Sunday, February 21, 2010


So I haven't checked in as much as I would have liked to. This is the end of the trimester, and things are crazy. It's hard to find time to do anything, much less blog and pull my hair out as I try to get it to upload on a 19 kbps connection.

Grocery shopping and cooking have gone out the window, too. I was doing a really good job of preparing breakfast and lunch the night before to ensure that I was eating a variety of foods that I liked. I was having different kinds of fruit smoothies each morning and interesting salads and sides at lunch. It was good. I was enjoying myself. Now, I'm pouring a boring bowl of Total raisin bran for breakfast and getting burned out on hot dogs for lunch. I know it's time to spice things up, but it takes time. Time that, for one reason or another, I can't find.

I'm in a slump.

Not a weight-loss slump, though. As of last Thursday, I've lost 19 pounds. That's almost twenty whole pounds! I can feel it in my clothes. I'm switching out baggier jeans for better-fitting ones. Students have even asked if I'm losing weight. I am.

Maybe too much. Okay, let me rephrase that. I'm not in any kind of danger of being underweight, that's for sure. But last week, when I entered my loss into the website, it told me I was losing weight too quickly. That I needed to slow my loss. Something about health concerns, irregular heartbeats, yadda yadda.

I'm not going to lie. That was sort of discouraging. I mean, can't I do anything right? That's what I'm asking myself. I know, though, that the faster I lose, the faster it could come back. And heaven knows I don't want it to come back.

That week, Nancy asked us if we ate one meal a week where we didn't worry about points. Again, there were a lot of people nodding, but not me. That's when Sarah threatened to whack me in the head and then said something about deserving to enjoy myself every once in a while. Or something like that. But the truth is that I was enjoying myself. But I also knew that I was losing weight a little too quickly, so I thought I would try out the no-rules weekly meal.

I tried it, but I'm not sure if that helped. Me I still lost 1.4 last week, but I just didn't feel good about my progress. I was proud of the loss, but the week's behavior didn't feel very healthy.

I'm losing enthusiasm, and I'm worried. I know it's irrational, but I'm starting to doubt if I'll ever be at a healthy weight. I know that there will be a plateau soon, and I'm scared that I won't be able to push through it.

Today, the road seems longer than ever, and pulling off completely to go through the window at McDonald's has never been so tempting. Damn that singing fish.

A small victory: I tried on clothes in a dressing room without having a total meltdown. I even tried on a bathing suit top and was able to envision a time when I might be able to wear it. It was cute.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thirty seven points.

I like counting points. This surprised me. I've heard people complain about the point-counting in the past as if it were the worst thing ever. Even at the first meeting, our leader was discussing tracking, which is what the counting is officially called in Weight Watchers Land, and several members expressed frustration with the process, that they didn't like it or that they would always forget to do it. Needless to say, I was a little ambivalent about the points going in.

But at the same time, I figured it would be the points that would help me. It would give me a guide for healthy eating and portion sizes. That's exactly why I thought this would work. I didn't dictate exactly what I was eating. (Which is what I define as a diet. It's true: Weight Watchers isn't a diet. It's a tool for lifestyle change. At least that's what it seems like so far.) I just had to follow the points. If I blew 20 points on a large-portioned, high-calorie, high-fat food, so what? I just wouldn't have that many points to eat on later when I got hungry. I have never actually done this, but my understanding of the concept alone has given me an improved decision-making process.

Knowing that many people seem to struggle with the points, I started the very next day diligently managing and budgeting and tracking points to the finest detail. I wouldn't put a bite in my mouth without figuring out the points value (thank God for the iPhone app) and logging it. It became fun, like a puzzle. I make all of these pieces fit together: What can I eat, how much, how filling will it be, and most importantly, how good is it going to taste? Obviously, this takes some planning.

Four weeks in, I'm finding that I'm not as insane about the points now as I was in the beginning. It's not that I'm not tracking because I am, but I have a pretty good idea about what I should and shouldn't be eating. And of course, I know the point values of the foods I eat regularly. So I feel comfortable tracking after I've eaten the meal, but not too long after or I will forget. I've only accidentally gone over my daily points once, and that was because it was weigh-in day. I was still operating on a 38-point day, and since I can't log my weight on my phone, I didn't do it until the next day at my work computer. That's when my loss put me in the new points category of 37. But that's no big deal. The program allots everyone an extra 35 weekly points to be used whenever. I haven't really used these yet, and no, they don't roll over. But they are there if I need them. Most days, I actually have a hard time getting all of my points in. I guess that's because, due to my weight, there are just so many of them.

