Tag Archives: weight watchers points

Track Your Intake → Lose Weight

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I’ll start off by apologizing (again) for my lack of posting.  It still doesn’t look like this will change any time soon.  The good news is that I submitted my dissertation last week!! But I’m not out of the woods yet – two weeks from now, I’ll be defending my dissertation.  Assuming all goes well, I’ll be a DOCTOR! All very exciting, but as you might imagine, all very time consuming and requires a lot of mental preparation and stamina, which is why I haven’t been posting much.  But enough about me and my future.  Let’s talk about me and my present.

My month on Weight Watchers was fantastic.  I honestly cannot give it a better recommendation than I already have in my previous post, and I will recommend it to anyone who asks me my opinion on the best weight loss program.  However, I did run into some obstacles and challenges along the way, which is to be expected.

My Biggest Issue: Trying to do WW without access to the online tools is time-consuming… frustrating… cumbersome… I really wanted this to not be an issue because our society’s dependence on technology is frightening to me.  For example, no one knows how to read a map because everyone is used to Siri telling him/her how to get from Point A to Point B.  And then they get lost when their phone doesn’t have service because they never thought to read the actual street signs and pay attention to their surroundings.  And this is how present day horror stories are made.  I digress.  What I’m getting at is that I wanted to be different from all that and be OK with using equations and calculating the points of the food I ate because I thought it would teach me how to look at a meal and estimate its nutritional value more accurately than what I can do now.  It probably would have done just that if I lived in a world where dissertation writing, traveling, writing, commuting, writing, cooking, writing, sleeping, writing, exercising, and writing didn’t take up all of my time.  But my life doesn’t consist of skipping through meadows and picking flowers or sipping a cup of coffee whilst reading the morning paper and pondering the meaning of life (right now).  Right now my life is chaotic, which is an issue that nearly everyone reports, and I need all the help I can get.  Calculators don’t really count as help.
Because I wasn’t willing to pay for WW, my day would go like this: I would eat breakfast, google the food that I ate, record the points in a journal, and repeat these steps for lunch, with the intention of doing this throughout the day.  Then my day would get away from me, and all of a sudden it would be 10:37 pm and I’m trying to remember what I ate, guessing the serving sizes, googling the points of said food (much of which has not been calculated, so I’d end up using a poor-excuse-for-a-substitute), and calculating my points for the day.  Like most people, I am great at starting the day with good intentions and acting upon them until the day starts to get hectic and whatever is occupying my mind takes precedent over what I’m eating.  This really gets away from the purpose of WW, which is to track your points throughout the day, so that you can make adjustments accordingly.

Issue Number Two: Traveling.  I went to New Orleans for a conference, and I had such a great time, both at the conference and touring the city and surrounding areas.  But what was equally fun to all of that was all of the food in NOLA.  For example, I ate a gator poboy sandwich, gumbo, jambalaya, beignets, red beans and dirty rice, and drank sweet tea, and beer, and bourbon, and hurricanes (whatever those are), amongst other foods and spirits, which I’m surely forgetting.  Needless to say, this wasn’t a “diet” friendly adventure.  I calculated my WW points on only one day while I was there, which came out to a whopping 50 points! (Remember, my goal was 26-33/day).  I gave up after that, for a couple of reasons.  1) I didn’t want to miss out on all that unique food by freaking out about the point total, which I knew I would do if I tracked it. 2) I rarely had my not-so-handy journal with me. 3) Type in “alligator poboy, weight watchers points plus” into google and you won’t find anything useful. This food was hard to track, so I just didn’t.  I was positive that I gained weight after that trip, but as you’ll see below, that was not the case. This is likely attributable to the amount of walking I did – according to my pedometer on my phone: between 15,000 and 20,000 steps/day (10,000 is an arbitrary goal with really no scientific evidence to back it up, but you’ll see it out there.  It’s actually pretty hard to meet if you’re not a super active person).
I don’t think the fact that I went to New Orleans, specifically, makes this situation unique in any way to traveling.  I think we all are more inclined to let loose and not worry about what we’re eating when we travel, because, “Damn it! I’m on vacation!”  However, if you are trying to lose weight, it’s not smart to completely forget about your diet while you travel, because you’re likely to undo a lot of the hard work that you’ve done.  In all honesty, if I had the online tools and the WW phone app, I probably would have tracked my diet more while I was traveling, not so much for trying to curb and control my intake, but really just out of curiosity because I always learn something when I track my diet, and it’s interesting to me.

