Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - It's All About the Food!

Let’s talk about FOOD, shall we?  After all, that’s what this whole Weight-Watchers-Diet thing is all about, right?  

For those of you who are not familiar with how Weight Watchers works, let me give you some basics.  There are 2 ways to join:  Online for about $20/month, or At Weekly Meetings for significantly more $.  (The group I am in is through my school.  It was $156 for one session of about 4 months, and we are getting a $50 rebate from our insurance company if we attend almost all of the weekly sessions.)  It was news to me that it was possible to join online and not attend meetings. I learned that at my first meeting.  

For your membership fee you are getting support in several different ways:  access to the online food tracker (more about that later), access to recipes and information about healthy eating.  Online there is a “helpline” where you can chat with someone at WW and ask questions.  The website also has a blog section where members can share their experiences.  It was partly because of reading someone else’s blog that I decided to start blogging here about my experience as well.  At meetings, you are getting the support of the WW Leader who has a mini-lesson plan for each meeting.  (Our last meeting was all about protein and its important role in healthy eating.)  You also get the support and comradery of the other members.  My group is mostly made up of people who have been members previously, so they have good experiences to share.  I am one of the few newbies in the group.  I am trying to pick their brains every chance I get.  My group leader has lost more than 70 pounds herself, and her history of having been over-weight since about 3rd grade matches mine, so we’ve been able to connect on that.  Other members of the group used to be thin and gained after having babies or as they’ve approached middle age.  It was interesting to me to hear that different experience.  

Before I joined, I used to think this was going to be about deprivation.  It’s not.  I want to make that very clear.  I can eat ANYTHING I want to eat.  It’s largely about portion control and about understanding what foods are healthy.  For someone who is addicted to food, as I am, it’s important to get the concept of “eating to live” rather than “living to eat”.  My group leader likes to say, “No one ever got fat from eating too many fruits and vegetables!”  I love that line!  When was the last time you pigged-out on a bag of apples?  Does this mean I can never eat cookies or cake? Of course not!  I just have to be aware of how much I’m eating and strike a balance between those sweet treats and the foods I really need to live on.  

To me, the food tracker is the most essential piece of the Weight Watchers puzzle.  Consistent and correct use of the food tracker is what is leading my successful weight loss. The food tracker is based on each food being given a point value.  It’s now called Points Plus because it isn’t just about calories anymore.  They take into consideration the content of food: fat, carbs, fiber and protein, before assigning it a point value.   Weight Watchers has invested a lot of time building a bank of information behind its food tracker that makes it an incredibly versatile and useful tool.  There are many many brand name items included.  For example, if Hubs and I decide we want to have dinner at Panera Bread, I can search the tracker by the Brand Name items and know exactly how much each thing is worth.  Most national chain restaurants are listed in the tracker bank.  Also, there is a Tracker App for smart phones which includes a bar-code scanner.  I can be at the grocery trying to decide between two items, and I can scan the bar-codes and compare the points for each item. (This is great for things like salad dressing.)  If I try to scan something that is a local brand and isn’t in the tracker by name, it allows me to input the item by telling it what fat, carbs, fiber and protein content is on the label.  

Another great feature of the Food Tracker is the Recipe Builder feature.  I have built a collection of recipes that Hubs and I use regularly by putting in all the ingredients and listing how many servings we get out of that recipe - then it gives me a point value per serving. I can tag things as “favorites” making them easy to find as I put in my daily meals.  

On the website, when I set up my account, I was asked some basic facts - gender, age, weight - and then I was asked to set a weight loss goal.  It then gave me a Points Plus Number.  That is the number of points I should have per day in order to reach my goal.  Additionally, there is a second number for the week.  If I go over my daily allotment, it pulls points from my weekly amount.  This is very handy if you go to a party or have a special day when you kind of blow through your daily allotment.  WW encourages tracker users to use all their points - both daily and weekly - to maintain a steady weight-loss of about 2 pounds a week.  One reason I am averaging 3 pounds a week is because I never use all my weekly points.  I almost always use my daily points, and sometimes I go over by a point or two.  When I started, I got 33 points a day.  After I lost 10 pounds, it went down to 32 points a day and now it is down to 31 points.  My weekly allotment is 49, and that hasn’t changed.

