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Weight Watchers

 

I went to Weight Watchers as a thirteen year old. A friend of my parents’ was a Weight Watchers leader, and when we spent time at her house she made Weight Watchers recipes, and talked up the meetings, until it became clear that I was her direct target, with my vaguely pudgy body.

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“Rude much?”

 

Unfortunately, that first foray into dieting set me off on the anorexic path: if eating less is better, eating nothing must be perfect. For a year and a half, I ate less and less until I lost my period, and spent a summer fainting. When I started to eat again, and no matter how little I ate, I gained weight. Fast. It turned out that I had burned out my thyroid with my starvation adventures, and I’ve been on synthetic thyroid replacement pills ever since.

In my twenties I did a very simple on-line program, with calorie counting and recipes. And it worked. Except that I, again, reached a point where I thought I should stop eating altogether, and I panicked at every food choice, and lost almost all joy from eating. And then I got very very tired, and short of breath, and no matter how much I exercised, or how little I ate, the weight crept back on. That time, I ended up on pain medication and spent years going to every kind of doctor in the book.

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“I’m starving.”

My current attempt at Weight Watchers came from an offhand suggestion from the cardiologist, when he did a work up for my borderline high blood pressure. I pooh pooh-ed it at first, because there are other reasons for my blood pressure to be high, but when I looked up the new version of Weight Watchers it looked manageable. I figured it couldn’t hurt.

At least for now, the list of unlimited foods makes this plan doable, because I don’t have to worry about getting to the end of the day with no calories left in my budget. I’m still overwhelmed by all of the different point values, though, and I am entirely dependent on the Weight Watchers app to tell me what I can and what I can’t eat, and when; but I’m not starving, and that’s a relief.

Except, weight loss is a dangerous thing. It’s like gambling or video games: you can get addicted to the high of success, and lose track of everything else that matters to you. Like staying alive. Chances are high that losing weight won’t improve my health in any significant way (because my health problems caused the weight gain, rather than the other way around), but there’s some relief in being on a plan, and having clear guidelines to follow, instead of having to trust my own judgement all the time. Food has always been stressful for me, and maybe making it simpler will reduce some of my overall anxiety.

 

I eat a lot of canned peaches (juice drained), and Greek yogurt (plain, nonfat, with Truvia sweetener). I eat a lot of chicken and eggs and veggies and fruit. I’m still trying to get a handle on the Smart points, and how much to budget for things like oatmeal, or whole wheat bread, or sweet potatoes, or, of course, ice cream and cookies.

Cricket thinks the unlimited chicken thing is Nirvana. And she’s sure that I chose this diet plan with her in mind.

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“Chicken!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

You’re welcome, Cricket.

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

87 responses »

  1. It actually does work. I have been tempted to go back to it (I became a lifetime member) since in 10 years i’ve Put back 10 of the 40 pounds I lost. I’m with Cricket on that chicken…

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  2. Oh gosh, Rachel. Your parents’ friend must have known my aunt. When I was around 13, she was on Weight Watchers, also (was that a thing back then?).I went the same route as you–if less is great, even less than less must be better. I have seen a few photos of me back then and they are terrible. From there I went to a vegetarian lifestyle, then vegan, then back to vegetarian. Sorry, Cricket. No chicken at my house. 😦

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    • I remember sitting in those meetings with all of these adult women telling jokes I didn’t understand. And being weighed in public. It all gives me the shivers.

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    • Just curious, why did you go from vegan to vegetarian? It took me a long time to go vegan from vegi, on and off on and off. Now totally vegan and never looked back!

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      • I had been vegetarian for 40 years when I became vegan. But then I had some medical issues and totally lost my taste for vegan food–tofu, tempeh, vegan cheese….all tasted awful to me so I went back to vegetarian and have been happy every since. It was a matter of illness and taste buds not on the same page anymore.

