18 January 2011

Real Food

So like anyone who has enjoyed their "come to Jesus" moment with a diet, I must now blog about it. As the New Year rolled around and I had made some major changes to my lifestyle, I realized I needed way more structure in my eating. The main lesson here is that I can't always be trusted to make good choices, or eat moderate amounts of good choices, and I needed some guidance. I had done Weight Watchers in the past and while it had worked, it was a horrible experience. None the less, I started my search there and was really pleased with what I found.

I need to start out by saying the WW plan has always been pretty good. The various plans focused on all the markers of effective weight-loss. The plans included calorie reduction (which sadly is the cornerstone of any weight loss), a points system to make keeping those calorie in line much less daunting, a support group of people also working the program, accountability to something since you have to face these people every week, the idea that this is a long term change for your health and not a Diet for short term loss and fiscal motivation in that having paid for the services gosh darn it, you were going to lose that weight and get your money's worth. These are the exact reasons why the plan has always been popular throughout its many incarnations. However, the previous versions I have done were just grueling and somewhat flawed.

Previous systems bought heavily into the myth that health was all about decreasing calories, limiting fat, increasing fiber consumption and popping a multi-vitamin to make up the rest. While the plan worked, it was Pollan's "nutritionism" at its best. As a result, the "points" formulation was based entirely on calories, fat and fiber. This created a situation where you had to either eat food with 0 "points" all day so as to have some hope of eating real food for dinner or, you had to eat entirely "food product." Stretching those points to include three meals, let alone all the snacks because it is about more than "calories in and calories out," required feeling hungry most of the day, eating only celery dipped in fat-free Italian dressing all day until you puked, or eating a diet consisting of reduced fat, low calorie, artificially enhanced, reprocessed crap that would probably kill you much faster than being overweight. Ironically the previous plan forced me to make bad choices. When an apple and a "fake" burrito devoid of any ingredients that may have once resembled food are the same 2 points, (and I only got 22 per day)what you going to pick? Long story short, it worked, but only if you were willing to forgo actual, healthy, natural food. I did it anyway, and it worked, but it sucked. Add in that the "points" allowances were low and spread over ranges of 20 lbs (meaning you would spend 6-10 weeks driving yourself crazy to maintain a certain level of points only to settle down just in time to be "deprived" of 4 of them as your "reward" for losing) and yeah, it was so hard.

The new program has changed all that. The new points system is based on the idea that while calories matter, not all calories as created equal. Veggies and fruit are 0 "points." Real food, like chicken, provides much more bang for your buck than less healthy choices like chicken nuggets and junk food. The "points" difference between the regular cheese and the fake, reprocessed, fat-free added fiber cheese (just died a little inside even talking about it) are much smaller meaning that you can use actual food that you will find in your house, and still work the program. The "points" allowances are also larger meaning you have the flexibility to choose these real foods over the Lean Cuisines. These allowances are adjusted every week as needed so you only have to change your plan by a point at a time, very easy to do really. Add in that you get points to use by exercising (and you earn them in a manner that is actually relative to the level of exercise vs. the old method where 30 minutes of anything from moseying to triathlon running earned you 1 "point") and the plan is workable. I eat all day, every day. I struggle to use all my points. I am eating food I love. I am eating out occasionally like a normal person. I am exercising at my own pace. Despite how underwhelming it has been to make this change, I am overwhelmed by the results. The online tools are easy to use and very helpful. Online tracking and weighing keeps me accountable, but avoids the barrier of having schlep myself and my kids on yet another errand every week. Generally I am finding that the only real changes I have had to make are measuring my food. I ate well before, now I just need to look at portions and, ironically, eat more throughout the day.

I have learned a lot in the past two weeks about how to change my diet for the better, but I am enjoying that I can stick to my principles of avoiding processed junk. I can cook for my family, the same normal foods we always enjoyed; only now I measure out my bit. No additional prep required and we are all eating more fruit and veggies since I am (gasp!) setting a good example for my kids by choosing those instead of a third helping of enchilada casserole. Now, it will get harder, the loss will slow down, I will have ups and downs and days when I really want that ice cream and not another fricking banana, but for now, I can see this being livable. As of today, we have a winner and now I am off to research how one becomes a lifetime member….wish me luck.


Alicen said...

You wrote this at the exact right time since just last night the DH and I were talking about it. I thought WW was a great tool but we were discussing how it almost pushes you to eat more processed foods since light yogurt has less "points" than actual real yogurt.

I can not tell you how happy I am to hear they've changed the system and it still works wonders with eating actual, real food. Makes me smile because it can teach people how to properly eat instead of just substituting one frozen dinner for another!

The DH also found this great site called My Fitness Pal. If your looking for a way to keep track of your calories after your 3 month paid stint is over, this may be a good option. It's free and while it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of WW it turns out that it's a very easy way to keep track of your food/calorie intake and you can also log exercise. He started using it a week ago and has lost a lot already but even more important is that it's really opened his eyes to how much he was eating and just how many calories are in some of the meals he would get! One of the major advantages of WW too, teaches you about calories and proportions!!

Great to hear your having so much success! Your gonna be one hot mama when I see you next ;)

Alexis said...

@Alicen I feel like your DH and I are often on the same page with our "weight issues," therefore I would highly recommend he do it. Right now there is no registration fee if you buy the three month package, so FWIW it is not too wildly pricey. Also, you can sign up and say you want to "maintain" and they provide tools to keep you making healthy choices even if you don't need/want to lose, so it can be a great tool no matter where you are. For the price, it is a good tool for some...ahem... perspective on just what real eating should look like.

Seriously, they should be paying me right now, but yeah, it is that good.

Ginger said...

I was wondering about the changes to WW I'd been hearing about. I did it for a while before I got pregnant (and more successfully, about 5 years ago), but was hesitant for all the reasons you went into.
For now, I'm using the same program that Alicen mentioned--MyFitnessPal--and it's been really helpful so far. We'll see if I think I can keep this up on my own, or if I end up going down the WW path...

Alexis said...

@Ginger I also love the idea of MyFitnessPal, and as Alicen suggested, I may switch to that if/when I am ready to give up the WW. While they do the same thing, personally I find the points system to be much easier on the psyche than actual calorie counting. Just my personality quirks. The real point here is that we are all making healthy choices regardless of the hows and whys.