Today I'm participating in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Get Healthy Bloghop to share my story.
I've been overweight (or is it just undertall?) for most of my adult life. My weight fluctuated up and down, but for the most part I looked like this (I'm the one in front in red, second from the right):
However, I'm middle-aged, and the warranty on my body is long expired with no chance at renewal. After watching some of my friends deal with health issues, I became more motivated to lose weight. So last year, my husband and I joined Weight Watchers (WW). I'm proud to say I've lost over 30 pounds. See below for a photo taken earlier this month. Despite the trench coat, I think you can see a difference.
Even more importantly, after going past my goal weight last summer, I reached a healthy weight that's fairly stable. I'm not quite at my lowest weight, but I'm within five pounds of it and well within the recommended weight range for my height. My clothing size is lower than what I wore in high school--and I'm still amazed by that. Physically, I feel great--except for the utter exhaustion at times from having to do too much on too little sleep.
I followed the Weight Watchers Maintenance program for a few months before letting my membership lapse. I don't track my intake anymore (which could explain the few pounds I've regained), but I keep what I've learned in mind.
So, what made Weight Watchers so successful for me, and how can you make it work? Here are a few principles that I think were key for me:
1. Having your significant other as a partner--My husband and I made the joint decision not just to lose weight, but to follow the same program. That made it easier to plan our meals, encourage each other, and track our intake/activity. Granted, at times it was frustrating because my husband started off with nearly twice as many points as I did. (Instead of counting calories with WW, you count points. Fresh fruits and veggies are 0 points, while other foods have points calculated based on their nutritional information.) However, we weren't sabotaging each other by choosing unhealthy food either.
2. Cooking at home--Cooking may seem like a hassle when you're pressed for time, but it's so much easier to make nutritious food at home than finding low-point value food at a restaurant. At home, you can control how you cook your food, so it's not fried or loaded with salt and fat. The WW website has lots of great recipes to try. I have a board on Pinterest with over 150 recipes; it's my most popular board.
3. Eating more fruits and veggies--They have 0 points raw, so you can fill yourself up without cutting into your points. Even when cooked, they're a healthy use of your points. I try to make at least one vegetarian meal a week. The strange thing is that after a while of eating more produce and less pastries, I find myself craving quinoa/rice carrot fritters or vegetarian shepherd's pie.
4. Portion Control--Weight Watchers allows you to eat whatever you want as long as you account for it. So I could still work fudge into my food allowance, but at a much smaller size than before. Even today, I still measure out my cereal and milk, chips, and rice/pasta to make sure I'm eating the correct amount.
5. Exercising--Exercising allows you to earn more points. In fact, all kinds of activities (even housework) count. The key is finding something you can stick with and a time you can manage. Since I'm cursed to wake up early no matter how tired I am or when I go to bed, I get up and exercise on the treadmill for a half hour or so every day. What makes this enjoyable for me is reading, so I go at a pace where I can still do that. Of course, running upstairs and downstairs doing chores and taking care of my family helps too.
6. Cutting yourself some slack--If you're on a diet and slip up, you may feel it's hopeless to continue and let yourself stop the program. However, Weight Watchers recognizes people aren't perfect. In addition to your daily points, you're given extra points you can use if you eat too much one day or want to have an extra-special meal. Also, as I said before, you don't have to give up your favorite foods completely, but you may have to reduce how much you eat. I allow myself a mid-afternoon snack at work (sometimes fruit, sometimes a serving of trail mix or a small treat) and a low-cal dessert after dinner. This way, I don't feel deprived and am less likely to go overboard on the chocolate.
Do you have questions about Weight Watchers, or do you want to share your own success story? Please share them in the comments.