      • Processed vegan food is not always great and certainly not necessary. I was a cheese and egg addict and switched them for hummus, avos, nut butters and pulses. Vegusto cheese is the best when cooked in dishes, just a bit pricey

  3. I’m now eating a lot of chicken and eggs too. For lunches at work, I now bring in a chicken thigh and that sustains me along with some nuts for the day until I get to dinner time. I’m enjoying a couple of eggs fried in a non-stick skillet each morning with the occasional foray into scrambled eggs or an omelet.
    weekends are now more fun as I’m playing with my sous vide precision cooker and water bath and enjoying tender steaks and playing with different vegetable combinations.

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  4. Despite all the serious things I could comment on, I just have to say the last photo of Cricket is terrific.

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  5. Weight Watchers is a healthy way of eating and as you said the new system seems really manageable. I cut out all sugar last year and began running 2 miles everyday which helped get the weight off. (and lowered my A1C back to normal) I have been gluten intolerant for 18 years which forced me to change my eating habits

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  6. I’ve been working on losing weight over the past couple months. I can lose it easily enough. Keeping it off is another story. I don’t have a special diet or plan. I have been trying to avoid sugar and pasta and reducing bread radically. Instead of white rice, I’m having red cargo rice in smaller portions. At the same time, I’m increasing green veggies, and I find I can fill up on a really robust salad nicely. I’ve lost over 20 pounds and I feel like I can continue on this path for some time. I make sure I have at least one meal per week that is more substantial or something I crave, and if I have to go out for a dinner, I relax and eat, knowing that I’m back on the train next day.

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  7. Chicken and eggs? Cut out the bird products.

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  8. Looks like you are on a right path towards a healthy and sustainable lifestyle! All the best, you got this 🙂

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  9. Since I’ve never been on a diet in my life, it is hard to understand all of this, but I realize that a great part of the suffering is connected to that unfortunate experience in your youth. I can tell you that when one eats less, the body gets used to it after a while, and we don’t feel that hunger. A good friend of mine, who has studied alternative approaches to health, has convinced me that when one eats what the body needs, there is no problem of hunger. That is to say that eating right (which is a little different for every individual) produces a sense of calm satisfaction which is very comfortable. I wish you success with this new program.

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  10. Good luck Rachel. The words you put into Cricket’s mouth crack me up!

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  11. I have grown to realise that my whole life is controlled by the size I am and the food I eat. Just a couple days ago I was in a store and everywhere I looked was chocolate. I was feeling weak and I almost wanted to cry, it’s so frustrating being bombarded every single day. I’ve been up and down in weight all my life, I’m currently quite skinny and trying to stay that way but it’s a daily battle of calorie counting. I just pray my children do not have the same issues as they grow.

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  12. How awful to start suffering like that thanks to an adult in your early life. Very frustrating indeed to hear!

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  13. My daughter is on Keto diet. She’s been at it for almost two years now.

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  14. My second wife had what she considered to be a weight problem, and decided to tackle it. First by using Weight Watchers, and later switching to Slimming World, which is a very popular club here. At first, she lost a significant amount of weight. She bought new clothes, all many sizes less than before, and started to feel better physically.
    But as a married couple, it affected our relationship. We no longer ate the same things of course, and rarely sat down together to eat at the same time. We stopped going to restaurants, as she was afraid of being tempted, and that also meant we frequently turned down social invitations too.
    The plain truth was that she was a much happier person when she was heavy, and although losing weight was better for her physically, she was never quite the size she had hoped to achieve. So the psychological outcome was that she felt cheated by her abstention, and fell back into eating more than before. I came out of that relationship believing that should try to be content with who you are, and not what society says you should be.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    • There is so much pain around food and weight. I used to think it was only women who had to deal with this, but the other day I heard a group of men discussing their diets and exercise plans and all kinds of goofy tactics they had tried in order to look the way they thought they should.

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  15. Weight watchers didn’t work for me, but Slimming World did. However, the weight’s going back on again even though I am watching what I eat and exercising every day by walking the dog. Hubby loves me for the person I am underneath the skin. He doesn’t care if I’m fat, thin, spotty or clear skinned. I blame school for my hang ups, not being allowed to be a normal teenager, but a book specimen tick list because ‘Teacher said so’. I don’t like being heavy, but with everything going on over the past year, things have taken a backward step (or twenty), but in myself, I am happy. And that I think is most important.

