Weight Watchers markets their Points Plus plan by pointing out that the plan has no food restrictions, meaning that you can eat anything you care to as long as you have enough Points Plus available to cover the food. But they also say that the program encourages good habits. These two statements may appear contradictory at first glance, but I’m here to say that they are both completely true. After being on this program for only five weeks, and as a person who anticipates that it will take years for me to reach my goal weight (130 lbs., from a starting weight of 303 lbs.), I have already picked up a surprising number of good habits. I’m going to list them here, from the seemingly insignificant to the majorly impactful, in the order that I noticed myself acquiring them.
- The power of portions: When I first started measuring my portions, I was astonished at how much I’d been overeating all these years. I honestly thought at times that I didn’t eat a particularly unhealthy diet, or even a very large amount most of the time, and that I must just have some kind of super-efficient fat storage skillz or something. Not so. Health experts always talk about portion size being important, and it turns out that they know what they’re talking about!
- The satisfaction threshold: While I was never in the habit of eating to the point of discomfort, I have always eaten as much as was enjoyable. Through my time on Weight Watchers Points Plus, I have learned that there is a large difference between the amount of food that it is enjoyable to eat, and the amount of food that is needed to avoid feeling hungry. If I plan ahead, I always have enough Points Plus for the latter.
- Planning ahead; seeing the dietary big picture: Whether buying ingredients or making plans to go out, I used to plan meals as individual units. Now one of the first things I do when I wake up is record my dinner plans in the Weight Watchers app. Then I can get a better picture of what I should do for breakfast and lunch. Likewise, if I know I’m going to an event at some point in the week that I’ll need extra Points Plus for, I plan ahead. If I plan on going to a chain restaurant, I can plan what I’m going to order and record the exact Points Plus values ahead of time. If I’m going to see a movie, I record my icee or popcorn points up front. If I’m going to an event where I know I’ll be eating special foods but I don’t know ahead of time exactly what they’ll be, I just make sure to leave myself a lot of weekly points available, or earn a lot of extra activity points so I have a good buffer, then I can figure it all out afterward.
- The sushi slimdown: I eat sushi once or twice a month, and in the past I had developed the unfortunate habit of slathering each piece in spicy mayo. When I checked the points plus values for my typical sushi intake, I found that the spicy mayo I was eating was equivalent to more than a whole spicy tuna roll. I switched to soy sauce and haven’t looked back.
- Movies degreased: I enjoy seeing movies in the theater, and in the past that always meant a big tub of buttered popcorn. But movie theater popcorn “costs” so many points plus that I have started either getting a small with no butter (quite a splurge at 17 points!) or even skipping the popcorn altogether in favor of a small cherry icee (just 2 points per cup, so 5 or 8 points depending on the size of the particular theater’s small).
- Fruit on the side: Weight Watchers Points Plus gives its users a huge incentive to eat more fruits and veggies: most fruits and vegetables count for zero points. If my new smaller, more reasonable portion sizes seem to be too small, or too unreasonable, rather than heaping up the plate and the points, I just add some fruit or veggies on the side. I get fiber, vitamins, and a delicious, satisfying meal.
- Melon for breakfast: If I have a points-heavy meal or event later in the day, I often have fruit for breakfast. Honeydew is my current fav.
- Walking to Starbucks: Ok, I’m a frappuccino girl. My go-to drink is a grande caramel frappuccino with whole milk and whipped cream. It’s 12 points and I’m not even mad. But now when I want one, at least I make a point of walking (10 minutes each way, for 2 activity points), or even walking way out of the way (40 minutes for 4 activity points) to get it, rather than just stopping by in the car on the way home from somewhere. (And as I write this it is summer. I plan to do a lot more walking once it cools off a bit.)
- Offsetting food with exercise in general: I used to hear thin folk speak of this thing called “working off” some type of delicious food or another that they’d eaten. “Silly thin folk,” I’d think, ” don’t they know that delicious foods are pleasures to be enjoyed, not sins to atone for?” The healthy answer, I’ve found, is that they should be enjoyed, but only to a manageable degree, and that manageable degree is proportional to the amount of hours I spend playing with my Wii Fit.
- Wii Fit: The balance board is not meant to lean on the wall collecting dust. It makes exercising fun. And frappuccinos manageable.
- Similar Substitutions: I love a Klondike bar, but a klondike bar has 7 Points Plus, while a Klondike ice cream sandwich only has 5. They also make a 100 calorie ice cream sandwich that has only 3 Points Plus. I’ve stepped down from the Klondike bar to the ice cream sandwich, and I know that one day, when my points allotment decreases (a lot) I’ll probably have to step down to the 100 calorie sandwich. Right now, I’m okay with stepping down to the sandwich (most of the time). I think when the time comes I’ll be okay with stepping down to the 100 calorie sandwich. If not, its more exercise or less other food. Does this sound really basic to you? If it does, I envy you. These are lessons that I’m learning step by step. Similarly, one day I’ll have to downgrade my frappuccino in terms of size, or milk type, or whipped-cream-toppiness. That day is not today, friends, but it is coming.
- My body is not just a container for carrying my brain around. It has its own value, and should be cared for in its own right. Now that I’ve written that, I realize how disordered it sounds, but I have never been a very physical person. I have rarely considered my body’s importance beyond its being a form of transportation. Maybe that’s why I never got serious about weight loss until I started having knee and back pain. As I write this, I’m very thankful that these were the first weight-related health problems I’ve experienced. At 5’1″ and 303 lbs., I could have had a much harsher wake-up call.
- Stretch Points with Soup A few Points Plus worth of pasta or grains, with or without chicken, go a lot farther when boiled in chicken stock. The stock can turn a small amount of food that would not have been satisfying on its own into a big, filling bowl of soup. Adding some veggies makes an even nicer, bigger soup for the same number of points.
More to come…