Weighting and Watching

August 2, 2006 at 11:54 am (Uncategorized)


For the past couple of weeks, I’ve descended a dark and narrow stairway into an inner sanctum of hell. No, I haven’t caught my husband having an affair, nor have I gambled away all of our savings. I haven’t gotten worse medical news either. What I have done, instead, is re-pledge myself to Weight Watchers.

The worst thing about Weight Watchers is that it works. If you scrupulously track every morsel of food and drink that passes your lips, and confine yourself to what seems like shockingly minuscule portions, you will lose some weight. But it won’t be easy. I haven’t wanted to jinx myself by boasting too soon, but I’ve lost six pounds. Unfortunately, I’ve got over fifty more to go.

For those of you lucky dogs who have never followed the Weight Watchers program, it works like this. Based on your weight, you are assigned a certain number of points that you are allowed to consume per day, ranging from 25 to 35. You then scrupulously record the points values for everything you consume. A cup of pasta, for instance, has 4 points; one slice of whole wheat bread has one point; a medium Dairy Queen Blizzard has 17 points. I’m not sure how they determine points values, although I think it involves an equation of calories, fat grams, and fiber grams.

Unlike other weight loss plans, you aren’t required to buy special foods or drink special shakes, and there are no “forbidden” foods in the Weight Watchers lexicon. It’s simply all about the points. So, if you really want that DQ Blizzard, you need to scrimp and save points elsewhere in the week and then you can splurge on the frozen delight. Exercise gives you additional points to play with.

You can either attend weekly Weight Watchers meetings and record all of your points in a little booklet they provide, or you can follow the program on-line, where you get to record everything in special spreadsheets. I went to one meeting and felt tremendously weird – I guess because I’m not a group type of person. So, I do the whole thing virtually.

The program makes me totally neurotic. I spend most of my day thinking about food. When I eat, it is with a finickiness I don’t normally have. I measure pasta, weigh meat, and end every meal feeling hungry. I drink a lot of water, and snack on plain, air-popped popcorn. (Yum, Styrofoam! But at least it fills me up.) The most difficult aspect for me is preparing something for Andrew and then not eating any of it myself. I’m certainly not going to make my toddler follow a low-fat, often monotonous, diet just because I’ve gotten chubby. So this means, having willpower when I make him potato pancakes or hamburgers or some other points-laden food.

Although it is unpleasant, I believe the neurosis is necessary. This hyper-awareness of everything I put in my mouth – and how it relates to a day’s worth of food – is what allows me to eat more sensibly. I’m relearning what a serving of something is (and my, does it look small on the plate). Eventually I think this will become less self-conscious and more habitual.

It’s hard, though. The high dose of prednisone I’m on makes me perpetually hungry, and nauseous too. The only thing that settles my stomach is food, so it’s been an ordeal to handle a stomach that is both churning and empty. Plus, food provides comfort. When I’m feeling lousy and overwhelmed, there is nothing like a gooey brownie (ten points) or a handful of potato chips (4 point per 14) to soothe. So, not only am I relearning what is an acceptable amount to eat, but also what is an acceptable reason to eat. I’d like to say that the brownie and the chips don’t make me feel better, but they usually do. So it all comes down to willpower.

We’ve been talking and thinking about willpower a lot lately because one of Andrew’s favorite stories explores the issue. In “Cookies” from Frog and Toad Together, Toad makes a batch of delicious cookies and brings them over to Frog’s house, whereupon the two friends fall on them and begin to overeat. “You know, Toad,” says Frog with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.” “You are right,” Toad replies. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Many “last cookies” later, Frog attempts to make the remaining cookies inaccessible. He puts them in a box, then ties the box shut, and finally hoists the box on a high shelf. To each of Frog’s efforts, Toad simply tells Frog how easy it will be to get at the cookies anyway. Finally, in frustration, Frog throws all the cookies outside for the birds. “We have no more cookies,” Toad says mournfully. “Yes, but we have lots of willpower,” Frog says. The story ends with Toad telling Frog he can keep his willpower and going home to bake a cake.

The other day when we were grocery shopping, Andrew piped up from the front of the cart that we needed to look for “willpower.” If only it were that easy, I wanted to say.  But instead, we made a game of it and hunted up and down the aisles before determining that Safeway had “sold out” of the precious commodity. Maybe I can’t buy my son a package of willpower, but I can good naturedly show him what it looks like in action – if I don’t die of hunger first.

1 Comment

  1. Paul said,

    Hi Rebecca

    Just a short weight watchers (frog and Toad) story – When my wife started at WW at was assured by the girl there that provided she counted everything she ate she would lose weight. The counting wasn’t the problem, she did that extremely diligently . . . it was stopping at the asigned number that was the problem. Anyway sounds as though you’re doing OK – Keep up the good work.


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