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I remember standing in a Crumbs bakery a few months ago, staring down the delicious rows of icing and cake.  Along with the cheerful decorations and fluffy icing mounds also came the “sticker shock”-and I’m not talking about price.  That’s right, friends.  Right there, next to my mounds of joy, was listed the calorie count for each cupcake.

My immediate reaction was “I don’t want to know.”  And I’ll be honest-there are still times when I don’t want to know.  Sometimes, when you’re celebrating something special or just want to treat yourself, I don’t really think it’s bad to eat something with abandon and not care about its fat or calorie content.  In fact, I’d go as far as to say that denying yourself all the time has negative effects on your weight loss.  But that’s another story!

However, living with the Weight Watchers plan has taught me to be a lot more aware of what I choose to eat when we eat out.  When I first started this blog, we were eating out up to 2-3 nights a week, sometimes more depending on where we went over the weekend.  We started cutting back on that as I started counting calories again, and since I started Weight Watchers, we’ve cut down to only eating out once a week.

Some restaurant chains have nutrition information available on their Web sites.  Sometimes, you have to dig for it, and with places like  Rita’s that give ranges, it can be hard to figure out what fits into my plan.  That’s why I was excited to see that the FDA recently announced its latest proposal regarding menu nutrition labeling.

To summarize:  “The proposed rules would apply to restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations, and vending machine operators with 20 or more machines. Consumers would see calories listed in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Movie theaters, airplanes, bowling alleys and other establishments whose primary purpose is not to sell food would not be subject to these proposed regulations.”
I’m psyched about this, and think that more places, particularly local establishments, should be required to provide this information on their Web sites or elsewhere.  Since we don’t frequent any chain restaurants, this won’t really help me too much, but I do hope it’s a step in the right direction for food establishments as a whole.  In fact, knowing I could find out nutritional information about menu items before I eat somewhere would encourage me to choose one restaurant over another one with no information.
What do you think about menu nutrition labeling requirements?  Do you just not want to know, or do you think it would help you make better choices?  While I can’t say that I’ll always pay strict attention to it while eating out, it’s certainly helpful for vacations and other times when eating out is the only option!

Between Jared’s birthday last Thursday and my mom’s birthday on Sunday, temptation has been all around me this past week.  From cake, to pizza, to a buffet brunch, it was practically unbearable.  Considering how often I get food cravings on normal days, I’ll admit this past weekend was a true test of will!

I recently found this great article from Fitness Magazine about controlling cravings.  I did know a lot of this stuff, but here are some things that were new to me:

Women are more vulnerable to cravings than men. Finally, proof for what I see played out in our house every night!  I used to tell myself that I craved sweets and bad food more than Jared because I was overweight, but science has an answer for me.  It seems that women in general have a harder time ignoring cravings based on the biological response to “eat for two.”  Interesting stuff!

Giving in to cravings can change our brains. Blame this one on processed foods.  Sugar, fat, and salt don’t come packaged naturally in things like fruit or even meat.  Processed foods help us get that hit all at once, making it harder to avoid them and choose the right bite.

We all have a food bliss point. This is the point where the level of sugar, fat and salt give us maximum pleasure, making them addictive almost in the same way drugs and alcohol are.

Read the full article on the Fitness Magazine Web site for some tips on how to control these natural cravings!  What strategies do you have for avoiding your trigger foods?

As a social media “specialist”, I hated this question.  “How do you measure success?”.  This is a question that all of us have faced on the job or in other areas of our lives.  I’m going to talk about it as it relates to Weight Watchers and the journey I’ve been on for the past 7 weeks.

One obvious way that success is measured on Weight Watchers is through weekly weigh-ins.  Goals are set, and once those goals are met, I would say it is safe to say you have been successful on the program.  Whether you just met your 5% weight loss or 10% weight loss goal, these are all certainly major successes to be celebrated along the way.

