Perspective – Lose For Good

With Jason’s disappointment at staying the same again this week (I lost 0.8) I think it’s a really good time to talk about perspective. And Lose For Good.

Every year, Weight Watchers runs a Lose For Good campaign. You’ve probably seen me post or tweet with the hashtag, especially when I was sharing the Lose For Good gift that they sent to me. During this time, Weight Watchers donates up to $500,000 to specific charities based on the number of pounds lost during the campaign as well as social media actions taken on 9/23 for the Lose-A-Palooza media blitz to promote the charities associated with the Lose For Good campaign. In addition to the national campaign, Weight Watchers encourages each local meeting or group to bring in non-perishable food to donate to a local food bank. They encourage each member to bring in one pound of food for each pound of weight they have lost during the 4-week campaign.

Of course any extra is always encouraged.

Last year, Jason and I weren’t really on plan, so we didn’t participate. The year before, though, we had been on plan for a whole year and had made some very significant strides in our weight loss. We donated 116 pounds of food for our combined total weight loss at the time. The first time around, I was totally kicking Jason’s butt on the scale. More than half of our total pounds lost came from my weight tracker.

This year we’re donating 122 pounds of food.

This is the highest combined total for weight loss that we have experienced as a couple. We make no secret about the mistakes that we made last year. I paid for them quite a bit more than Jason did and I’m still working to pay off that “debt” to myself. Jason, however, is losing new weight and has been for quite some time. Instead of me being over half the weight loss that we’re counting for the Lose For Good donation, Jason has done the lion’s share. He is almost 75 pounds of that total on his own.

So while he may be disappointed in staying the same two weeks in a row, what he has done is incredible. It’s inspiring. Even more so, he’s getting smaller and people are noticing! We ran into an old co-worker of his at the store. “Hey, I used to know someone who looked like you, but he was a bigger guy!” At his Granny’s birthday party. “Oooooh, you look so good son!”  Seeing an old friend at the meeting that hadn’t been there for a while, “Oh, you look so good. You’re doing GOOD, aren’t you?”

While the number on the scale does matter for Lose For Good. It’s hardly the only thing that matters in this journey. Inches matter. Fitness matters. Clothes fitting smaller matter. People who you don’t see everyday noticing the difference matters. Sometimes we just need to ignore the number for a while, focus on tracking, eating well, exercising and letting our bodies find balance as they change.

Sometimes we just need a shift in perspective.

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Weightloss Super Heroes

I’ve never thought of myself as a Weightloss Super Hero.

A recent experience has me thinking a lot about what it takes to be a super hero. Whenever I think of Weightloss Super Heroes I know, I think of my sister, who is rocking it over in the Fitocracy community, my twitter friend Chelsea who is a crossfit superstar (the girl is a beast, seriously) and my friend B.J. over at Geek Fitness. Each one of them would tell you that they’re still a work in progress (with fitness, isn’t everybody?) but they are leaps and bounds ahead of where I am and they are constant sources of awe and inspiration.

Ok, so this is where I bust out my nerd card. I really started thinking about super heroes as I tried to get to sleep last night. Most of the comic book super heroes (with the notable exceptions of the Tony Starks and Bruce Waynes, who start as billionaires with unlimited resources) start as average, everyday Joes (and Janes) who discover that they have a super power, mutation or fantastic alien genetics. They learn what they can do, try to harness it through trial and error and eventually find a way to help other people with their newfound power.

Like I said, I’ve never thought of myself as a Weightloss Super Hero. I aspire to it. I think maybe I’ll be one in a couple more years, when I have a better handle on this whole health thing. But then a couple of weeks ago, Weight Watchers contacted me via twitter. They had been watching my tweets (blog shares, food photos, meal planning, cheerleading stuff I do all the time) and loved what they saw. They asked for my address to send me a gift. I didn’t expect something as fun as this:

Maybe I had the beginnings of a super hero in me after all. I’ve thought a lot about this over the last couple of days. What did Weight Watchers see in me that I hadn’t seen in myself?

Three years ago, we started this blog as a way to chronicle our journey. We made it public, but I didn’t really think anyone would read it, much less find inspiration here. It was created as a place to be honest about every aspect of our journey, even if we weren’t proud of the results. It was a way to be publicly accountable in a way that just attending meetings and sharing with co-workers wouldn’t give us. Jason and I met online. So much of our identities and connections were here in the ether of the inter-webs. This is where we knew our friends were, where we knew some support could be found.

