Waking Up After Hibernation

Interestingly, the blog has been inactive for longer than I had thought (Sept 2014? Really!?). So, I guess we have all kinds of catching up to do!

At the end of 2014, we accepted a transfer to be relocated from the Texas panhandle toward the middle of the state, ending up in Waxahachie (pronounced like “woks” not “wax”) which is about 30’ish miles south of Dallas. We continued our Weight Watchers membership here for that first year, while we were living in an apartment, and we had some mixed results with the changes that they had made to the new plan. Some things we liked, and some we didn’t, and overall we ended the year mostly disappointed.

We moved here primarily so that Jenny could take over for another person in her department that was getting ready to retire, and also to take on a new set of responsibilities so that she could put more of her talents and experience to use so that she wasn’t continuing to be underutilized. When we got here, we found out that the position they had in mind for her wasn’t at all what we were expecting, the situation was really a big mess, and the new challenges that she was looking forward to she never had any time to do, and they wanted her focused on the same old things. Add to that the fact that the oilfield really sucked at the time so they were cutting back on expenses, and this job that was being handled by two people previously they wanted her to take on by herself. To make a long story short, life sucked after this job change. With the oilfield being one of the primary industries in Pampa, it also took us eight months to sell the house, so paying mortgage on that along with the rent in the apartment for a year certainly contributed to the stress levels. After a few months of the new job we decided that my paycheck would suffice and the added stress that she was dealing with at work certainly wasn’t worth the money, so we had her quit.

There’s more to that story, but I’ll let her tell it at a later date if she feels up to it. You can read about her personal feelings about that situation on her other blog, in Cracked, and her subsequent post about how she felt a year later, A Year in Review.

Relocating to Waxahachie itself was a great move for us. It got Jenny back into a larger city, which is where she really thrives, and I’m happy in pretty much any surrounding, so seeing her happy made me happy, and I personally enjoy Waxahachie quite a bit myself so it was good all around. We moved here in January 2015 and stayed in the apartment until December 2015, at which point we bought a house. Moving into the house made things in Waxahachie even better. We both love the house, and its location. But of course, new house meant new monthly payments, and for a couple of months it meant paying for the apartment as well as the house itself. We had put up with doubled living expenses for 8 months with the housing market being so bad in Pampa, so we knew what that part was going to be like, but thankfully we knew before hand that it would only be two months’ worth this time around which was far less stressful. (Jenny reminded me we didn’t have to double-pay during this time, it worked out perfectly).

However, those increased expenses combined with the reduced income of Jenny no longer having a job, meant that we needed to cut back on some expenses, and the first thing to go was Weight Watchers. Since the last couple of years worth of changes to how WW works hadn’t done us a whole lot of good in the weight loss department compared to how things were previously, we didn’t mind getting rid of it. We had learned how to change our lifestyle and our habits, and how to control our eating enough that we were comfortable going it alone at least for a few months until things calmed back down on the monetary front. We closed on the house on December 28, 2015 and moved in two days later.

Then along came 2016. Or as we like to call it, the Year of Thousand Stresses.

There were a lot of great things from 2016, and as a whole I can’t honestly complain about it too much. However, it was a year in which we had constant health scares and/or deaths come up on both sides of the family or friends. The oilfield still sucked, and I was still working for the same company only I was doing so from home rather than in the office. There were a lot of projects for me at work last year with important deadlines, we had gone through several layoffs as well as closing some facilities down completely, and every time things started to calm down at work someone got sick, someone died, someone got injured, or someone got sick/injured and death was a real possibility. As soon as the health scare cleared up, here came a brand new deadline for work. And since we were in a brand new place, that of course meant that we had to make new friends which carries some stress of its own. But as if everything else wasn’t bad enough, every time we started to develop a close relationship with another couple, they moved. We just couldn’t get ahead for nothing. We were loving the house and loving the move, but pretty much everything else sucked.

The result of that, as far as the Chubby Couple is concerned, as that we gained weight. We knew it was happening, but so much energy was going into other things that we just didn’t have the energy to do anything about it, or to really care all that much to begin with. I mean, sure we cared, but we had too many other things to worry about. Things finally started to calm down for us a bit around November 2016. Not everything, but enough that we were finally started to feel like we were back in control again. But, we decided that with the year being as bad as it was so far, we’d put the weight loss goals on hold until the new year. We didn’t want to voluntarily introduce another stress to the mix, we were going to enjoy our holidays and the weeks surrounding them.

So here we are in 2017, ready to get back on track. Things are looking up for the oilfield, we’re still loving our house and being able to have people come over and enjoy it with us, and (insert every positive superstitious thing you can think of) almost everyone’s health has stabilized for the time being. I don’t know for sure how active the blog is going to get this year in regards to our weight loss. We’re going to give it a go this year with MyFitnessPal.com (MFP: Psynister). Weight Watchers is essentially a simplified version of counting your calories with the use a points system rather than the raw numbers, so it’s basically doing the same thing except that our support group is online and each other rather than a room full of people.

No promises on when the next post will be, but there’s a little summary of what’s happened since that last post a long time ago, in a city far, far away.

I’d Say It Works…

Three weeks ago, the day right after Christmas, Jason and I got right back to work losing weight. As you know, because he’s been writing the last few blog posts, Jason’s been kicking my butt on weekly loss since then. This isn’t to say I haven’t been losing a decent amount of weight. He’s just been losing so much more!