So what do these hypothetical points look like in practice? I'll show you. Even though today is a snow day and I am able to cook at home, this is typical for me.

Breakfast. This morning, I made a smoothie. I used to be anti-smoothie. I don't know, they just seem so hip and diety that I they turned me off, but when I got burned out on my Fiber One cereal (Honey Clusters, not the rabbit food-looking one), I had to try something new. By the way, maintaining variety in what I eat has to be one reason that I'm sticking with this so well.

Every smoothie I make has the following ingredients:

1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt (1 point)

1/4 cup fat-free milk (1/2 point)

1/4 no-sugar-added applesauce (1/2 point)

1 medium banana (1 1/2 point)

Today, my other ingredient was a cup of no-sugar-added frozen sliced strawberries (0 points). I have used a cup of frozen blueberries (1 point), half a fresh mango or 3/4 cup frozen mango chunks (1 point), or a tablespoon of natural peanut butter with flax seed as the flavoring (3 points). It's all good, but I think the frozen mango is my favorite. (The WalMart I went to last didn't have the mango, though. Duly noted.) Also, I am not very good at determining the size of these smoothies. I usually put it in a Solo cup with a sandwich baggie over it and refrigerate for the next day, but like today, I had about a half a cup left over. I refrigerated it later for a snack, which sounds good about right now, and it's nice because the points are already figured in.

Fruit smoothies are surprisingly filling, but especially on a work day, I have to drink it with a half-cup of low-fat granola cereal (3 points). Then I'm good to go until lunchtime.

Lunch. Lunch has been the most torturous meal of all. I think I've got things sorted, but in the beginning, I couldn't figure out what to take that wasn't totally depressing (those little tuna kits, for example) or time consuming (like the frozen dinners). Thanks to my librarian friend Tammy, I have been introduced to the wonder of 98% fat-free turkey hot dogs and whole grain buns. Just the other day, though, I accidentally discovered the lunch meat magic of Canadian bacon.

I took this meal to lunch the other day along with what I call a Fake Olive Garden Salad, and I barely touched the salad. According to the online point tracker, Canadian bacon is one point per slice, but they say the most accurate way to figure points is to use the points calculator. You plug in the calories, fat, and fiber per serving and it gives the value. I swear, according to the nutrition facts of LandOFrost Canadian bacon, five slices equals one point. I know!

5 slices Canadian bacon (1 point)

5 Zesta whole wheat crackers (1 point)

1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Original Flavor Cheese (1 point)

Spread some cheese on the cracker, fold a slice of the Canadian bacon on top, and voila! I mean, it's really good. I was totally full after the five mini-sandwiches. That was noon, and I'm just now (about 4:00 pm) getting ready for a snack.

NOTE: Clearly I am not being paid by any of these companies to promote their brands. For the most part, I just buy whatever WalMart or Kroger has for the best price. But let me tell you, Laughing Cow cheese is the best stuff ever. Go. Buy some now and see what I mean.

Dinner. First of all, before I committed to this program, I ate out five or six nights a week. I am not exaggerating. My family regularly meets for supper at our local family restaurant, where I would usually eat a chicken strip dinner with fries, toast, and sometimes gravy, and about one night a week, I'd do dinner with Sarah after school, a trip that would usually feature the Dairy Queen drive-through window. Now let me say this: All of this could be done in accordance with the Weight Watchers program. It would involve some better choices in food and portion sizes, but I just don't yet have that sort of self-control. If I'm at a restaurant where they serve something I like, that's what I'm going to order, and if the food's there, I'm going to eat it. I will be able to eat out more in time, I know, but now, I have to manage my environment.

