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.


Anonymous said...

Laughing cow is the best! You should use it on steamed veggies. Very yummy and very few Points! -Miss Tammy

Brooke Ann said...

I've always loved counting points and still do after a year of being on Weight Watchers. It is like a little game. :o)

Laughing Cow is awesome! I love it on a sweet potato or mixed in with steamed veggies.

Also, that soup sounds yummy! I may have to give it a try.

Have a great week On Plan! :o)