The Final Issue: Drinking.  That makes me sound like a lush, and I only sort of am, but not to any extreme.  I enjoy imbibing on occasion, but what I like most is just having a beer or a glass of wine with dinner, especially when I’m with friends.  However, I never think of the calories in alcohol when I drink (like most people), but this can be a major downfall if you are trying to control your weight.  Honestly, I was surprised at how many points are allotted for alcohol.  And they’re not unreasonable at all.  Alcoholic beverages are empty calories, and they should be treated as such on a weight loss plan. (**As an aside, it is recommended by the American Heart Association to drink one alcoholic beverage/day, as this amount confers cardiovascular benefit.  And no, you can’t “save” all of them for the weekend and drink all 7 drinks at one time and expect to see any benefit.  In fact, binge drinking is linked to poor cardiovascular health.  Physiology doesn’t care about your weekend plans.**) Here’s a breakdown of the points:

Light Beer (gross) = 3 points
Regular beer=5 points
Beers over 200 kcals/pint (this includes a lot of porters, a lot of the Flying Dog and New Belgium beers… which of course are some of my favorites) = 7 points
Wine (4 oz glass)= 4 points
Hard liquor (1 oz)= 4 points + whatever you mix it with

As you can see, this can add up quickly, which is why people get fat when they drink all the time.  This isn’t rocket science.  And ignorance isn’t bliss unless you think of bliss as a spare tire sittin pretty around your midsection. Check out this site if you want more info about WW points allotted for beer: http://www.justdietnow.com/weight-watchers-points/points-for-beer.html

Let’s move on to the stats:

Goal/Normal Baseline Data Jan-Vegan February-
Paleo
March-WW
Anthros
Weight 121-60 127.5 127.5 128.5 124
BMI 18.5-24.9 20 20 20.1 19.5
PBF 21-32 21.4 21.2 20.6 21.3
WC <35 27.5 27.5 27.5 27.5
HC 38.5 37.5 38 38
W:H Ratio <0.8 0.71 0.73 0.72 0.72
Blood Pressure <120/80 113/77 101/69 105/72 110/70
Diet
Total kcal 2000-2200 1975 1809 1965 1900
Protein (g) 77.5 57 100 75
Protein (%) Oct-35 16 12% 20 16
CHO (%) 49-52 51 39-50 47 54
Fiber (g) at least 25 26 42 32 27
Fat (%) 20-35 29.5 44-54 47 30
Sat Fat (%) <10 7 8 8 7
Sodium (mg) 2300 2587 2138-2527 2132 2370
Potassium (mg) 4700 3479 3959-4109 3742 3628
Fruit/Veg (servings) 5-9 3-7 8-12 6-8 5-7
Cost 192.59 206.38 120.97

There isn’t anything remarkable here, though I think two things are noteworthy.

1) Weight loss:  I had mentioned in my last post that I lost two pounds when I first started WW, and I made a concerted effort to regain that, and I almost did (regained 1.5 pounds) before I left for New Orleans.  But then I didn’t maintain that weight regain, and I lost 4 total this month compared to last month.  I hope this doesn’t piss off people who are actually trying to lose weight.  I really don’t mean to sound so cavalier about the whole thing, but I am an overachiever to my core, and I tend to go all out when I try something new.  I think what this really shows is that if you track your diet (and you’re honest about it), you will change the way you eat for the better, and this will result in weight loss.  As I said in my last post, the number one behavior that is associated with weight loss and weight loss maintenance is self-monitoring. Done.
2) Look at how much money I didn’t spend this month! I even had a little bit of food left over, which wasn’t true of February.  This just goes to show that you can eat healthy without being a nutcase about health foods and breaking the bank. Done. Again.

Once again, a great learning experience and an overall enjoyable “diet” to follow.  The take home message: track your diet if you want to lose weight.  If you’re going to follow Weight Watchers, pay for it and download the mobile app.  Don’t do it my way because you won’t stick with it.  If you are looking for another way to track your diet, but don’t want to follow Weight Watchers, I recommend “Fat Secret” (free for Droid or iPhones).  It’s got the most complete database and is the most user-friendly out of all the apps I’ve seen.  Now get out there and get trackin’, kids!

