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Throwback Thursday: Happy Magic Marker [June 18, 2013]

I have a habit of finding television shows and watching them through from beginning to end. I’ve done it with The Golden Girls/The Golden Palace (many, many times), Pokemon, Boy Meets World, and more. My current obsession is The Facts of Life.

There’s one scene in particular that Nick at Nite used in its old advertisements for the show. It comes from a season one episode where several of the girls are going on diets to lose a few extra pounds. One of the girls, Cindy, asks Natalie if she would join the others in dieting to become “pencil-thin.” Natalie refuses: “Who wants to be a skinny pencil? I’d rather be a happy magic marker.”

Now, Natalie’s character was known for being overweight (later on, they had to dress Mindy Cohn in baggy clothes because she lost weight due to a new love of dancing; it was their way of compromising the situation).

However, I don’t feel like that comment was the character advertising that she wanted to stay fat.

Pencils are thin, dull instruments of writing. I cannot recall the last time I used a pencil. It was probably for a Scantron test in school. That’s all I ever use pencils: for filling in test bubbles.

Sure, they do have “fat” pencils, but those are generally reserved for young children who are just learning to write. I find it interesting that they were comparing thin people with pencils. After all, isn’t the general view on weight that a little baby fat is acceptable on a young child?

A young child uses fatter pencils, but grows up to use skinny ones.
A young child has a little bit of baby fat, but is expected to grow out of it and be thin as a teenager/adult.

The thing is, when people hear that line from The Facts of Life, they seem to come to one conclusion:

Pencils= thin
Markers= fat.

There’s a significant flaw in that thought process, however. Have you been down the Crayola aisle at the store lately? Markers come in all sizes. Thin and thick. Some markers are short, and others that are tall. Some markers have points meant for drawing and coloring, while others simply have little stamps on the end. Some markers are seemingly useless, but a new color will appear when you color over another marker. There are even markers that will only show their true colors if you use them on particular paper and wait a moment.

How is that such a bad thing? All of the markers have the same purpose: to make art. Some might be better for simple coloring on scrap paper, some might be better suited for decorating a t-shirt, and there are even some that only show their true colors among the company of certain other markers or using special paper.

That’s not much unlike us. We all have a calling to do something, but different people shine in different areas. Some of us don’t really shine unless we are in a certain environment, or with the right people, and that’s okay.

We come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. We all have a different purpose and work best in different environments. Meanwhile, the media is trying to get us to conform to some bizarre concept of “beauty” where we are all walking skeletons. Talents and personalities do not matter as long as you fit the image. When taking a scantron test, it doesn’t matter what color your pencil is- just as long as it’s a number 2 pencil [Why is it called the number 2? Who uses any other kind?] It’s just like putting a different color dress on each member group of identical, size 00 fashion models. It means nothing.

Why be like a boring, skinny pencil that’s best used for a generic “one-size-fits-all” test when you have the option of being a happy magic maker?

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Goldilocks: The Problem with WW

It seems like every few days, someone comes online and posts some rant complaining that WW is too low in calories. People start double tracking on MyFitnessPal or LoseIt, or leave WW and start using iTrackBites with their secondary metric and see that they’re barely eating 1,000 calories a day. They don’t understand why their calories are so low, and they’re quick to blame WW and not their own food choices.

I’ve never had that problem- at least, not on SmartPoints. In fact, even on the Green Plan, where there aren’t as many zero point foods, I’ve struggled with eating too many calories.

That’s where the problem with WW lies.

I’ve talked before about how there’s very little correlation between calories and points on SmartPoints. If I eat 30 points of chicken breast, that’s over 2,000 calories. That same 30 SmartPoints can also give me a 640 calorie Bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes.

Of course, nobody is going to only eat chicken or cake for a day, but it illustrates the root of the problem. It’s possible to be “perfectly” on plan- at least, according to the numbers on your tracker- and be way over or way under a reasonable calorie target.

In the past, this wasn’t as much of an issue (though, I’d say the old Points System teetered on being a little too low in calories). On Points, a point was approximately 50-100 calories. On PointsPlus, it was 40-80. On SmartPoints? I’ve seen as low as 16 calories per point and as high as over 200. That’s a pretty big range.

In WW, we’re taught to trust the plan. Track the food, stay in your points, and trust the plan. After all, WW is based on the latest science when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.

And I’m not denying that- to an extent. After all, most of us could afford to eat more protein and less sugar.

However, at the end of the day, we still have a program where some people are eating too little while being told, “remember that 0 point foods have calories!” Some people are taking full advantage of those same 0 point foods and overeating. It’s Goldilocks. Some are eating too much. Some are eating too little. Some just happen to be eating just the right amount.

SmartPoints isn’t self-regulating. There’s nothing in the app telling members if they’re eating too much or too little beyond the very unreliable SmartPoints system.

This is a problem.

WW has created a system that people trust to help them healthily lose weight, and I believe it can be that system, but not without some changes.

I think WW needs to start incorporating a calorie target into the app. Specifically, it needs to be a reasonable calorie range that considers the member’s age, weight, height, biological sex, and activity level. With WW discouraging the use of FitPoints (which I understand, to an extent), they basically say that I should eat the same amount of food as someone who is a complete badass when it comes to lifting weights and working out. That’s just wrong.

The goal should be to utilize your daily, weekly, and FitPoints (if necessary)- along with your zero point foods- to hit that calorie range. It’ll be up to you to figure out what works best for you (which is the whole point of SmartPoints anyway- this just makes it more transparent).

Will it happen? I doubt it. That’s one of the reasons I love that iTrackBites doesn’t allow you to follow Better Balance (the equivalent to WW Blue) without a Pro Membership. The pro membership also gives you the ability to track a secondary metric: macros or calories. Sure, you can opt-out of using it, but it’s available for everyone on Better Balance.