The website also keeps track of all your daily info and then it shows fancy graphs and charts so you can analyze your progress.  If you want to slow or speed up your progress you can adjust your own point totals.  This really could not be any easier.  I’ve done the whole calorie-counting, weighing-food thing, and I can’t do that.  THIS I can do.  Easily.  

Another important point to remember here is that ALL fresh fruit and veggies are FREE - no points!  NONE!  The banana I put on my cereal is free.  The grapes and cherry tomatoes that I snack on are free.  The apple I eat at lunch is free.  AND Weight Watchers sells some great snack foods that have the point values right on the box.  They have fabulous ice cream bars that are as good as any other brand of ice cream - 3 points.  Did you know that Progresso Soup now puts the WW points ON the can?  A cup of soup is 2 points - the whole can is 4.  AMAZING!  

So, there you have it.  The basics of how this whole program works.  I never go to bed feeling hungry or deprived.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.  I can’t even imagine ever NOT doing this until I get to my goal weight.  By then, my lifestyle change will be so ingrained in me that I really don’t think it will be hard to maintain.  As a total food addict with a life-long sense of entitlement, I can tell you this works!  The “high” I get from seeing my success is better than any high I’ve ever felt from eating any one of the many foods I love.  It feels good to finally feel proud of myself instead of going to bed every night thinking about how “bad” I was for over-eating, AGAIN.  

Ok - that’s the speech for today.  Go have yourself a nice juicy pear and think about how good it feels to eat something healthy!  


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - Let The Changes Begin

First, let me give an update on progress.  As of Wednesday’s official weigh-in at the meeting, I had lost 18.2 pounds.  As of today’s weigh-in for the website, it was 19.  Last Sunday, I had a brief glimpse of 20 pounds, but that number has been elusive this week.  My goal for this week is to hit 20 pounds for the Wednesday Meeting weigh-in.  Then I will get my 4th 5-pound star for my little book!  

I felt very good after the last meeting because some of the other ladies there said my progress is an inspiration to them.  One of them asked me how I am losing so steadily, and I said I am tracking every morsel of food.  She said, “Oh, I can’t do that.”  WHAT?  Why are you in Weight Watchers if you aren’t going to track your food?  Isn’t that a huge part of what this is all about?  That conversation left me very confused.  

One of the big questions I had when I started my weight loss odyssey was when I would first start to notice real changes as a result of my progress.  At last week’s meeting, I asked some of the veteran members when they had to start buying new clothes.  One of the members, who has lost 75 pounds since January, said that it took her awhile to buy new clothes because a lot of what she had been wearing was baggy anyway.  I think this is a very common thing for women.  When we are wearing the larger sizes, we typically buy clothes that are stretchy with elastic waists because we are trying to hide our bulk and also to be comfortable.  Tight clothes just aren’t comfortable.  I think a general rule is that one size typically represents about 10 pounds in the lower sizes and about 20 pounds in the higher sizes.  I think it is safe to say that someone who wears a size 20 is about 200 pounds, 24 is about 240 pounds, etc…  That isn’t exact, and it may vary depending on height and proportions of the person or make and style of clothing, but it is an estimate that seems to make sense based on what I’ve worn over the years.  

During the last week, I realized that I am ready for some new “good” jeans.  The jeans I’ve been wearing since the spring are size 26 petite (short), and they are now so big that I keep having to hitch them up as I walk.  I could wear a belt, but I don’t have any belts because I hate them.  I really don’t know how men can stand to wear belts all the time!  If they are tight enough when you are standing to hold your pants up, they are too tight when you sit down.  That’s never worked for me!  My plan is to go to the store tomorrow and buy a new pair of jeans that fit now, and another pair in a size smaller to have when I get to the next size change.  I am going to save these large jeans for my “Look how big my fat-jeans were” photograph!  I hope to get to do one of those pictures where I stand with both of my legs in one leg of the fat jeans and hold the waist way out to show how much space there is.  

Other than my jeans being too big, I really haven’t noticed much difference yet.  I think my feet look a little thinner.  Hubby says he thinks my butt is smaller, but I don’t know if I trust him to be totally honest.  We walked up to the park today and I think I felt like I had more stamina than I used to have.  I didn’t get as tired and wasn’t desperate to sit down when I got home as I was the last time we walked to the park.  Also, I noticed my hips and knees didn’t hurt as much as they have in the past.  

