Friday, December 28, 2012

Week #52: REBOOT!

Those of you that were able to get to a meeting this week know that Weight Watchers brilliantly chose to have us discuss getting back on track. As if they had some sort of inkling that a week full of holiday celebrations might make that necessary!

I don't know what kind of impression you have of me, and I know that as a meeting leader I might represent some sort of "other" who isn't exactly like you. But, like probably many of you reading this, I ate and drank too much in the past week or two.

How do I know? Just weighed in this morning! Friday morning is my usual weigh-in day and I attend a meeting as a regular member. Santa was kind enough to bring me 3.8 pounds this year.

So that means it's time for me to get back into my regular routines and get my head back on straight! You can relate, right?

I am five weeks in to using our new 12 week Track book, and I am loving the weekly plan pages. As I sit in the meeting room waiting for the meeting to start, I pencil in what my activity plans are for the week. Because I do grocery shopping on Friday evenings, I can pencil in what many of my meals will be for the week. I basically get to plan what's going to happen to me over the next seven days!

This is a great way for me to reboot. New Year's Eve isn't a real celebration for me, so effectively the holidays are OVER. And I am ready to get back to eating right. I feel so much better when I do.

So step 1 was to weigh in and face the music. Step 2 is planning my food and workouts. Step 3 will be hitting up the grocery store. Join me in taking some healthy steps, won't you?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to be leading and working meetings as usual for the rest of the year (and will be subbing a little extra too!) but am going to take a break from updating here until the beginning of the year.

Keep those healthy spaces and routines going, pop in to a meeting, and keep focused during these crazy next few weeks. Above all, enjoy the holiday festivities!

Snowman gift happy holidays
MySpace Graphics at

Friday, December 07, 2012

Week #49 - WW 360 Launch & Pack a Snack

This week marked the launch of our latest program innovation: Weight Watchers 360!

So what's new? Anything related to the PointsPlus system? Nope, that's all the same. Values are the same, targets are the same, Good Health Guidelines are the same, Simply Filling Technique is the same.

Um, so what's the big deal?

The PointsPlus food plan is a good one. It nudges you to make healthy, satisfying food choices. And many times do you end up making a choice that is by no means healthy, or physically satisfying? How many times do you give in to temptation and feel like you have no willpower?

One does not lose (or maintain) by willpower alone. Our brains are wired to desire and respond to high-fat, high-calorie foods, so it's no surprise that we can "fall off the wagon" so to speak.

The innovation in this year's program is that it's not just about the food choices. it's about making the spaces you live in more manageable. Safer, and more plan-friendly. And it's about building routines - healthy things you do without even really thinking about them, because it's just what you do. These mental tips and strategies help make the dangerous food environment we live in a little bit easier to navigate. And when we don't repeatedly test our willpower, we find out that it doesn't fail us as much!

As with any new program innovation that Weight Watchers presents, there are some new products available for purchase. One product is our Member Kit. We've had a kit for years, and it's always been some form of long-term tracker and food value listings. This year the member kit is WAY different, and it's good for the newbie or the veteran.

So what's in it:

Track (our new 12 week tracker - it's bigger, and allows for more planning ahead)
Silicone collapsible measuring cups
Flexible measuring tape (to track your inches lost!)
Jennifer Cohen exercise sampler DVD
PointsPlus values stickers (label those packages!)
Success Handbook (written by Liz, Jennifer Hudson's leader)
What to Eat Now (pictured below)

What to Eat Now is more than just a cookbook. There are meal ideas, snack ideas and a list to help you stock your pantry with good for you options. See those pink post-it flags? I've already earmarked several recipes, and will be trying out two of them this weekend!

The member kit basically gives you the tools you need to manage your spaces (portion control, at home/no excuses workouts, meal ideas). Buy one this month and save five bucks - only $34.95!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Week #48 - What's Your Holiday Plan?

I hope everyone survived the Thanksgiving holiday with minimal damage, and that you're not letting one holiday turn into a spiral of food and shame that you'll emerge from, bleary-eyed, at the beginning of January!

To help with that we talked about having some sort of a plan for the rest of the month. I definitely encourage you to take a look at your calendar for this next month or so. See how jam-packed it really is. How many days/meals do you have an event, and how many days will be Business As Usual? Those BAU days are perfect opportunities to stay focused, get active, and eat healthy. In fact, schedule that activity right now before anything else can take its place!

To help you survive the holidays (and beyond) Weight Watchers is going to be rolling out something called Weight Watchers 360 - I guess if our CEO can write about it, so can I! As they say, PointsPlus taught you how to eat, this new stuff we'll be delivering will now help you figure out how to live.

We'll be focusing more on helping you develop and maintain healthy routines. Sure, you know what foods are good, but how can you ensure that they are the foods you actually choose? And yes, you know that movement is good for you, but maybe you haven't found a way to regularly just get it done. The new mental tools we'll be rolling out (and we've already started to sort of go down that road in the past month or so) use the latest in habit research. David Kirchhoff is a huge fan of books like The Power of Habit and others that dive into behavioral science, so it's no surprise to see it infiltrate our Weight Watchers program.

Losing weight is not just a matter of having willpower. In fact, it's about making the need for willpower as small as possible! Develop routines and spaces that support making healthy choices, track what you eat, and there's no way you won't lose. So stick with me this holiday season, and I think you'll like what you see.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Week #46 - Why?

I hope that after this week's meeting, you will spend some time reflecting on why you originally joined Weight Watchers, and why you continue to spend Wednesday mornings with us.

Preparing for and delivering a meeting every week gives me a chance to reflect as well, and I spent a little time remembering what was going on in my mind back in October 1996, when I (re)joined Weight Watchers the time I made it to my weight goal.


Yep, I joined Weight Watchers because I didn't like the way I looked. I'd seen a photo of myself in a sleeveless shirt and was not happy. My clothes were tight, and I knew that wearing ill-fitting clothes wasn't really doing me many favors.

As many of you may have discovered, the original reason to join is often not enough to be the reason to sustain. So the question I then reflected on this week became "why is it I've stayed with Weight Watchers for so many years?" And there are a whole host of answers and reasons.

From a health perspective, things are 100% different. I was inactive, didn't care about what I ate, and based on family genetics was probably on track to develop high cholesterol and heart disease. Now I am consciously eating a well balanced diet, and get regular physical activity. When I go to the doctor, my vitals are always impressive. In short, Weight Watchers has given me good health.

Weight Watchers has helped me develop a community of like-minded people to surround myself with. Some of my really good friends are fellow Weight Watchers employees. Because I am now regularly active, I've met and formed friendships with people who enjoy working out and eating healthy. It has enabled me to build a village of people whose goals are similar - some form of healthy living and eating. That makes it a million times easier for me to stick to the routines I built while losing weight.

One other thing I'd like to attribute to Weight Watchers is confidence. It could just be coincidental, that I became a Lifetime Member at the age of 23 in the midst of developing my entire personal and career identity. But knowing that I could accomplish something like changing my lifestyle was huge for me. I'd always been the fat couch potato...and now things were changing. I was now the healthy eater in the office. The one who always had some sort of workout scheduled.

And most importantly, working for Weight Watchers gave me my voice. Remember those people in school who were the WORST public speakers? The nerves, the quivering voice, that was me. Thinking about speaking in a room of 50 people I didn't know was frankly a fate worse than death. The training, mentoring and practice I got from becoming a Weight Watchers leader means that in my "real job" I'm the person to volunteer for the job of presenting. Small talk is still something I can't say I'm thrilled about having to do, but practicing it each and every week has made me so much better at it than I used to be.

Had I known back in October 1996 that all this would have happened, I'm not sure I'd have believed it. So if you're ready to change, get out there and get on it. What do you have to lose? And more importantly, what's out there that you have to gain?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Week #45 - Power Foods!

When I am eating food that is healthy and filling, life is a lot easier. I have the energy to do what I need to do, and I spend far less time thinking, obsessing, and jonesing over food. I am physically satisfied. I don't need to go looking for anything else. So it's really no surprise that I tend to eat a lot of Power Foods - those foods that Weight Watchers has identified as the healthiest and most satisfying!

This entry is about to turn into a linkapalooza. Weight Watchers can do this stuff WAY better than I can!

Here's a great article from the Weight Watchers website: Power Up With Power Foods Within the article there are links to more information and suggestions for how to incorporate Power Foods like eggs, sweet potatoes and Greek yogurt into your day.

I love trying to cook with as many Power Foods as possible. Just this week, dinner was Tuscan Casserole, which is almost completely filled with Power Foods. That particular recipe is one I've made multiple times...and I don't often repeat!

Finally, if you're ever in doubt as to what qualifies, check this list: PDF list of ALL Power Foods - use it as a basis for your shopping list!

