On Friday, January 13, I wrote about my Weight Watchers/weight loss journey, and I promised an update in 6 months. Well hi, I didn't actually plan this, but it's EXACTLY 6 months later and I'm going to let you know how it's going.
In a nutshell, and to save you from having to read my blather if you don't have any interest in doing so, it is going extremely well.
This is a really long post that will be continued...after the jump!
Since I began the Weight Watchers program on September 1, 2011, I have officially lost around 30 pounds. I have maintained the weight I am today, as I type this, for about 3 or 4 months (I continued to lose weight after I hit my official WW goal - despite sticking to Maintenance pretty strictly for the first 1-2 months, I continued to lose weight without going out of my way to do so, so I just went with it, and when it stopped, it stopped).
Before I started WW, I probably would have told you proudly that I just "ate whatever I wanted." Through WW I learned that wasn't true. I wasn't paying attention to my body at all and I was making sure to squeeze as much cake and ice cream into me as I could, whether I was hungry or not. I was cleaning my plate whether I was hungry or not. I was eating my french fries and finishing my daughter's sandwich whether I was hungry or not. I learned what it felt like to be hungry and what it felt like to be full. And to be honest, I really didn't change how I ate particularly dramatically at all. I just started being mindful about eating.
Maintenance, on the other hand, is kind of a mind game. After going so long in the "must lose weight" mode, to suddenly be shoved out of that comfort zone with a "Now you need to stay where you are - and you get to eat more, it's OK!" is tricky. I believe that maintaining weight after weight loss is almost more difficult than losing the weight - BUT one of the reasons I love Weight Watchers and one of the reasons I believe it has worked so well for me is that while my points changed, everything else stayed the same - I still go to the meetings almost every week (it's free now that I'm a Lifetime member! FREE!), I still track my points (mostly...), I still weigh in. That is what keeps me on track. Otherwise I could see myself going "YAY GOAL. Pass the bucket of ice cream please." And within months I'd be back where I started - and knowing me, I'd say "Well, Weight Watchers sucks and didn't work."
Now I have to address something. I lost weight because I wanted to. I lost weight because I had some medical numbers that I didn't like. BUT I HAVE NOT STARVED MYSELF. There's no way I would've stuck with a caloric intake that was making me unhappy or uncomfortable for more than a few weeks - and I know that because I tried that a few times. No way. Doesn't work.
And I did it slowly. I lost about 1-2 pounds a week - some weeks more, some weeks a lot less - and it took time. I rolled my eyes at a liquid diet I saw advertised in a magazine that promised quick results because the powder had some magical amino acids or vitamins or some shit. No, the quick results are because you are on a LIQUID DIET. Of course weight will fall off. And then when you stop starving yourself, it will come back. You have to eat to properly lose weight. It sounds so weird to say that but it's true.
But also this. I believe somewhat that people do have a set point at which their body is happy. I believe that pushing yourself beyond this set point can be in some cases a recipe for disaster. The point I'm at right now is the point I was at before I made a few changes in my life that I believe caused me to gain weight (birth control pills, quitting smoking, a more sedentary lifestyle, pregnancy, breastfeeding - yes, you lose a lot of weight initially, but then for someone like me, your body may hold onto some extra weight in order to help you actually feed your baby, which is a BEAUTIFUL thing and something I have no problem with and I wish society actually GOT THAT but I digress).
My kid weaned, I was no longer on hormonal BC, I started being more active again. I also started eating tons more fruit (when it's "zero points" - a total psych-out because in reality it's already been factored into your daily caloric intake - it becomes a really appealing snack. But fruit also happens to be DELICIOUS, so eating strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, mango, banana....that's not a chore, I promise), having treats as treats and not as everyday parts of my diet - but NOT eliminating them either, and drinking more water. And over time I reset myself and I am back to where I was - where I believe I should be.
So the next milestone coming up is one year since I started Weight Watchers. The difference in how I look AND FEEL is dramatic. The way I dress has changed as well - which also, I freely admit, makes me sad. I could have worn similar clothing when I was 30 pounds heavier - but I was unhappy with myself and didn't want to. Then, I wore the same jeans and T shirts every single day. Now I wear skirts, dresses, pants, jeans, T-shirts, tank tops...and I even bought shoes with heels and I wear them all the time - yes, because I lost weight but also because I feel great about how I look again. You know what? Don't do that. Feel great about how you look RIGHT NOW and start wearing awesome outfits, OK? Do it for me.
And all of this? ALL OF THIS? This is about me. It's not about you. It's not about your body or your choices. It's not about whether you want to lose 20 pounds, 200 pounds, or none at all. I made choices for myself and I stuck with them. Once I decided to lose weight, I committed fully to doing so, because that's how I am with everything (if I commit to something, I COMMIT). I didn't cheat. I didn't deviate from my daily point allotment until I reached my goal (now I am all over the place with that, but for about four months I did not have a SINGLE DAY where I said "I'm not tracking today!" or "I'm going to just get crazy and eat a pint of ice cream again!" - because I didn't actually ever WANT to do that). For a while I didn't go to my favorite restaurants, recognizing that it was a temporary thing and that they would be waiting for me when I was ready. For a while, I didn't go near trigger foods. For a while, I ordered differently when I did go out, and it wasn't always fun or exciting. Then eventually I was able to relax some of this somewhat while applying what I'd learned. And I added in exercise slowly and steadily, over time. And when things didn't feel like they were working, I changed them up. ME. THAT IS HOW I DID IT. (And it worked for me. I know that for some people, no matter what, this is not the magical equation that will work for whatever reason. ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT IT WORKED FOR ME.)