So I'm learning to cook, thanks to the recipes on the Weight Watchers website and the ones shared at our meetings. There have been some disappointments, for sure. Like the Cheesy Chili Mac, which despite the chili powder and Mexican-style stewed tomatoes had no flavor whatsoever. And I’m still not sure about those yellow-cake-mix-and-pumpkin cupcakes. But there have been some successes. Like the Enchilada Soup. I made this a few weeks ago after copying the recipe from that week's meeting. I made it on a snow day, and it hit the spot. Who cares about the point values here? This soup is good, and that's why I'm having it for supper tonight.

2 cans of 99% fat-free chicken broth

1 1/4 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

3 cans green enchilada sauce

1 can pumpkin

10 ounces cooked chicken

1 cup frozen corn

Simmer celery and onion in broth until tender. Stir in enchilada sauce and pumpkin. Return to low boil and add chicken and corn. Cook additional five minutes.

I know. Pumpkin? Well, it adds color and thickness. You can't taste it at all. Oh, and the last time I used Tyson frozen "grilled" chicken, but it had a fake grilled flavor that I didn't particularly like. This time I used the oven-roast diced kind. Those bags of frozen chicken have 22 ounces in them, so I just estimate a little under half and freeze the rest. This is way easier that actually cooking the chicken, and something tells me you could use canned or package chicken, too. For the corn, I used two single-serve Birdseye SteamFresh packs of sweet corn.

One cup of this stuff has a value of two points. I'll probably have two cups throughout the evening. I may be tempted to throw some fiesta cheese on it, but I tell you, it's not necessary.

If you've been counting along at home, you will know that I will have only used about fourteen points today. That is way under target and definitely not intentional. I usually eat between 30 and 35. I may have to crack open a can of black beans to go with my soup. And you can always count on my eating chocolate every day. I often have a Betty Crocker Warm Delights Mini Molten Chocolate Cake (3 points) with a cup of milk (2 points). I definitely need to get more fruits and vegetables in.

It's a learning process, for sure. The good news is that there is no food police. Right now, it's easy to stay a little under or reach my point target, but hopefully there will come a day when my point target is much lower. It will probably be more challenging to maintain. But it's one day and one week at a time. It's not like I'll walk into my meeting tomorrow and someone will tell me I will only have 20 points from now on. It's a gradual change, and I'll be ready for the changes as they come.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

My choice.

Another question that Nancy asked on Thursday night went something like this: "Does what happened yesterday have an effect on how well you do today?"

I think the implication was that if we had "blown it" one day, were we less likely to "succeed" the next day because we already felt defeated? (I generally hate it when people put words in quotation marks because it's not usually necessarily, but here, I think it is. What does it really mean to screw up or to succeed?) I looked around, and many people nodded their heads. I wasn't nodding. It wasn't that I'm just that darn positive that I don't let my failures affect my actions (or inactions). It's just, well, I hadn't blown it yet. I suppose my previous days were affecting me, but it was because I was doing well. I expected to do well the next day.

That's when I knew I had to be careful. I was surprised by how many people seemed to think they messed up frequently. This didn't bode well for me. I'm going to have bad days.

Each week when I weigh in (a process I am surprisingly not intimidated by), I am told my loss for the week, given a sort of newsletter that focuses on the week's challenge for everyone on the program, and handed a booklet tailored specifically for my week with the program. The book for week four is Habits of Successful Members. These little books focus on issues that members face as they work through the program and usually include quizzes that help us understand ourselves and the program a little better. It sort of reminds me of takings those quizzes in Seventeen when I was in middle school, except these are much more enlightening. This week, the quiz helped me identify the healthy habits I should work on developing.

The results were no surprise, but I find it comforting that the quiz got it spot-on. It said learn from experience and manage your thoughts. These are both things I've known for a long time are struggles for me.

Take learn from experience for example. I think this one has a lot to do with worry, in my case. I tend to expect the worse, but what in my experience has shown me that the worst will happen? Nothing. Things turn out okay, as a general rule. Also, I have to look at successes from the past, determine why I was successful, and practice those behaviors. When I do this, I find myself looking back at how my lifestyle was drastically different in Honduras, where I seemingly effortlessly lost over thirty pounds. I drank almost exclusively water. I walked everywhere I went. I ate very lightly, and I'm not sure I had anything fried at all. For example.

