More adventures in weight loss

Since I officially started my latest diet on January 22nd, I have lost thirteen pounds. Seven weeks and thirteen pounds is close to a weight loss of two pounds a week. How hard was it? So far, not that hard.

There are lots of diet plans out there of course, but overall I think the current one I am on, Weight Watchers, is probably the best of those I have tried over the years. Any weight loss plan of course will work if you adhere to it. Unfortunately, most people will put the weight back on shortly after they take it off. I am not the exception either. I certainly did not intend to be a yo-yo dieter, but simple inattention and giving into the cravings of my body made the weight creep back up over time.

Truly, despite all the sweats that diets tend to give us Americans, taking off the pounds is the easy part. Keeping them off is the hard part. Can I successfully incorporate new eating strategies into my life for the rest of my life? It remains to be seen. Still, I can feel the weight coming off. Thirteen pounds amounts to two notches on my belt. I feel healthier and have more stamina. My blood pressure is already down into the normal range. I do not know about my cholesterol count yet. I had blood drawn on Tuesday and should get lab results soon. Since it typically takes six months for cholesterol levels to get back to normal, I probably have a way to go. I would prefer to avoid cholesterol-lowering drugs. Time will tell whether I will succeed there.

Why is a stodgy old diet plan like Weight Watchers working so well? I think it is mainly because I can choose what I want to eat. As I pointed out in my first post, it does not mean you can eat as much of what you want, unless you prefer low calorie, high fiber food. Clearly most of us losing weight do not prefer these foods; otherwise, we would not have gained the weight in the first place. Maybe once a week I will have a Lean Cuisine Spaghetti for dinner (5 points). I grew up on spaghetti dinners. So eating food I enjoy, even if in smaller quantities than I was used to, really does help. As Linda, our coach put it: “If it doesn’t taste good, don’t put it in your mouth.”

In hindsight, it is easy to see how I fell off the wagon. Throughout my weight gain, I never lacked for regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Granted I get little of it in the office, but I hit the gym regularly and really worked out. I deluded myself to some degree that if I exercised enough the weight gain did not matter. Of course, even if you exercise regularly, if you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. It is that simple. I simply chose to not pay much attention to the problem until my doctor gave me a wakeup call.

Weight Watchers has convinced me (it’s amazing how quickly we forget) that a few simple things take the pounds off: burn more calories than you take in, exercise regularly and systematically, track what you eat and use the discipline of a support group. If you can do these four things, you will lose weight. It does become much less burdensome though if you can mix in some of the foods you love (hopefully lower fat, lower calorie and higher fiber equivalents) with the healthier foods. If you chose not to do these four things most likely you will not succeed in losing all the weight you want to lose, and are likely to falter on your path.

The discipline of being weighed once a week in front of an impartial coach has an amazing effect. Simply put, it provides essential accountability. Since most of us have a hard time being accountable to ourselves, why not to a coach? Since you will not be the only one at the Weight Watchers class, you will also watch others lose weight too, and they are likely to encourage you in your journey. The social aspect of weight loss is critically important, and perhaps the most important part of succeeding.

I have also found that you can eat really tasty and nutritious food that doesn’t pack on the calories. One of my favorites is a Chicken Stir Fry. Our local warehouse club BJs makes a great chicken stir fry, loaded with tasty vegetables, spaghetti, chicken of course and garnished with soy sauce. It has 190 calories per serving. There are four servings in a bag, so if you have two servings you are getting only 380 calories and you have a huge plate full of healthy and good tasting food. Moreover, it is loaded with dietary fiber and is low in fat. Perhaps if you are salt sensitive the soy sauce is not good for you. Two servings are just six points.

There are many low calorie products out there, some of them are exceptionally good. Weight Watchers of course sells dozens of them, many of them mediocre but some seem too good to be true. Take their fudge bar. Amazingly, it is only one point but it is still quite chocolaty and actually tastes rich. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, it is manna from heaven. You have to be careful though that you do not subsist on a diet of Weight Watchers fudge bars. Your body really does need the dietary fiber from fruits and vegetables too, so you want to include healthy portions of them in your diet. They will fill up your stomach much better than a couple Weight Watchers fudge bars.

I will give you more progress reports in the weeks ahead. It drives my wife nuts at times because she has this thing against Weight Watchers. However, if the first thirteen pounds came off with such little pain, I do not see why I cannot keep going until I reach a healthy weight. I am about half way there already.

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