That’s the first step in improving this major flaw in the WW SmartPoints system. It’s not the only thing that needs to be fixed. People need to be educated on metabolic adaptation. We need to stop pushing this idea that 1,200 calories a day is appropriate for most adults. 

But we can start by fixing the Goldilocks issue with SmartPoints and making people aware of how much they’re eating.

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Uncertainty and Changing Plans

I’ve been second-guessing my decision to track SmartPoints.

I know. It’s been two weeks. Actually, it’s been less than two weeks.

Yet, I’m having some doubts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not second-guessing my decision to step away from calorie counting and track points/bites. I am absolutely 100% committed to that decision. Admittedly, letting go of some of that control is hard, but it is worth it. I would rather have a little uncertainty over the exact number of calories consumed if it means not needing to pull out my food scale or tracker as often.

However, I’m not sure that I went back into the right plan.

I love SmartPoints. While I think there are good things to say about all of the SmartPoints plans, Green has always been my happy place. It’s a very livable plan for me.

So, why would I give that up?

Unfortunately, as much as I love Green, the plan isn’t without its flaws. The biggest drawback is that even with the smaller list of zero-point foods (compared to Blue and Purple), there isn’t much of a correlation between points and calories. 30 SmartPoints of chicken and 30 SmartPoints of cake have a very different calorie count.

I don’t plan on being in weight loss mode very long. Eventually, I’m going to take another break. I’m not sure when that’s going to be. I’m also not sure how I’m going to do it. I understand that reverse dieting involves gradually increasing my daily calories week by week until I hit maintenance. I’m just unsure if I’ll be mentally ready to count calories by the time I’m prepared to switch.

Trying to gradually increase my daily SmartPoints is likely to have mixed results simply because the calories don’t line up with the points.

They do with PointsPlus.

The closer correlation between PointsPlus and calories isn’t the only reason I’m considering a switch. Protein is another factor. When I weigh my food out in grams, it’s difficult for me to “see” portion sizes. Since protein lowers the SmartPoints value, I can easily overeat something like chicken breast. On PointsPlus, most lean protein follows a 1 point per ounce guideline. If I have a 12pp portion of chicken, I should probably cut it in half.

I also can’t forget that I stopped tracking SmartPoints in June for a reason. On both PointsPlus and SmartPoints, most of what I eat is the same points. Now, there are some differences, of course, but they balance out. My chicken is a point lower on SmartPoints, but the teaspoon of ghee is a point higher. Unless I have a day where I have some extra sweet treats, things even out. I don’t eat sweets every day. Over a week, I get more points on SmartPoints than PointsPlus. So, the fact that the points for most of my meals balance out is relatively significant.

It sounds like I’ve made up my mind. I haven’t. I feel like I should stick it out a little longer before I switch plans again. After all, I like what I’m doing now. Is this just “the grass is always greener” syndrome? Am I doing this because I’m frustrated that the scale hasn’t shown much movement over the past two weeks, and I think a new plan will kickstart my weight loss?

The latter is definitely a factor in my thought process, but I know that cannot be why I decide to switch plans. Chasing after the plan that gives the quickest results doesn’t work.

That’s why, despite wanting a plan where points and calories are more aligned, I’m not looking at trying the old Points plan. I know that’s not a sustainable plan for me.

At the end of the day, I just need to make a decision. If I decide to switch to PointsPlus tomorrow and am completely miserable, I can always switch back after the week. My goal is to stay in my daily and weekly points. Switching plans doesn’t change that.

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Tending List: January 2021

2020 is almost over!

Can we get an “Amen?!”

I’m currently writing to the squeak of my Cubii because I’d rather not be pacing my room at 10 pm tonight trying to get my steps in. I don’t have anywhere I need to go today, so I’m saving on gas and staying home. Unfortunately, without going shopping or running errands, getting my steps in is a challenge. I know the Cubii doesn’t replace a workout, but at least I’m moving.

Even though the new year is still a few days away, I’ve already started on my January 2021 Tending List. I debated starting my new year this week or next week. I like Monday starts. Ultimately, I decided to start yesterday because it coincided with the start date of my beautiful, new Erin Condren LifePlanner. 

This tending list is a little different than the few I filled out for 2020. For one thing, I hardly have any daily action items/habits. One of my 2021 goals is to create a habit blanket where I track my consistency in completing 20-26 daily habits. Since I have a habit tracker in my Erin Condren planner, I wanted to dedicate my Powersheets to things I want to work on short-term but don’t necessarily want to commit myself to do for the year or beyond. 

That being said, here are my January 2021 Powersheets Goals:

Monthly Action Items

Read This Year I Will by MJ Ryan

This is the Diva and the Divine Book Club book selection for January, so this is the one book I must read during the month. That being said, it’s not the only book I plan on reading. Do I have a specific reading list? No. I just pan on reading more than one book during the next five weeks. (We can overlook the fact that I still haven’t finished the December book, The Power of When. I’m slowly working my way through it, but I’ll be honest: I’m having the hardest time focusing. It’ll get done though.)

Switch all banking to Simple

I’m not 100% switching all of my banking to my Simple account, but this was the best phrasing I thought to use. One of my main 2021 goals is to get my finances in check. I paid off a lot of debt in 2020, but I still have a long way to go.

I have a Capital One savings and credit card account that I’ve become a little to dependent on. I have some automatic payments scheduled to come out of the savings account, and I’ve been a little too spend-crazy with the credit card. It’s made it increasingly difficult for me to keep track of where my money is going, so I’m in the process of transitioning everything over so I’m only using my Simple account. I’m utilizing Simple’s Expenses features and Good Budget to start somewhat of a “cash envelope” system. In the mean time, I’ve locked my credit card (so I can’t be billed for any more reoccurring charges while I transfer and cancel subscriptions). 

