When I lost 30 pounds with Weight Watchers in 2002, I collected the 'secrets' to my success. It's time to brush them off again.
Well, well, if it’s not that time of year again, the time for weight loss resolutions. Determination soars. "This is the year", we tell ourselves, this is the year we take off the pounds that collect on our thighs and hips and waists. This is the year, we promise, when we’ll really make the food and exercise changes that we know we need – we know! – to live long and healthful lives. This is the year we’ll really lose weight, we will, really we will!
Ahem. Yes. To keep this real, let me switch from third to first person, even if I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. You see, I Alanna, I’ve made myself that promise for the past three years. And three years in a row, I’ve broken it within a few weeks. (And many Mondays, too, do we all start our diets anew on Mondays?)
As my friend Lyn, a beautiful writer from the inspiring blog Escape from Obesity wrote recently, "[On New Year's Day], the Internet will abound with people searching for things like 'lose weight fast', 'cookie diet', 'how to drop 20 pounds in 20 days', 'cabbage soup diet', and 'magic weight loss pill'. I know, because I used to be one of those people. I was desperate, longing to change what seemed impossible. How on earth can anyone lose 100+ pounds?? It sounds insurmountable. It will take forever. One pound at a time. And I wanted [the weight] gone NOW. FAST. IMMEDIATELY. Ah well, we can dream... but the reality is, we just have to work for it, moment by moment."
So here I am again, I Alanna, making myself a promise and already, in the back of my mind, wondering if I’ll keep it. In 2002, just after my mother died, I lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers and for more than two years, kept it off, maintaining a healthy weight at the bottom of the range for my height and age. Then came five pounds, then another five … we know how this goes, right? One year, I even signed back up for Weight Watchers: it was the Monday (there’s those Mondays again) the week before Thanksgiving. I weighed in once and never went back. (Something about the online software not working right, I explained. Yeah, right.) Now I’m at the top of the range for my height and age.
So – as much for myself as for the many readers who flock to the Weight Watchers recipes, low-carb recipes and low-calorie recipes here on Kitchen Parade and the Weight Watchers recipes and low-carb recipes on A Veggie Venture, I’m dusting off the notes I took in 2002, my own tips for making the Weight Watchers program work for me. With any luck, the tips will help others too. This is my year.
Note: When this page was first published, I asked readers to add their own Weight Watchers tips in the comments to register for a give-away for a kitchen scale. That contest is now over but please do keep adding your weight loss tips, they're inspiring!
Quick Links to This Page~ Getting Started with Weight Watchers ~
~ Sticking to a Weight Watchers Program ~
~ Strategies for Eating Out while on Weight Watchers ~
~ Weight Watchers Recipe Resources ~
GETTING STARTED with WEIGHT WATCHERS
COUNT POINTS – Every day, no matter what. Work really hard to go no more than two or three points above the daily point goal, and never to go below the daily point goal. The tight range seems to be important, training our bodies to expect a certain number of calories, no more, no less. Weight Watchers taught me that eating too little is as much a problem for weight gain as eating too much.
CALCULATE POINTS BEFORE TAKING A BITE – By the time Kitchen Parade recipes are published online, nutrition information and Weight Watchers points are all neat and packaged. But me, I really must-must-must calculate points before I cook. (software I use to calculate nutrition)
DON'T COUNT POINTS for BREAKFAST or LUNCH – What??? Didn't I just say to count points. Well, yes. But I take the counting out of two meals by eating the same things again and again. My favorite breakfast is Microwave Creamy Oatmeal with Peanut Butter for two Weight Watchers points.
GET A KITCHEN SCALE – If you don’t have a kitchen scale, keep reading! (Yes, readers have the chance to win a kitchen scale!) Otherwise it’s all guesswork. The average chicken breast? It weighs 3/4 of a pound even though a serving of (uncooked) chicken is 1/4 a pound. The average baked potato? It weighs a pound. We don't know this until we weigh it.
EAT A LOT – It’s no good to go around hungry. Especially in the first couple of weeks, eat lots of bulk, the no-point and low-point foods to fill up.
FIND A FAST SNACK – It takes awhile for our bodies to become accustomed to less food volume. During this period, make sure to have 'free foods' readily available to snack on fast, little preparation. Believe it or not, mine go-to snack is canned green beans for zero Weight Watchers points. I buy them by the case at Sam’s Club.