Eat more Power Foods, feel much better? Lose more weight? It couldn't hurt to try!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Week #44 - Take 5

When I was preparing for this last week's topic, I was excited. I am a huge proponent of checking in on how things are going, and laying out a plan of attack. That's mostly because I am a big time planner. I plan things well in advance - whether we're talking Weight Watchers or just the family vacation!

But as I was sitting in my own meeting yesterday morning, I realized one area that I could focus on more: checking in AFTER THE FACT. While it's second nature to me to check in beforehand to figure out what my strategy is, I don't as often check in after an event, or at the end of the day to assess how it all went. So that's my own personal focus for this week - take some of those five minutes to not only look at what's coming up, but to look at how everything went.

In my time internetting these past few days, I found this article Why the Fitness Habit Is More Important Than the Plan. It really struck a chord with me, and it dovetails nicely with what Weight Watchers has been training staff on recently.

You will (maybe) notice a little bit of a shift in the way we tackle our meeting topics. We're going to be focusing on teaching you how to adapt your behaviors and habits so that being healthy becomes a no-brainer. It's not going to be about sweeping changes that totally turn your life upside down. It's going to be about small, doable changes that you can make and incorporate into your existing lifestyle. There seems to be a lot of research out there regarding creating and maintaining habits, and I'm happy to see Weight Watchers incorporating this into our message. I didn't maintain my weight loss this long by working my fingers to the bone every single day on it. I did it by creating habits that are now second nature. I'm absolutely NOT saying that it is easy, but there are plenty of things I do to support a healthy lifestyle that I really don't even need to think about at this point. And that's what I will be endeavoring to help you do, too!

We're also going to incorporate the concept that "adults learn by doing" which means that we're probably going to see more hands-on activities, small group discussions, tasks where you jot down an action plan in your Weight Watchers Weekly. Because those are things I've not typically done very often in the meetings I lead, that might seem different, too. But the end result is to get you committed to the changes that will improve your health!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week #42: Late Night Noshing

Okay, usually I post with some sort of wrap-up or thoughts from the previous week's topic, but this week I'm going to deviate from that, because I have better stuff to say, and I just can't help it!

3rd Annual Unstructured 5K & snack-picnic
October 28, 2012
4PM (or whatever time you can be there because it is unstructured!)
Mission Bay Park
Earn a 5K Charm!

Wear your ActiveLink and bring your pedometer and your family and friends and a snack to share, if you want. We will meet just north of the Information Center area. You reach it when you turn right at the end of Clairemont Drive. There is a huge parking lot because the boat ramp is nearby.

Look for the Weight Watchers sign and banner so you will know you are in the right place. Fellow WW leader Helen will be 'home-base' and stay with anything you want to bring but don't want to carry as you walk. Bring a chair if you want to hang around and watch the sunset. From 'home-base' you can walk north or south, or both until you complete your unstructured 5K. Bring your baby buggy or your crutches or cane or walking frame if you need to! This is an all abilities 5K!!

There will be a sign-in sheet at 'home-base'. Please .....print your name and the meeting you will be attending, to receive your 5K Charm.

Steve shared a story this week about his escapades at Subway with "shaving the bread." If you missed it, he attended the Friday noon meeting, and after the meeting decided to grab a sub at the shop down the sidewalk. When he ordered his sandwich, the employee asked him if he wanted his bread "shaved." What this turns out to be is having the innards of the roll scooped out so there's less bread and more room for fillings. Apparently this is a popular thing amongst the Friday WW meeting crowd!

Well, today I met the bread shaving guy! This particular Subway outlet is one I visit...a lot. It's close to my house, close to WW, close to my full-time job. While chatting with the guy making my sandwich (who most definitely knows I work for Weight Watchers), we got on the topic of trying something different next time, and he said I could always try shaving the bread. I'm sure the look on my face was priceless as I exclaimed "You're the guy!" I shared Steve's story, and as I walked out the door, he sent me off with "You've got to keep track of the Points!"

Indeed, Subway guy. Indeed.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Week #40: Track & Bring It Back

I sat in my own Weight Watchers meeting this morning (the one I go to as a member, that is!) and the leader asked "Who is excited about tracking?"

I won't lie to you - I wasn't one of them. Do I enjoy tracking? No, I don't. Do I find it a valuable tool? You betcha. Unfortunately those conflicting opinions mean that over the years I've started a lot of different trackers...only to abandon them at some point. So the fact that 3 weeks ago I finished a 3 Month Tracker with every week filled was a pretty big victory. I'm not saying every day was filled, but the fact that I didn't give up within the three months is huge!

So maybe you're just as challenged as I am when it comes to tracking. You don't want to do it. Why should you do it? I did minutes hours of internet research to provide you with a few pieces of proof that tracking really works.

You can lose twice as much weight if you track. This is a SparkPeople article, so of course they are going to plug their own tracker, but they reference an actual scientific study from 2008 that found study members who tracked lost twice as much weight as study members who did not. So why track? It works!

Have you ever heard of the National Weight Control Registry? They keep track of people who have lost weight to see not only how they lost their weight, but how they continue to maintain it. They collect statistics on what works, and there are definitely some trends. One study that used the NWCR information found that successful members regularly tracked their weight (by weighing themselves, obviously). So while tracking usually refers to food intake, it can also refer to weighing. I personally have noted that my most successful Lifetime Members are those who still regularly attend meetings and weigh themselves. Catch gains when they are small!

The Weight Watchers folks across the pond share some general tips from tracking, including some of the things we discussed this week. You can learn a lot from your tracker. Taking some time to review what has happened can help you identify your successes and learn what areas you might have for improvement. Track for weight loss TRIUMPH!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Week #39: Eight Weeks 'Til Thanksgiving!

Oh my goodness, thinking that Thanksgiving is only eight weeks away is crazy! But this is the time of year when we really need to buckle down and keep focused. Getting through the last few months of the year can really be challenging.

Over the next eight weeks we'll be featuring weekly challenges that will help you keep that focus. We'll highlight behaviors and habits that our most successful members use, and challenge you to incorporate those behaviors to ensure your success.

If you want help beyond the meeting room, you can join the eTools Community Challenge. There you can discuss strategies, find members who are working on the same things you are, and get a little inspiration in the hours when you're not at a Weight Watchers center.

Click on this link to get to the Community Page and scroll down to find the Thanksgiving Challenge. You can also find other non-holiday related challenges that might be more your speed. Use our online community to enhance your support system!

Coming up next week: TRACKING! Be sure to bring a copy of your tracker with you to the meeting.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week #38: Be a Weekend Warrior!

Fitting that I'm posting about this on a Saturday morning. It's the weekend! And as many of you related this week, the weekends can be a challenge. There's less structure, more things that need to get done, more running around, socializing, eating and drinking.

Dealing with the weekends is honestly something I still have to work on. I've tried lots of things over the years, including giving myself Saturday as a "free day", but then I ended up using the remainder of the week as damage control to make up for one day's eating. Not a good way to lose weight, that's for sure!

One thing the weekend allows me to do is get in a lot of activity. I've shared with some of you that I have been training for a half marathon (that was supposed to happen today - but got cancelled, and the less said about that THE BETTER). To do that, I've got to make sure I get up on the weekends and get those training runs in! That helps me get a healthy start to the weekend. I can't be eating trash on Friday nights and expect to get up on Saturday morning and do a long endurance workout. And being able to sit here at 10am on a Saturday morning having already met my ActiveLink goal for the day is pretty cool, too.

A topic of discussion this week related to weekends was trying the Simply Filling Technique as a way to continue the healthy eating patterns on the weekend with perhaps less burden of tracking when there's not as much time for that sort of thing. Many of you seemed pretty interested in it, and I think that's great!

Simply Filling Technique (in which you eat Power Foods until satisfaction and need not count PPV of those foods) is almost like what I think the ideal eating habits would be. Focusing your calorie intake on fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains? Staying away from lots of sugar and fat-filled snacks? Learning to obey your hunger signals and stop before you're full? GENIUS.

If the "eat until you're satisfied" part sends chills down your spine, here is something to think about. When you walked through the door on day one, did you know everything you needed to about how to lose weight? Most likely not. You had to practice changing habits, learn some new things, and figure a few things out about yourself. This is another one of those things. Sure, you may not be able to stop at satisfaction TODAY, but that doesn't mean that you can't practice that skill and master it over time.

