Friends and family told me I didn’t need to lose weight. Maybe they didn’t see the love handles and beer belly. Loose fitting shirts help keep them camouflaged; you know what I mean. But at 5’ 10” and 204 pounds I thought differently. As a medical writer I know differently. I understand and often write about the health risks that come from being overweight. And “abdominal obesity” or “belly fat,” my scourge, increases your chances of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer. What’s more, when I’m 60- and 70-Something I don’t want to need to take pills everyday to counter the health problems that were caused from being overweight.
I first hit 204 pounds in January 2011 and decided it was time to lose weight. But no matter what I tried throughout the year, I couldn’t shed a pound. Then in December 2011 I saw a Charles Barkley ad promoting Weight Watchers® Online for Men. For Men? I always thought this was a women’s program. I remember, when I was young, my mother and her friends going to “weigh-in” meetings, checking foods in their Weight Watcher books, and talking about what they can and can’t eat. It was very social but it didn’t seem very effective. But since it’s now online I checked it out. I learn that it’s “not my mother’s Weight Watchers” anymore. Here are the first 4 things I learned:
1. It’s a customized plan
Weight Watches Online for Men is a plan customized for guys and followed completely online. Completely online? That means no “weigh-in” meetings, right? And online equals convenient and private. I don’t need to tell anyone if it doesn’t work. Yes I have an ego.
2. I can eat anything I want
“Anything!” I didn’t need to read much further, but “there are no special or required foods—and no forbidden ones, either.” Weight Watchers teaches how to make smarter choices among the food I love, even in bars and restaurants. And I know I could use the help.
3. I need to track foods and activity
Weight Watchers created a personalized food PointsPlus® budget based on my height and weight. There are online tools and mobile apps to help track what I eat and drink and how much exercise I do. So I get to play with gadgets too!
4. It’s not expensive to join
They waved the initial sign-up fee as long as I buy a 3-month plan for $56.85. Sounded OK to me, and 3 months seemed like a reasonable amount of time for a trial.
Investing in myself is worth it, so I signed up
I started on Monday January 9, 2011. I began by creating a personal profile page, entering information about myself including weight (of course), height, age, and set my initial weight loss goal. Then I took an easy-to- follow tutorial and was introduced to my online plan manager.
As I mentioned, you can eat anything you want. With Weight Watchers you enter what you eat throughout the day into your food tracker, either on your computer or mobile app. Each food is associated with points. As part of your plan you are given a daily and weekly food PointsPlus budget. If you go over one day, you can balance it out by staying under your food budget another day. You also get points for exercise, and walking counts as an exercise! These “Activity” points can be swapped for food points. And of course the online tracker does it automatically.
I’m learning to make healthier, smarter choices
At first keeping track of food and activity points was not that easy. There’s definitely a learning curve. But Weight Watchers provides lots of tips and cheat sheets to help. It took a little while, but I got the hang of it. Soon I started looking at a food choice and deciding if I wanted to use my points on it. For instance, at breakfast I could have a bagel with cream cheese for 10 points or a high fiber cereal with skim milk, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries for 6 points. The cereal is healthier, is a bigger portion, and I get a needed serving of fruit. Plus that leaves me 4 more points to use at lunch, dinner or for a snack.
Being on Weight Watchers made me start exploring and finding healthier and delicious choices for meals. I just enter what I want to eat in the food tracker and it tells me the points. When I’m at a restaurant I enter it to the mobile app so I know before I order.
The point system also showed me my problem. It seems I’m an after-dinner snacker. And while I may be eating snacks that are “good”, eating too much is bad. I was really racking up the points (and the pounds) after dinner. So now instead of having 3 or 4 frozen fruit pops, I only have one. Instead of a bag of almonds, I have a handful.
It’s working for me
I track my weight once a week using the online “Weight tracker.” Even if I lose just 1 pound, Weight Watchers gives me an encouraging message of support and congratulations. It feels good.
At the end of 4 weeks on the program I achieved my initial goal of 193 lbs (-11 lbs, 5% weight loss) and received Gold Stars. I then set my next goal of an additional 5% weight loss (183.6 lbs). Weight Watcher encourages small achievable goals. That works for me!
Weight Watchers provides a bunch of extras on their member website. There’s a whole community you can talk with, share tips, and get encouragement. Plus there’s hundreds of recipes and plenty of tools to help you reach your goal.