Return Amazon Packages

There’s really not much to say about this one. I have a few Amazon purchases that I need to return. I just need to go out and take care of them. Right now, the plan is to have the money refunded to my Amazon account balance to help cover my next Subscribe and Save order of supplements. 

Schedule a video call with a friend I haven’t seen in over a year

One of my closest friends moved away last year and the last time we spoke was in March on her eldest’s Birthday. I want to make sure I send a little more time interacting with people outside of my household. Obviously, COVID makes that difficult, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t very social pre-pandemic either. Having little to no social interaction outside of my household members, who can be toxic at times, has been rough. While I still can’t spend time with friends in person, I can find other ways to spend time cultivating relationships that matter. 

Create a new copy of my resume

I’ve been out of work since July and I’m having no luck finding work. One of my main goals for January is to fix up my resume. I’ve already reached out for some help in this area becasue,currently, my resume isn’t getting any kind of results. 

Get my flu shot

Prorastination at its finest. I know I should’ve gotten it done a couple months ago, but I just keep putting it off. Last year was the first year I even bothered getting one- after getting the flu twice in two months. I’ll get it done, and maybe it’ll be on a fall tending list in 2021 like it should be. 

Schedule an appointment for a physical

I currently don’t have a primary care physician. I’m one of those “go to the doctor only if sick” people- and even then, I only go because prescriptions are covered by insurance and I an’t always afford over the counter medicine. When sick, however, I generally just go to my local urgent care center. 

It’s been years since my last physical, and I’m not really sure my last physical really counted. It was mainly just getting a TB test for a daycare job. I don’t think I’ve had a proper physical since I was a child. 

Schedule an eye exam

My last eye exam was about three or four years ago, so I’m definitely overdue. I’ve felt, for the past year or so, that my glasses aren’t quite doing their job. Now, lot of that may be because some of the special coatings are chipping away, but I’m also wondering if I need a new prescription. I don’t plan on purchasing new glasses or contacts this month, but I know getting the prescription is the first step. 

Weekly Action Items

Stay in Daily and Weekly Points/Bites

If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I am back to tracking SmartPoints through the iTrackBites app. My goal here is fairly simple. As long as the numbe of weekly bites I have left on Sunday after I brush my teeth is 0 or higher, I get a checkmark. 

Weekly Clean

While one of my daily habits is to tidy every night, once a week, I like to take a little extra time to clean. I’ll wipe down surfaces, sweep/mop my bedroom floor, and just take care of a few things that don’t necessarily get done during my nightly tidy. Every other week, my weekly clean also involves washing my bedding.

LIIFT 4 Workouts

While the plan is to do some kind of activity every single day, my main priority is doing LIIFT 4 Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I just restarted the program yesterday after a solid month and a half of being lazy and eating like a jerk and I’m feeling it. 

Attend Church (Online)

I haven’t been keeping up with church attendance during the pandemic. You’d think I’d love online church, but I don’t. I hate it. I don’t feel connected watching a pre-recorded sermon- especially when I’m watching a sermon at a church I’ve never atteneded. Unfortunately, that’s just the world I’m living in right now, so I’m going to have to suck it up and devote that time on Sundays. 

I may also be using this time as an opportunity to church shop, but we’ll see how that goes.

Claim Unemployment

I’ve been pretty bad at logging in to claim my weekly unemployment benefits. I get to them eventually, but Iwant to make more of an effort to claim them during my first claim window instead of waiting until the weekend. Ideally, this will mean I’ll get my direct deposit on a consistent schedule which will, in turn, make budgeting either.

Daily Action Items

No Spend

I’m on a five week no spend challenge that will end no sooner than the first of February. Now, I’m not completely cutting out all spending. However, I’m limiting myself to groceries from Aldi or the Farmer’s Market. gas, pre-scheduled expenses (like my Subscribe and Save order), and a couple specific exceptions (if I run out of coffee, I can go to Starbucks and pick up a bag, but I can’t grab a frappcino or iced tea). This will give me an opportunity to fill my expense “envelopes.” 

Shapa Weigh-In (AM and PM)

This may be a permanent goal for 2021, but I didn’t want to put it on my habit tracker because there’s also a chance I’ll decide to take another scale break at some point. I recently got a new Shapa numberless scale that I’m using to track my progress now that I’m back trying to lose weight. (I’m still not ready to see the number; I just want to know if my weight is going in the right direction).  Since I haven’t been in the habit of weighing in, I’ve added both my morning and evening weigh ins to my Powersheets while I get into the routine. 

That’s it. It feels weird only having two daily items on here, but it makes sense with the extensive list of daily habits in my habit tracker already. Perhaps I’ll share those daily habits (and my Habit Blanket project) in another blog post. 

There’s no saying what 2021 has in store, but I know I’m getting myself off to the right start.

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Back to my Happy Place

I’m going back to the WW Green plan on Monday.

Well, ok, that’s only half-true. I’m going to be following the same plan, but I’m not rejoining WW. The drama surrounding the company is undoubtedly a factor, but it’s not the only reason. I still don’t want to deal with weigh-ins and the pressure of Lifetime that led me to leave almost 6 months ago. Plus, I’m already an iTrackBites pro member. I can’t justify paying $500 a year for a plan that I’m currently getting for $18—[Note: I joined iTrackBites during a promotional period and got locked into a discounted rate].

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this decision. It seems to me that this year, a lot of people are moving away from counting points. While I, personally, never struggled with under-eating on SmartPoints, I know many people eat too few calories. (But that’s something I’ll rant about another day). Even I jumped on the calorie counting bandwagon. I started with double-tracking both calories and Points (both SmartPoints and PointsPlus). Then, I transitioned to counting calories.

The truth is, calorie counting isn’t right for me. I know losing weight (or fat, rather) is a matter of calories in and calories out. It’s a mental thing. When I count calories, I get obsessive. I have a scale that weighs and measures down to a tenth of a gram. I don’t track “one scoop” of protein powder. I will track 31.3 grams.