If you knew how to stop eating before you were full, wouldn't that make all the difference in the world? What's stopping you from trying to master it?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Week #37: Rehab Your Habits

Since we discussed changing habits this week, I want to share something I've noticed. When one adopts healthy habits and gets on a roll, one can often extend those habits into situations where it might not always be safe to do so. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

This morning, I left the house at six in the morning to go for a run. Already it felt like a typical fall San Diego day - a warm, dry tinderbox. According to The Weather Channel, it got up to 106 in Clairemont yesterday. And if you actually clicked on that link, you'll see that yesterday's temperature was a full twenty-seven degrees hotter than the day before. If you're not a weather junkie like I am, you may have been caught off-guard.

Today is shaping up to be more of the same, and while the temperatures right now are even warmer than they usually are this time of year, September and October are traditionally warm in our neck of the woods. And if you're new to exercise, this might be a new experience for you.

If you're going to exercise in these next few days, do it early, or do it inside. If you feel woozy, light-headed, or feel like you're going to be sick, STOP EXERCISING. Here is a great article with symptoms of heat illness and you'll also find links to how to treat those illnesses.

No APPV or blinking lights on the ActiveLink are worth potential health hazards. So while you're trying to keep that healthy momentum going, be safe!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Week #36: Believe in Yourself!

This week's topic is really not an easy one for me to sit here and pontificate about. What on earth can I possibly say in a blog entry that will convince you that you actually CAN reach all of your health goals? If it was as easy as writing something and bam, you changed your mind, well, we wouldn't need to bother with our weekly meetings, now would we?

Hopefully you were inspired by hearing about the stories of your fellow members this week. Whether it was one of our staff members, or just the person in the next row over, there are lots of success stories all around you. Consider that the next time you're waiting for the meeting to start...that person over there that looks like they don't "need" Weight Watchers? Find out that person's story! I mean, how many of you at this week's El Cajon meeting would look at our coworker Diane and think "now there's a woman that clearly used to be 100+ pounds heavier!" I know I wouldn't think so!

Collaborating and sharing our stories becomes one of the most powerful things we can do for each other. We inform, we inspire, and we find out that at the end of the day, none of us is doing this alone.

And now, to completely switch gears, I want to remind you that our Lose for Good campaign is officially under way. Every pound you lose between now and October 20th gets tallied up, and Weight Watchers will end up donating ONE MILLION DOLLARS to two food charities. So you can help by losing weight, but here's another way....

Saturday, September 15th! - all of our Weight Watchers stores in San Diego (Clairemont, El Cajon, Rancho San Diego, Poway, etc.) will be open for a huge one day food drive! Your donations will help local charities distribute food to the people in our very own neighborhoods who suffer from food insecurity. Please stop by any time between 7am and 4pm with your donations of non-perishable food items (please, no glass jars). There will be special activities (member panels, eTools demonstrations, raffle prizes) and special one day only joining offers. Stop by quickly to drop off your food, or linger and see what we have to offer!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week #35: Getting Back To Routine

Despite the silly flipchart this week implying that once fall arrives we’ll all be wearing ski suits, the concept of figuring out how to get back on track is a very important one. Assuming you’ll sail along on your journey to goal without any slip-ups is pretty na├»ve. Most everyone “falls off the wagon” at some point. But what separates the Lifetime Members from the rest is the ability to get back on track and continue on the journey.

Meeting topics often work out to be very timely for me, and this is no exception. A few weeks ago I realized that where once I was a very faithful and regular morning exerciser, something at some point had changed. More hours of daylight, an occasional meet-up with running friends in the afternoon, and all of a sudden I was sleeping through my alarm. On days where I ended the day with a bout of exercise that was okay, but more and more I found myself sleeping in…and then doing nothing in the evening either. Once I was tasked with making my ActiveLink lights blink, I knew that had to change! And staring down a budget season at my full-time job, where overtime is often necessary but not known until the last minute, I knew I needed to get back into the habit of getting my exercise done in the morning, when there were sure to be no other conflicts.

One of the tips in this week’s topic was to start with baby steps, and that’s just what I decided I’d do.

Step 1: I at least need to wake up to my alarm!

That’s really the hardest part, isn’t it? I told myself all I needed to do was to get out of bed. That’s it. Even if I don’t exercise, I at least need to get back into the habit of getting out of bed at zero dark thirty.

Step 2: I just need to put my workout clothes on.

Funny enough, once I get out of bed, it’s not so hard to take the next step. But maybe I don’t feel like going out for a run. Well, it doesn’t get me sweaty to put on my workout gear, and strap on the heart rate monitor. Just do that. Something that I found is that I am 100% successful at exercising when I put on my gear. Mentally it seems ridiculous to me to go through the act of changing clothes only to then not use them – especially when I will then have to change clothes AGAIN to go into work. Why go through the hassle of changing two times in the morning if I’m not going to do anything with it?

Step 3: I don’t have to work out hard or for a long period of time, I just need to do something.

So now that I’m awake a little bit and dressed, I’m not dreading exercise as much, but maybe I’m not feeling like running for a whole hour. Okay, well how about a walk? How about running for ten minutes? Just get out the door and DO SOMETHING. Usually, once I’m out there, extending the length of time is easy – I get the momentum going. Or if I’m walking, I realize how much longer it takes me to cover the same distance, and so I start to run. Sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I end the route at a shorter distance than I intended. But at that point, what I’m doing is gravy. A month ago I was sleeping through my alarm. Now I’ve run for 30 minutes! Victory!

So far I’m about two weeks into it. The more I practice the habit, the easier it gets. With practice, it transforms from ZOMG THIS HABIT I’M DOING THAT’S A HUGE CHANGE into Hey, This Is Just What I Do.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Week #34: Your Unhealthiest Habit

In the last several years I have considered myself an active person. I go to the gym, I run outside, I have workout classes that I enjoy. Like probably a lot of you reading this, I have a desk job. Most of my day at work consists of sitting at my computer and working on spreadsheets. Despite this fact, I still considered myself an active person.

The above is my ActiveLink report from yesterday. Wednesdays are my "rest" days. I start the morning (at a time when on other days of the week I'd be working out) at Weight Watchers. Right after I finish the meeting, I go to my full-time job. After work I do yoga. By the time I get home, it's 7pm and I've been away from the house since 5:45am. It's then time for dinner and chores around the house.

I barely met my baseline yesterday, much less my ActiveLink goal! Even the yoga didn't help much, which initially when I started using ActiveLink was concerning. But then I thought about it - the kind of yoga that I'm doing on Wednesdays is very focused on flexibility, focus, and holding poses. It is not what you'd consider "power" yoga. I burn very few calories during a session, and I don't frankly move much - I get into a position and hold it. At any rate, does that daily graph look like an active person to you? Hmm, maybe I need to re-evaluate what I think I am....

And now here's a Sunday from a week or two ago. I started the morning at the gym cycling, then from about 11am-1pm I worked a Weight Watchers meeting. I'm not sure what I did the rest of that day, but while the green bars aren't crazy high, I can tell I wasn't loafing around the rest of the afternoon either. Still, it's clear to me that my primary source of movement in life is through my exercise.

So I've been leafing through this week's Weight Watchers Weekly and picking your brains at the meetings this week to try and figure out how I can move more at work. Since I already do some of the usual things (park farther away in the lot wherever I go, for example) I am working on becoming more "inefficient" in my movements. If a letter needs to get dropped in the mail room, instead of combining it with a trip to the restroom, it now gets its own trip.

It still doesn't add up to much, but I guess the fewer minutes I spend sitting on my duff, the better!

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Instead of writing up my thoughts on last week's topic, I hope you'll indulge in a little self-disclosure.

It's now August 2012. Most of us are wondering where the last eight months have gone, but I'm sitting here wondering where the last fifteen years have gone! Because in August 1997 I reached my weight goal and became a Lifetime Member. FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY, Y'ALL.

I remember sitting in my meeting a few weeks into joining, and the leader celebrated a woman who had reached her eighteenth year as a Lifetime member at goal. Those of you who have been members for years might remember that we used to give out ribbons for ten pounds lost, and embroidered stars for each additional ten pound increment. Then, when you became a Lifetime member, you received a white ribbon. And on every anniversary you received an embroidered shooting star. So here was this woman with her white LT ribbon virtually covered in these shooting stars. She was happy, she looked vital, and if I hadn't known her history, I never would have guessed she ever had a weight problem. I remember thinking "someday I want to be her." Doing the math, I am now 83% of the way there!

If you had asked me back then whether I'd have kept my weight off this long, I'm not sure that I would have said yes. Even now, I wonder if I would have been able to remain at my weight goal if I hadn't immediately started working for Weight Watchers (where my weight is monitored monthly to make sure I remain a good role model).

So what have I learned in the past 15 years?

Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not. While I have remained at or under goal the entire time, my weight has fluctuated almost ten pounds. Some years I have a really good cushion, other years I am right at goal. (In full disclosure, recently I have been in one of those "right at goal" years, something which I am trying to change!) Just like when I was in weight loss mode, sometimes I had it dialed in, other times I got a little lax.