  • Jason -0.8; -86.6 total; -8.2 since Christmas
  • Jenny -2.6; -62 total; -7.8 since Christmas

As you can see, Jason didn’t lose as much this week, but he’s still kicking my butt! In fact, when you average out the last three weeks, Jason has a -2.7 average to my -2.6. And I’m not complaining. Before the holidays, my weekly average had settled in around -1.4. It wasn’t bad. It was consistent and I was working hard to get back to where I had been two years ago.

What’s significant this time around? Simple Start. The first week getting back to healthy eating, a decent loss is kind of expected. For the last two out of three weeks, though, we’ve been doing the new Simple Start introduction to Weight Watchers that Jason has already talked about.

So, I’m going to talk about what happens after your two week Simple Start.

After the two weeks, you basically have a choice to make. You can:

  • Continue with a similar program by doing Simply Filling, which includes more food choices than Simple Start (basically anything that is a Power Food, designated in their literature and apps with a green triangle)
  • You can switch to tracking, which doesn’t limit what kinds of food you eat, but you have to weigh/measure and track everything (which Weight Watchers can teach you about)
  • Get the best of both worlds by doing a combination! This is what we’re going to do, so it’s what I’m going to talk about most.

Back in the day when Jason and I first joined Weight Watchers, they had the Points program (tracking) and something called Core (eat specific foods until satisfied). The trick was, while you could change from one to the other, they wanted you to do so one full week at a time. Not the case anymore. The current versions of these programs are Points Plus and Simply Filling. The awesome part is that you can switch between these day to day during the same week!

Something that Jason and I noticed is that while we did really well five days out of seven, two days each week, we were just so done with the limited food list. I needed real cheese & sugar and we went off plan. Not terrible, but enough that I wonder if we might have done even better than the over 5 lbs we each lost during the two weeks of Simple Start. I need to get back in control. I need to get back to solid meal planning that we can stick with.

So this week? My meal plan is going to include mostly Simply Filling meals, because it really has helped us get off to a great start this year! Instead of getting tired of my meal plan, though, we’re also going to plan at least two days where we’ll switch to tracking, so that we can work in some meals that, while not unhealthy, don’t work as well for Simply Filling, to keep things fresh and interesting. This way, I still get to enjoy the things that Simply Filling doesn’t like, but I get to be in control, instead of feeling like I “broke my diet” by eating forbidden foods.

This is why Weight Watchers works. It gives you the flexibility you need to find a way that is sustainable so that it can become a lifestyle NOT a diet. It’s about finding what works for you over the long haul, not just to get to goal. In my life, I need to eat mainly healthy foods. But life happens and I need to know how to handle it by tracking when needed in order to make the plan work around my life, so I don’t get frustrated and go completely off-plan.

So what do I think about Simple Start? It works! We lost weight! But I am so glad that Weight Watchers isn’t only Simple Start. I’m glad they have a plan I can adjust to fit my life.

Welcome to Château d’Plateau

As promised, I’ve taken over today’s blog post regardless of results since Jenny has been writing all of the posts for the last several weeks. And, as you’re about to see, it’s a good thing (for her) that I did:

Jenny: -0.2 lbs
Jason: -0.0 lbs

Jenny’s been kicking some consistent weight-loss booty here lately. She’s done a fantastic job, so before we go any further let’s pause for a second to give her a big hand:

Château d’Plateau
On August 29th I earned myself another 5 lb star for pushing past the 70 lb weight loss mark, and I was focusing in on reaching the milestone of 75 lbs. I was feeling pretty good about myself at the time and we pushed ahead. The following week, I guess I was feeling so good about things that I didn’t bother tracking anything that I ate that week. Not that I was eating like crazy or anything, I just wasn’t actually tracking. It’s an easy habit for me to fall into since my wife is also on Weight Watchers, has fewer points than me, and takes care of all of our meal planning. As long as I don’t do a whole lot of extra snacking then I can pretty safely skip tracking because I know she’s not going to go over her points which means I’ll stay within mine by default.

As you might expect though from not following the plan completely, the next week my weight stayed the same.

The following week I knew that I should have been tracking the whole time, so that’s what I did…for a few days. And then I stopped. Don’t ask me why, I’ve slept plenty of times since then and my memory sucks to begin with. It’s a pretty safe bet that I stopped for the same reasons though, that I don’t really need to track when Jenny’s taking care of things for us. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Guess who stayed the same on the scale that week, too…

I did a fairly good job of tracking the next week. I missed a couple of days here and there, but for the most part I was tracking everything and my reward was a loss of 2 lbs. That brought my total weight loss up to 72.2 lbs and I was starting to get pretty excited about reaching that 75 lb goal. I had spent the last couple of weeks staying exactly the same on the scale, and I’d had enough of the boring views from the windows of Château d’Plateau and found myself a loss.

The following week (September 26) I scored another 1 lb loss, bringing my total loss to 73.2 lbs, and my current weight down to 270.4 which put me right on the edge of two different milestones at the same time. I was now only 1.8 lbs away from 75 lbs lost, and only half of a pound away from being in the 260’s which I haven’t seen in about thirteen years.

[sarcasm]Oh, how I missed you, Château d’Plateau![end sarcasm]

From there I went back to not tracking for a week. Why would I do such a thing when I know from experience that it doesn’t work? Because I’m a dork, apparently. Sure enough, history repeated itself and my weight stayed the same. I knew that I was close to those goals, and I wasn’t going to let a stupid thing like not tracking slow me down again, so not only did I track every day the following week, I also started going back to the gym and taking the dogs for walks, runs, and play times at the park.

Surely exercise would get me off the plateau, right?

Not this time. After a week of tracking and exercise, my weight stayed the same again. Somewhat discouraged by that result after a week of going to exercise, I continued on with the same plan of tracking and exercise. The exercise I did just fine, but the tracking only lasted for half of the week.

