Rachel D said…

    I did weight watchers a few years ago and lost over 20 pounds. It really does help you learn to portion better so you are not over eating. However, I have not gone back to weight watchers because I feel it only promotes weight loss and not healthy eating. As you said they have no problem eating processed, low-fat junk in order to lose pounds. If you are not into the eating processed stuff I could see weight watchers being a hard plan to follow (the only reason I lost to much before was because I didn’t care what I ate only if I lost weight. Glad my views have changed!). For one reason they do not distinguish between healthy fats and bad fats. I remember when I was on the plan I wouldn’t drink milk because it would cost me so many points even though milk really is a healthy part of your diet. Or another good example is nuts. We know there are plenty of benefits to eating nuts but if you eat them on weight watchers you will lose a ton of points. However, they have no problem telling you to eat a highly processed food. So, you find loop holes like that. I say if you are just looking for portion control only this could help but really it is more going to be your will power. You have to be the one to decide to only take a few bits of cake and not more. And honestly no plan is going to change that for you. I wish you luck!!! Losing weight is so tough but I know you can do it!!!! 

  • At 7/17/08, 11:36 AM, Anonymous Serge Blais said…

    This: (and here: is working for me. In short: make sure your body is not starving, it will help manage your craving. And, you can keep eating healthy....

    The biggest thing I think all the sold solutions are crock. Don't put a target date on your weight goal, and it will be a lot easier (and cheaper) on yourself. Canned solutions work as long as you follow them, but they don't change your basic nature. So, when you come back to your "true self" you gain the weight again.

    Learn, give yourself tools and time, and use your best weight lost weapons. Common sense, and your brain.

  • At 7/17/08, 1:30 PM, Blogger Jimmy M. said…

    I am a daily reader of your blog on RSS feed and I enjoy your posts. I want to encourage you in your desire to do WW. I've done many of the diets that are out there and I can honestly say that WW is the best because it's not a diet. I have found that I can eat normally (making better choices than I was before) and not be hungry or desperately crave something. Finding a good meeting is important. I have not had the experience that you have with the low calorie food pushing. What I have had is a group of people who give me great ideas on how to maximize my weight loss, who celebrate my victories and encourage me in my defeats. I am a man and there isn't that many men on WW and at first it was awkward but now I don't even notice it anymore. I've been on the program 14 weeks and have lost 24 lbs. I have a long way to go, but for the first time in my decade and a half long weight loss struggle, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel which is something I couldn't say until I joined WW. Good luck in your weight loss pursuits.

  • At 7/17/08, 6:07 PM, Anonymous The Happy Housewife said…

    I have not used weight watchers, but many of family members have. They have all lost weight in a healthy way and have not put the weight back on, even after having babies. They look and feel great. If I ever needed to lose weight I would join WW.
    BTW- I meant to email you a while back. Thanks so much for the coupons. You didn't need to send postage, you are too kind! Also thanks to putting the info on your blog! I received many coupons from your readers! Thanks!

  • At 7/17/08, 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good luck in your efforts!! It sounds like you are making some great decisions whether you stick with Weight Watchers or not. I have never done it, but I know a lot of people who have, with varying success. The successful ones seemed to be the ones who ate less of the processed foods you described and - I think this is really important - did not drink diet sodas or Crystal Light or any of that crap. It doesn't sound like you do anyway. Obesity research shows that artificial sweeteners can actually make you gain weight, yet so many people on diets drink them anyway because they think they're "free".

    The points thing seems like a real pain; I personally would lose my mind (wonder how much that weighs?) But, if you can find a way to work it without focusing totally on calories and sacrificing nutrition, then you will have not only lost weight, but proven that you have the self-discipline and resourcefulness that it takes to do so. Judging from your blog it seems like you have those things going for you already; so just work it and go, girl!

  • At 7/17/08, 8:55 PM, Blogger JLP said…

    My wife is a big WW fan! It's an awesome program.

    Good luck with your goals.


  • At 7/17/08, 9:07 PM, Blogger Rachael said…

    I've done the WW program once (for 6 months before my first pregnancy) a little over a year and a half ago. I did both the core and the flex plan and liked both, although core fit better with my personality. The meeting aspect was the biggest motivator, and I think the key to losing weight besides the meetings is to force yourself to journal! The times I was faithful to journal I lost more weight! And I was successful, albeit slow, at losing weight (I was aiming for 20 lbs loss in 5 months, but lost around 15 and was within 8 of my goal when I got pregnant). I think its a great idea, and does fit with frugal goals!

  • At 7/18/08, 9:14 AM, Blogger Amy said…

    I did WW for quite a while and really need to get back to it. I found it was easy (once I initially figured out how it worked) and my hubby even got in on it which really made it fun. I did the flex plan which didn't leave me feeling deprived of anything. Pizza? Burgers? Ice cream? No problem as long as you "budget" your points accordingly. I lost 25lbs and kept it off until I got pregnant w/my little sweetie boy last year. I really need to get back to it and have been considering it a lot lately. I need to "just do it" already! :)
    Good luck!

  • At 7/19/08, 6:25 AM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    Thank you soooo much, everyone! I really appreciate the encouragement, ideas, suggestions, and feedback. I'm not going to turn this into a weight-loss blog, but I'll post periodic updates to let you know how I'm doing :)

  • At 7/19/08, 6:26 AM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    I also wanted to add, those of you who said you've lost weight, I'm SO impressed! Congratulations and keep it up!

  • At 7/19/08, 12:37 PM, Anonymous julia said…

    The author of this blog Tom Athanases, principal of Two Rivers School, addresses the teen health center task force and community.In this blog he also talks about his small son.

  • At 7/20/08, 2:44 PM, Anonymous Jen said…

    Good for you. I have been a member of WW off and on for about 12 years. I'm about 10 lbs above my lowest weight. Overall, I'm down about 70 lbs from my fattest. The program works (I do flex) if you stick to it. One challenge I have is that I get into ruts and find that I stop losing weight. So, allow yourself to change things up every once in a while. Do not eat the exact same thing every day. I find a lot of good advice at the meetings, but tend not to spend a lot of time online, except for (a great site for points at restaurants). It's an ugly site, but a wealth of good info for someone who eats out a lot (like me).

  • At 7/20/08, 7:12 PM, Blogger beth said…

    I really like your blog and this is my first time commenting. I'm not sure what kind of medical insurance you have, but some insurances cover the WW fees (HAP in Michigan does). Or if you have a medical spending account that reimburses you for non-covered stuff, you can get a letter from your doctor that you need to lose weight for health reasons and then you can get reimbursed for your WW fees.

  • At 7/20/08, 8:36 PM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    @Jen - Wow, you've done great. Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely keep it in mind.

    @Beth - Thank you for commenting to share a great tip. I don't think my insurance will cover it but I'm going to double check right now!

  • At 7/21/08, 7:49 PM, Blogger Justine said…

    I've done WW in the past and it is the only program I had luck with for awhile, but then you tend to get to a plateau. Though it did teach me some good tips about portion control and a few other things I've naturally incorporated into my every day eating. Forget the processed foods... most veggies have zero points and most fruits one point! Between fruits and veggies and water it really helps keep you from feeling starving while trying to lose weight. Best of luck to you!

  • At 7/26/08, 8:10 PM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    @Justine - Thanks for sharing your experience! I will remember the warning about the plateau and start brainstorming ways to bust it :)

  • At 11/4/08, 5:59 PM, Anonymous Michelle said…

    I have lost 17.4 lbs in 5 weeks, have not been hungry feel a lot better using WW


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