The “eat all the healthy food and a little of the unhealthy food” plan

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I’ve received a couple requests to post more often, but it’s probably not going to happen. My dissertation is due very soon (in like a week), and then I’ve got that whole dissertation defense thing to do, all of which takes precedent over 2013, With a Grain of Salt (sorry).  However, I have been following the Weight Watchers Points Plus diet plan for the last twelve days, and in general, I feel like this baby elephant:

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The Premise Behind Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers (WW) is a commercial weight loss/maintenance plan, in which foods are assigned a point value, and you keep track of your points everyday (or almost everyday…more on that in a minute).

When you sign up for WW, you input some data about yourself (sex, age, height, weight, physical activity level), and it calculates the number of points you are allotted/day.

No one gets less than 26 or more than 71 points per day.  If you’re like me and don’t want to pay for WW, you can figure out your point allowance via many blogs and tutorials.  I would put a link to the one I used, but WordPress temporarily disabled my blog when I did that, so you’re just going to have to do the really hard work of Googling it yourself, much like I did.

No matter what your daily point allowance, you also get 49 extra points per week.  You can spread these throughout the week, or if you know that you have some event coming up (like a big dinner or party in which alcoholic beverage consumption may also take place), you can save them and use them all at once.  I really like this feature because it puts the emphasis on looking at your diet over a longer period of time (week vs. day), and it flexibility is intrinsically built into the plan.

In 2010, WW moved to WW PointsPlus, and some really important changes came with that.  On the old program, the focus was solely on calorie intake, so you could technically eat Twinkies and ramen noodles all day, as long as you didn’t eat a lot of them and remained within your point goal.  In 2010, the program changed to focus on the quality of those calories, and I can’t emphasize enough how important that is.  The new algorithm to determine the points of a food is as follows:

[(Fat(g)/3.9)+(Carb(g)/9.2)+(Protein(g)/10.9)-Fiber(g)/12.5)]=points

As you can see, foods that are high in protein and/or fiber will cost you fewer points than foods high in fat and carbohydrates, thus shifting your focus overall to healthier foods.

Most fruits and vegetables are 0 points, so you can eat lots of those (as you should).  Potatoes, avocadoes, fruit juices, and dried fruit aren’t 0 points, which means that you can still eat them, but assigning a point value forces you to not overeat them.

Activity also factors into the equation, and the more you exercise, the more points you can add back into your day/week. In general, burning 80 kcals translates to 1 point.  So, for a woman of my weight, 15 minutes of medium intensity work = 1 point, whereas 15 minutes of high intensity work (i.e. running)= 2 points.

There is also the Power Foods List, which is handy for days that you don’t want to track your points, for whatever reason.  The recommendation on those days is to eat from the Power Foods list to the point of feeling satisfied (not full), and you’ll be able to stay on track with your weight loss/maintenance goal.

Why Weight Watchers Works
WW was named one of the best diets of 2012 by U.S. News and World Report.  It was #1 for the best weight loss diet as well as easiest diet to follow.

Ease of Use
When you sign up for WW, you get access to all their online tools and a phone app that calculates all your points for you (I calculate them myself, which is a pain in the ass).  You’re also given an accelerometer which measures your activity throughout the day, and these are actually pretty expensive to come by.  Also, the Power Foods list (see above) makes life a lot easier.

Weight Loss Effectiveness
There is a huge support system of other people who are following the diet plan, and you can go to in-person meetings or use online forums that allow you to hash out your struggles and share ideas with other people.  Having a support system is one of the main predictors of successful weight loss, in part because you can get ideas from others.  It also makes you accountable to something other than yourself, and most of us know that, if left to our own devices, we typically aren’t always motivated to do what’s best for ourselves.  (My accountability throughout this whole process is to my blog.  Even if no one reads it, I like to pretend there are a lot of you who will ridicule me and hold me in contempt if I don’t follow through with this. It keeps me motivated.)

Weight loss studies have evaluated characteristics of people who are most likely to lose weight and keep it off compared to those who are not successful, and the number one behavior is self-monitoring.  It requires a lot of work to track your diet, but it is extremely effective because knowledge is power and it forces you to be honest with yourself.  It may be a lot of work, but consider any change you’ve ever made, and I can guarantee that the changes that were the most fruitful were also the ones that required the most will power and dedication.

