Next time, I'll talk about the emotional side of my weight loss journey, but today I'll tell you about the actual nuts-and-bolts of how I was successful with Weight Watchers. Perhaps a list is in order.
Look, I'm no hero (thank you, Bradley Cooper from "The Hangover"). I'm not a nutritionist or doctor or motivational speaker and I don't work for WW. I won't pretend to be an expert on weight loss. However, if you're interested, these are simply things that work for me and I hope something in the list can inspire you, too:
1 - I follow the Weight Watchers program as directed. It is actually quite simple: you're given a number of "points" for each day (mine was 26). Each food has a points value (a number based on its fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protein). You "track" each food you eat, deducting it from your daily number of points. There are also some "bonus" weekly points (in my case, 49), which you are encouraged to use - they come in handy for special occasions or when your daily points allotment is just not enough and you're still hungry. You track all activity (again, each activity is given a number of points). If you go to Weight Watchers, they'll tell you all of this stuff and give you some nifty tools, too. I track every single thing online or with my iPhone app.
(Side note: I love numbers and math, so the black-and-white details of my weight, food points, etc. on WW's e-tools thrill me. Charts, graphs... They're my best friends. They are just numbers, and it takes the emotion out of weight loss and I appreciate that. I'm a writer, but if I had to journal my feelings about food every day, I would tear my hair out. Some days, you just need a cookie and you don't wanna talk about it. On those days, you eat the cookie, enjoy it, track it, and move on.)
2 - I eat a LOT of fruit and veggies. Most of them (** not corn and potatoes **) are "zero" points on WW, so guess what? Whenever I'm out of points or just feeling like I need something crunchy/sweet/more, I eat as much as I want. Bananas, pineapples, apples, carrots, cucumbers, celery, red bell peppers, salad greens... Week after week, I hear people in my WW meeting talk about how they won't allow themselves to eat bananas or carrots because those foods are "full of sugar." But you know what? I'd rather eat a banana or carrot - or SEVERAL - until my emotional hunger subsides than reach for chips or cookies or anything else later. Plus, fresh organic produce is YUMMY and is great for your "regularity." You know what I mean. (And if you don't, read #4 below.)
3 - I go to a weekly WW meeting. I reached my goal weight in late December (yes, during the holiday season) and I made "lifetime" (which means I maintained that goal weight for 6 weeks) in January. Technically, I only have to weigh in once a month, but I do still do it every week to stay on-track. I also like being in the room with other Weight Watchers to learn new tips and tricks to stay on-plan. I cry when people hit milestones and I offer support to people who are just starting out, or who are hitting a wall with their weight loss. The women who work at my meeting (including our INCREDIBLE leader) have created a safe sanctuary for all of us, coming from a place where they truly understand what we're going through. No matter what the scale says or what my previous week was like, I leave my meeting feeling renewed and inspired, ready to begin again. The meetings keep me focused on my goal to live a healthy, happy life. They are like a weekly "reset" button.
4 - POOP. I'm dead serious. Eating a healthy portion of lentils and beans most nights - with yummy veggies - ensures a healthy "regularity" in the bathroom in the morning. I know most people don't wanna talk about it - truth be told, I was squeamish about it when I read "Skinny Bitch" several years ago. But then I revisited the topic in Kris Carr's "Crazy Sexy Diet." And you know what? It works. It clears out your system, you don't feel as heavy, you don't feel bloated, you actually feel F-ing great. After following Crazy Sexy for almost a year, I tried colon hydrotherapy and, honestly, my pipes were super clean, hardly clogged. For this reason alone - the incredible elimination of toxins from the body - I am a total believer in GREEN juice, veggies, green smoothies and beans and legumes. Every single day. (NOTE: I also don't eat a lot of meat or cheese - if at all - so maybe that's another reason why my intestines aren't inflamed and clogged. Again, I'm no nutritional expert, but once I began eating less animal products, my body responded with more... er, regularity... You know what I mean.)
5 - Water. I drink lots of it. WW suggests six 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but Kris Carr suggests at least half your body weight in ounces (so, for someone who's 150 pounds, that would be about 75 ounces, or just over nine 8-ounce glasses). One of my tricks is to keep two full reusable water glasses WITH STRAWS on my desk if I'm writing. I position one between me and the keyboard, between my wrists, so I can suck down water as I write. It looks silly - heck, it feels silly - but it works. Another trick, when you get an iced drink from Starbucks or wherever, is to refill that cup with water immediately after you're done and suck it down. Yes, you'll pee a lot, but it's good for you, I promise.