I know it’s my own fault. I’m the one doing it. It’s why I burn out on calorie counting.

Last fall and winter, I was killing it. Lately, however, I’ve been struggling with consistency. I keep self-sabotaging- all while desperately wanting to be back in the same place I was a year ago.

I left SmartPoints because I started putting too much pressure on the number on the scale. My weight loss slowed down, and I got distracted. I started experimenting, and my consistency in staying on plan suffered.

Lately, however, I stopped caring about the number on the scale. I haven’t weighed myself in months. I imagine the number on the scale has gone up; I feel like it’s gone up. That doesn’t really matter, though. I’m not frustrated with the scale. I’m frustrated because I feel like, no matter what I do, I struggle to stay consistent. I stay on track for a few days to a few weeks. Then, I self-sabotage. I eat like a jerk. I stop tracking.

And the entire time, I yell at myself: “Do it anyway! You don’t eat like a jerk! Stop it!”

Yet, it’s not enough. I keep ignoring myself. I don’t know why.

So, I decided to really look at things. What was going on the last time I truly felt in control? What was I doing the last time I was consistent for an extended period?

SmartPoints. I wasn’t looking at calories. I was just following the WW Green Plan, and I absolutely loved it. I wasn’t perfect by any means (though, what is perfect?) I still had days where I made less than ideal choices. However, I always got right back on track immediately after. An indulgent dessert with lunch was followed by a simple dinner of protein and vegetables. I rarely spiraled out of control as I do now.

So, I’m stepping away from the meticulous stress of calorie counting. I’m going back to not weighing and measuring every morsel of food I eat. I’m keeping secondary metrics turned off for now. I won’t be tracking my zero point foods with precision. I don’t see a need to weigh my protein powder when I can have just under a scoop and a half for 1sp. I probably won’t measure my coffee creamer anymore. (A quarter cup of NutPods is 1 point, and I know I don’t use that much). 

I’m still taking a break from the number on the scale. However, I am going back to weigh-ins on Monday. I cashed in the money I earned using the WayBetter App and ordered a Shapa scale. I want to see whether or not the scale is going up or down. Right now, my goal is to see the number go down, but not gaining is my top priority. In a few months, I’ll reassess. Maybe I’ll slowly increase my points and reverse back into maintenance. Perhaps I’ll go back to counting calories again.

For now, I’m just going back to my happy place.

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I Quit WW

Well, I think my title says it all.

Shortest blog post ever?

In all seriousness, this isn’t just about me stepping away from SmartPoints. I talked about that decision before. This is about me stepping away from WW officially.

January 2021 (a date we are all desperately clinging to right now!) will be my 12th anniversary of joining WW. Now, I wasn’t always a consistent, paying member of WW. I’ve left and come back and left again over and over and over.

This feels a little different. Perhaps because when I rejoined in December 2018, I actually stuck to it until only a couple weeks ago. I didn’t always follow the current plan (or any plan) during that time. Still, I was consistent in weighing in (save for the Whole 35), attending meetings (“workshops”), and trying to be a part of the community (kinda) for over 550 days before I canceled my membership.

However, I think this feels different because I canceled for a different reason than I have in the past.

In the past, I’ve canceled because of life changes (like starting college on campus or a new job), finances, or simply because it felt like a waste to pay when I wasn’t losing weight because I wasn’t following the plan or because I was dealing with medication side-effects.

This time, I canceled to let go of a dream I’ve had for over 11 years.

Lifetime Membership.

On WW, if you hit your goal weight (within your healthy BMI range unless you have a doctor’s note for a higher weight goal) and maintain it for 6 weeks (within 2 pounds), you can achieve something called “Lifetime” status. As long as you weigh in no more than 2 pounds over your goal weight, you get free WW. 

Even with switching to PointsPlus, I was still holding onto this idea of getting Lifetime. I love the WW meetings. There’s a reason I went to 2-3 a week pre-COVID and 6 a week when WW went virtual. Getting Lifetime and going for free just makes financial sense- especially after all the time and money I’ve invested into WW over the years.

However, a few weeks ago, I was doing some serious reflection over how COVID has changed things for me and my weight loss journey, and I realized that I really love weighing in at home. The idea of switching things up and going from weighing in at home in the same outfit I wore to weigh in at WW every single week to weighing in wearing shoes and a mask just overwhelmed me. Now, if WW would allow me to continue with home weigh-ins indefinitely, things would be different, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the case (based on a conversation I had with 24/7 chat about reaching Lifetime from home).

It made me realize that I don’t want to be a slave to the scale. Right now, if I have a rough week food-wise, I don’t care if I have a gain on the scale. PMS, special events, a change in a workout routine, illness, family issues. It doesn’t phase me. It’s just weight.

But what if my monthly weigh in to determine whether or not I have to pay happens to fall during the worst part of PMS? What about the fact that lifetime members need to weigh in at the beginning of the month? That makes the first weigh-in of the new year a challenge for everyone, but I’m also dealing with a late-June Birthday, which means it could impact my July weigh-in. Right now, seeing a gain on the scale at the beginning of July doesn’t phase me. It’s pretty normal for me.

But I’m pretty sure I’d feel differently if I weighed in for the purpose of Lifetime.

So, I’ve decided to step away from WW and give myself a break from having that pressure on me to hit goal weight by a certain time. Will I ever return to WW? Honestly, I’m not sure. There is a part of me that’s considering coming back when I’m a little closer to goal so I can get Lifetime and enjoy free meetings, but seeing as part of why I left was the realization that I don’t want the scale to hold so much power over me, this might be it.

In the meantime, I’m switching things up a little. I took a week off of the scale. In fact, tomorrow will be the second Sunday I’ve skipped weighing in since March 17, 2019 (last week was the first). Since I don’t have the pressure to stay consistent with Sunday weigh-ins and scheduling weigh-in day based on the best WW meeting for me, I’ve decided to change things up and start something new on a Monday instead of Sunday.