Weight Loss Maintenance
Before I even looked into WW in any real depth, I always recommended it to people who ask me for weight loss advice.  The reasons for this are two-fold:
1) People typically don’t listen to me (or any nutrition professional) when they are given advice because making changes are hard and it’s human nature to follow the path of least resistance.  It turns out that this is the same path that makes you fat and unhealthy. Thus, it’s easier for me to recommend a program that will teach someone everything they need to know. It saves me time, and if people are paying for something, they’re probably more likely to put in the effort to reap the benefits of that service.
2) (This is the less selfish and more important aspect) WW teaches you how to eat healthy, long term.  Studies indicate that weight loss itself isn’t the most challenging aspect of weight control, but maintaining that weight loss is where you have to dig in deep and force those changes to become a way of life.  WW allows you to eat normal food and even unhealthy food, though portion control and moderation are built into the point system.  It also emphasizes healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat or nonfat dairy.  It’s really built for real people who aren’t health freaks. So, if you pay attention to the tools at your disposal while following WW, the transition off of WW will likely be much smoother and you’ll be more likely to maintain the weight loss for which you worked so hard.  Other diet plans like NutriSystem provide all the food for you, so you never really learn how to cook healthy foods; thus, weight regain (also termed “recidivism” in the scientific community) is a huge issue with these diets.

My Life as a Weight Watcher
I’m not paying for WW because a) it’s sort of expensive ; b) I’m not trying to lose weight; and 3) this is an experiment to test how realistic dietary plans are, and I’m getting that information by paying no dollars/month. However, for someone who does want to lose weight, I do not recommend going about it the way I am because it’s way more work, and there are so many tools that support you in your health and weight loss goals that you’ll be missing out on by being a cheap ass.

  • I get 26 points/day, which is the lowest allowance possible.  Makes sense since a person with a BMI of 20 shouldn’t really be trying to lose weight.
  • I track my points in my journal, which really makes me wish that I had the online tools.  I feel like an analog girl living in a digital world.  This is also what we could call a Generation Y problem.
  • I started by just tracking my normal diet to see how many points I typically eat, which came out to 26-30. Again, no surprise there, as I’m a weight stable individual and not prone to binging.
  • I kind of got really into tracking my points though, and I had it in my head that I was only allowed 26 points/day.  I forgot about those extra 49 points/week, so, if I wasn’t planning on using a bunch at once, I could/should go up to 33 points/day.  I also forgot about adding my activity points into my daily allotment.  And because of that, I lost 2 pounds in the first 10 days.  Oops.  BUT, it does show you how easy it can be to lose weight on this plan!
  • I find that I am gravitating towards eating fruits and vegetables more than I maybe normally would because they are zero points, so I don’t have to track them. Almost every snack I eat is a fruit or a vegetable.  Well played, WW.
  • I’ve also started eating from the Power Foods list as many days as I can because that also reduces the amount of writing/point calculating I have to do.
  • Mixed meals are the hardest points to calculate and the most work, but for most things, I can just Google whatever food it is, and someone has probably already calculated it.  Thanks, internet.
  • Another goal of WW is the whole 8×8 trick (drink 8 8-oz glasses of water/day).  This is good for me because I definitely don’t drink enough water, and I do track this everyday because I know it’s the hardest thing for me to do. And seriously. It’s so hard.  I haven’t had a day yet where I met this goal. I’m working on it!

Overall, I am elated to be a Weight Watcher after my month on Paleo.  I get to eat things like black beans, and hummus, and cous cous, and oatmeal, and whole grain pasta, and feta, and I’m just so happy. I was also yogurt sober for TWO WHOLE MONTHS. I’m pretty sure I haven’t done that since I started eating that delicious bacteria enriched dairy treat as a young tyke, and I plan on never doing it ever again. You can’t tame this wild beast.

**If anyone from Weight Watchers International, Inc. happened to stumble upon this blog post and wanted to give me access to some online tools for all the great advertising I’m doing, free of charge, I wouldn’t fight it.  Also, if some of the information I’ve said here is wrong, though I’m pretty sure it’s not, you should definitely give me access to all your information, so I can stop misinforming the masses (i.e. all 10 of my followers).