That’s about it for my current status.  Thanks for reading and come back again soon!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - with Attitude!

Have you ever thought of yourself as having “an attitude”?  You know, one of those attitudes that puts a nasty, sarcastic tone in your voice?  I like to think I don’t get “attitude” with others, although Hubs tells me I do.  The attitude that I’m more concerned about right now is the attitude that I have with myself.  I think it is one of the reasons I’ve been over-weight since I was about 8.  

Let me give you some background.  I apologize now if this entry ends up being TMI.  My birth weight was only 5 lbs,3 oz., and there was a note on my birth chart where the doc said to watch me closely because I was very small.  (I think my birth-mother was a smoker which may account for low birth-weight.)  Once I started eating however, I always had a very healthy appetite.  With the exception of my newborn photos, I appear very chubby in every baby picture ever taken of me.  

I matured physically very quickly, and by the time I was in school, I was the tallest in my class.  I can remember that in grades 2-3-4-5 and even 6, we had class photos taken and we were lined up by height.  I was always the tallest in my class.  By the time I was 11, I was taller and heavier than my mother.  I was over 5’ tall in 6th grade.  After that, I stopped getting taller and everyone else kept going.  I am 5’ 2” now.  Even after I was no longer the tallest, I was always the heaviest.  When I was in high school, there was only 1 person I knew who was heavier than I was.  I’m not sure when I topped 200#, but I think it was early in college.  I can remember going to a doctor and being put on a diet of 2000 calories a day.  I did that for a summer and lost 17 pounds which took me down to 200. Once I went back to college, there was no way I was going to weigh my food and count calories, so I gave that up. 

Here’s where the attitude thing comes in.  One thing I remember very clearly about myself in my early years was that I always felt a strong sense of entitlement when it came to food.  It was one of those “I can eat what I want to and you can’t stop me.” sort of things.  I know I always felt like I was constantly being told by others what to do, and this was one thing that I wasn’t going to let anyone else control - damn it!  If I want to eat an entire sleeve of girl scout cookies in one sitting, I can because I deserve them!  Eventually, when my mother started trying to tell me not to eat so much, I started sneaking food.  That will teach her!  

So, it was about control and about entitlement.  As I entered my adult years, I used food to reward myself for accomplishments.  I deserved a treat because I did well at something.  Maybe I got an A in a grad class paper or maybe I was complimented at school for something I did well.  I know this makes no logical sense, but I used food to make myself feel better when I felt bad about the way I looked.  I would complain about being fat, and not being able to wear clothes I wanted to wear, and then I would drown my sorrows in crap food - chips, cookies, Mountain Dew.  I can’t even tell you how much Mountain Dew I drank in college!  

When I look back on it, I realize I was a food addict.  Being a food addict is worse than other addictions because you can’t just stop eating cold-turkey like you can stop drinking or smoking or doing drugs.  You still have to eat, and you have to be around food all the time because it is everywhere in our culture.  Then if you don’t limit your intake of the food that surrounds you, you are made to feel like a failure because you don’t have any will-power.  So, then you eat because you feel like a failure!  

The other attitude thing I had going on was the one where I said even though I am over-weight, I’m still “healthy” because I can move the way I want and need to move.  I played tennis, I played golf.  I was agile and could get down on the floor and back up again with no problems.  Really until I turned 40, I didn’t  have any specific physical ailments that I could blame on being over-weight.  I didn’t feel inhibited by my weight = therefore, I was healthy, so it was ok.

Once I hit my 40s the physical problems started.  There was the sleep-apnea, then the need for thyroid meds, and then came the cholesterol and blood pressure medicine.  Next came the type 2 Diabetes, and then of course, the knee replacement surgery.  Most recently, I’ve been diagnosed with degenerative spondylolisthesis - a condition of the mis-alignment of the lower vertebra of the spine.  Even though it is common and not necessarily weight related, it is certainly exacerbated by carrying excessive weight.  

And so with this Odyssey comes the need for a new attitude.  I remember once I was watching a show on TV where someone was being profiled who had lost a lot of weight. One thing she said really made an impression on me.  She said she realized she was digging her own grave with a fork.  For some reason that stuck with me.  I realized this summer when my back issue started that I have to stop living to eat and start eating to live.  I need to stop poisoning my own body.  It is self-harm just as much as taking drugs or cutting or any other form of physical self-abuse.  So I have to stop thinking about how much food I deserve and start thinking about how much I deserve to be healthy.  I deserve more than abusing myself with food just because I can.  I’ve proven that I can control my over-eating, now I have to prove that I can also control my correct eating.