I think my main focus for the next four weeks is going to be tracking. I’ve been pretty inconsistent at that for a while and that definitely needs to change. I decided to sign up for a few “track bets” over the next few weeks as an added “push.” I was going to commit to 4 solid weeks of tracking anyway, but if I can get some extra cash for doing it, I might as well.

I also have a virtual race I’m working on. I still have 25.9 miles to go (out of 31.9), but that shouldn’t take too long. Currently, my “rule” is that I count any outdoor walk that’s at least 1 mile. If I walk to the store and back, that counts (but the shopping or going from store to store in the shopping center does not). Eventually, I may start biking some races (but I need a bike first). I haven’t quite set a goal for when I want to complete this race, but I think I can get this one done in 2 weeks and then knock out another one by the end of this 4-week experiment. I could possibly finish my current race in about a week, but we’re looking at excessive temperatures over the next few days, so I’m not sure I’ll be up for super long walks this week. I’ve already earned two race medals since starting these virtual races in June and there are a few more I’m hoping to collect from this one site alone.

Overall, I think my theme for the next month is going to be “consistency.” Consistency with tracking, drinking my water, getting in my steps, etc. I don’t have a specific workout plan set yet (working on that one) and I’m still tweaking some goals for the diet aspect of things, but at the end of the day, my main focus is just being consistent with what I know I need to do to reach my goals.

I am also doing a little self-reflection and experimenting with some things over the next 4 weeks related to my diet/health goals, but I’m not quite ready to share those details with anyone. Chances are, I’ll decide whether or not to say anything near the end of the 4 weeks.

Tomorrow, I have some grocery shopping to do to get myself prepped for Monday. In the spirit of giving myself a fresh start, I’m charging up my Fitbit (after not wearing it for a week) and creating a brand new Fitbit account. My weight history from my fancy new Bluetooth scale is being wiped clean. Sometimes, I think I just need a fresh start, so that’s what I’m doing.

So, here’s to the end of my time with WW and the start of my month of consistency.

Let’s see how this goes.

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Rebellion against WW

I used to hate the WW message boards. While they were a decent place to get information about WW before Facebook groups and Connect were a thing, the people who spent their time posting on the forums weren’t always the nicest. Some were downright bullies (and apparently, telling someone they need a meds adjustment and that’s why they cut themselves did not violate any rules).

There was one unspoken rule in the forums. Thou shalt not question Weight Watchers. The mere suggestion that the plan was imperfect really riled people up. WW Rebels were not welcome. At times, it seemed almost cult-like.

So, I was very pleased when I came across a video on YouTube a couple years ago from someone who flat out said that she did not follow the plan perfectly as written. It was someone who regularly posted WW content who did not bow down to the memory of the great Jean Nidetch. I was hooked. I came back to that video over and over and eventually, I became friends with the creator of that video, Brianna (also known as Diva and the Divine).

The thing I really loved about Brianna’s video was that she didn’t break the rules arbitrarily. It wasn’t like she just didn’t want to track something, so she didn’t. Her reasons all made sense.

Anyway, I thought it would be kind of fun to jump off Brianna’s original video idea here and write about the WW rules that I break- especially since I’ve been rebelling a bit more.

Of course, you should check out both of her WW Rebel videos on her YouTube Channel. Her original one can be found here and her latest one is here. (And while you’re on YouTube, you should check out my new friend, MiRanda’s, own WW Rebel, video here because her “stealing” from Brianna is what inspired me to do the same.)

So, after that painfully long introduction, here are a few of the rules I break on WW.

Blended Fruit

I am #TeamNoCountBlendedFruit all the way. I know. I started off with thing everyone rebels against. I rebelled against counting blended fruit back in 2010 when PointsPlus came out and 0 point fruit became a thing. Back then, all fruits and vegetables in any recipe were supposed to be counted. That’s how the recipe builder worked. Even the infamous Garden Vegetable Soup had a PointsPlus value despite consisting of nothing but 0 point vegetables.

This made absolutely zero sense to me. I understood the logic behind it. It’s easier to overeat carrot cake than raw carrots. I also understood what they’re saying about how it’s easier to drink more fruit than you’d consume if you were eating it whole.

However, back in 2010, the WW Android app was pretty bad. It took up too much phone space and it often just didn’t work. Many people in my meetings didn’t have Etools. If they wanted to track a food, they looked it up in a book they bought in the meeting room or used a little handheld calculator. No Etools meant no Recipe Builder. We were taught to calculate the PointsPlus value of a recipe by adding the total points for the ingredients and dividing that number by the number of servings. So, if you had a smoothie made with half a banana, 3/4 cup of blueberries, a handful of spinach, and a cup of almond milk, you’d add 0+0+0+1 and get a 1 point smoothie. There was no list of PointsPlus values to be used in recipes where produce was supposed to count.

This meant that the PointsPlus values for a recipe made using the recipe builder and one made by someone paper tracking could look significantly different. I didn’t accept that. So, I didn’t count the fruit and veggies in any of my recipes- including smoothies. That hasn’t changed in nearly a decade.

Besides, nobody has been able to explain to me why unsweetened applesauce is a 0 point food.

WW

Ok. I’m actually rebelling against WW in general right now. I know. It’s crazy.

Now, I am still an active, paying member of WW. I attend multiple workshops a week in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland. However, despite having the choice of three different plans to follow, I don’t actually follow any of them.

I love SmartPoints. I really do. The Green Plan was my jam. The problem is, I stopped losing weight on it a few months ago. I talked about it a bit more in a recent blog post, but in short, with the way I was eating and the 0 point foods being what they were, I was eating my maintenance calories most days.