October 10: My weight stayed the same, yet again.

The following week was last week, and things got a little crazy. I wasn’t tracking again for who-knows-why, and then on Wednesday I got a call from our explosives facility saying that the database was filled with duplicated data and they needed me down there right away to fix it. I was already planning to go there this week, but they needed me early so I bought a plane ticket and flew down to Dallas that night. I missed the weigh in last week because of travel and work. I stayed there over the weekend so that I could monitor the database and respond to anything that happened during that time.

Even though I’ve been traveling to this site regularly for almost six years now, I recently changed which town I stay in while I’m there and I’m not as familiar with the restaurants in the area. I got recommendations for where to eat from some of the employees in the area and stuck to those for the most part. The bad news is, none of the places that I ate at are in the Weight Watchers database, so I’d have to make guesses (educated though they might be) which I hate doing. The good news is, I wasn’t there to indulge or to binge, so I made good decisions. Sure, I ate some pizza, but we’re talking a 12″ wood-fired pizza that I ate half of and saved the other half for another meal and I’ve got enough points to eat a large pan-pizza from Pizza Hut by myself, so I’m not worried about a little one.

I was planning on working out while I was there, but I was working about 12 hours every day didn’t feel like working out once I was there. I tracked down the local Weight Watchers meetings intending to go weigh-in, but times just didn’t line up the first few days and after I made the decision not to exercise during the eight-day business trip, I decided I’d just put off the weigh-in until I got back home.

I got home on Wednesday night, so last night of course was our normal weigh-in night. We had an interview with local church leaders to go to, so we agreed that if I did reach my 75 lbs lost mark last night we would stay for the rest of the meeting, but if not we’d just head to Amarillo (~60 miles) for the interview early. As you saw at the top of the post though, I’m on my fifth week in a row staying once again in Château d’Plateau.

Dealing With Plateaus
This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve been on a plateau, or even the first time I’ve blogged about it. I first brought it up in January 2011, again in May 2011, and then again April 2012. My plateau’s aren’t the worst, they usually last a few weeks for me. I work with a guy that was on a plateau for over three months.

Plateaus suck.

Personally, I’d rather see a gain than see that I stayed the same. Every once in a while, sure I can handle staying the same. But for five weeks in a row? No. Screw that, I’d rather have a gain and know that I’m failing than to stall out at 0.0 lbs. I spent three weeks going to the gym every day, and I still stayed the same. Then I spent eight days out of town, eating out for every meal at places I had no clue about in regards to nutrition without doing any exercise at all, and I still stayed the same. It’s incredibly frustrating to see the same number on the scale regardless of how strictly or how loosely I followed the plan.

The specifics of overcoming a plateau can change from one person to the next. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for each of us might not work for the next person. However, the general key to breaking a plateau is that something has to change. There’s usually one or two things that are responsible for your lack of progress. It’s usually something fairly simple, like you need to change up how you’re exercising, you need to start tracking because you haven’t been, or you need to reevaluate your tracking to make sure you haven’t miscalculated one of your favorite snacks/meals or that you haven’t been tracking something that you thought was “free” when in fact it wasn’t.

According to some of the exercise-related resources that I read online, one way to break a plateau in regards to exercising is to start doing things backwards. For example, if you’re used to exercising on an elliptical machine, then try using the same machine but instead of moving your feet forward, try moving them backward. The machine works exactly the same regardless of which direction you push the pedals, but changing it up like that engages different muscles or engages the same muscles but in a different way.

In regards to food, if you find that you often eat the same meals at least once every week then chances are you’ve become a little bit relaxed in your measuring because you’ve gotten so used to seeing the right portions that you think you know what those portions “look” like without measuring them. If you’ve gotten into those habits then you’re really gambling with your weight loss. Most of the time you find that people who stop measuring because they’re used to seeing the right portion end up eating more Points than they thought they were, while people who aren’t measuring but are trying something new have a tendency to under-measure so that they aren’t eating as many Points as they thought they were.

I’m going to read over those old posts of mine myself after publishing this one, and see if maybe I forgot something else that I should try. I’m not about to give up on this weight loss journey, regardless of how frustrating this plateau is. I need to change some things up, and I need to really get my butt back on plan completely instead of playing this half-n-half game that clearly doesn’t work.

The picture above is what was waiting for me in the break room this morning when I went to go fill up my water bottle. Four dozen donuts just sitting there whispering, “We know how you feel, buddy. Come here and let us give you a hug!”

Not today, donuts. Not today.

Solo… Again

I’m beginning to think he’s doing it on purpose.

Do you realize that Jason hasn’t blogged for a month and a half? His last post was 8-30. Usually, the person with the best weigh-in result in the one who writes that week’s results blog post. When we tied a few weeks back, he decided that I should be the one to blog. This week, I’m blogging by default because I’m the only one who weighed in. Jason is traveling on business and while he planned to find a local meeting last night, he ended up not leaving work until after 7pm, so it just didn’t happen. He might see if he can find a place to weigh in on Saturday, but I think the most likely scenario is that he’ll just skip this week and weigh in next week. I told him that he owes me. Regardless of weigh in results next week, it’s his turn to blog!

So, here is the result from my weigh in last night:

  • Jenny: -2.0 (-30.4 since back on plan, -50.8 overall)

I am, admittedly, still re-losing weight that I gained during our year and a half of false starts and excuses. Before we de-railed, I had earned my 10% keychain, 25lb medallion, stay and succeed medallion and my 50lb medallion. I was working hard towards my 75lb medallion, but hadn’t earned it yet. I’ve kept my keychain and medallions off to the side since basically losing all right to claim it with having gained back nearly 45lbs of what I had lost. When you re-gain weight, Weight Watchers doesn’t take back the recognition you had earned, because really, you did earn it. I just didn’t feel worthy of it any more.

