Monday, October 04, 2010

Is normal too much?

When I watch "The Biggest Loser" and see people talking about eating a giant sandwich called "The Gravedigger" with a large french fry and washing it all down with a two-liter bottle of regular soda, it seems pretty obvious why they have a big weight problem. What's sometimes less obvious is the way that "normal" food consumption can result in weight gain.

I have already dealt with The Usual Suspects:
  1. I don't drink my calories.  I don't drink regular (or diet soda) except on the very rare occasion.  I don't drink juice. I usually stick to calorie-free beverages or coffee with a tablespoon of half and half (20 calories or 0.5 points per tablespoon). Fancy coffee drinks like lattes are also a rare treat.
  2. I pretend like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, KFC, and the like just don't exist.  I have eaten fast food maybe twice in the last year.
  3. I don't keep cookies, ice cream, cake, etc. in the house.  On rare occasion, I will go out for one of these things and enjoy it. I don't bother with low-calorie substitutes like Skinny Cows and Vitatops.
  4. I exercise almost every day, usually walking or running.
The thing is, though, that just living a "normal" life in the U.S. is enough to result in about 20 or so extra pounds. Even with daily intentional exercise, most of the rest of my day is pretty sedentary.  Any time I go out for a restaurant meal, it results in serious damage to my points budget, even if I choose carefully.  If I don't plan my whole day out ahead of time, I invariably end up over points.

Every skinny person I have ever met restricts food and counts calories, formally or informally. I think that's what it takes.

It can feel like a struggle, though. When I go to the Weight Watchers boards for help, almost every day there is someone who is claiming that they can't eat all of their points.  Almost no one admits that they have trouble staying within their points.  I don't know why I let this bother me, but it does.  I can't work out any way that it would be easy to stay within a 23-point daily limit, and some people have limits that are even lower, down to 18.  

How did people who don't have any trouble eating less end up on Weight Watchers in the first place? It's truly a mystery to me.  Geneen Roth says that in her workshops, there are people who love limits and people who are very uncomfortable with restriction. Obviously I am in the second category, and probably the people who are complaining that Weight Watchers isn't hard enough are in the first, right? Or maybe they're just very all-or-nothing.

Just musing a little here.  I'm trying to fight off the discouraged feeling that I am the only person who struggles. When I think realistically, though, Weight Watchers would not be such a successful business if most people saw the rules and said, "No problem," and happily counted their way right to goal, no struggle involved.

Maybe I'm just too honest. 


  1. Hmmm interesting musings (as always :). "is normal too much"... i think you're bang on there!

    In my experience quite often the folks who said they had trouble eating enough points seemed to be almost getting off on the calorie restriction/Points hoarding but almost always crashed and burned eventually. The all or nothing, like you said.

  2. I agree with Shauna, its points hording. That and they're probably not eating "real" food.

    It's that gung-ho attitude where people become obsessed with living on 1 point snacks and 0 point veggies. This is not sustainable.

    I know that I could eat so much more than my daily points but that's why I'm at WW, to find my balance.

  3. I like your list - I pretty much do the same as you for points 1, 2 & 3 -- need to work on the exercise one...

    Like you, I don't keep the treats i really like in the house. I buy stuff I don't like so much for my husband & stepson. If I'm going to indulge, I indulge away from home (controlled portions) and I want only the good stuff.

    I do eat chocolate (dark, expensive stuff) but I plan for it & don't consider it cheating.

  4. I think the others are either experiencing it short term, messing up on their calculations, or just plain lying. Really, they had to join Weight Watchers because it's so hard to eat that much food? Hmmmm, I'm not buying it. Don't feel bad, you are quite normal!

  5. Hang in there, honey. It's a long process, a long road. And sometimes it finds a while to figure out what works for you. It kind of sounds like you're looking in the wrong places right now, though. Check out The Athena Diaries ( She's lost a lot of weight, and she's done it primarily through Weight Watchers and running. Maybe that will help you find your way.

  6. I think you're normal. I've been on WW for about 8 months, and the only time I had trouble eating my points was when I had the stomach flu. I think the people who can't eat their points are suffering from a combination of points-stretching (getting about 100 calories per point instead of 50) and disordered thinking about food- they may think that in order to lose weight, they just can't eat much. You're also not the only one who has weight to lose but doesn't eat "gravediggers." I got overweight eating mostly healthy food, but a bit too much, and doing some exercise, but not quite enough. I think I will probably have to count calories for the rest of my life if I want to be normal-sized.

  7. This is a great post. I have 20 points a day and have to basically plan each morning what my day is going to look like food-wise, or else I'll get to dinner time and have to scrimp and save to have dinner, and not have points left over for a trim-milk hot chocolate and a square of dark chocolate (which is just about the highlight of my day!). That is not a good feeling.

    I really have to make the effort to stay within my points and eat enough food (by not wasting points on unsatisfying crap). And I've taken alcohol out of the equation for now. I just fall off the points wagon if having a couple of glasses of wine each night.

    I've tried eating just good, real food (and not doing points) but I still eat too much and also eat snacky foods with a glass of wine before dinner. Doing points is the only way I can be happy not doing that. If I say to myself 'don't have wine before dinner', I want a wine. If I say to myself 'I don't want to waste points on wine', I don't want it. I don't know how that psychology works but I'm glad it does.

    As to putting on weight eating 'normal', I do this (and we very rarely eat out). But it's because I go back to the lifestyle in my previous paragraph. I need to give myself maintenance points and go from there (in about 10kg/22 pounds time), otherwise I'll gain it all back, like I've done before.

    Just picking a nice round number I can imagine I could maintain on 30 points a day, but would have to try it out and tweak if I started creeping up. That's a totally new thing for me, the maintenance points. I've always done my points and gotten slimmer, then stopped points and put the exact same weight back on. I hate riding over the same number over and over again! It takes away the thrill of becoming more slender when I think to myself, well, that used to be my fat weight and now I'm happy to be there?

    Sorry for the book. I'm off to read the rest of your blog now. It all looks so interesting!

  8. Yes! My best friend is seriously overweight and just started weightwatchers and she complains that she can't eat all her points. I just don't understand how someone can get to be obese yet struggle to eat what weightwatchers considers to be weight-loss mode!

    I on the other hand am exactly the same as you and always have to plan my points or I know I'm going to go over with just one restaurant meal or extra snack - it's frustrating!

    I also get frustrated when I see people lose like 20 pounds 'just by cutting out soda'. It makes me wish I had drank soda or had some other major issue that I could just stop and have the weight drop off. I feel like I eat pretty normally but obviously if that was the case I wouldn't be overweight!

    Clearly a thought provoking post since I felt the need to write an essay in reply haha

  9. You are not alone in "struggling". I am a 56 year old woman who lost 30 lbs 3 years ago and have been stuck within 5 lbs with another 30 yet to lose. For almost 3 years I've plateaued, yet need to lose 25 to 30 more!!! I know how to maintain is the good news. I am active, walking, biking, pilates machine, dreadmill and also practice Ashtanga yoga on a regular basis. I need to eat more than the alloted 23 daily points. I know WHAT to do, just not HOW to do it consistently.. I love your honesty in your blogging, by the way..


"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