Weight maintenance is a different mind-set than weight loss. In maintenance, you have to learn to not freak out over a 1 pound gain. Your weight never stays exactly the same, so fluctuations up and down are a part of the process. If your behavior is consistent, a gain this week will likely be followed by a loss the next. If it doesn't, check your behavior.

My habits have evolved. The way I lost my weight isn't the way I'm maintaining. I was not a runner when I was losing weight. Fifteen years later I've run five marathons and countless half marathons (the next one is coming up next month!). When I was losing I ate lots of prepared, frozen and canned food, and rarely ever cooked. Today, I'm buying staples in bulk and cooking them myself, loving every step of the way.

My life has evolved, and so my habits have had to keep up. When I hit goal, I was married. I still am, but it's to a different fellow. A lot of things happened in between. I've had four different full-time jobs during the last 15 years, each with their own set of hours, overtime demands, and corporate culture. Currently I'm in a "free food all the bloody time" environment, and trust me, that's a challenge!

What has been constant the whole time is the notion of regular weigh-ins to keep an eye on things. Regular tracking of food intake so I don't relax too much. Sometimes I track more than others, but I do still track. Regular physical activity is a must (although what I do for it has changed many times, and likely will continue to change).

Part of my success in this journey have been people like you. Yes, you, reading this. Whether you are in one of the meetings I lead, maybe you're someone I've weighed, maybe you just found me through Blogger or Facebook - you make the difference to me. Helping you to change your habits and reach your goal gives me a feeling that no other job I've ever had has given me. It inspires me to keep this going, to keep on track, so that I can continue to work with you and see how you shine.

So thank you for reading this. And here's to another fifteen years!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Week #30: Build a Smarter Salad

I have eaten a lot of salads in my day. Some of them were the boring bowl of iceberg with a pale, mealy wedge of tomato, and some of them were big fat calorie explosions (Taco Bell taco salad in the fried tortilla shell anyone?).

Then three years ago, Mark Bittman entered my life with this article. "101 Simple Salads for the Season" became my salad reference book that summer. The list made its way around the members of my cooking club, and we even planned a gathering based on the list - everyone picked a number and brought it.

My recommendations from the list:

Salad #2 - yes, tomatoes and peaches DO go together quite nicely!

Salad #13 - I took this "red" salad to a party, and went home with an empty bowl. Turns out tomatoes and STRAWBERRIES go together well, too. Hmm, I sense a theme here.

Salad #19 - I haven't tried this one, but you white bean aficionados out there know who you are. Report back if you try it!

Salad #38 - watermelon and feta are a dynamite combination. Man, I love summer produce.

Salad #95 - this is in the grain salad section, so we're getting outside the box a little. This was breakfast one week!

These salads are great for improvisation. Swap out one fruit or vegetable for another. Season it a little differently. If you're using good ingredients, you can't go wrong!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Week #29: Activate Your Activity

This week marked the official launch in Southern California (and Boston and Chicago) of ActiveLink - our new activity monitor. It paired up nicely with the topic of the week, which was managing your environment to make activity easier.

I thought I'd share my experience so far with the device. I know that buying a new gadget for $39.95 with a $5 per month fee isn't something that everyone will be in a hurry to do. Some of you will want more feedback, know how it really works, what the benefits are. And so I will attempt to do that here. You should know up-front that as an employee of Weight Watchers, I received the device at no cost to me, and do not have to pay the $5 monthly fee.


ActiveLink is super easy to set up. You'll plug it in to a USB port on your computer, and you will download some software. My device was essentially fully charged when I pulled it out of the box, so by the time I'd downloaded the software and given it my information, it was charged and ready to wear. An eTools account is required to get your ActiveLink set-up, because the device needs to know your age, height, weight & gender so that it can ultimately perform the calculation of how many Activity PointsPlus values you earn every day. It also will drop those values you've earned right into your eTools tracker so they are available for swapping.

Assessment Period

The first 8 days you wear this device is the Assessment Period. Your goal during this time is to go about your daily business while remembering to wear the device. Do not attempt to increase or decrease the amount of activity you do. You want the ActiveLink to get a good feel for what your typical life is like. You should wear the device as much as possible, whether you're exercising, running errands, or just sitting on the couch. You can wear the device when you sleep, but since you aren't moving, there's nothing for it to pick up. You could also wear it in the shower (it's waterproof!) but really? Are you that obsessed? (Don't answer that question!)

I was so excited to receive my device and get started, I began my assessment the day before I left for a weekend away in San Francisco. My assessment period was most definitely not a typical week for me, but since I received this device on June 26th and here we are launching it July 15th, I'm glad I did, so that I could get real life experience with it before I had to pitch it in a meeting. My time in San Francisco involved a lot more walking around throughout the day than usual, but also didn't involve any structured workouts. When all is said and done, it could have been a wash. I may choose to do another Assessment at some point in the future, on a week that is more "typical."

During the assessment you don't get much feedback from ActiveLink. It's collecting data on you. You plug it into your computer regularly (say once a day, although if you miss a day, no big thing) to synchronize the information. You don't really get any feedback, and during this time you will need to manually calculate any Activity PointsPlus values you earn because the device isn't ready to do it for you yet. If you track via eTools, you won't be able to track activity in your tracker online during this time, so be prepared to track on paper until the assessment is over.

The Challenge

When the assessment ends, and you've synchronized your device, you'll learn on average how many Activity PointsPlus values you earned per day over the last week. You'll be prompted to answer a few questions about your activity habits, and you'll be presented with a challenge. It appears that whatever your actual average value earned was during the assessment, your challenge will bump that up by two. So for example, if your assessment showed you earned an average of 2 APPV per day, you'll have 12 weeks to increase that to 4 APPV per day.

This is when the fun starts. The lights on the ActiveLink will start giving you feedback on how close you are to your goal. One light = 25%, two lights = 50% and so on. When you plug ActiveLink into your computer, your movement information will show up on the screen represented by varying shades of green bars. The higher and darker the bar, the more you moved. You can look at this information by day, week, even hour and minute! This will help you spot those idle times in your day.

I am an exercise nut, but I also have a full-time job that involves sitting in front of a computer. So it was interesting to see those tall green bars for an hour while I was at the gym paired up to low green, even gray (no movement) bars representing time on my behind.

Activity Baseline

This is a new concept and frankly, probably one that I should leave for its own entry. Short story: Weight Watchers has always built into the program the assumption that we move a certain amount during the course of the day. The Activity PointsPlus values it allows us to earn are assumed to be on top of that. But the reality is that many of us don't move much throughout the day - technology these days doesn't require it of us! With this device, we can actually tell how much we are moving, and for many of us, we will realize that even by doing a dedicated workout, we might not be getting that "standard amount of activity" that was always assumed.

So here's a warning: you may find out you're not earning as much as you thought. Tough to swallow, but think of it this way - technology is now allowing you to get better information. And that better information might help speed up your rate of weight loss. To me, that's worth it!

But What About Those Other Devices?

ActiveLink isn't the only activity monitor on the planet. There are other companies putting out similar devices, there are GPS watches, heart rate monitors and pedometers. Here is how I think ActiveLink compares:

vs. a GPS Watch/Pedometer

ActiveLink won't tell you how far you've gone, how many steps you've taken or how fast you went there. If that kind of thing is important to you, you won't get it here. It will track your movement in 3 directions - front/back, side/side, up/down. Distance covered isn't the only kind of movement out there! But if you're an avid walker/runner who is keeping a mileage or step log, you'll want to keep whatever tool you've got for that.

vs. a Heart Rate Monitor

ActiveLink doesn't keep track of your heart rate, and it also won't tell you how many calories you've burned. I find that kind of information informative and helpful in managing how hard my workout is, so I continue to wear my HRM strap & watch in addition to my ActiveLink.

vs. Other Activity Monitors

You may have heard of Fitbit or Bodybugg, and it's even possible to buy a monitor from the same company who makes ActiveLink (it's called Direct Life). The cost of those devices varies - but they are typically priced $99 and above. Some devices have a monthly subscription fee and others don't.

ActiveLink has a lower entry cost, in that the device will only set you back $39.95. Some of the costlier devices do keep track of more data. Some will analyze your sleep, many track your calories burned. Fancier devices come with a fancier price tag.

The biggest upside to me (as someone who on many occasions was ready to pull the trigger on ordering a Fitbit) is that it integrates with eTools. It calculates your Activity PointsPlus values. So many people out there use devices that calculate calories burned, and then want to know what the APPV equivalent is of that calorie burn, and you just can't do it. (Oh, I know, you can create some rules of thumb, but it's never been an actual part of the Weight Watchers plan to do that.) This device tells you exactly what you've earned, in a language that doesn't need translation. Bottom line, if I were a member paying for meetings, and I was considering a device, that feature would probably have been the thing that would have sold me.