Now, I can claim everything on my keychain.

2013-10-18 11.51.56

I’ve earned it, not once, but twice over. When you backslide as much as I did, it’s hard to admit failure and have the strength to move past it. It’s much easier to just feel like a failure and not try. Trust me, that attitude cost me about two years of progress on making my health better: the year and a half of ignoring it and a little over another half year catching up. It hasn’t been pretty, facing that reality, but I feel like I finally have the right attitude. I am proud of what I have accomplished since the beginning of the summer when we got back on plan. I’ve lost over 30lbs in 4-1/2 months! I’m hitting the healthy weight loss average right where all the doctors say you should be: 1-2 lbs/week (my average is 1.5). I’m losing at a better/steadier rate than during our first very successful year on Weight Watchers. Back then, I bounced between big losses and small gains. This year, it’s been a pretty steady, consistent rate of loss. It feels healthy, natural and right.

My next big milestone: Getting back to the weight I was before I let life distract me. I have exactly 14lbs to lose to get there. With my current average, I can do this by the end of the year. I’d really like to start 2014 without any of this hanging over my head (or around my hips). This time, I’m losing weight one realistic goal at a time.

For my gamer friends, let’s /dance to celebrate!

♫ Getting Twiggy With It ♫

♫ Na na na na na na na nana na na na na nana
Gettin’ Twiggy wit it!
Na na na na na na na nana na na na na nana ♫

Initially I was thinking that I might go ahead and rewrite the lyrics and actually post a new song, but as I read over the original lyrics for “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” I was reminded just how horrible that song was and I just couldn’t do it. I have spared you the horror of both the original song as well as a new version written by me. You’re welcome.

Let’s get started here with some results. Jenny and I both felt uncertain heading into the meeting. Even though we did good with sticking to the plan and everything, we just weren’t particularly feeling like we had lost weight so we didn’t know what to expect.

Jenny: ±0 lbs
Jason: -0.6 lbs

Jenny stayed the same, and that’s not too bad really when you consider that we had gone out to celebrate our 10th anniversary during which we decided we weren’t going to track anything. We still made reasonable decisions for things that we ate, but we weren’t going to bother with restricting ourselves too much on a day that only comes once per year and is truly worth celebrating. (Technically it comes twice per year since we were both married and sealed, and those two happen to be about 6 months apart. Details.)

Now on to the topic of the post here, which is me stepping away from the technical analyzing that I usually do and sharing my personal thoughts and feelings on weight and weight loss in general.

Background: Emotions & Thoughts
During meetings when you have a big loss to celebrate or you’ve reached a milestone or something, the leader likes to talk to you about it in front of the group to try to get some motivation out there to the other members. They ask you things like what you did to lose that weight, how you feel, and so on. Personally, I’m not a person who feels a whole lot of anything to be quite honest. That’s not to say that I don’t have feelings, I just don’t experience them as often or to anywhere near the same degree as other people. So when the leader asks me what I did to lose the weight, I can answer that question without any hesitation at all (tracking and pre-planning our meals for sure). But when she asks me how I feel about it? Uh…I feel pretty much exactly the same way I did 3 years ago before I started trying to lose weight again.

Everyone else she talks to is always saying it feels great or amazing, that they feel fantastic and have so much more energy. I don’t really get any of that. I lose weight and I basically feel the same as I did before I lost it. Losing weight doesn’t have the same impact on me that it does on everybody else, I guess.

I was talking to Jenny about this a week or so ago when we came up with the idea of the post, and we talked about one of the big differences between the two of us from our childhood. Jenny grew up as a skinny girl, and was skinny until her PCOS kicked in and started sabotaging that for her. For me, I’ve always been fat. I was born fat, I was a fat kid, fat teenager, and I’ve been a fat adult ever since. The only times in my life that I ever wasn’t fat was when I hit growth spurts and even then it wasn’t so much that I was no longer fat as it was I had grown so tall in so short a time that I just didn’t look fat for a few weeks. Being fat is a part of who I am. It has been one of the things that has defined me as a person for so long that it’s just become a permanent part of me.

When I call myself fat, I’m not doing it in a derogatory way. Me calling myself fat is no different than me saying that I have blond hair, that I’m a Texan, or that I love pumpkin pie. So when a leader asks me how it feels to be 70 pounds lighter, I basically lie to everyone else in the meeting and tell them that it feels great. But in reality, I don’t feel any different at all because I’m still fat and I still feel the same now as I did 15 years ago. Being fat doesn’t make me feel bad. It makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes, sure. And like most other people, I’ve looked in the mirror before, really looked, and been upset at myself for letting it get so out of hand. It has its drawbacks for sure, but it doesn’t carry the same negative context for me as it does for so many other people.

I didn’t start losing weight because I was feeling bad, I started losing weight for two reasons. First, because if my wife ever decides that she wants or needs to do something to make herself better, I’m not going to make her take the journey alone. If she’s going to do anything related to dieting or fitness, then I’m going to be there to support her 100% and I’m going to do it with her for as long as she needs. PCOS provided that need for her, and I’ve been on board from the start. Second, I’m not ready to die yet. While my weight hasn’t prompted anything life threatening (that I’m aware of), I don’t want it to ever reach that stage either. My dad had a heart attack at the age of 35. It wasn’t entirely due to him being overweight, and he’s still alive and kicking some 20 years later, but it’s something that always lurks there in the back of my mind.