But what about the weeks when the scale doesn’t “move mountains” so to speak?  What successes can we look at as a reminder that we’re on the right path?  Below are some small milestones I’ve been keeping track of that help me reward myself when the numbers stay put.

1.)  Monthly Measurements.  Just because the scale isn’t moving doesn’t mean you’re not losing inches.  At the beginning of the Weight Watchers program, I took my measurements as part of the weigh in, and decided to track each month.  I’ll only do this once a month, because I don’t believe that inches fall off as quickly as pounds.  This helped me around week 4 when I did my first check in.  The scale hadn’t moved in weeks, but I had lost an inch all over.  It was this success that helped me get my mind off the scale, and move on to meet my 5% weight loss goal.

2.)  How do your clothes fit? This was an exciting revelation for me this weekend.  I knew my pants were starting to look a bit sloppy, when I noticed that the crotch of my jeans one day was practically hanging down to my knees.  When I went shopping, it felt SO GOOD to put on clothes in sizes I normally wear and have them be too big.  Moving forward with the knowledge that losing weight is going to put me into a whole new wardrobe is certainly annoying from a cost perspective, but boy does it feel good!

3.)  Confidence. Someone remarked to me yesterday that it seemed like over the weekend I had morphed into a different, funnier version of myself.  I don’t necessarily think that’s true, but I’ve noticed I’ve stopped the self-hate and carry myself differently than before.  I know that, no matter how long it takes to get to the weight I’ve set as my final goal, I am doing good by my body.  I can no longer claim that weight loss is out of my control, and I can celebrate along the way the accomplishments I’ve made.  Even though I know there are people saying, “I can’t tell she’s lost weight, what is she talking about???” I know that I have, and right now, that’s all that matters.  It’s taken me years to get to a place where weight loss could be a healthy personal decision, and that alone has given me the confidence to stop berating my thighs, hips, and butt and start embracing the fact that I’m doing the right thing.

4.)  Willpower. As I mentioned when I first started the program, willpower has consistently been a stumbling block for me.  Being on the Weight Watchers program has taught me how to take control where I formally felt out of control.  It hasn’t been easy turning down that second glass of wine at dinner, but the rewards are paying off.  Even though I can’t really measure how my willpower has changed, knowing that I’m able to walk away at a certain point proves to me that I’ve made some big changes in the past 7 weeks that will hopefully carry me through to my final goal.

How do you measure your own success in areas of your life that aren’t numbers driven?

I recently saw in a Hungry Girl newsletter that the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services had announced new dietary guidelines to “help Americans make healthier food choices and confront the obesity epidemic”.   As a direct result of the fact that one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the US are overweight or obese, the Dietary Guidelines place stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

The press release I found stated that additional consumer-friendly advice and tools would be relased in the coming months, and gave a snapshot of some of the advice found in the Dietary Guidelines:

  • Avoid oversized portions
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Compare sodium in foods and choose the foods with lower numbers
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks

While this advice seems almost too elementary for those of us that subscribe to an overall healthy lifestyle, my biggest question for the USDA and HHS is how they plan to ensure this message reaches those in lower-income levels who may not have access to the same resources we have.  It is no secret that underprivileged children often have unhealthier diets, and honestly, I can see why.  Eating healthy is not cheap, and to be honest, it’s not often convenient.  Ensuring that Jared and I are eating healthy does take a bit of planning, and our grocery bill certainly isn’t cheap.

Although it’s nice to have these dietary guidelines that talk about the benefits of exercise and a balanced diet, I hope that the government plans to do more than issue a press release and a downloadable guide.  I admire the work our First Lady is doing in this regard, and only hope that the message can be spread to more areas in a fashion that is reachable and achievable for those less fortunate than us.

 

Surprisingly enough, Weight Watchers is actually living up to its claims as far as weight loss is concerned.  So far, I’ve lost about 7 pounds, which is more than I’ve been able to lose before simply by working out more and tracking calories.  While I didn’t lose any weight this week and still have not met the original goal I set, I’m confident that if I’m a bit more careful over the weekends, I’ll be able to meet my goal soon.