So, while I am still attending WW workshops and working towards lifetime status, I am following the old PointsPlus plan (aka Carb Concious) on the iTrackBites app. I’m about halfway through my second week on the plan and I’m LOVING it. I feel absolutely fantastic. I’ve finally been eating in a way that will allow me to lose weight, but I’m also enjoying a newfound freedom and flexibility in my eating. On Saturday, I had a salad from Chipotle with double the barbacoa, guacamole, and a Confetti Bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes. On SmartPoints, I’d be working my entire day around that dessert.

Plus, I can’t be mad at a plan that got me out of the weight decade I was stuck in for MONTHS.

Collagen (and Multivitamins and Medicine)

Back on SmartPoints, I got into the habit of adding 2 scoops of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides to my water every morning. It’s basically flavorless if you don’t think about it too much. I didn’t think much of it. It was a way to add a few extra grams of protein into my morning and collagen is supposed to have other health benefits as well, right?

Besides, the unflavored version is 0 SmartPoints.

Unfortunately, it clocks in at 2 PointsPlus for the 2 scoop serving.

My collagen was one of the things that was making me question my decision to move forward and try PointsPlus again, so I decided to not track it. After all, I don’t track the gummy vitamins I take every morning. How is this any different? It’s a supplement. I don’t count cough drops or other medicine. I probably wouldn’t count it if I had to take a spoonful of local honey to help with allergies.

I’ll track my food. I don’t count points for medicine.

Coconut Water

This one has the same logic behind it that the previous one does.

I actually hate coconut water. I think it’s disgusting. However, I hate summer more. I don’t do well with the heat and my dad doesn’t believe in air conditioning, so I often get dehydrated during the summer. After all, I spend all night just sweating and it’s very difficult for me to re-hydrate while I’m continually sweating.

So, I’ve decided to allow myself to have coconut water, as-needed when I’m feeling especially run down by the heat. I don’t drink sports drinks like gatorade, so opting for coconut water just seemed like the best choice. I’m not likely to overdo it because I only drink it out of desperation (and it certainly won’t replace my gallon of pure water I drink every day). Why punish myself by counting points for something I’m basically using as medicine?

Cooking Fats

This is fairly new change. I have always been one to measure and count all of the fats used for cooking. After all, fat is the most calorically dense macro nutrient. Over time, I learned to cook all my food dry. I’d toss my vegetables in the oven or air fryer to roast with absolutely nothing on them. I would toss a teaspoon of olive oil on the vegetables after roasting so I’d get the healthy fats in, but the results were always subpar.

Then, a couple months ago, I hit a wall. I’m pretty sure it was plain old WW burnout. I spent some time eating like a complete jerk, but I knew I couldn’t continue down that path for long, so I decided to try something new. I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t count points for cooking fats. After all, back when I was on my Whole30, cooking fat didn’t even count as a fat in a meal because some of it cooked off.

Now, at the time, I was still on SmartPoints, so butter and coconut oil technically are twice as many SmartPoints as olive oil. However, calorie-wise, they’re about the same, so I decided to treat them exactly the same. That has continued into my switch to PointsPlus.

My rule is that I do not count points for fats added to foods before cooking. Now, if I toss vegetables into olive oil before roasting or add a little butter on top of my salmon before sticking under the broiler, I will count the calories (just to keep me in check), but I’ll mark it as a 0 point food. A lot of that fat ends up staying in the pan anyway. [This is likely how I will approach marinades if I cook something using one, though I may also only count a certain amount of the marinade for calorie purposes]. I do not count anything for the fat I use to grease my cast-iron skillets before cooking . Sometimes, it’s a drizzle of olive oil directly into the pan. Other times, I’ll take a stick of butter and rub it on a hot pan. As long as there’s not a visible pool of fat, it doesn’t get counted.

Now, fats that I eat directly- like olive oil in my salad dressing, butter on my toast, or even olive oil in my waffle batter- do get counted appropriately since I know that the fat there isn’t being lost in the cooking process.

Disclaimer

I spent a good 3 months this year not losing weight. If you’re looking at the list of rules I’m breaking and you know this about me, then your conclusion may be that this is probably why I’m not losing weight. That’s a valid assumption. However, when my weight loss stalled, I wasn’t breaking any rules except for the rule about blended fruit (and it’s not like I drink smoothies every day; I only drink them a couple times a week- mostly out of necessity since I don’t get a lunch break at work).

Some of these rules, I’ve only broken for a couple of weeks. Others (like the coconut water rule), I haven’t actually broken yet. However, while I may not be counting Points for these things, I am still logging in their calories. I know that counting a little butter in my pan or blueberries in my smoothie as 0 points isn’t hurting my progress because I’m still primarily eating in a calorie deficit (now that I’ve switched to PointsPlus; the couple rules I broke before my switch were not enough to make a difference).

Since iTrackBites makes tracking a secondary metric so easy, I will continue to keep an eye on my calories- just to make sure that the rules I break aren’t causing an issue. As time goes on, I may start breaking more rules, or I may realize that I’ve been breaking too many. Whatever happens, I am keeping myself in check and it seems to be working so far. We’ll see what happens in the future.

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Sticking to what Works… Until it Doesn’t

I love the WW Green Plan. I lost a bit of weight on it back when it was the new SmartPoints plan a few years back before I put the weight back on when I went on medication to manage my mental health. When I started back on it in September, I spent time modifying the WW app to allow myself to go back to following that plan.

I lost about 30 pounds on SmartPoints.

Last Sunday, I weighed in at 0.2 pounds above what I weighed on March 1. I have been in this same weight decade since December. My only saving grace is that even with some large gains, I haven’t gone up into the higher weight decade.

Now, I haven’t been perfect, but I never have been (and never will be). Still, I’ve had more good days than bad days and that’s always been enough. Lately, however, it hasn’t been enough.