So, have you picked up an ActiveLink yet? I'd love to hear your feedback....

Friday, July 13, 2012

Week #28: Turn Slip-Ups into Success

It's a cruel fact of life: none of us is perfect. And the fact that I just typed that out means there is now real live proof that I admitted that, much to my chagrin. At any rate, accepting that we slip up, I think it's important to figure out how to get back on track, right?

I joined Weight Watchers 3 times. The first two times, obviously something happened that caused me to drift away. What if I could have gone back in time and prevented that? Short of finding myself a DeLorean and 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, that seems highly unlikely, so about all I can do is lead YOU by example.

I didn't get to almost fifteen years of Lifetime membership by giving up, or saying "oh to heck with it." I figured out some strategies to get me back on track before any weight gain became too much. Here are some of my ideas:

1. When I've overindulged in something that is sugary and sweet, one of the things that helps is to get the taste out of my mouth. So if I'm able, I brush my teeth. I'm not sure why, but this strategy seems to help more when it's a sweet indulgence, rather than a salty or savory one. Keeping that sweet taste in my mouth seems to be a recipe for disaster.

2. Do something small to get right back on track. This is mostly a symbolic measure: filling up my water bottle, looking through some Weight Watchers material (cookbooks, the magazine, website, whatever), even chewing on a stick of gum to keep my mouth busy. It doesn't have to be a fresh start from a new day...why waste the hours left in THIS day, right?

3. Focus on how I'm feeling after the indulgence. Am I feeling good? Am I feeling healthy? Usually not! If I feel so poorly, why would I subject myself to this again? (note: this one doesn't always work - I have amnesia that I can only imagine is similar to whatever mothers go through in which they forget about the pain of childbirth - thankfully a big meal isn't THAT painful!)

Any other suggestions?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Summer Goals Update

Okay, so by now you know I've been missing in action (in the meeting rooms) for a little bit. Between work travel and personal travel, I managed to go almost TWO WEEKS without working a Weight Watchers meeting. Goodness!

But I am back to my normal schedule for now, and will resume posting some thoughts on the weekly topic...once I've actually SEEN the weekly topic in our meetings next week. I feel so out of the loop!

But what I did want to update was the progress on my summer goals. I posted about these in early June. The one I have progress to report on is the Half Marathon. I said I was going to decide on a race and register for it. Well, thanks to a deal that resulted in an entry fee of only TWENTY DOLLARS (a fraction of the going rate these days) I am signed up for the USA Women's Half Marathon in September. That website is like a flashback to the early days of the internet, and they don't yet have the course posted, but for twenty bucks, I was sold.

Now I guess I better have laser focus on my training!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Summer!

It's officially summer!

Outsmart the Fat is going to be taking a few weeks off. Meetings of course continue as scheduled, but every now and again this little blog needs some time to rest and rejuvenate.

See you in a few weeks!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Week #24: Dining Out Local

It was interesting to me that almost all of the healthy dining suggestions presented in my meetings this week were chain restaurants. To some extent, this makes sense: these are the kind of establishments that are either required to post nutritional information, or find it in their best interests to do so. So I guess it's natural for us to gravitate to the easy choices: ones we can look up ahead of time.

So if you're a real foodie who loves trying a place that's off the beaten track, you probably didn't come away with as many new ideas as you might have liked. I thought I'd share some of the places that I go to - some are smaller chains, some are single unit stores. Many of these are going to be in the Clairemont area, just because that's where I live, but not all of them.

Kitchen 4140 - this is actually the place that Kim suggested on Wednesday morning. And their splash page says that they are now open for dinner during the week! Hooray, because a lunch-only place is probably one I'm hardly ever going to get to visit.

Tender Greens - okay this has been the best blog entry ever, because by visiting these sites to get you links, I'm learning. Tender Greens has nutrition information! I never knew that. This is a restaurant in Liberty Station, and from what I understand, once the renovations are done at University Town Center mall, there will be a location there, too.

Sipz Fusion Cafe - this is actually in the same strip mall as our Clairemont WW store (and there is a second location in North Park just off University avenue). Yes, this is a vegetarian restaurant, but I know several carnivores who have dined here and loved it. Please note that not all items here are healthy - the noodly saucy bowls will add up fast, but you can do things like sub brown rice, choose steamed over fried, etc. They even do sushi (vegetarian) in the evenings!

The Linkery - this North Park restaurant is probably a bit of a splurge. But we like them so much we had them cater our wedding! They use lots of local produce, so there are always unique things on their menu. Portion sizes are reasonable, too. If you are a wine or craft beer fan, save some of your PointsPlus values for that, because they have a good beverage list.

Niban - this sushi restaurant is just across the 805 from our Clairemont WW store, near the Souplantation. They offer brown rice (although not in the sushi to my knowledge). Sushi in general can be a low PointsPlus meal, and we like this local joint.

Crazy Bowls and Wraps - this is a good fast food option in Mission Valley. Their website is kind of a pain in terms of finding complete nutrition information, but I like that they offer things like quinoa, lots of veggies, and tofu options.

Any other local or non-chain favorites you'd recommend?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Week #23: Set a Summer Goal

I absolutely love this past week's issue of Weight Watchers Weekly.

I love that it has the calendar grid for you to visually plot out all the upcoming special events - I filled mine in this morning, and it looks like there's something each month that I will have to consider.

I love that it has spots to actually WRITE DOWN some goals. If you don't commit it to paper, how is it going to happen? Again, I spent some time filling mine in this morning.

So, do you want to know what I want this summer? I do want to end the summer a few pounds lighter than I entered it, but I know from past experience that setting a "pounds lost" goal with a timeframe doesn't work for me. I can't exactly pinpoint why, but I rarely seem to lose the weight in the time frame I think I can, so I instead focus on other things.

Most of my goals are activity based. There are a few classes at the gym that I've been telling myself I would try, and just haven't actually walked through the door to do. So I wrote those classes down as THINGS I WILL DO THIS SUMMER. Next step: what specific day will I do them? I've also been saying that I will run a half marathon "later this year sometime" but have yet to actually pick a race. I realized recently that this is because if I actually pick (and register!) for a race, I'll actually have to commit to training and DO it. By the end of this summer I will be registered for a half marathon. The race itself probably won't be until fall/winter, but plunking down the cash for it will be a big step.

And finally, my last reason for loving this week's handout is on the back page. Did you see it? The "Bravo" member this week is a woman who is about to turn ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD and she's been a Lifetime member for 20 years. Are you kidding? I want to be her when I grow up!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Week #22: Move It, Love It

I am sitting down to post this entry after having done a session of yoga at work. I think it's fitting that I'm about to talk about enjoying your activity while I'm blissed out from my own.

Does this look like a person who liked to exercise? I can assure you: NO.

I mentioned in this morning's meeting that I used to be the person who never exercised. Hated it, in fact. I got my mom to write me a note to get me out of running the mile in gym class when I was in high school.

All that's changed now. I exercise regularly. I've run five marathons. I'm studying exercise science and considering getting certified to teach fitness classes! How the heck did that all happen?!?

I will admit that in the beginning I got sweaty simply to burn calories. Riding a stationary bike? BO-RING. But I did it. Aerobics videos? Oh Jane Fonda, you scamp, I did a few of those too, even though I hated it and felt uncoordinated.

But then a coworker challenged me to run a 5K. And I decided that since I was paying for a gym membership, I might try some of the group fitness classes - and wouldn't you know, I found stuff I liked!

Here's a list of the things I have done in the past month or so: running, indoor cycling (spinning), boot camp, Pilates, yoga, weight lifting, and the 5 DVD set that we're selling in the WW meeting rooms right now.

And here's one thing I've tried but you will likely never see me do again: ZUMBA. I'm sorry. I know, the collective tsking is deafening, but Zumba and I (or more specifically "my hips") just don't get along. And since I don't enjoy taking a class where I feel like an uncoordinated fool, I have determined it is Decidedly Not For Me.

So if you look at my list and swear you'd never run unless you were being chased by someone wielding a weapon, that's OK! You'll find something else. And judging by the popularity of Zumba, that's probably what it'll be, and you and I can wave at each other while we pass each other on the way to our own favorite activities.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Week #21: Spice It Up!

Flavor is a big thing with me. I am not a fan of eating bland food. Simply put, I don't get a lot of food to eat on any given day, so I want it all to be really tasty! It's become such a thing around my house, that my husband will randomly shout "FLAVOR!" when I'm cooking or when we're discussing food. He knows it's that vital.