WATER & MILK – Measure out the day’s quota of water and milk in the morning, drink them throughout the day.
HUNGRY? OR REALLY THIRSTY? I've learned that lots of times when I 'think' I'm hungry, I'm really thirsty. A glass of water really helps. In addition, when I cook supper, instead of sipping on a glass of wine while cooking, I fill a tall glass with ice and club soda, then sprinkle it with bitters. If we're having wine for dinner, than I'm happy to stop after a single glass.
PREPARE for WEAK MOMENTS – I have three: second helpings, losing vigilance after a second glass of wine, the 'hungries' before bed.
EXERCISE FIRST – Otherwise it doesn’t / won’t happen, no matter what I tell myself.
FAST START – Skip the baked goods and sweets for the first while, consuming protein and vegetables with fruit for dessert.
STICKING TO a WEIGHT WATCHERS PROGRAM
PORTION SIZE MATTERS – This doesn’t mean that ‘all’ portions must be small. Weight Watchers taught me to think ‘big’ portions of broccoli, spinach, asparagus and other low calorie / high fiber foods and ‘small’ portions of everything else. Weight Watchers taught me to think this way: a meat serving is 4 ounces, a main course stew is 1 cup, a soup is 1 cup, a vegetable serving is 1 cup, drinks are 4 ounces, etc.
FOOD CHOICES MATTER – It’s possible (though stupid) to maintain and even lose weight eating only cream and butter, calories in and all. But body tone is tighter, firmer, when calorie intake is based only or largely on protein and vegetables.
FRUIT – Fruit is a danger zone, it’s not ‘free’. It helps to choose whole fruit versus the dense calories of dried fruit or fruit juice or even sugar-free jams. Whole fruit offers more fiber, more moisture and more volume per calorie. But even with whole fruit, weigh fruit to begin to understand that even fruit is now super-sized. An average banana weight 9 ounces, that’s Weight Watchers 3 points. The average apple from the loose fruit bin racks up two or three points. That said, my supermarket DOES sell small apples in three-pound bags (they’re cheaper too). I began to think of fruits in one-point volumes: a cup of blackberries, a cup of blueberries, a cup of cherries, a cup of orange sections, a cup of watermelon, 1-1/2 cups of raspberries and strawberries, a 5-ounce orange, a 6-ounce peach, a 6-ounce pear, a 6-ounce tangerine, etc.
COUNT POINTS – Points matter. I can’t say this often enough. Write them down.
INSPIRATION – Blog watchers, I love sites like Smitten Kitchen, The Pioneer Woman and Joy the Baker (no links, you notice!) as much as anyone. But for the next while, I’m going to stop visiting because frankly, I know I’ll get sucked in because the recipes look so good. But I am going to pay attention to food bloggers who publish nutrition analysis and calculate Weight Watchers points, my friends Stephen at StephenCooks and Susan at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen as well as a new site that I'm just getting to know Gina’s WW Recipes. (Gina's weight loss tips are great.)
WAKE UP HUNGRY – When I wake up hungry, I know that the Weight Watchers program is working, that my body actually needs calories to get going for the day. This is a good thing – and there's no skipping breakfast!
SPECIAL OCCASIONS – For me, special occasions are all about the occasion, not my weight issues so I choose to give myself a ‘day off’ or ‘evening off’ to just enjoy.
STRATEGIES for EATING OUT while on WEIGHT WATCHERS
EAT MINIMAL POINTS – If there’s a big dinner that I really want to enjoy, I eat minimal points during the day and so head to dinner having consumed maybe four points total. But I'm also not hungry, I've had a big glass of water and a hearty no-point salad just before leaving. That way I won't stuff myself from the get go.
EAT HALF – Rather than estimating points at a restaurant, I order what I want but eat only half of what’s served -- except for salads and vegetables. This worked beautifully on a two-week trip last year when we ate out three times a day and ever since. I never go hungry but I don’t’ come away stuffed either, it’s wonderful!
WEIGHT WATCHERS RESOURCES~ Weight Watchers recipes ~
(sorted by Weight Watchers points)
~ One-Point Fruit Servings for Weight Watchers ~
~ Low-Carb Recipes ~
~ Low-Calorie Recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
~ Weight Watchers Recipes ~
(zero-point, one-point and two-point vegetable recipes,
including the famous Weight Watchers Zero-Point Soup Recipes)
~ Low-Carb Vegetable Recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables
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