Progress: Physical Health
When I just talked about not feeling anything different, I’m talking emotions there. There are certainly differences that come from losing weight, it just doesn’t happen to have quite the same emotional or psychological effect on me. When I started working for my current employer five years ago, going up the stairs to the second floor would have me winded for several minutes. Now I can go up and down those stairs several times and feel perfectly fine. I can take my dogs for a long walk, and even jog with them (when Sophie isn’t having so much fun that she decides it’d be fun to trip me) and after a few seconds of catching my breath I’m ready to go again. Before all the weight loss, if I would jog across the street with the dogs I’d be breathing hard for at least a block.

So physically, there are definitely some differences between how I feel now versus how I felt before. It’s not at the same level that other people seem to have. I haven’t discovered some brand new well of energy that makes me want to get up and go run a marathon or anything. But still, I certainly feel much better physically and that’s a great feeling. I don’t love exercise, and I never have, but I can do exercise now and not get winded nearly as soon or for near as long as before. I can run a 5K on the treadmill in the morning before work and feel good about it. My times suck compared to people who actually enjoy running, but I can still get it done.

Wake-Up Call: Visuals
Going back to fat being a part of who I am, let’s talk visuals. Because I identify being fat as part of who I am, it’s hard for me to notice the changes in myself when I lose weight. It also hindered me seeing that I had gained so much weight, which is part of how it all got so out of hand in the first place. People would tell me that they could see the changes, that they could tell I had been losing weight, but I couldn’t see it myself. When I look in the mirror, I don’t often really stop to pay attention to how I look, to notice those differences, I just see “me” and move on.

Last week or the week before though, I was getting dressed and I happened to see my legs and I mean really see them. Something caught my eye and kicked me out of auto-pilot and I actually looked at them and saw that they were smaller. I took the time to really look at myself, and suddenly I could see what everyone else had been talking about. I started paying attention then and suddenly other changes became apparent as well. I only buy new clothes about once per year, so I could see changes in how my clothes fit pretty easily once I actually started paying attention. I have a pair of slacks that my legs completely filled so that when I sat down they were firmly stretched all around my legs, and now I can grab a good four inches worth of fabric in my hands. I didn’t know that the size of my legs was changing at all, but the proof is certainly there.

I finally let Jenny talk me into getting some new clothes a little while back, and within just a few weeks of that shopping trip I apparently misplaced my butt. I don’t know what happened to it, the thing just straight up disappeared. The new shorts that we got during that trip don’t even fit me anymore. If I’m not wearing a belt, they fall down if I’ve got anything at all in my pockets. Now I don’t have any shorts or pants that really fit me because I lost my butt (such a horrible problem to have, I know.) Thank goodness the belt still keeps them up for the time being, or else I’m going to have “wears suspenders” as a new addition to my personal definition.

After losing 70 pounds, I knew that there would be physical changes to my body, but I never noticed them until that point. Jenny would tell me I was looking better, and people that I work with would say the same things, but I couldn’t see it myself so it always seemed like they were just trying to be nice to keep me in the game or something. We started losing weight almost three years ago, and it took me until just the last week or two to actually realize the physical changes that have happened to my body. Not because there weren’t any changes until recently, but because I never bothered to pay attention before.

Getting Twiggy With It
Now all of a sudden my legs are skinny (skinnier), my butt disappeared, and all of those X’s in my shirt sizes are starting to leave as well. Being fat has always been a part of who I am, but that’s starting to change now and it’s a change that’s never happened before so I’m having to figure it out as we go here. It’s going to take some time, and certainly some more weight, before I completely clear that out of my system, but I think I can actually get there. I think I can reach the point where “fat” no longer has a place in my definition. It will always be a part of who I was, but it will not always be a part of who I am today.

I’m getting skinnier, and I’m starting to be able to actually notice it and accept it.

And that really does feel fantastic.

♫ Na na na na na na na nana na na na na nana
Gettin’ Twiggy wit it!
Na na na na na na na nana na na na na nana ♫

Life Lessons: Weight Loss Budget

Today I’m going to talk about weight loss in a little bit different light, relating it to another thing that we all have to deal with in our lives, which is money. As I’ve talked to more and more people in different places, both online and in person, this is one of the themes that I keep coming back to in order to help explain how Weight Watchers works and how people can relate that experience to something that’s not quite so foreign if they’ve never looked at Weight Watchers before or if they’re constantly referring to it as a diet.

We’ll take a look at various aspects of gaining weight, losing weight, and maintaining. The purpose here is to help explain the concepts of losing weight with Weight Watchers.

Getting Started: What is a Budget
To start us off here, I’m going to pull a few lines from some websites I found that deal with establishing a monetary budget. We’ll start with this bit from practicalmoneyskills.com, “A budget is a plan for your future income and expenditures that you can use as a guideline for spending and saving. Although many Americans already use a budget to plan their spending, the majority of Americans also routinely spend more than they can afford. The key to spending within your means is to know your expenses and to spend less than you make. A good monthly budget can help ensure you pay your bills on time, have funds to cover unexpected emergencies, and reach your financial goals.”

