Weight loss is a $72 billion dollar market. From prescriptions to supplements to gym memberships to surgery, industries are cashing in on our calorie consumption in the U.S. Every pound we pack on only increases the demand for some new gimmick or gadget to help us get in shape.
And we know it is unhealthy. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer…and many other illnesses are far more common the more we weigh. Not to mention it just feels lousy. Ask almost anyone who has lost a lot of weight and they tell you how good it feels and how they don’t want to put it back on.
In high school I weighed 155 pounds. At 6 foot 1 inch that was pretty thin. I played basketball to boot, and so my body fat was almost non-existent. In fact, I couldn’t gain weight no matter how much I ate. College was about the same. But somewhere in my late 20’s or early 30’s I started to fill out. Then came the 40’s. 180 pounds…190 pounds…200..210. In January 2019 I saw 218 pounds look up at me from the scale and I knew I had to do something. The previous year I had tried the keto thing. It worked for a while. It took me a long time to start losing weight, but when I incorporated some intermittent fasting I lost about 15 pounds. But it all came back because I just couldn’t stick with such a high fat almost no-carbohydrate diet.
3 months ago I joined the on-line version of Weight Watchers. For $13.30 per month for the first 3 months, I figured it was worth a shot. Since then I have lost about 16 pounds.
Here is what I have to say about the Weight Watcher plan.
HOW IT WORKS:
- They use a point system, and allow you a set number of points per day with some extra points every week that you can use. The amount of points you are given is based on your age, gender, height and current weight. I think I started out with 31 points per day. I now get 29. The app makes it pretty easy to keep track of your points. The built-in scanner lets you scan virtually any food bar code and get a point value per serving size.
- The “high point” foods are what you would expect: high fat, high sugar, processed foods will cost you a LOT of points. A slice of pizza can be 8 points. A doughnut can be 10 points. A snicker candy bar is 12 points. A McDonald’s Big Mac is 17 points. A slice of Godiva chocolate cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory is 61 points (yeah, I had that 1 week).
- But many foods are zero points. Plain, grilled chicken is zero. Eggs are zero. Most fish is zero. Fruits and vegetables are mostly all zero. You can make yourself a nice sized salad, and the only points would be the dressing (which will cost you from 1 to 10 points depending on the type and amount you pick).
- The idea is that you simply log your food into the app and it does the rest. Ideally you want to log every single thing you eat. And ideally you want to eat most of your points every day. Going far below your allowed points, for some people, seems to slow down their weight loss. You can track your weight on the app too. They have a little community (like a mini-Facebook) of fellow weight watchers you can interact with. Some of their stories are inspiring.
WHAT I LEARNED:
- I learned that I need to think very differently about my food choices. Frankly, I had thought my diet was pretty good. I was not someone who craved sweets a lot. But, after following the Weight Watchers program, I now see that I was probably making 2-3 “bad” food choices every single day. Maybe more. I didn’t eat breakfast, but would always drink at least 2 cups of coffee with a generous amount of cream. Cream (half and half) is a lot of points. I was probably drinking 10-15 points of cream a day in my coffees (I would have a coffee or 2 at work sometimes too). My “salad” at work (if I had the salad bar) would probably include a few scoops of pasta-type salads (lots of points) and a generous amount of blue cheese dressing (more points). After leaving work, depending on the time, I might grab an appetizer at a local bar while waiting for the train (TONS of points). Then I would get home and have some carrots and dip (points!) while I heated up my supper (which might be a burger, sausage, pasta, casserole…all a lot of points).
- I learned that a more reasonable goal is to enjoy 1-2 “fun” (higher point) food choices per week, rather than 2-3 per day. This was a huge change. I won’t lie. This was hard. But not impossible or unbearable.
- I learned that going out to eat would have to be seriously cut back. Yes, there are many low-point restaurant options. But they are honestly not the items that I would normally pick. And remember that even vegetables and chicken, when done in a restaurant, may have lots of extra points due to what they add to them.
- I learned that the verse in the Bible that says “all men are liars” (Psalm 116:11) is true, and includes me. There is a huge temptation to “not count” this or that. Oh how we lie to ourselves! The Weight Watchers program really helped me get a better look at my ugly heart. I have always felt disdain for those who want “free” things from the government. Nothing is free! But then I find myself wanting to secretly eat a “free” bag of pretzels, a “free” brownie or “free” order of nachos by not counting them. We are all more alike than we tend to think.
- I learned that my weight loss was mostly a willpower and “choice” issue, not a metabolism problem. Let’s be honest. “Metabolisms” aren’t created equal. We all have those friends who can eat ridiculous amounts of food with no visible consequences. They don’t exercise. They don’t count points. Yet they never gain weight. Guess what…that’s life. I do think that some people have a slower metabolism by nature. But at the end of the day, we all choose what we put in our mouth. If I have to eat less, or eat differently, to lose weight than someone else, then that is just the way it is.
- I didn’t have to give up everything I liked. Omelets are pretty Weight Watcher friendly, and I like those. Chopped up, grilled chicken, and salsa do not add any points. A low-fat shredded cheese only adds a couple points. And most buffalo sauce is zero points, so I could eat chopped up grilled chicken with buffalo sauce for free. My wife makes a mean Turkey chili. She even found a “zero point” cheesecake recipe that is really very good! And if at the end of a long day I want to enjoy a cold beer, that is only about 5-6 points as well. I haven’t suffered or gone hungry. It is all about choices.
As I mentioned, after 3 months I’m down about 16 pounds. I wish the weight would come off faster. But it is coming, off, and that is good. The program is just $19.95 per month now, and I think I’ll continue for a while longer to try and lose a few more pounds. But getting back under 200 feels good. I recommend the program. I think it is at least worth an honest try.