At last week’s Weight Watchers meeting, one of the other ladies in the group said that she feels she has very little control over much of her life, but she knows that what she eats is the one thing she CAN control.  That’s true.  We can control what we put in our mouths, and no one else can do it for us.  

I know that for me, this tracking of food on the WW App is working.  I know that I really CAN control my eating and do it in healthy ways.  Sometimes the old entitlement attitude starts to creep in, but I’ve managed to keep it at bay.  I just keep telling myself “I deserve to be as healthy as I can be!”  

Thanks for letting me share my Odyssey with you.  I guarantee I have more to say on the topic, so stay tuned!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Crowing About Music


I need to take a few minutes to crow about the wonders of living in Westerville where I get to attend phenomenal music events!  Today I attended a performance of the Westerville Symphony Orchestra with guest Gavin George performing.

Allow me to introduce you to Gavin:
Hear him at the piano by clicking here.

This video was done when he was 11.  He is now 12.  This was one of 3 pieces he played tonight for encores as the audience begged him to continue!

Here he is at age 7 with a fun variation.

Gavin is from Newark, Ohio and has now played all over the world!  At tonight's event, Gavin played Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, op. 1.  I honestly don't know how it is physically possible for anyone to move their fingers as fast as Gavin did. WOW he was amazing!!!

If I could figure out how to upload the videos from my phone to this page, I would do that for you.  Come back later and see if I figured it out!

In the meantime, search youtube and let Gavin amaze you!

Happy Viewing!


The Odyssey Begins

An odyssey is defined as a long, difficult journey filled with adventures.  A person who is on an odyssey is usually greatly changed by the experience.  My odyssey began on September 2, 2015. That's the day I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting.  

Regular readers here will remember that I recently stepped up my tech game and invested in an iPhone. That decision was the result of several events, but the last straw fell at my first WW meeting when I learned about the WW Food Tracker App. I knew that if this weight loss program was going to work for me I was going to have to have this convenience. When I left the first meeting on that Wednesday afternoon, I went straight to my local AT&T store and ordered my phone. I picked it up on Saturday the fifth, and the WW App was the very first thing I downloaded.

I have hesitated for 5 weeks to blog about this newest adventure in my life for several reasons.  One - I hear the voice of Hubs who is fond of saying "Don't tell people what you are going to do; tell them what you've done."  Two - I have begun so many, many weight loss programs in my life which have had minimal, if any, success, so I really didn't want to crow about how wonderful this is only to have to say "never mind" later.  Three - there was also some appeal in the idea of surprising people with the results when they see me looking different.  However, I have finally decided that I want to share this with anyone who will take the time to read about my odyssey because I am a teacher. Much as was the case with documenting my knee surgery, I want to document this process for myself, and I also want people to be able to learn from my experience.

Let me start with today's progress, and then I will do some back-tracking in future entries.  Saturday is my weigh-in day for the website. As of yesterday I have lost 16 pounds in 5 weeks.  If we do the math, we see that is more than 3 pounds per week.  Believe it or not, that is more than WW recommends. They advise 2 lbs per week.  I know that I will hit a plateau at some point, so I'm not worried about losing too fast.  

I also "officially" weigh in at my Wednesday meetings, and that gets recorded in my book.  These two weigh-ins don't always match, but they are usually close enough.

And so Amy’s Odyssey of Lifestyle Change has begun.  I know enough about this whole weight-loss thing to know that there are going to be speed bumps on this road, and some of them will be totally unexpected.  I also know this journey is a marathon and not a sprint (gosh do those statements combined with “the odyssey” constitute a triple-mixed metaphor?)  What I can tell you for sure is that so far I’ve not felt hungry or deprived, and right now I don’t forsee any reason that I would want to bail out of this system.  I can honestly see myself living with WW for the rest of my life.  Stay tuned for more of my philosophical thoughts about all of this in the days ahead.

Thanks for reading.  Please come back again soon!


P.S. Don’t forget to feed the fish.  They don't need to lose weight!