Weight loss with Weight Watchers is no different. Let me convert that quote into weight loss terms; instead of dollars, you’re dealing with PointsPlus. “You plan for future income (weekly points, activity points, or new daily points) and expenditures (eating). Although many Americans like to think that they watch what they eat, the majority of Americans (and people of other nations) also routinely eat more than they can healthily afford. The key to spending your Points within your means is to know how much you can eat, and do so without over-eating. A good PointsPlus budget can help ensure you lose weight, have the points to cover unexpected food opportunities/surprises, and reach your weight loss goals”

When you get started with Weight Watchers the first thing they’re going to do is have you weigh in. This is what determines your budget. You have a daily budget, which is your Daily PointsPlus Target that is based on your personal metrics and any points left over at the end of the day disappear. You have a weekly budget, which is your Weekly PointsPlus Allowance which is always set to 49 on your weigh-in day for everyone. You also have another weekly budget, your Activity Points, which defaults to 0 and you have to exercise in order to build up those points. Both of the weekly budgets remain open with their points balances for the entire week, but once your weigh-in day rolls around any extra points go away and they reset to their default values of 49 and 0.

The biggest difference between a financial budget and a weight loss budget is that bills are typically handled on a monthly basis where weight loss is handled weekly. Instead of everything being due on the 15th day of every month (or whatever), you have a weigh-in day every week on the same day. Your daily budget is like paying your bills, those are points that you need to spend in order to give your body the fuel that it needs to function. Your weekly budgets are more like your wants instead of your needs.

Living Within Your Means: PointsPlus Values
The key to having a successful budget is making sure that you never spend more than you have available. The key to losing weight is making sure that you don’t eat more food than your body can handle while maintaining a healthy weight. Your body needs food, it just doesn’t need as much as we tend to give it. Just like you need to purchase “things” in order to live, yet we don’t always live within our means as we buy things we want instead.

I’m going to reference that same website above, but I’m going to take little bits and pieces from the article instead of doing a direct quote. If you want to read the whole thing, you can follow this link to Live Within Your Means.

[Begin paraphrase]
If you are like many Americans, you may find that you are spending more than you’re saving and steadily going deeper into debt as a result. This is an easy and common pattern to fall into, and one that requires some planning and discipline to reverse. Once you’ve got a clear understanding of your current budget, your challenge is to find places where you can spend less (or earn more) in order to achieve your financial goals.

Here are some steps you can take toward that end:

1. Question Your Needs And Wants – What do you want? What do you really need? Take a look at the big picture.

2. Set Guidelines – We all have different budgets based on our needs and wants.

3. Track, Trim And Target – Once you start tracking, you may be surprised what you find. Cutting back is usually a better place to start than completely cutting out. Be realistic. It will help you to be better prepared for the unexpected.
[End Paraphrasing]

It also talks about trimming expenses, but to keep it more focused on the weight loss side, I’m going to rewrite it with that in mind. Trimming expenses for weight loss is cutting back on those things that you really enjoy that are just too high in points to be eating them all the time. It could be anything from candy to bread, ice cream to ribeye steaks, sweet tea to alcohol. Different people have different weaknesses when it comes to food, and those are what we’re really focusing on here.

If there’s a food that you really love and it’s high in points then you need to make a decision. Can you live without ever eating that thing again, or can handle eating smaller portions of it? Do you have some self control in relation to that food, or do you have none at all? If you can handle it in moderation, then all you need is a plan and the determination to stick to that plan and you’ll do just fine.

For this example, we’re going to use one of the highest-points desserts in the Weight Watchers database, which is an Ultimate Fudge Brownie from Kona Grill which has a 50 PointsPlus value for a single serving. You love that brownie, it’s your favorite thing in the whole world. For some people, knowing that it’s 50 PointsPlus is enough for them to say, “You know what? That’s a dang good brownie, but it’s just not worth 50 PointsPlus to me, so I’m going to walk away and never eat that thing again.” Some people can do that, and they can stick to it. Other people, just can’t. They need to find a way to work that in.

If you can’t cut an “expense”, or a food that you absolutely have to have, then you need to try to trim it. You can do that by either eating smaller portions of it if that’s an option; this would be things like either ordering only a partial serving, sharing it with friends/family, or if you make it yourself then cutting the portions that you make or that you dish out to begin with. Or, you can go ahead and eat the full portion but cut back on how often you eat it.

Once you’ve identified these foods you need to make a plan and set a goal. Goals should be specific or else you’ll never achieve it. “Eat less brownie” isn’t a goal because you could leave a little spec of the brownie on your plate and say that you ate less of it. Be specific. “Only eat the ultimate fudge brownie once per month,” is an achievable goal. “Only eat half of the ultimate fudge brownie,” is an achievable goal. Both of those are acceptable as long as they fit within your budget. If you’ve got the points, then it’s alright to eat the whole thing. You’re not cheating or failing if you eat something that’s high in points as long as you’re staying within your budget.

Once you have the specific goal you need to make it measurable. If eating half the brownie or eating it once per month is enough measurement for you to stay within your budget then you can stop there. However, what if you had a birthday party and ate cake and ice cream and already used up some of your weekly points, and now the only way you will be able to have that special expensive food is to earn activity points? In that case, you need to update your goal to this, “I want that 50 Point dessert, and I currently have 40 Weekly points but 0 Activity points saved for it.” Now you know that you have 40 of the 50 points that you need. You know how far you have to go (50) and you know how close you already are (40+0=40) so you know how far you have left to go (50-40=10). Now you know exactly what you need to do in order to fit that dessert into your budget and you can plan accordingly. If you have 5 days left until you eat that dessert, then you know you need to get an average of 2 Activity Points per day (10/5=2) and if you know that one of those days you’ll be out of town and unable to exercise, so you need to get an extra 2 points in on the other 4 days that you have left.