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  16. I’m glad to see the changes in the WW plan. It used to frustrate me that they were so focused on calorie counting or points and not at all on nutrition. It’s good that nutrient dense foods are now so highly regarded.

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  17. Hope it goes well.. Im eating a lot of eggs and chicken too although not the chickens that are laying the eggs!!. Dieting is hard but hope it pays off for you.

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  18. And the timing of your first ‘diet’ was crucial too. I knew a woman who was lean, in a family of obese individuals. She studied food and how it affects the body etc etc, and she told me something that’s stuck with me all my life. In her research she found that we all have a ‘set point’. Our metabolism or thyroid (I’m not a scientist) or whatever will regulate our body’s weight gain, especially as teenagers. When one hits early adulthood (20s), the body “sets” the metabolism for a healthy adult weight. Of course good nutrition and exercise are essential to this process working properly. And one should NEVER mess with the formula or they end up with your sort of tale. When I was about 16, my mother decided I was ‘too fat’ (I weighed exactly what I would need to weigh as an adult) Having crappy self esteem and a distorted image of myself, I went along with her ‘diet’ plans and some of the same things that happened to you, happened to me. I never was anorexic, but I came close to bulimia. As I got older, my weight climbed and climbed, because, like you, I’d ‘starve’ my body, and the body has a defense mechanism in place so that perceived starvation (real or not) is fended off by more fat cells and more weight. As the numbers climbed, I really panicked and as a result have lived and fought with a substantial weight problem my entire adult life. Gee. Thanks Ma. These days as an oldish woman, I stopped doing anything about it at all and tried listening to my body instead. As a result I’ve gotten down to the lowest weight I’ve had for years. And my doctor has told me that I shouldn’t be concerned about the weight at all, because loss is bad in diabetics. That’s just dumb as part of the reason why I’m diabetic at all is because I was so sedentary and heavy most of my adult years. Good luck on your quest. From the photo you have as your avatar, you don’t look heavy at all. But to me, it’s about what makes us feel good about ourselves. Best wishes!

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  19. I can relate to your early life experiences with weight. I was anorexic and then bulimic into my mid thirty’s. Totally screwed up my system. I don’t do diets. If I can’t fit into my favorite jeans…red flags lol. My mother-in-law has been on this one too. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  20. Well done, and keep it up, Rachel. Yes, weight-loss can be a terrible addiction – most women understand. Pip and the boys

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  21. I am only able to think about any kind of diet if it has a connection with improved health, not body image. I look back at photos when I thought I was overweight and see a perfectly healthy young woman. Now I listen to my doctor and am trying to lose a few pounds which improves the stress on my joints. Other than that, getting caught up in the dieting craziness can definitely have all the negative ramifications that trapped you early on.

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  22. Good luck finding your balance.

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  23. Good luck, I’m sure you’ll find balance, the new weight watchers tries to balance life style and diet.

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  24. I had to give up dieting. I can’t do it in moderation: I get completely obsessed. I have a perverse love of the sense of control from dieting. When something happens to detour me off the obsession, then the weight piles on with interest almost immediately. I finally decided it was safer both my soul and my body to eat moderately and ignore the numbers.

    Ideal? No. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to think about something other than calories (or carbs, or points, or … whatever one counts, i become completely entranced by it.)

    More power to you – I hope that you get the results you want from WW.

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  25. I’m afraid I was a Weight Watchers dropout in my early twenties when I succumbed to chocolate cookies trying to be polite on a summer afternoon visit with friends. I thought what could 1 cookie hurt? But then, of course 1 has never been enough.
    I find if I read through early journals, my goal was to lose 10 pounds every New Year’s Day – but then 10 became 20, and I’m afraid I’ve lost a lot of interest.
    My doctor also tells me to lose weight every year, but what does he know?
    He’s a bit on the chubby side himself.
    Good luck with your new plan. Life is incredibly short.
    Eat whatever tastes good to you.