I never expected as much support as we’ve received. Even through our 18 months of false starts and kitchen remodels. Even through the back-sliding and weight gaining that resulted from it. Even more than the support, the feedback we’ve had on the blog has been incredible and uplifting. It happened again yesterday. Someone told me how much our blog inspired them.

It made me feel like a super hero.

Maybe that’s my Weightloss Super Power. This is an incredibly personal topic and journey. It is often embarrassing to share just how much work there is to do. It’s hard to share disappointment and regret. But I love to inspire. When I was a teenager, I loved being a cheerleader. There was a Freshman squad that didn’t do the tumbling that was required of the JV and Varsity squads. That suited me just fine, because I’ve never really loved athletics. What I did love was getting the crowd riled up and leading the spectators in cheers. I loved the contagious enthusiasm.

The funny thing is that even though the successes we have shared on this blog have been inspiring, I also learned that the honesty we’ve committed to here has also been inspiring. It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Everyone struggles. If we only shared our successes, this blog would be pretty flat and one-sided. We’re real here. You know I’m Jenny and Jason is my husband and our journey has been far from perfect.

You know you’re not alone.

We don’t present perfection. No weightloss journey is perfect in it’s course. One slip-up or a million, doesn’t mean failure. It means you’re human. Maybe our Weightloss Super Power is Truth, even when it is embarrassing or makes us angry. We share it, and when we share it we find a way to be motivated or inspired by our shortcomings and share that inspiration with you.

Jason wasn’t happy about his weigh in results last night. While I lost 1.6 (making my current total 48.0) he stayed the same with a total of 73.2. He hadn’t tracked consistently this week and he’s so close to a significant milestone, he was really disappointed in the lack of progress.

But you know what he did? This morning, when the alarm was going off and his wife was mumbling about not wanting to get up, that we’d get going really well at the gym the next week, he got up. He is determined to have a loss next week and he knows that he needs to step up his activity to get there. Disappointed, he still got up, put on his gym clothes, tied on his shoes, and harnessed the dogs. He had time for a walk/run with the dogs and still made it back in time to fix our breakfast:

2013-09-28 09.54.35

He was my Super Hero this morning, and not just for the breakfast.

He inspires me.

And the Winner is…

Daisey!

Since she can’t type very well, I’m posting this week’s results on her behalf.

“Mama and Papa are totally starving me. I have to make sure I’m around when they put the food in my bowl or I won’t get anything to eat. One time, Mama started picking up my bowl WHILE I WAS STILL EATING! In a panic, I tried to cram as much in my mouth as possible. Of course I had to put it all down on the floor to eat it. I was very glad I gobbled it up fast enough that Sister didn’t steal it when she walked through the kitchen after finishing her own bowl (MUCH LARGER bowl, I’ll have you know). Mama gave my bowl back after Sister was safely locked away in the den. I don’t know why she made me panic for no reason, but I made sure I finished my bowl FAST, in case she took it away again.”

  • Jason -1.0
  • Jenny -1.8
  • Daisey -2.5

“Squirrel!”

♫ 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.

Lose For Good

I’ll be honest, Jason and I expected better results this week than we got:

  • Jenny: -0.4
  • Jason: +1.4

We were frustrated and I’m feeling a little rebellious. After maintaining last week (when I wasn’t very good) to being really honest and tracking everything while staying in plan this week, I really did think I would lose at least a pound. Jason did better tracking than he usually does (but may have had some missteps on the days he skipped tracking) and he might have expected a bit of a gain, but was very upset at over a pound.

So, rather than be grumpy on our blog where we really try to be encouraging, I’m going to focus this post on something that is much more positive: Lose For Good.

Over the last seven weeks, members of Weight Watchers have been participating in activities (including losing weight!) to increase the amount of money that the company will donate (up to $1 million) to two major food organizations: Share Our Strength and Action Against Hunger. According to current estimated weightloss and event participation, Weight Watchers is on track to donate the full $1 million, just like they’ve done the last three years.

In addition to the money being donated to major food organizations, Weight Watchers has encouraged members to donate a pound of food for every pound of weight they’ve lost during the campaign. This food is donated through the meeting to local food groups. Ours will be donated to our local Harvest House.

Since Jason and I recently completed our first year of Weight Watchers, we decided to donate enough food to represent our total weight loss during the year. You can see the sign in the picture says we lost 115 (we were expecting losses this week, remember?) so we were counting our weight loss before it dropped. But that’s ok. It just means more food for someone else who needs it!

Lose For Good 2011

We may have been disappointed by our results this week, but there is no denying when looking at that picture, that the 112 pounds we have lost are impressive.

And that success can motivate us.