This past week's issue of Weight Watchers Weekly did such a great job of listing some spices that are a bit off the beaten track. For example, epazote? Have you ever heard of that, or better yet, tried it? I'm sure it's possible to find it somewhere locally, but my favorite online spice store Penzey's happens to carry it.

Hmm. Reading their description of it, it sounds like an ingredient that might come in handy around these parts. Ahem.

In completely unrelated news, a Weight Watchers coworker recently shared a note she got from a member right after Mother's Day. I think it's good for a chuckle!

To whom it may concern:

Please excuse my Mom, Fran, from watching what she eats for just this week. I invited her to my home for Mother's Day dinner, where I prepared Chicken Marsala, Chicken Piccatta, Chicken Frances, Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary, Broccoli with Garlic, Chocolate Pudding Pie, Peanut Butter Pie, and Bread Pudding. I forced her to eat more than she wanted to eat.

Thank you...David.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Week #20: Outsmart the Supermarket

Honestly, that's how it feels sometimes, right?

I take grocery shopping very seriously! It's really important to me to get the right foods on hand and know that a healthy meal is waiting for me at every turn. For me this means a lot of thought, planning, and list-making. For you, who may not be as obsessive and detail-oriented as I am, maybe you can get away with less effort.

Regardless of the level of meal planning you do before you hit the store, here are some guidelines you might want to consider:

1. NEVER GO HUNGRY. Seriously, I mean it. Things will just jump into your cart if you shop while hungry. True story.

2. Know what you need to get. For me this means a detailed list, and if I'm really on the ball, the list is in the order I walk through the store. But it could also just mean making sure you have a pantry and refrigerator full of healthy staples that can magically be transformed into a healthy meal based on your tastes and cravings on any given day.

3. Calculate before you buy. So many of us carry smartphones, so it's easy to use either of the Weight Watcher apps to figure out a food's PointsPlus value before it goes into the shopping basket. Don't find out AFTER you eat it that it really wasn't worth it.

4. NEVER GO HUNGRY. I mean it, it bears repeating. This can be my biggest downfall, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Weeks #18-19: Kindness & Motivation

The topic on being your own best friend left me a little speechless, and so I didn't have any thoughts to present on the week before last's topic. I'm sure this is in part due to the fact that I am one to speak to myself in a way that might make you blush.

So another week has passed, a week in which we talked about staying motivated. When I look at the progression of topics, it strikes me that somebody back at corporate headquarters in New York knows what they're doing! I mean, if I've just given myself a mental lashing over eating too many cookies, what sort of shape am I going to be in mentally? Am I really going to be motivated to hit the gym, shop for healthy groceries and say no to ordering dessert?

At this morning's meeting, a member shared that she managed to get out of the death spiral of unhealthy behaviors and negative talk by turning to her support team. Those are the people in her life who will tell it to her straight. Now, that can mean stuff like tough love, but also the reassurances that no, you're not a freak, you're not a loser, and you'll TOTALLY get back on track. Do you have a support team? If not, where can you find one? Could it be people you know in person, or would an online team (Weight Watchers message boards, for example) work? Maybe both!

Once you've developed Team You, you'll find it's probably easier to keep a positive state of mind. And when you're happy about this process (or about things in general), you're probably going to be more effective and productive.

So what's your goal? Have you pictured yourself at it? How it will feel? Won't it be great? With the tools you have at your disposal, and your support team - it's a matter of WHEN, not IF.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Week #17: Be Your Own Best Friend

By the end of my Weight Watchers week, I usually have some sort of idea what I want to say about the meeting topic. This week, I'm sitting here at a loss for words.

If I'm honest with myself, it's probably because this is an area that I still struggle with. And not just in the weight management part of my life. Perfection? I'm always striving for it, obviously never getting it.

I guess the takeaway from this is that you don't have to conquer every issue out there in order to reach (and maintain) your weight loss goals. I've kept the weight off for just shy of fifteen years, and there are still things I struggle with. But the struggle is manageable enough that it doesn't impact the end result.

Does that help? Does that make it seem more doable?

I found the final flip chart this week to be really thought provoking, so I'll repost it here:

What Food Can Do

Food can fill our stomachs.
It cannot fill our souls.
Food can nourish our bodies.
It cannot nourish our hearts and minds.
Food can make our taste buds happy.
It cannot make us happy.
Food can give momentary pleasure.
It cannot give lasting pleasure.
Food can distract us from our pain.
It cannot take away our pain.

-Author Unknown

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Week #16: Put Color On Your Plate

I know I'm not the only one who wants to eat food that looks tasty. I'm pretty sure that's one of the major sources of Pinterest's recent popularity - people wanting to look at tasty food!

For me, enjoying the look of food often means lots of color. I've shared in the meeting room an experience I had making a meal several years ago. I made some mashed potatoes, served it with some chicken breast, and if I remember right some corn kernels. And plated it on our regular china...beige plates. BO-RING.

Take a look at some of the recipes I've made recently here, and you'll see a lot of color. Don't be surprised by all the vegetarian/vegan options there - I don't eat meat anymore, so that's what I make these days. Many of you eat meatless every once in awhile anyway, or could easily throw some cooked meat into many of the dishes I've linked to. But look at all those different fruits and veggies - great variety of colors (and vitamins & nutrients, too).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Week #15: Exercise Plan B

I'm sitting here listening to one of the better rainstorms we've had here in San Diego recently. Even in a city with beautiful weather (mostly) it's handy to have an exercise Plan B. And really, it's not even just weather that can necessitate having a plan B.

Over the years, the following items have gotten in the way of my exercise routine:

Inclement weather (mostly I'm up for being in the rain, but I do have my limits)
Smoke and ash from massive wildfires
Sleeping through my alarm (unintentionally and intentionally)
Working late
Going into work early
Doctor/Dentist/Eye Doctor appointments
Being bored with my exercise routine
Holiday gym hours

There are probably even other things I didn't think of, and I'm guessing that with all these different things, any of you could find something that would disrupt your routine. Plan ahead with a list of things you can do "just in case" so that when any of these things happen, you know what your options are and don't get caught empty-handed!

*Yes, that's a thing

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Week #14: Anchors Aweigh!

Lifetime Keys have gotten smaller over the years....

As dedicated as we are on this journey (and you're totally dedicated, right? RIGHT?) it's sometimes easy to go temporarily insane and forget why we wanted to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the first place. That's when an anchor comes in handy.

As we discussed this week, an anchor is an object, gesture, phrase, anything at all that can help you get back in touch with the empowered thoughts and feelings you've had all along. Like in The Wizard of Oz, you've had those resources to succeed within you the whole time. Sometimes you just need a reminder.

Here's one of the things that reminds me of what I'm capable of:

If I ever think I can't do something, all I need to do is remind myself what a pain in the tuchus it was to run my first marathon. As a side note, what I love about this photo is the finish time clock. Do you really think I ran 26.2 miles in just over three and a half hours? That's something like an eight minute mile - I wish! What really happened is that back when I ran this race, the San Diego Marathon (now the Carlsbad Marathon) offered an "early start" for those "slower" runners who thought they'd take over 4 hours to finish. So instead of starting with the elite runners at 7:30, we could start at 6:30 and get a jump on things. So the finish clock in that photo is based not on my personal start time, but the official regular start time. Add an hour to that clock and you've got my real finish time.

Trust me when I tell you that running for that long is NOT easy. So whatever weight loss has to throw at me? I can totally handle it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Week #13: The Week We Talked About Fiber

You know how I usually come up with something pithy at the end of the week about the topic in our meetings? Yeah, this week I just can't do it. So instead, I'll pull back the curtain a bit on what it's like to prepare for a Weight Watchers meeting.

Weight Watchers decides what our topic of discussion will be for the week. They also give me some suggestions on how to frame the topic - suggested questions, objectives to achieve, information to impart. All of that is published to employees each month in a Meeting Guide. How I actually run the discussion is up to me, and I'm free to add my own questions, tweak the overall direction of the topic, find my own motivational closing quotes, that sort of thing.

Most of the time I stick with the general suggestions. For one thing, now that we have standardized flip charts, it's easier that way. (Here's a hint: if I'm blowing through a chart really fast, it probably means I decided to focus on something else more!) For another, I'm not one for gimmicks. Other than the occasional silly headband, I don't bring in stories or poems, don't dress in costume, and very very rarely play games or do small group projects. I suspect if I did more meetings each week I might handle things differently, but when I've got a full-time job, spending a lot of time preparing for just two meetings a week doesn't make sense.

So back to this past week's topic: when I first received the March guide, I flipped through to see what the topics were going to be for the month. When I got to the fiber topic, I groaned. My objective for the week was (and I quote) "to facilitate a fun, high-energy discussion about how fiber helps with weight loss and how to eat more of it." Sure thing, boss.