6 - Sleep. I go to bed around 10 pm and wake up between 6 and 7 am. This is AMAZING for a reformed insomniac night owl. I used to buy into the idea that sleep was for suckers and I longed to be more like Martha Stewart (who's rumored to only sleep 4 hours a night... and look how calm and sweet she is... HA!). But your body needs the deep detox and resting time of a good night's sleep to repair itself, regulate hormones and reset your system. Plus, when you're rested, you can make better choices for yourself during the day, both with your food and the kindness you choose to share with the world. It is easy to buy into the belief that we *have* to take care of a billion things before bed (for example, I prefer to pick up all the debris of my three kids and my life at night and wake up to a fairly clutter-free home), but seriously: it can wait. I have also stopped watching TV before bed because I fall asleep faster and have sweeter dreams when I get cozy and read instead. (Plus, I've read a bunch more since I've adopted this... and I know less about the Kardashians, which is certainly for the better.)
7 - The Hungry Girl. Lisa Lillien (aka "The Hungry Girl") is a master of weight-watching tips and tricks. Her website is jam-packed with slimmed-down versions of favorite foods and tips for eating at various restaurants and sooooo much more. Thanks to Hungry Girl, I can literally eat ANYTHING I want - that is, if I have a craving for a comfort food or a dessert or a mocha-coco-choco-latte supreme, I can look it up on her website and I usually can find a fabulous skinny-fied version. No, it will not taste like the full-fat real recipe, but I am no longer satisfied with being the full-fat version of myself either... Know what I mean? If you sign up for her e-newsletter, you'll get daily tips and tricks. I am a HUGE fan of her "growing oatmeal bowls" - for a girl who thought oatmeal was her enemy, it is a revelation to eat a tremendous bowl of yummy oats that keeps me going for hours.
8 - Green juices and smoothies. Here's where I veer from WW a little. I tend to get a fresh green juice (cucumber, kale, spinach, lemon, ginger, sometimes beets) a few times a week and I don't track its points. I know they don't have fiber, etc., but they make me feel FANTASTIC and are good for #4 of this list. I also drink at least one green smoothie each day (1 cup unsweetened almond milk, frozen banana, kale, spinach, cucumber, broccoli, carrot, a 1-point protein powder or powdered peanut butter). Maybe I'm wrong, but they make me feel like I GLOW!
9 - Very limited oil. This is another area where I veer from WW. My husband is very tall and thin, but he has had high blood pressure in the past, so he was interested in Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.'s book about preventing heart disease (which we heard about in "Forks over Knives"). We were eating loads of nuts and using about a bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil each week when we got the book. After reading his book, we decided to try a more plant-based, minimal oil and nut diet. So, for example, instead of sauteing our evening veggies in olive oil, we now use low-sodium veggie broth. Yes, it's different, but we don't seem to miss the olive oil like we thought we would. Plus, I'm sure I get enough of it when I go out to eat. The amazing result of this experiment is that my skin has changed - it is no longer borderline oily and I have far fewer breakouts (if at all).
10 - Exercise. I go to a one-hour barre class several times a week that I love, but I also walk our dog for 15 minutes most mornings. I also park far away from store entrances so I can walk a little more. What I noticed about exercising during this process is that I seem to have avoided a common complaint of people who've lost a lot of weight: the "loose skin" syndrome (NOTE: ick!). My bones and joints aren't as strained since I've lost weight and I can see definition in my muscles (I'm fond of asking Raf, "Will you stop me if my arms start to look like Madonna's?"). It's funny to me that I have finally developed a love of exercise in my 40s. Who knew?
11 - A curious, honest mind. I started this journey as a kind of experiment. I figured trying something new couldn't be worse than what I was already doing, right? I've learned how to treat each meal and each snack as an adventure - how did that make my body feel? And now that I feel amazing, I don't want to go "back." Besides, after all I've learned, there *is* no "back" to return to. I'm so different now and those foods I ate unconsciously don't hold the same attraction to me now that I know what they're made of or how they're processed... and I can't un-know those things. If I choose to eat something that's not as good for me, it's my conscious choice. I will take responsibility for it - I won't deny it or pretend it didn't happen or feel ashamed of my choice - and then I'll move on.
I'm sorry for the looooong post again. I will finish out this topic with one more post on the emotional piece of weight loss/transformation in a day or two.
One last bit of weight-loss advice: trust yourself. You're worth it. For all we know, we have only this one, precious life. Why not use it to see how powerful you really are, starting with your physical health?