The managing the thoughts one, on the other hand, seems more relevant right now. I think for most people, though, negative thoughts involve body image. I often read advice saying that you wouldn't look at your friend and tell her that she has a huge butt or a disgusting figure, so why would you say that to yourself? Even I have a hard time believing this, but I don't always have a negative inner monologue when I'm looking in the mirror. Now, put that mirror in a dressing room, and things change a bit. But really, I don't toil over my appearance all that much. My personal inner monologue of negativity is instead about my abilities.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I doubt myself. I have a hard time making even the littlest decisions because I'm afraid I'll make the wrong one. When people make the general statement, "You are your biggest critic," they are actually talking to me. I expect the worse, and even when things turn out okay or even good, I find something about what I did to pick on in hindsight. Like teaching. My students, coworkers, principal, and various observers can tell me all day long that I'm good at my job, that I'm a good teacher, but I don't believe them. I don't know if I will ever believe them. Because as I tell myself, I know better. Either they are just trying to be nice or their standards are lower than mine. I'm that kind of negative.

Even after the first week of Weight Watchers when I weighed in and discovered I'd lost over an astounding seven pounds in one week (more than I weighed when I was born), instead of being proud I tried to downplay it by saying that it just goes to show how much I have to lose. Luckily, Sarah set me straight and basically told me to shut up and be proud. I tried.

So my big challenge here is believing that I can do this and, even more intimidating, that I can keep it off, because it's not like I’m just trying to lose five pounds to fit into a dress here. While I haven't really had a bad WW experience that has adversely affected the subsequent day, I have a discouraging experience that may impede my overall progress. Remember that weight I lost in Honduras? I gained it all back. Plus some. Which sounds exactly like those stories I hear almost daily about people who lost weight. This is the negativity that keeps nagging at my mind: So what if you lose it? You'll just gain it all back.

But I have to be realistic. I did not set out to lose that weight in Honduras. It wasn't a choice; it was circumstance. I was changing with my environment by necessity. I'm not very good at imposing imaginary restraints on myself, so once I got home, I couldn't convince myself that water was the only drink available to me, that I didn't have a car to drive, and that there wasn't anything to eat except beans, rice, and some tuna and crackers every now and then. Yes, that's how I had lived for those two months, and obviously, my body changed. But I didn't really choose to be healthier.

This, though, is my choice. I am choosing to live healthier. I am working on developing new habits that fit into my lifestyle. My lifestyle is changing when it comes to eating and activity, but I want to make these changes here with the people, places, and thing that I love. Not in some temporary reality.

This morning, I slept later than I have slept in a while, probably since I started the program. And again, if you know me, you know I love to sleep late. But when I woke up at 10:30 this morning, I had an immediate feeling of dread, as if I'd blown it yesterday and fully expected the same for today. I was still in that hazy half-sleep, so it didn't even occur to me that I was feeling this way because I'd slept away a chunk of the day and regretted it. Instead, I interpreted it as having failed the program in some way. Yeah, Weight Watchers. What the heck does that have to do with sleeping in a little? I don't know either. At least now I have my wits about me.

The truth is that yesterday was a really good day. It was probably the first day that I wasn't constantly aware that I was following a plan, but I did follow it. I spent most of the day with a group of knitters, spinners, and weavers hanging out working with fibers. I had brought my own lunch (a really good chicken and orange salad and my new favorite, Laughing Cow cheese) rather than eating the good-looking food prepared at the convention center, but that was okay. I did not feel deprived. I think it was mostly because I was intentional about eating well, rather than leaving my choices up to circumstance, and I focused on enjoying the day, doing something I love and meeting new people who love it, too. I chose to have a good day. So I did.

I am choosing to live healthily. So I will.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The longest road.

I have been on the Weight Watchers Momentum program for three weeks, and according to Erin, it's time to blog this thing. So here goes.

Tonight, our meeting leader Nancy asked the group what our "fed up" moment was. When did we know we couldn't take it anymore? One lady said it was when she had to alternate between two pairs of jeans, washing them every other day, because they were the only ones that fit her. Huh. I've been doing that for years. Heck, I'm down to one pair now. Another said it was when she had a hard time getting up from the floor after playing with the children at the day care where she works. I can definitely identify with the awkward struggle to get to my feet, but it's never been embarrassing enough to spur change.