Look. Most of the topics we deliver are excellent. They are informative, or they are valuable in some other way, either by improving your outlook in regards to weight loss, or by helping you stay motivated to continue the journey. Occasionally there's a topic that's...not so hot. One that just doesn't go over well. Sometimes the group just isn't into it, or it's not extraordinarily relevant (inevitably the "cold weather exercise solutions" topic lands on a week in winter that we're having a heat wave). Some topics can feel (to me) to be very "teachy" and less about group discussion. Sometimes the topic sounds like it's going to be a bust, but then I go out there, and you guys love it - and other times the complete opposite happens.

That's the thing about hanging out with you guys. You just never know where the discussion will take you!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Week #12: Discovering What Works (And What Doesn't)

In both the meetings I led this week I'm pretty sure I mentioned the old saying "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." I've been known to have bouts of temporary insanity over the years, but this past week I had a revelation that is timely for me to share based on this past week's topic.

I have an "official" Weight Watchers goal weight, but then I also have the super-secret "Steph's Happy Goal Weight." Right now my actual weight is somewhere between those two numbers. And it has been for quite some time. This past week I finally decided to make a change that I hope will make a difference in bridging the gap between actual and happy.

For the past week I've been following the Simply Filling Technique. What that means is that I have been eating strictly Power Foods and not counting their PointsPlus values. On the rare occasion I desire a non-Power Food (okay, that dark chocolate egg just JUMPED into my mouth, I swear!), I have my Weekly PointsPlus Allowance to dip into.

For a long time I've said that I eat mostly Power Foods anyway, but opt to track PPV because I simply don't trust myself to adequately manage my portion sizes to fully embrace Simply Filling. But this week I decided to go for it and dive all the way in. And it turns out...I ate more non-Power Foods than I realized.

Subway veggie delites, Pop Chips, Baked Lays, pudding cups, regular (not reduced-calorie) bread...none of those are Power Foods. What I learned is that my meals are about 95% Power Foods, but the quick snacks and gap fillers I have throughout my day often are not.

So this week those "gaps" were filled with things like hard boiled eggs, applesauce and popcorn. All foods that I enjoy, and eat from time to time. But I had to make a concerted effort to have those in the house or in my lunchbag at work.

Simply Filling is really a great way to eat, and I'm going to continue with it this next week. I'm posting this the night before my weekly weigh-in so I can't tell you what difference it has made at the scale yet, but I notice the difference in the way I feel. I am feeding my body such healthy food! All the time! I'm not feeling hungry! I'm not taking in empty calories! I've still been tracking my food on eTools (after having switched my settings to "Simply Filling") so that I'm still mindful of what I'm eating, but the numbers don't matter.

Trust me - if I'd eaten this way before Weight Watchers, I'd never had to have joined. Want to learn more? Open your "Meet PointsPlus" booklet to page 54-55. Need a portable listing of Power Foods? Our trackers have it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Week #11: Nix Negative Thoughts

I feel like 30 minutes in a Weight Watchers meeting room isn't nearly long enough to get into how devastating negative thoughts can be to one's weight loss process. And it certainly isn't long enough to figure out how to get rid of those thoughts and replace them with positive ones!

What I can do is share with you some of the things I do to stay positive. Generally I'm a sarcastic, cynical person who is not prone to outbursts of rainbows and unicorns. I wouldn't say I'm a pessimist, but I'm certainly more of a realist. So it's important that I remember to be thankful, grateful, and proud of all I have achieved.

I collect inspiring quotes and images on Pinterest (By the way, some of those pins have profanity on them - don't say I didn't warn you! Also, yes I do have a board named Food Porn. Better I look at it than eat it, right?)

I remember how far I've come. This is me before:

And this is me after:

And probably the most important thing I do to stay positive? Work for Weight Watchers. Seriously - what's better than helping people achieve a similar goal? In my experience, not much. That's why I've been doing it for almost fifteen years! Thanks for being part of my journey.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Week #10: Portion Distortion?

That's a tablespoon of peanut butter, right?

A few years ago I stumbled across something that was very eye-opening about the typical portion sizes - Portion Distortion Website. That's worth clicking to check out the slideshow of how things have changed in the last 20 years (enough time has passed since its creation that we're almost on 30 years - I can only imagine some things have grown!). The "great" thing about the website is that it not only shows you how much bigger the typical serving has gotten, but how much longer you'd have to exercise to burn off those excess calories! Frightening.

So portion size really makes a difference. Unintentional portion creep can make or break your weight loss. Whenever a member talks to me one-on-one about why they aren't losing weight, this is one of the first few questions that I pose. What I'm really asking is "how much are you eating?" You all probably think you know, but it's good to go back and double check. You might be surprised at what you find!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Week #9: Get Moving, No Excuses!

I joked in the meetings this week that rain was no excuse to not exercise - I quoted my very own parents who would say "you're not made of sugar, you won't melt!" Sometimes the things we tell ourselves to justify not exercising are excuses.

And sometimes they are reasons.

A friend of mine has spent the last several months training for an Ironman Triathlon. If you clicked that link or had any idea what that involves, you know he had to ditch his excuses. Lots of swimming, lots of bike riding, lots of running. He is currently in New Zealand, where he hoped to join an elite club of athletes to finish this grueling event. And so it happens that New Zealand is experiencing unprecedented weather. Rains and gale force winds have led the organizers to cancel the event. A race half the usual distance will be held the next day. Ironmen (and women) are not a skittish sort, so you know for a race like this to get "postponed", the conditions must be dangerous.

That's a good reason not to exercise.

So the next time you're thinking about bailing on a workout, ask yourself - is it an excuse, or a reason? Down with the flu? Good reason. Having a good hair day you don't want to mess up? Bad excuse. Your city is experiencing a storm of the century? Maybe stay inside. It's 50 degrees and misty in San Diego? Get out there - you won't melt!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Week #7 and Week #8

What a crazy week and a half it has been at Chez Outsmart the Fat. Working two jobs is already an exercise in time management, but when one of those jobs explodes with extra hours, it gets even tougher.

Funny enough, that has meant that my life has been a combination of the things we discussed both this past week and the week before: stress and restaurant eating.

Let's do the restaurant eating first. Today was a team lunch at Buca di Beppo - yes, a place known for "meatballs the size of your head." Admittedly it was an improvement over the first suggestion, which was The Butcher Shop in Kearny Mesa. Many of you know that I am a vegetarian, so you can imagine how excited I was about THAT prospect. At any rate, Buca di Beppo it was. Thankfully a few others in our department are as diligent about their eating habits as I was, so lunch was a green salad (dressing on the side) with PointsPlus values spent on two little squares of fantastic garlic cheese bread. It took a little planning and some Weekly PointsPlus Allowance, but I got it done.

For the record, Buca di Beppo has nutrition information...but you have to request it through their website's Contact Us form. LAME. Thankfully others have paved the way and a google search turns up lots of calorie-counting websites with information.

Nutrition Stats for the Giant Meatball!

Okay, now let's talk stress. That was the word of the week for me, let me tell you. How did it manifest for me? I skipped some workouts. Why? Because "I deserved it." And I "needed the rest." What I probably really needed was to get out there and sweat out my aggravation, but there you have it. See? Even I am not immune to bad habits. Thankfully this week I am back on track, and looking forward at what I will do, not back at what I didn't.

Here's to a less stressful week. Please?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Week #6: It's All About Tracking

Ooh, a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream! 35 PointsPlus!

Let's split a pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza! 40 PointsPlus!

One sleeve of Thin Mints is a serving, right? 16 PointsPlus!

Having to track that kind of stuff strikes fear in the heart of many a Weight Watcher, myself included. It's easy to remember to track when I'm eating kale, quinoa and Greek yogurt. But if I've eaten any of the above**? Tracking? What's that?

You would think by now, after 15 years, I'd have gotten over myself and learned that if I would just plop that horrible dinner into my tracker, I'd see the damage and be resolved to not do THAT again. And you would be wrong. It turns out that my perfectionism runs deep.

I am working on that, and at least for a few weeks it has been going fairly well. But as with any habit change, I am sure that I will falter. The good thing is, in order to be successful at tracking, you don't actually have to be perfect! Because I guarantee I never was, and yet I successfully reached my goal weight.

If you're having trouble committing to tracking, here are a few tips:

1. Pick the easiest method for you. One that will be easy to access and not too time consuming.

2. Track as you go - finding a few seconds here and there isn't as hard as sitting down and devoting 5-10 minutes to it.

3. Focus on how it benefits you - it might reveal eating patterns, it might show you that your choices aren't satisfying, it might show you that you're not meeting your Good Health Guidelines (remember those?); what it WILL do is increase your chances of success.