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  26. I follow WW, too! I didn’t start having a weight problem until I turned 40 when I gained 30lbs. It took me a couple tries on WW to finally get the hang of it but last summer it finally clicked and I lost the 30lbs! I still follow it and I love the new points value…chicken, eggs and turkey are my best friends! Thank you for sharing your story! ❤

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  27. This is such a loaded subject with most of the women I know, none of us are particularly happy with our weight or appearance. I was anorexic in my early 20’s and have struggled with trying to have a healthy relationship with food ever since. I keep hoping that younger generations of women will escape the tyranny. The fashion and food industry does not help. As a food blogger I am so aware of the overwhelming number of blog posts full of sugar and fat, and the addictive power of those pictures and recipes. The trick is to retrain your taste buds, which takes a few weeks, to appreciate the natural flavors in fruits and vegetables. Good luck Rachel.

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  28. If I’m not mistaken, you and I grew up in the same era. Twiggy was considered the desirable weight and most of us resembled scarecrows. I remember one guy telling me that most guys liked a soft woman, not a skeleton, but there was so much pressure to be skinny. I was constantly dieting, weighing myself, and had the types of ups and downs you were describing.

    Look at us now! I’m the same weight I was — distributed differently because of my age — but instead of a size 12, the new sizing calls it a 6. The new “perfect woman” look is about 25 pounds heavier now than then, but instead of 70% of us being thin, these day’s it’s flip-flopped.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if women could be loved and appreciated just as we are and, better yet, if we could appreciate ourselves just as we are.

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  29. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend “Making Peace With Food”, by Susan Kano. It’s a good self-help guide that you can share with clients. Hugs.

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  30. I nominate you for the Mystery Blogger Award! I absolutely love how you connect every day life and dogs. Much ❤ to Cricket!
    https://wordpress.com/view/untameddomesticgoddess.wordpress.com

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  31. The eternal obsession in this modern world, myself included. I should cut back to pure salt, oily fat, and sugar. The grocery bill would drop.

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  32. I love Cricket, she always makes me smile, whatever your blogs are about. Having a dog reduces blood pressure – Cricket is the answer Rachel x

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  33. wishing you best of health – our doggies make everything more fun 🙂

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  34. Boy, this hit home Rachel. I had an avalanche of stressors starting in November and I was starting to get my fibromyalgia back. That cut’s back on exercise which I don’t want. So just this morning I dragged out the scale, knowing darn well all that stress cortisol made me gain weight. Yikes!! So many pounds!! But i could never go on any diet that worked. I went on Weight Watchers as a teenager to supprt a friend who was seriously over weight but I couldn’t eat that much food. I eat so little wen not stressed out I would hurt myself watching calories. The only time loosing weight ever worked was when I lived in Korea and stuck to eating Korean food so that’s what I’m going to start again. One thing I realized after the fact was that Koreans have soup wth almost every meal. It fills you and either warms you or cools you as needed.So it works great in the diet mode. And it’s chicken for dinner tonight as it happens. The cats like chicken, I suspect not as much as Cricket, though.

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  35. Be careful, but be happy.

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  36. Great you found your “unlimited chicken”. I have been doing it on my own and now I see you eat exactly what I eat 🙂 Dylan is with cricket…I say ‘chi..’ and he runs to the kitchen.

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  37. Isn’t it sad that we have to struggle with this diet thing? I guess I’ve done them all too. Both my sons are vegetarian, the youngest actually a vegan. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but my downfall is a big burger every now and then. I’m glad you found something that works, keep us posted. I may have to try a lot of chicken.

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  38. I am on the new free style weight watchers too. I am not losing very fast and I am not starving. I am probably eating too much zero point food! Losing has always been slow for me.
    Your eating disorder hit home. My 12 year old granddaughter is working through issues with one now. She has Type1 diabetes and decided she only needed to eat when her levels were low. She stopped growing. It took many tests to figure out what she was doing. Pretty good at hiding it. Best wishes for your health journey.

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  39. Good for you for not giving up. May you have good success and it’s wonderful that this new plan of yours agrees with Cricket!

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  40. Wish you health both physical and mental with it! Don’t let the fear get you to those starving points! Your body knows whats good for you and you should listen to it for the efficiency of this process

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