This week, I’ve been doing an experiment inspired by Brianna’s own calorie and point comparison experiment. I decided to switch to tracking on iTrackBites instead of the WW app to take advantage of the secondary metrics. Clearly, something has not been working for me and I need to figure out what it is. I figured the first step would be to look at how many calories I’m eating.

Now, this was a rough week to start an experiment between PMS hunger and eating like a jerk, but the on plan days have been very insightful.

I am still following the Wendie Plan. I do not count points for fruits, vegetables, or the oil I drizzle on my veggies before roasting or air frying (but if I make a salad dressing or something like waffles, I will count points for the oil in that). I am, however, counting calories for those things.

On a “good” day, I’ve been averaging about 1,831 calories per day. According to my Fitbit, my 7 day average calorie burn is about 2,160 calories. [This doesn’t include my “high” point day which would obviously skew my calorie consumption]. It’s no wonder I’m not losing weight.

I’ve looked at the numbers. Obviously, the fruit, veggies, and oil that I don’t count as points still have calories. However, even after subtracting the calories from those foods, I’m still hitting my calorie goal. I know people who, even with 0 point foods, struggle to hit their calorie goals without blowing through their points. I don’t have that problem at all.

If I spend my entire points allowance on chicken breast, that’s over 2,000 calories. On a bundt cake? 640. That’s an average of 75 calories per point vs 21. The problem is, I eat a lot more chicken than I do cake- which is what WW wants me to do.

On PointsPlus, there’s a 10 calorie per point difference between chicken breast and cake.

Most of what I eat on a regular basis is either the same points between SmartPoints and PointsPlus or is fewer points on SmartPoints. I don’t eat a lot of sugary foods. Between daily and weekly points, I have 14 points more on SmartPoints than I do on PointsPlus. If most of my foods are the same on both plans, it means I’m easily overeating on SmartPoints. Take my work lunch for example? The protein powder I use is a point more on PointsPlus than on SmartPoints, but the 1sp fiber powder is 0pp. This means that my smoothie is going to be 9 points on either plan. However, I’m looking at 9 out of 30 points on Green and 9 out of 26 on PointsPlus (which I still think is the “yellow” plan- even if Brianna says it should be the glitter plan). That’s nearly 35% of my daily target vs 30%. Things like that can add up FAST.

One thing that confused me about when SmartPoints first came out was that, even 40+ pounds above my goal weight, I hit my minimum daily and weekly target. It just didn’t make sense. At the point where I hit my minimum of 30 dailies and 35 weeklies on SmartPoints, I was still at about 29 PointsPlus. Right now, I’m at about 26pp. Being at my minimum while I’m around 12 pounds from hitting a healthy weight range makes perfect sense. At 30+ pounds above? Not so much.

So, I’m stepping away from SmartPoints- at least for the time being. Tomorrow, I’m going to switch my tracker on iTrackBites to start tracking PointsPlus values on the Carb Concious plan. I’ll still be double tracking calories- just to keep myself in check and see what other tweaks I need to start making. Other than switching plans, nothing else will be changing. The foods I eat will probably be the same- with a few tweaks here and there. I still plan on following the Wendie Plan guidelines for PointsPlus.

I’m hoping that making a few small tweaks here and there with my diet, in addition to starting a mini fitness challenge for my Birthday (which I’ll announce at some point) in addition to finishing out Liift 4 will be enough to get the scale moving in the right direction.

Now, I will be adding one more food to my list of foods I will NOT be counting as points. Every morning, I add two scoops of unflavored collagen peptides to my water. On SmartPoints, that comes out to 0 points. On PointsPlus, however, that’s 2 points. I still plan on counting the calories for it, but since I’m taking the collagen as a supplement and not as food, I’m going to treat it like I do my vitamins or any medications and not count any points. If I find that I need to start cutting back on some things, I’ll look into counting it in the future, but for now, I’m going to see how not counting it works for me.

I’ve always struggled with “the grass is always greener” syndrome when it comes to diets. No matter how well a plan is working for me, I always look at others and go “I wonder if I should switch.” It’s taken me a long time to reach the point where I’m no longer wanting to make major changes every few weeks. I’ve been staying in my own lane. It’s been working for me, so why change?

Except, it’s clearly not working anymore, so I need to make a change.

I’m nervous. It’s been a while since I’ve been on PointsPlus. I’m used to having 30 points a day that I aim to divide evenly between 3 meals. I’m not used to dividing 26 points up; 26 points don’t even divide up evenly between the meals. I’ve never had anything below 30 points on PointsPlus, so that in itself is going to be a challenge- on top of relearning the points values for foods. I’m going to have to learn how to eat with these changes: figuring out how to divide my points and learning how to enjoy the fact that I don’t have to schedule my entire week around one dessert without using it as an excuse to eat like a jerk.

It’s going to take some time to figure things out, but the best way for me to figure that out is just to get started.

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Seasons and Grace

Summer has always been a struggle for me when it comes to losing weight. I don’t handle heat well and my dad is too cheap to air condition the house, so summer is generally a miserable time for me. Most of the time, my survival strategy is to stay out of my house as much as possible. I’ll sit at Starbucks for most of the day (not eating much of anything) and pick up fast food on my way home around 10pm (because, at that point, I’ve gone from having zero appetite to being starving).

Most years, I end up gaining weight during the summer because I’m generally sedentary or I eat like a total jerk. Last year, I managed to get through the summer only gaining a couple of pounds. That’s huge for me.

This year is going to be different. This is going to be the second year that I actually lose weight during the summer months. (I lost about 15 pounds during the summer of 2010- most of that time, I was living in Tucson).

So, I’m going to give myself some grace this summer. In a few weeks, I’ll be finished with LIIFT4. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do after the program is over. Realistically, I’m not going to physically be able to do a workout program that’s too intense. This is not the time for me to do super heavy lifting (as much as I’m aching to get heavier weights) or give C25K a try- especially since going to the gym isn’t likely to happen for a couple more months.