4. Develop some accountability - commit to tracking in your WW meeting (we'll remember to ask you about it next week!), offer to swap journals with a friend, post your daily menus on Facebook, the WW message boards, or your own blog. Anything to get you to actually DO it.

Other suggestions? How do you get yourself on board with tracking?

Great article from the WW Science Center on tracking!

** Here's a hint: before I joined Weight Watchers in 1996 it was not uncommon for my then boyfriend and I to order that particular pizza from Pizza Hut and then split it. The 40 PPV is for half the pie.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Week #5: Snack Smart

Snacking plays a valuable part in my healthy lifestyle. When I look at my daily food intake, there are a lot of vitamins and nutrients I need to make sure I get in, and snacks can help round that out. Snacking is certainly a great way to make sure I'm eating enough fruits and vegetables, to be sure!

But probably the biggest role that snacking plays is managing my hunger. I pack a big insulated bag each morning to take to work with me, and it seems as though I'm constantly pulling something out of it to snack on. It's frankly hard to define when a meal ends and the snack begins.

Here's what was in my bag as a snack today:

• cut up orange bell pepper and grape tomatoes
• Pink Lady apple
• Tangelo
• hard boiled egg
• Weight Watchers popped barbecue snacks

Because I had all of that available to me (in addition to the things I actually ate for "breakfast" and "lunch"), I found it much easier to constantly walk by the 3 candy dishes that are all within 15 feet of my desk. If I were to walk around ravenously hungry, I doubt I could say the same.

As much as I'm all for saving PointsPlus values just in case you need them, when it comes to spending your daily target, if you can make sure you're not super hungry all day, you probably won't find it necessary to overeat at night.

So, what are YOU snacking on lately?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Week #4: Power It Up!

As many of you know, I've been affiliated with Weight Watchers continuously since 1996 when I joined, needing to lose my weight again, for the third time. Over the years, I've had lots of different eating patterns.

When I first lost the weight and started maintenance, I didn't cook much, was living alone and relied on microwaved meals, canned soups, and mostly packaged foods. And being 23 years old, most of my extra allowance was spent on Bud Light and Goldschlager.*

Over the years my life circumstances changed, I became very interested in food production and cooking, and I decided to make some changes to my diet that changed the way I eat. Those changes had little, if anything, to do with weight loss, but more to do with my overall views on health, food, and how it's produced and delivered to me.

One thing that hasn't changed though, is my deepest desire: to be able to eat A LOT OF FOOD. That's why Power Foods are a huge part of my daily food intake. That's why when we converted from Points to PointsPlus I celebrated the fact that my daily fruit choices (bananas included - yes, I was one of those weirdos who felt it was worth it to spend 2 OldPoints on a banana) would no longer be deducted from my daily budget.

The more Power Foods I eat, the more overall food I get in a day, pure and simple. Remember what I said about the Triple Whopper (hold the mayo!) that will cost you an entire day's budget. Is that worth it? Or would you rather have a colorful mess of tasty, good for you food that does more than just please your taste buds? More often than not, I know what I choose!

*Aren't you glad you read this blog? That's surely something I wouldn't typically say in the middle of the meeting room!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Week #3: Changing From the Outside In

When you first signed up for Weight Watchers, you probably figured that a lot of things in your life had to change. Maybe it was so much that it felt completely overwhelming.

That's a terrible quality image, but it's all I could find. I think I mentioned the Levels of Change in both meetings this week. We start with the easy stuff, and progress until we eventually redefine who we think we are.

So what's the easy stuff? Your refrigerator. The candy dish on your desk. Your environment can really help or hinder your healthy habits, so it's worthwhile to evaluate your surroundings, and as we said this week "make your laziness work for you."

Tomorrow morning my alarm is going of at 4:45am, and I need to get out the door to go to the gym by 5:20. You can bet I'm going to have my gym clothes set out before I go to bed tonight. Every second counts when I have to get out of bed in the dark. Once I get home from the gym, I'm going to pack my insulated lunch bag full of healthy foods that are already prepared, and that I can drag and drop into my eTools tracker in just a few seconds. If I see that bowl of Hershey's kisses in the office and think I want to dive in, I've got a pack of gum in my desk drawer.

With plans like that, how could I possibly fail?

Have you recently made any changes to make your environment more healthy? What were they?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Week #2: Powerful Plans

The act of planning seems to be a common topic of discussion in any given Weight Watchers meeting. In fact, it's part of our PowerStart clinics every third week! (Incidentally, thanks to those of you who stayed after this week's meeting - you saw first hand our PowerPlans activity, and I hope it's helped you form a strategy for how to tackle things this week.)

This week's discussion was focused particularly on planning meals, something I firmly believe has been a huge factor in my success. I do my weekly grocery shopping on Friday evenings (so stay away from the Clairemont Sprouts at about 5:30pm on Fridays if you don't want me seeing what goes in your cart!), so I tend to spend some time on Wednesdays and Thursdays figuring out what kind of meals I'll be having and figuring out what needs to get added to my shopping list.

In a happy coincidence, one of the healthy eating blogs I follow featured a great post about meal planning. The Broccoli Hut says it's all about planning and before you click, let me tell you that what you'll read is the A+ version of meal planning. In my perfect world, that's what I would do every week!

But say you're not that...ahem...particular. You don't want to be held to such strict plans. I totally get that. Planning can still be a part of your life, it'll just take a different approach. Weight Watchers has put together a nice shopping guide. It could be as simple as stocking up on healthy basics, and then preparing your meals as your schedule and tastes dictate.

What's that? Your oven is a storage space? Your refrigerator lives to chill your favorite beverage? Planning can still be a part of your healthy eating plans. Look up your favorite restaurant items in eTools or our Dining Out Companion. Customize the nutrition information of your favorite fast food meal using this awesome nutrition calculator. That way when you pull up to the order window, you know exactly what you'll be getting into.

There are millions of ways to approach meal planning. The key is finding the tools that fit with your eating style. For example, if you love lots of variety, big batch cooking that results in tons of leftovers might not be your best choice.

What's your best meal planning advice?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Week #1: Believe - and Achieve!

It's the first week of January, and everywhere you turn, there's talk about New Year's Resolutions. As a Weight Watchers leader, I know that the next month or two are going to be the busiest of the year. I wish I could bottle the excitement in the meeting room and save it up for later in the year (the day after Thanksgiving, I'm looking at you!) when the typical resolution has long been forgotten.

One of the hardest things about weight loss is the belief that it's possible. Sure, you know what to do in theory. But being able to do it? Daily? That's a different story.

I have a secret for you.

I believe in you.

And do you know why? Because in October of 1996, I was exactly like you. I walked into a Weight Watchers meeting and registered for the third time. I'd tried twice and failed. I didn't have healthy eating habits, and I wasn't exercising on a regular basis.

And yet here I am now, having maintained my weight loss for over 14 years. I am not a superhero. I am a normal person, just like you. I have food cravings. I sleep through my alarm. I have lazy days. I have an overweight family tree. I work with food pushers.

If I could do it, why not you? And look around the meeting room the next time you attend - there are other people, just like you and me, who are also doing it. There is no magic. There is no secret. Just lots of dedication, lots of hard work.

This is your year. I mean, why shouldn't it be?

What are you going to do to make sure this is the year you really get it done? Do you have goals? A plan? I want to hear about them!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Welcome to 2012

Goodness me, I didn't post at all in the second half of December! Between the holidays and a bout with the flu, before I knew it the end of the year here.

The new year is always a time to rethink, retool and restart, and this blog is no different. For a few years now I've used this as a place to post a quick recap of the prior week's Weight Watchers topic, and a teaser of the next week's. I've linked to many a recipe, some of which I've tried, many of which I haven't.

As this year begins, I think about maximizing the use of my time. I see this website as a place that can hopefully keep you thinking about your weight loss journey outside of the thirty minutes we see each other face to face each week. I think most of you know that Weight Watchers is a paying job for me, but it's not the only job I have. Any time I spend "Outsmarting the Fat" online or in email is done when I can, when I'm not on the clock at my two jobs. And while I love thinking about health, weight loss, smart eating and being active, it's not the only thing I do.

To that end, things will change a little here. I will still post a weekly entry. It will be after my meetings are finished for the week, and will be a short musing on whatever the topic was. It might be something we discussed, or something that came up in one meeting but was interesting enough to share with everyone. It might even be my own personal opinion on the topic. There probably won't be a recipe all that often, unless I've actually tried something new that rocks my socks off. You all know how to search the internet, and there's no shortage of healthy recipes out there. If I can't add value, simply posting a link doesn't really make much sense.

I hope you'll keep reading. And more importantly, I hope that with my new format, you'll start commenting! My entries are always open for comment, but now that I'll be sharing some thoughts, there might be something worth your time to respond to.