Two weeks ago, I talked about how the Points system worked.  I’m still working on striking a balance between daily points and weekly points, meaning that I’m still working up to convincing myself that it’s ok to use those weekly points when I need to.  So, let’s talk about some of the food and recipe sources available through the plan.

My biggest problem with most weight loss plans in the past has been finding food that I can eat, and that Jared will still enjoy.  While we certainly aren’t gluttons, we do appreciate fine foods, and have so many cookbooks at our disposal,  it should be illegal.  I very cautiously and carefully started adding some Weight Watchers recipes into our weekly menu, and to my delight, they have been a hit.

The Food & Recipes section of Weight Watchers is so full of content it’s almost overwhelming.  While recipes are broken down into several categories, I do sometimes struggle with organizing the information in a way I can handle.  They feature one or two recipes on the side bar of the home page, which usually offers simple solutions for dinner or dessert ideas.  Since the database is so big, I’ve been going through from time to time and saving recipes I want to try to my favorites, so I remember to come back to them when I’m not sure what I want.

We’ve had the Barley Risotto with Sausage and a pulled pork type sandwich, both of which were very good, and husband approved.  I feel as if all of the recipes keep in mind that some people might be feeding a family, or others who may not be on Weight Watchers, so the food is filling without making you feel like you ate a diet food.  They are also easy to modify.  the risotto called for mushrooms, which I can’t stand, but it was easy to eliminate them without making the meal unhealthy.  As a note, I would link to these recipes, but I do not think you can access them unless you are a subscriber.  If anyone wants one, let me know 🙂

Another great aspect of the food section are the cheat sheets.  The site features interactive guides for eating everything from pizza to pasta to salad to Chinese food.  Super helpful for eating out, and learning a bit more about how to manage parties and other non-database foods.

Unlike other healthy recipes I’ve seen in the past, I really feel as if Weight Watchers provides a nice balance between healthy and delicious.  I don’t feel deprived at all, and it’s kind of an exciting adventure to plan meals and other plan-friendly activities.  As I try more recipes, I’ll be sure to share!

We all know how this goes.  Things are running smoothly with your diet and exercise plan-you’re losing weight, working out more than ever before, and just feeling fantastic.

Then Friday sneaks up on you.  One look at the weekend’s calendar, and you know trouble is looming.  After all, Happy Hour, followed by a dinner party followed by Sunday brunch with your in-laws can’t possibly be doing you any good.

If you’re anything like Jared and I, you typically spend an average of 3 waking hours at home over the course of any given weekend, making it hard to control what you’re eating.  After all, all of our social activities with friends simply can’t revolve around my dietary needs.  So, how do you strike a balance between losing weight and keeping up with an active social life?

Fitness Magazine recently ran an article called “Weekend-Proof Your Diet“.  Here are some of the main takeaways I took from reading this:

1.)  The more you drink, the more you munch. I’ve always known this to be true.  I mean, who doesn’t remember carrying pretzels in our bags in college to fend off the munchies?  The same holds true for an evening out with the girls, or simply drinks with my husband at a nice lounge.  My main goal on the weekends is to work toward enjoying a single glass of red or white wine without eating everything in sight or having a second round.

2.)  Stick to my guns. I’ve found that I’m embarassed to tell people that I’m on Weight Watchers.  Why?  Well, having suffered from some disordered eating, any time someone I’m dining with mentions they are on a diet, I instantly feel guilty for eating whatever it is I’m about to order.  The article recommended finding a partner in crime, who was following the same plan as you, or simply ordering first so that you’re not swayed by the decisions of others.  Self control plays a big role in this, and that’s something I need to focus on heavily over these next 6 weeks of weekend trips.