There's no pressure to share during the meetings, which is good, because I couldn't bring myself to say mine, the moment in which I knew I could not gain another pound. The moment when I'd reached my limit. I couldn't say it out loud, but I'm going to write it. Just typing it into this Word document has got my heart racing. Never mind that I'll be copying and pasting it onto blog for all the word, if it so chooses, to see. That will be another hurdle. Anyway.

I don't know why I decided to step on my bathroom scales. They've never been my friend. But for some reason and with much trepidation, I did step onto them about two months ago. And when I did, that little red hand -- I kid you not -- swung completely around the dial. All the way from zero to 300.

Surely my eyes had deceived me. The little adjustment wheel must've been tampered with. I stepped off, made sure it was set exactly on zero, and stepped back on. No change. Three. Hundred. Pounds. There it is.

Okay, maybe I've been in denial. Or maybe all this time I've been under the wrong impression of what 300 pound looks like. But when I envision a 300-pound person, it doesn't match up with what I see in the mirror. I mean, I know I'm fat. I always have been. (Except maybe on the day I was born. That was a very acceptable 7 pounds and one ounce, thank you very much.) It wasn't that I was shocked I had gained the weight. I was never under the impression that I was losing or even holding steady. But me? Weighing 300 pounds? That dark number that is definitely the unspoken barrier between overweight and Fat, with a capital F? Apparently so.

So when my teacher friend Sarah came up to chat with me while I was doing my morning hall duty and mentioned that she was going to join Weight Watchers and asked if I would like to join her, I knew what I had to do. She said that, of course, one has to have the right mindset to make this sort of commitment. This is normally where I would hem and haw and say, "I don't know…" Not this time. No. I had already done all the thinking I had to do. I was ready, and here was my opportunity to make a change. The change.

Mind you, I've been looking for this opportunity all my life. I've never been a dieter. I did try a Christian weight-loss program for a while when I was in high school and there was that freak accident in which I lost 30-something pounds while in Honduras for two months, but other than that, my life has been a steady weight-gain from Day One. I've always been too skeptical of diets and programs that I know aren't going to become lifestyles. I mean, who's going to eat only grapefruit every day for the rest of her life or never eat bread or potatoes again? Not me, that's for sure. Why try if I know beforehand that it won't be for real? You may go ahead and translate my skepticism as an excuse for laziness. Even if those so-called plans don't really work, it's not okay to pack on pounds day in and day out like I have for 26 years. So I admit it. My logic wasn't altogether flawless, but I did have a point.

In Weight Watchers, though, I've found something I think I can handle. This is just three weeks in, so I know the program and I are still in the honeymoon phase. I know things will get more challenging. I am learning, though, and that's everything. I’m learning to see food differently, to make better choices, to cook, for heaven's sake! (Talk about giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day versus teaching him to fish and feeding him for a lifetime.) I also know that I need to learn to see myself differently. That's where I need the most work.

So I know I've made a big deal about the number 300 (300.6 to be exact, according to my Week 1 weigh-in), but as my friend Jenny frequently tags her tweets: I am not my weight. If and when I lose the pounds I need to lose, I will still be me. Being thinner will not make me a better human being. Being heavier than I am now will not make me an unworthy person. But what I've decided is this: I may not be my weight, but my weight reflects the way I see myself. If I care about myself -- because if I don't, who will? -- I cannot treat my body the way I have been. This unhealthy and uncomfortable state I've gotten myself in shows how little good I've expected for myself. And I'm learning that I have to expect good things in my life. Again, if I don't expect them, who will?

Stay tuned to read more about where I've come from, where I'm going, and most importantly, where I am. I will have successes, failures, revelations, breakdowns, and certainly oodles of stories about navigating the POINTS system, learning to cook, and getting active.

It's going to be a long road, but if I've learned anything from experience, life is about the journey. I'm not looking for shortcuts.

Today's victory: I found out that I lost 2.6 pounds this week for a total of 11.4. That means I earned my second 5-pound loss sticker. I now weight 289.2, which puts my new daily POINTS target at 37.