Some of my personal tips that worked for me:
1. If you're hungry, eat fruit. If you're like "I don't want fruit, I want a cupcake from the cute shop down the road," then you're probably not HUNGRY. You're something else - and if that something else needs to be solved with a cupcake, so be it, but don't confuse that with hunger.
2. Skip artificial sweeteners if you can. Instead, have a smaller amount of the real thing. Example: I found that "skinny" Starbucks drinks, which I did order a few times, didn't taste as good as getting those same drinks with nonfat milk. A few points (calories) different, yes. But not something I should be having often anyway. I basically quit soda a long time ago, but when I do have it, I have Mexican Coke or Pepsi Throwback (real sugar, not corn syrup) and only drink a little bit. (Just this week I did buy some stevia packets. And I don't know why I did - I am not really a fan. I like white sugar, agave nectar, and Sucanat.)
2a. Real food (fruit, nuts, cheese) makes a way better snack than a 100 calorie snack pack. Yeah, it's healthier. But it also takes longer to eat and longer to digest. When I eat a 100 calorie pack of cookies (I still love the Trader Joe's oatmeal chocolate chip packs), I never feel satisfied, I always want another one. I almost always inhale it without paying attention. No big deal if I've eaten an apple and reach for a banana, big deal if I'm on my fourth "100 calorie" pack.
3. Let the haters hate. If you're working hard to reach your goal, no matter how long it's taking you or how many setbacks you've faced, you're doing a great job. Talk about it when necessary, keep it quiet when not. This is something that I learned from experience (and was not always good at). Others tend to get defensive when you're working on weight loss (or working on pretty much anything else, actually). Share with those who will support you and don't look to others for validation of your choices. Because you're more likely to hear "I'm so jealous!" or "I wish I could do what you're doing!" than "I'm so proud of you!" or "You've inspired me!" or EVEN "I don't want to do what you're doing, but good for you!" - and that is unhelpful for everyone.
4. If it's not in the house, you can't eat it. I love ice cream, but I had to stop keeping it in the freezer. Instead I would occasionally go out for ice cream. I stopped buying chips, cookies, the crackers I would eat by the box, cold cereal. If my husband or my kid had something in the house, I looked at it as NOT MINE.
5. Measure everything. A tablespoon is a LOT - sometimes when I didn't measure, I actually didn't give myself enough! (Salad dressing, peanut butter, Trader Joe's cookie butter - yeah, whipped not-low-fat cream cheese, white sugar, those are all things I religiously measured.)
6. Be HAPPY. Be healthy.
Oh and running? I fell off the wagon once summer hit - the heat and having my kid around constantly do not make for ideal running opportunities. However, I miss it (I miss exercise?!) and I am going to get back on track in August. I have zero desire to run more than 3 miles/5K at a time right now, but I do have a desire to stick to a running plan and run those 3 miles more days of the week than I was. And I will.
Is Weight Watchers right for you? I have no clue. I needed the accountability of paying for a program. I needed the weekly meetings with the tips, tricks, and support. I needed the stickers and the keychains and the clapping. I needed the point system, which objectively I know is no different than calories but somehow feels different. Maybe MyFitnessPal or LoseIt will work better for you. Maybe Atkins or Paleo is just dandy for you. Whatever works and whatever you can stick with is the right program. (So please don't tell me that I'm wrong and you're right. It's really not something I'm interested in debating - you're right, you win.)
I'm not going to tell you how much I weighed then or now. I'm not going to tell you my new size - as a dedicated thrift shopper, I can assure you that vanity sizing is alive and well and that I fit in a wide range of sizes and they're all great. And in this entry you're not getting a picture. Because I know I'm fabulous, so you just have to trust me.
Some great blogs for further reading:
This Is Not a Diet - It's My Life (found via Facebook)
Lose Weight by Eating! (found via Pinterest and currently obsessed with her apple-cinnamon day spa water)
A Neurotic Glamour Girl's Weight Watchers Experience and Fitness Adventures (hey, we have mutual friends! and she is AWESOME!)
And finally, eat. Eat what you like and enjoy it. Stop talking about guilt (I HATE that whole "guilt-free" food labeling trend) and how you're being "bad" and "Oh I shouldn't." OWN THAT SHIT. If you really want to eat something, then eat it. But be accountable for it. Don't starve yourself for a whole day so you can eat a piece of chocolate cake either. That's ridiculous. Eat that cake and then eat sensibly the rest of the day and week. Or if you don't want to eat it because you have something better in mind, don't. (I loved the WW topic about not wasting calories on things that aren't worth it - I've stopped finishing my kid's cookie at a certain burrito place because it's really NOT a good cookie and I'd rather eat extra chips!) Do think about how you actually feel before you make the decision to eat and then make it and move on. Got it? Good.