Your goals also have to be attainable, it has to be something that you can actually achieve. If you haven’t been doing any exercise at all in forever, and you’ve only got 10 Weekly Points left for that 50 Point brownie on Friday, do you think you’re honestly going to be able to make up 40 Activity points in the next 3-4 days? If your goal isn’t to eat a specific thing, but rather to lose a specific amount of weight, is losing 15 lbs in a week attainable? Not for most people. If a goal isn’t realistic, then there’s no point in setting it in the first place.

Measurable in time. You don’t want to set a goal that has no end date. “My goal is to weigh 110 lbs,” sounds like a good goal, right? How soon do you want to get down to that 110 lbs? By the end of the summer? The end of next year? Before the age of 85? If there’s no time limit set on your goal, then you’ve deflated your motivation. Remember, even your timeline has to be something that’s realistically attainable, but there needs to be a timeline set for achieving the goal. A lot of people trying to lose weight are doing it because they kept putting off eating healthy or getting back into shape. They put it off, then put it off again, and just kept on putting it off because there was no timeline. “Man, I really need to get around to losing some of this weight…” How many times have I said that in my lifetime? I’m not sure I can count that high. I can tell you that about 90% of the times that I said it I did so right before or right after eating something that had a huge Points value, though.

Debt: Gaining Weight
Now that we’ve talked about how the plan overall relates to a budget, let’s take a look at why budgeting is actually important. When you’re dealing with finances, you’re basically looking at how much income you have minus your expenses to see how much you can tuck away into savings or how much you can put towards paying off debts.

With Weight Watchers it’s almost exactly the same thing; you’re looking at how many PointsPlus you have available each day, minus the points values of your foods, to see how much debt you can pay off. You can’t tuck anything away into savings, because your body doesn’t allow savings accounts.

All the weight that you need to lose right now is debt that you’ve built up throughout your life. It’s a debt that you owe to your body, and one that can weigh just as heavily on your mind as it does physically on your body. What happens when you go into too much financial debt and can’t pay your bills? A not-so-little thing we call bankruptcy. When you become too indebted to your body you run into things like gallstones, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or triglycerides, coronary artery disease (CAD), a stroke, or sleep apnea. Debt can be a very serious thing no matter how you slice it.

Debt, in terms of weight loss, is the extra weight that you’ve put on over the years that you’re trying now to get off. In weight loss there is no savings for you to build towards, instead you’re either relieving debt (weight gained) or you’re staying out of debt (maintaining your weight). Because weight loss isn’t a single event, you don’t simply lose it and then suddenly you get to live out the rest of your life being skinny. Your body just doesn’t work that way. It’s the same reason why diets never work in the long term. Weight Watchers isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. They give you the rules to live by to be successful and the tools to do it with. That’s why it succeeds.

Going on a diet is like getting a credit card. It has it’s perks, but if you don’t watch it you’re just going to end up even deeper in debt than you were before you started. Have you ever tried a diet, had success, and then stopped the diet and not too long after you gained back even more weight than you started with? That’s why Weight Watchers will consistently beat out every diet out there. Because it’s not a diet that tells you what you can and cannot eat, it’s a tool that you can use to live a healthy life. It’s the difference between a credit card that you abuse, and one that you actually use wisely and with control. If you use it correctly and establish a goals-based or rules-focused life style around it you can actually get ahead.

Executing the Budget: Meal Planning
I know that last section was a downer, so let’s pick it back up here and talk about how we get out of this debt and build a better life. We’re going to talk about meal planning, and a few different ways that you can handle planning head.

Weekly Planning (Hard, but effective if you can pull it off)
We’ll start off with the method that you tend to hear most often in meetings from your leader, which is to plan ahead for the entire week. Some people don’t have any problem at all planning out a week’s worth of meals in advance. In our experience, every time we tried to plan a week’s worth of meals we failed. We’d either go off plan half-way through the week and then throw the plan out the window for the rest of the week, or we wouldn’t even be able to come up with a whole week’s worth of meals that actually sounded good and then we’d just give up all together. If you can handle planning a week at a time, that’s great. If you can’t handle that much planning, then try one of these other methods instead.

Weekly planning gives you total control of what’s going to happen the entire week, which makes it easier for you to plan how you’re going to spend your weekly points and activity points (assuming that you’re going to spend any of them at all). If you know everything you’re going to eat all week long, you can more easily plan in special treats for events where you know you might not be able to accurately track the foods that you eat. If you know there’s a party on Friday but have no idea what food is going to be served there, then you know in advance that you need to keep all of your other days within your daily points so that you have your weekly points available for that unknown party.

The drawback is that by planning the entire week in advance, you need to be very conscious of your weekly points and activity points or else you will not be able to handle surprises as easily. For example, if you have already planned out your entire week and today at work your best friend invited you to a BBQ at his place tonight, then you might not have the points available to do that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go, it just means that you’re going to have to go back and re-plan the rest of your week to allow for that surprise.

Semi-Weekly Planning (Easy-Medium, but very effective and easier to stick to it)
This is the method that we’ve adopted over the last couple of months and has been a huge success for us so far. Instead of planning out a full week worth of meals, we now break it up into one plan for Monday-Thursday, and another for Friday-Sunday. Our weigh-in day is Thursday, so right after the meeting we head to the grocery store and eat at the deli there and then do our grocery shopping with our minds still focused on the meeting and making the right choices. We shop to get us through the weekend and then on Monday we do the same thing, minus the Weight Watchers meeting. Since our meetings are on Thursday, we consider that the start of our weight-week so even though we plan on Monday and Thursday, Monday is actually the second plan of each weight-week with Thursday being the first.