However, during these last three weeks of LIIFT4, I’ve realized that one of my biggest issues with my workouts (other than a lack of equipment) is a lack of flexibility. So, maybe in July, August, and even into September, I’m going to focus more on yoga-type workouts where I can work more on increasing my flexibility, balance, and strength. I’m sure there will also be some Leslie Sansone walks or outdoor walks during the cooler hours of the morning/night, but it’s also likely that many of my steps will be earned using my Cubii.

I may order out a bit more on hotter days when I don’t have the energy to cook, but I’m going to go for options like Panera salads and grain bowls over a large #10 combo with a frosty at Wendy’s. I’m also going to give myself a little more grace with my produce choices. Maybe I won’t be roasting vegetables every day. In fact, I might not even be eating vegetables with every meal. I may have the occasional meal where I decide to take advantage of the abundance of seasonal fruit. After all, I keep seeing Brianna and Meg post photos of yogurt bowls with fruit and granola that just look amazing and I think I want in on that. I’ll go back to eating less fruit in the fall and winter (which, seems right).

One of the biggest things I’m going to do to help me get through the summer is allow myself permission to make coconut water a zero point food. Now, to be perfectly honest, I think coconut water is gross. I don’t like the stuff. However, when it’s pushing 90° in my bedroom, sometimes, water alone isn’t enough. Since I dislike Gatorade as well, I’ve learned to just deal with coconut water on days when I’m feeling lightheaded due to the heat. I’m not likely to abuse a drink I dislike, so as long as I also stick to my goals of drinking a gallon of pure water a day among other 0 point beverages (unsweetened tea, seltzer) I see no issue with allowing myself to not count the points for any coconut water I need to drink.

It’s all about giving myself a little grace to make it through the summer. If that means eating more fruit, not doing as much intense cardio, and occasionally drinking coconut water without counting a single point for it, then that’s what it’ll take.

Because this will be the summer that I’m not afraid to wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.

This will be the summer that I set goals to improve my physical fitness in very specific and measurable ways.

This will be the summer that I break my food rules and learn to love food instead of fearing it.

This will be the summer where I enjoy my Birthday without using it as an excuse to eat like a jerk for a month or even a week. I will take the day off from tracking (possibly enjoying some Birthday freebies throughout the day), but stick to my Wendie Plan points the rest of the week. (I’m sure I’ll fit in a few freebies throughout the rest of the month as well- no need to pig out on everything in one day).

And maybe this will be the summer I lose weight and reach my goal.

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A Day of Eating on the Wendie Plan (36 Point Day)

I was struggling to come up with an idea for what to write today, so I thought I would try sharing what I ate today.

As you should know, I’m currently following the Wendie Plan. Since today is Thursday, it means today is a 36 point day. I am on the WW Green Plan (also known as “Sugar Smart” on iTrackBites).

Now, you should know that I track some foods a little differently than the “rules.” For example, I am 100% on Team No Count Blended Fruit. I’ve also stopped tracking the drizzles of oil I use for cooking. The biggest thing that I do, however, is that I recalculate the calories for most of the food I eat based on the macro nutrients on the nutritional label. This means that there may be a slight discrepancy between what points I share and what the WW app says based on the nutritional information on the package.

Breakfast (11):

After my morning walk, I threw together a pretty simple 11 point grilled cheese sandwich:

-2 slices of Ezekiel 4:9 Bread (4)
-2 slices of Good & Gather [Target] Brand Munster Cheese (5)
-Good & Gather Sliced Turkey Breast (1)
-Trader Joe’s Garlic Aioli Mustard Sauce (1)
-Arugula (0)

I paired the sandwich (which I cooked on my grill pan) with red, orange, and yellow bell pepper slices (0); sugar snap peas (0), and cherries (0). [I also took my multivitamins- which I don’t count, and I had two scoops of Vital Proteins Unflavored Collagen Protein in my water for 0sp.]

Lunch (10):

This was a fairly quick and easy meal since I really just reheated my dinner leftovers. I made a simple stir-fry last night:

-Chicken Breast (2)
-Asparagus (0)
-Mushrooms (0)
-Red Onion (0)
-Sesame Oil (2)
-Coconut Aminos (1)
-Primal Kitchen No Soy Teriyaki Sauce (1)

I served this over cauliflower rice with some soy sauce (0) and topped the mixture with Trader Joe’s Chicken and Cilantro Mini Wontons (4).

Dinner (9):

Lunch kept me full a lot longer than I was expecting, so dinner ended up being later than I wanted it to be, but that’s ok.

-Grilled Pork Chop (5)
-Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub with Coffee and Garlic (1)
-Air Fried Potatoes seasoned with Trader Joe’s Onion Salt (3)
-Roasted Broccoli (0)
-Roasted Beets (0)
-Roasted Carrots (0)

The beets and carrots were seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme. So simple, but so delicious.

Dessert (6):

I think my favorite days are the days when I hit my daily target (30) exactly with my meals and use my weeklies for dessert. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I eat lower point meals and have more points left over for dessert. Other times, I want a little something extra and don’t have any points for dessert. I’ve learned to be flexible.

I took my top two dessert options to Instagram for a vote, and the Trader Joe’s Joe- Joe’s Thins beat out the Clio bar for my last 6 points. I paired these with some more cherries (0).

And there you have it! It wasn’t an exciting day of eating, but most days aren’t. In fact, this was actually a fairly typical day for me. Some shortcut foods, some foods made from scratch, a ton of veggies.

Not including 0 point fruits and veggies or the bits of oil used when cooking, my totals come out to around 1,447 calories and 126 grams of protein for today. I don’t count calories or macros, but I do like to check in occasionally just to see where I’m at without looking at 0 point foods. Without the 6 weeklies spent on dessert, my totals sit at about 1,398 calories.