3.)  Plan Accordingly.  My survival strategy when I know we’re going to be heading off to a calorie fest, whether it’s a restaurant or a friend’s party, is to eat like a rabbit alll day, to allow myself the extra calories later.  I can’t say this ever works out well, though, because then I just end up over indulging because I’m hungry.  By sticking to my regular schedule, the article suggests that I’ll avoid arriving ravenous and over indulging on things that may not fit into my plan.

4.)  Share and indulge. When discussing Sunday brunch, the article mentions that it’s ok to order something that you really want, like chocolate chip pancakes, that the table can share.  By having a few bites, you satisfy your craving without giving in to a poor food choice.  That cupcake I may want to have?  As long as I don’t eat hte whole thing, it should satisfy my need for sweets.

How do you fend off temptation and stay healthy when you’re out of your routine?

As I mentioned yesterday, in order to kick start my weight loss goals for the umpteenth time, I decided to follow my sister’s lead and join Weight Watchers.  Since I’ve been tracking my calories for months now, I have to admit, I was a huge skeptic as to how Weight Watchers would change things, besides the fact that now I’m paying to keep track of what I eat.  So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what they have to offer.

I joined about a week and a half ago, and was able to take advantage of their “Sign Up For Free” promotion.  I get access to the site and the mobile application for 3 months for $53.85.  The sign-up fee of $29.95 is waived.  After 3 months, each month costs around $18.  My main goal for these first few months was to see if that $18 was worth it to continue.

I’m not much for meetings after work, so the online plan was the best option for me.  When you sign up, it asks you to put in your stats and set goals.  My favorite thing about the goal-setting part was that they encouraged you to lose 10% of your weight to start out, not to focus on what they deem your “healthy range.”  I’m encouraged by their attention to the fact that realistic goals are not only healthy, but also much more motivating.  For me, I had to lose about 9 pounds to lose 10% of my weight.  Since I’ve been struggling the past few years with not being able to break out of a certain 3 pound range, the number seemed impossible.  But, we press on.

To be honest, I had always thought of Weight Watchers as the type of program where they made it easy to track food they endorsed, but not anything else.  I was glad to see I was wrong about that.  While the Points Plus tracker doesn’t have every food I’ve ever eaten, it has a sizeable database, with the option to calculate the points for food it does not have.  That feature, both on the site and on the iPhone application has been extremely helpful for me in balancing following the plan with Jared’s wants and needs.

As everyone knows, Weight Watchers assigns you points for the day in order to help you meet your goals.  I receive 29 points for the day.  It seems like a lot, and it actually has worked out pretty well so far.  Knowing how many points I have for the day has helped me map out my meals first thing in the morning, and then fit in snacks around them so that I never feel so hungry that I overindulge.  The difference between Weight Watchers and just tracking calories is that fruit and vegetables have NO points.  This has really encouraged me to use them a lot more generously throughout the day as snacks and with meals, something I certainly wasn’t doing when tracking with Livestrong.  After all, if I was going to waste 80 calories, I’d rather waste it on something good rather than an apple or a red pepper.  To date, that has been the biggest change I was able to make.

Another change that the points system has helped me to be more aware of is alcohol.  For those that know us, you know that Jared and I appreciate a quality beer and a wonderful wine, and it’s not unusual for us to have a glass with dinner a few times a week.  However, for 6 points for a beer and 4 for wine, I’ve really learned that liquid calories are a great place for me to cut back.  It hasn’t been easy, given how much we really enjoy trying new things, but it’s a necessity that I’m sure will contribute to my success.

In addition to your points, Weight Watchers assigns  a Weekly Allowance that allows you to indulge a bit from time to time in a very structured way.  I have 49 Weekly Points Plus Allowance points.  To me, that seems like too many, so I’m still getting used to how to use them and when to use them.  On a week like today, when I know I’ll be going out all weekend, it helps to have so many, because I can plan around using them.  As I get more used to the plan, I’ll write about how to effectively use these without overindulging.