Doing this, we know that if a surprise does come up, we still haven’t planned the second half of the week, so we can set aside weekly points if we need to and we still have time to earn activity points if it’s something that serious or if we’ve already spent some of that budget on a planned event earlier in the week. Since our first planning of the weight-week is on Thursday, and most “surprises” often happen on the weekend, surprises are usually much easier for us to handle.

So far we haven’t run into any drawbacks for semi-weekly planning. It has worked out incredibly well for us so far, and we plan to keep it that way.

Daily Planning (Easy, can be effective as long as you’re tracking diligently)
If you just don’t have the time to plan out your meals for any portion of the week in advance, then you can plan for a single day instead. You need to be careful with weekly and activity points this way, as it’s easier to give into impulses and temptations when you haven’t bothered planning for the days ahead. We have had success doing this in the past, but if you look at the chart of our weight loss during these time periods you’d think it was a 4 year old’s drawing of a mountain range from all the up and down that we went through because of poor planning and not thinking ahead. Overall it more or less worked in the end, but it wasn’t very effective and certainly wasn’t efficient.

Single Meal Planning (IT’S A TRAP!)
What you want to avoid if at all possible, is not planning ahead at all and always focusing just on the meal you’re about to have. If you don’t plan ahead at all, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to both surprises and temptations. If you already know in advance what you’re going to eat for the entire day, then you know whether or not you have room for temptations. If you just wing it and give in to a temptation because “I’ve got weeklies for this” and then there’s another temptation and “I’ve got weeklies for this” those little temptations are going to catch up with you. That’s why tracking is so important as well. If you’re tracking everything then you will know for sure whether or not you have the weekly points for things.

With this method it’s easy to find yourself in situations where you had little or no breakfast, a big lunch, and then come dinner time you have a fairly low amount of points but plenty of hunger. In the final section below I’ll talk about this a little bit more, but basically if you find yourself in this situation then you are significantly more likely to give up on the plan either for the day or the whole Weight Watchers thing all together, and you’re more likely to give into temptations. You’ll be more likely to spend your weekly points and less likely to track spending them which could lead to thinking that you have more points that you actually do later in the week and end up spending points that you don’t actually have.

A Little Psychology
Alright, this part doesn’t really fit within the scope of the rest of the article here, but it’s something that can help you understand impulses that I talked about in the section above. The following information comes from an article called Your App Makes Me Fat from seriouspony.com. The article itself is actually about how developing complex user interfaces can be a really bad thing for your users, so it doesn’t completely apply to our topic, but it’s the study that’s mentioned there that’s important to us here.

I’m not going to post the whole article here, but let me summarize the important parts for you.

Back in 1999 a study was done on some grad students where they asked half of them to memorize a two digit number and the other half was asked to memorize a seven digit number. After the memorization task was complete, they were told that the experiment was over and each of the students was offered a choice of snacks: either a bowl of fruit or a slice of chocolate cake. Their findings were that the students who had to memorize the seven digit number were 50% more likely to choose cake over fruit. (We’ll talk more about this in a minute.)

Another experiment was done in 2010, this time using dogs instead of people. They had half of the dogs sit inside their kennels for 10 minutes before letting them out to play with a puzzle toy that was rigged so that they couldn’t actually get to the treat inside. The other half of the dogs were commanded to sit and stay for 10 minutes before being allowed to play with the same, rigged puzzle-toy. The findings this time were very similar, the dogs that were left in the kennels and had nothing else to do gave up on the toy after about 2 minutes of not being able to get the treat out, while the ones who had to sit there and focus on remaining obedient gave up in less than 1 minute.

What these tests concluded was that our brains use the same resource for self control and problem solving. If you focus all day long on solving problems at work, then you don’t have as much self control at the end of the day because you’ve used up all of your resources on solving problems at work. Similarly, if you’ve spent all day resisting temptations sitting in your kitchen, then you won’t be able to think as clearly at night because once again you’ve already burned up those resources.

That’s why planning ahead plays such a key role in overall success. If you already have the day’s meals planned out in advance, then you don’t have to worry about giving into temptation for the meals themselves. The more you do throughout the day, the less control you have over yourself in the evenings. That’s just how our brains work. If something makes you think, then it’s draining the same resource that allows you to say “no” to foods that don’t fit within your budget. It doesn’t matter whether the problems you face during the day are work, taking care of your kids or pets, or if you just watch TV and play games on your cell phone, you’re always burning those resources.

Planning ahead is how you avoid those dangerous situations and find lasting success.

We Survived Vacation!

It’s really difficult sometimes not to let a vacation turn into a free-for-all food wise. I know that it has happened to us before and you have to then spend some time making up for it afterwards. Usually, we don’t mind because when we’re on vacation, we just want to enjoy ourselves and not worry if we have enough points available for that little treat or to try something new where we have no idea what the point value is.

The trouble is that this time, we had such great momentum going into the vacation, I didn’t want to come back and have to “catch up”. So, while we didn’t track and we weren’t exactly good, we certainly weren’t terrible. It also helped that we attended a festival in a hilly part of the mountains south of Denver and ended up (according to my FitBit) climbing the equivalent of 14 flights of stairs and ending up with over 7,000 steps that day without hitting the gym.

So we didn’t expect great things on the scale this week (after all, we weren’t exactly GOOD), so we were quite pleased with these post-vacation results:

  • Jason: +1
  • Jenny: -0.2

Neither of us has a ton of weight to “catch up” on and I even managed to have a tiny loss. Not bad for a fun vacation where we didn’t track and enjoyed a few indulgences. Now to make sure we stay on track pretty strict this week so it doesn’t catch up with us next week!

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