Saturday, June 05, 2010

Some thoughts on Weight Watchers

I love it when I discover a good podcast that has been around for a while so I can download a whole bunch of back episodes from the feed (for podcasts that aren't stingy with their back episodes, at least) and listen to them while I am working out, gardening, or doing the laundry. That's how I got hooked on Jillian's podcasts.

If I've been talking about Fat2Fit Radio a lot lately, it's because I just discovered the podcast and have been listening to it on a continuous feed when I'm by myself and doing something monotonous.  Their whole "eat more weigh less" philosophy really resonates with me. The basic idea is that you eat at the level that someone at your goal weight would need to eat (or maybe 200-300 calories less as long as you don't go below your BMR) so that you get used to eating the number of calories needed to maintain the weight you want to achieve. Do this, and as long as the goal weight is realistic, you will get there. Strength training and other exercise are an important part of the program, because you want to maintain your lean body mass and get your weight reduction to be fat reduction.  They also stress eating healthy, whole foods and having smaller and more frequent meals for the same reason.

In 2002 I achieved Weight Watchers Lifetime status in about 18 weeks.  I was really proud of myself until I started gaining it back almost immediately.  For the last 8 years, I have been feeling like a failure because I could never fully commit to the program again. I'd do pretty well for a while, then I'd have a big meal, blow all my Weekly Points plus some, and give up for the rest of the week, which turned into two weeks... I always thought the problem was with me, though, not the program. It seems to work so well for so many people.  Why not me?
Russ and Jeff say you should never eat below your basal metabolic rate, the number of calories you would need if you were in a coma.  My BMR according to their calculator is 1401, and according to the Weight Watchers formula, that's right around the maximum number of points I was supposed to have per day following the system and eating perfectly.  Since I'm not actually in a coma (thank God), that's hard to do.  I'm not sure I completely believe in the "starvation mode" that is so widely discussed in diet forums and blogs, but I do believe that it's extremely hard to stay at that level for the long term. When I got too hungry, I might not have gone into starvation mode, but I did go into "F- it mode," in which I really didn't care.  I could only stave it off for so long with carrot sticks. I did a lot of exercise to earn some activity points to get more food, but it seemed to just increase my appetite even more.

Russ and Jeff's response to "Robert from Ohio" really struck a chord with me. They told him that he only seemed to know two ways to live: Completely on a diet and completely off one.  That sounded a lot like me to me. I didn't binge quite like Robert did (it sounded like several thousand calories) but I did start having a lot of the things I had been denying myself because the points were too high.

Another thing that I did to sabotage myself for the last 2-3 years is that I've been doing little to no strength training and focusing completely on cardio.  That means that instead of maintaining or building my lean body mass, I've been tearing it down, which explains why I'm not very good friends with my body fat scale.

It has only been a few days, but having my target a couple hundred calories higher and making sure to have smaller meals of "clean" foods has really helped me manage my hunger. I even went out for Chinese food last night and still ended the day under my maximum calories. I set LoseIt to make 1633 (the calorie level for a sedentary 145-pound person) my target, because it credits me for the exercise I do.  On the days that I was the most active, I was hitting the level for someone working out "Very Hard" at that weight.  It seems like a lot of calories, but I cheated and peeked at the scale this morning. I'm down a few pounds already. Besides, I feel a whole lot better living this way than I did as a dieter or an overeater.

I remember talking to a woman in my Weight Watchers meeting about using up all my daily points plus my 35 Weekly Points that week and she said, "I couldn't eat that many points, I'd gain weight." So I asked her how many points she ate. "I don't really track them."  It's easy to guess that you eat a lot less than you do if you're not tracking. So maybe the number of calories we think of as normal is completely skewed.

There are some things I really miss about doing Weight Watchers, but what I don't miss is the feeling that I could never get it right.  I think the people who do well with the program must have a way to make it work for them, but in 6-7 years, I wasn't able to make it work for me like it did the first time. I hated weighing in each week and feeling disappointed in myself.  It's a lot more fun living the fit, healthy, thin person I want to become than being on a diet, even one that is supposed to be a lifestyle. 


  1. I came across your blog today by searching for WW blogs. I have enjoyed reading the last few post. I am excited to see what good things are to come in your journey. I joined WW April 1st and have lost 17.8 pounds. I have been using the Daily Plate site to track my calories. You can enter your weight and how many pounds you want to lose a week and it tells you how many calories to eat a day. I have it set for 2.5 pounds a week and it says I should eat 1001 calories a day. Your last few post have me rethinking that theory. I can't wait to see your results!

  2. Amen. Those are the words I need to hear, and the words I believe. I have a lot of respect for Weight Watchers. Currently, I have two friends who have done fantastically well on it. Why can't I? Every time I try it, I lose weight spectacularly well, but can't keep it up for the long haul -- too hungry.

    I relate to what you said about overdoing one day on WW and then feeling screwed up on points for the whole week. At least if I'm counting calories I can chalk it up to a bad day and move on, all fresh and new.

    For people like me, a bad day has to carry over to the rest of the week because of the point system. (My problem, not theirs).

    I have read about eating at the level of calories you'll need at your goal, and I believe in it. There is the book, Calorie Queens, that talks about their experience with it.

  3. P.S. What's the latest and greatest site for determining the correct number of calories?

  4. Okay, you've convinced me, I've downloaded the Fat2Fit podcasts onto my computer and am loading them onto my iPod now.

    I'm debating trying that BMR thing that you've been talking about. Lose It! has me down to just over 1200, which according to the calculator is way under my BMR. Maybe I'll try it for a week or so, see how things go.

  5. If you go to the fat2fit radio site and click on "tools," you will find their BMR calculator. For tracking my food, I use an iPhone app called LoseIt, but there are a lot of good free resources like the LIVESTRONG site and calorieking that can help you.

  6. Thank you so much, Jen. I am going to check out fat2fit. And I happen to have LoseIt on my Ipod Touch.

  7. I am not sure if you are not happy with Weight Watchers or yourself??? If you are hungry on WW then you must not be eating all your points in healthy food????
    All I know is that you can not live in starvation mode...sure it will get you to your weight but you can not spend your life hungry and waiting on the next meal. Remember that slow and steady win the race...slow and steady...hang in there. Dianntha


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07