I lost 101 pounds in 2012 via Weight Watchers. I started January 1, 2012. Several friends have joined me since then, but I was determined I would do this thing, even if I had to do it completely alone.
God has been so good to let me live following breast cancer five years ago (a year involving surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, the big three). One thing that happened during that year was a big weight gain, due primarily to the steroids I took during chemotherapy. I felt that, after surviving three years and regaining my strength, I needed to join the fight against excess weight. After all, my health is one thing I can actively protect, though not, of course, with perfect knowledge.
I have been gathering my practical tips for weight loss, at the urging of friends. Here are the ones I have so far.
As we say, YMMV (your mileage may vary). Weight Watchers emphasizes that all of us who seek weight loss find our own way to do it, within their scientific rules that have been developed over about 50 years of research.
They like to ask, when someone hits a milestone at Weight Watchers, “What works for you?” Here are a few things that work for me:
1) I don’t drink any calories. Water and black coffee only. Well, a skinny latte once a week, because rules are made to be broken, within reason. I assume that I will never have a Coke again. I used to drink a bottled Coke a day, sometimes two of them. I can live without them. It is a reasonable trade-off to me.
Lately the news has been abuzz with the newest research on high fructose corn syrup, a very cheap and very convenient sweetener that is in many store-bought sweets and even in commercial products like ketchup and salad dressing. It seems that high fructose corn syrup may be addictive and may actually leave people feeling hungrier after partaking of it than they were before they ate! High fructose corn syrup is about the principal ingredient in Coke, which would go a long way toward explaining why I could never stop after just one Coke . . .
2) I substitute olive oil for butter wherever possible. Even in baked goods sometimes. I just experiment to see whether it works. Extra virgin olive oil (when uncooked) seems to be turning out to be a wonder substance for breast cancer survivors. I use lots and lots of extra virgin olive oil uncooked and lots and lots of lower grade, cheaper olive oil for cooking.
3) Lots of herbs and spices flavor my foods. Especially after chemotherapy for breast cancer five years ago, I love hot and spicy things. I believe the chemo killed a few of my tastebuds! Herbs and spices can do away with the need for added salt, and for much of the need for sugar in recipes. I recently found heaven on earth when I rolled a ripe pear in cinnamon. The best dessert God ever made!!!
4) I believe Weight Watchers when they make all fruit and most veggies zero points, and I live accordingly. I eat them like they are going out of style. And I continue to drop weight, even after doing things like eating a two-pound fresh fruit tray at work one morning. I truly believe there is a huge difference between the natural sugars in fruit and processed sugar, which I try to minimize in my diet. Except in cases like people with diabetes, most of us seem to do pretty well with lots and lots of fruit (and veggies).
5) No drivethroughs for me. Only for my son, every once in a while. If I get caught inside a fast food place with a group of people, I will have a salad or apple slices or a bottle of water. The food is not worth the points I will have to spend to have it. If I want a burger, I will save up points and get one at Red Robin or Five Guys. Before Weight Watchers, I used to buy a McDonald’s Big Breakfast once or twice a week in the drivethrough before work, so you can see the difference that would have made in my weekly points/calories back then.
Fast food restaurants are America’s biggest source of processed foods. Processing itself is not optimal (fresh foods are much better for us) and processing usually involves the introduction of lots of salt and processed sugar, as both of those are cheaper than the herbs and spices that can truly make our food an interesting and healthy experience!
Even most of America’s restaurant chains have moved to cooking their food in one central place and trucking it all over the U.S. Very few chains use fresh ingredients for their food. Even the salads are prepackaged elsewhere. And the longer food is in transit to get to us, the more it has to be filled with preservatives before the trip. Not to mention most fruits and vegetables never ripen naturally that way.
The restaurants that source local ingredients are usually not chains and therefore tend to be expensive. We tend to eat out less than before, but to go to these restaurants where the food is locally sourced when we do.
I cook more at home nowadays, usually from scratch. We hardly ever buy processed foods to make at home, although for years we would throw something like that in once or twice a week (we were big on Stouffer’s prepackaged lasagnes and other pastas, but have since found that they are packed full of salt for flavoring).
6) I choose to eat dessert once a month. When I do, it is the biggest piece of mile high cheesecake that Virginia Beach has ever imported from the Carnegie Hall cheesecake place in New York City. Go big or stay home! This is just how I roll, and it is a constant source of joking/amusement at my Weight Watchers group. Most others will adapt regular desserts into slimmer recipes, but I choose to only have one big, calorie-laden dessert a month. This goes hand-in-hand with my desire to minimize my exposure to processed sugar.
Additionally, I do not use sugar substitutes. I believe research has shown that we will eat more of products containing them because they don’t register in the brain the same way as sugar does. Also, they are implicated in causing seizures in people who are seizure-prone (specifically, Aspartame has been suggested as related to seizures). Our family has some interesting neurology and I don’t wish to use sugar substitutes in an experimental way on our brains!!!
This list is a work in progress. I keep thinking of new things to add to it, or rather, of more helpful ways to summarize the experience I have had this past year. After all, I have only been a lifetime Weight Watchers member for two weeks so far . . .
I want to emphasize that though I love lists, this list is only meant to reflect what has been helpful to me. The minute I try to turn it into a rulebook for weight loss, it will trip someone up, probably me <smile>!!!
In fact, I totally agree with Weight Watchers when they never put a food off-limits to anyone. They merely tell us to count the points and to make the necessary tradeoffs to have it. The minute we say that we will never again have a cookie or a hamburger or an order of onion rings, we put ourselves in a very tenuous situation from which we can barely do anything but fail.
I have had about five hamburgers this year, one order of French fries and no onion rings as of yet <grin>.
I merely underline that there are some things that we know, via research, are not as helpful to us as other things are. These unhelpful things are processed sugar, most of all high fructose corn syrup, and processed foods containing lots of salt for flavoring. I don’t avoid these things altogether, but I do try to minimize exposure. Conversely, I eat fresh fruits and veggies like they are going out of style.
And that is a weight control program I can do for the rest of my life!!!