There’s so much more that I can say about the Weight Watchers plan, but that will have to wait for another week.  For now, after one week, I’m 4 pounds down and about halfway to my first goal.  Something must be working, so I’ll be pushing through to see how far I can make this go!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions when it comes to my health.  After all, that’s a year round thing.  However, I am constantly on the look-out for new ways to lose weight.  I’ve been ignoring the Weight Watchers hype for so long, that I thought it was finally time to give it a try.

To combat all the protests I’ve been hearing such as “Why do you need to do that??” or “You shouldn’t pay for something like that!” let me just say that when you’ve been at this weight loss and working out thing as long as I have, sometimes you just need something else to move the needle.  I’ve had to promise myself not to get frustrated by the stories of people who lose like 20 pounds in the first few months.  For me, that’s just not going to happen.  In my mind, the people that lose so much weight right out the gate probably haven’t been monitoring their calories on LiveStrong or working out with Jackie and Jillian.

Tomorrow, I’ll be going a bit more in depth about the Weight Watchers tools that are available to subscribers.  I’ve been on it a bit over a week, and have lost 4 pounds, so I’m hoping all is not lost.  As I track my progress, here are some challenges I know I’ll face.

1.)  Weekends. My weekend currently looks like this:  Friday, drinks and dinner with one of Jared’s high school friends.  Saturday, The Melting Pot with some girlfriends, and possibly a piano bar later that night.  Considering that Jared and I won’t have a weekend at home until March 19th, I know it’s going to be hard for me to control where and when I eat on weekends.  This has by far been my biggest hurdle so far to weight loss, so I’m anxious to see how I may be able to conquer it this time around.

2.)  Jared. It’s a proven fact that when you embark on a weight loss plan, it’s much easier to do it with someone else.  However, Jared isn’t into the whole not being able to enjoy a beer or a treat when he wants to, so I’m doing this alone.  While he’s been very good about allowing me to plan our menu around my “Points”, it’s extremely hard for me to say no to him when he wants to go grab a quick drink with friends or eat out.  So far, we’re doing well, but guilt is definitely setting in.  Especially since one meal I made he hated due to the amount of vegetables it had.  Oops….

3.)  Myself. I’m only supposed to weigh in every Wednesday.  Do you think that keeps me away from the scale?  Nope.  If I see numbers I don’t like, I tend to get discouraged.  So discouraged, that I almost throw in the towel.  I know I need to keep going, since this is a process, but I’ll have to conquer a lot of my body image demons to make this work.

Game on, Weight Watchers.  See you at the finish line.  If there really is one….

My sister and I were discussing the scale this morning, and it got me thinking about whether or not it was wise to have a scale accessible every day if you’re trying to lose weight.  My scale is in the bathroom, so I can step on it whenever I want.  My sister uses the scale at the gym and weighs in every week.  So, my question is, for people that struggle with body image issues, which is the better method:  mine or my sisters?

When I struggled with an eating disorder in college, I’d have to go to the health center to be weighed once a week to see if I was gaining.  When they weighed me, they made me stand backwards on the scale so I wouldn’t see the numbers.  Psychologically, they knew I couldn’t handle it.  And they were right.  Truth be told, I wonder if that’s still the case today.  Sometimes, I find myself using the scale for “motivation”.  Even if the number is up by 1/10 of a pound, I immediately begin to tell myself that if I keep this up, I’ll never lose weight, and begin to think I’m disgustingly obese with no hope of ever losing.  Not really the best self talk, huh?  My sister finds that even though she lost a pound this week, she’s still frustrated with the slow progress and wishes she could weigh herself every day.  However, her boyfriend fears she’ll turn such a ritual into unhealthy habits such as food deprivation and poor self image.

Opinions on this vary online.  Some articles say that weighing yourself every day can contribute to long-term weight loss, while others say that since your weight fluctuates so much daily and even weekly, it’s not such a good idea.  The article linked to above actually says both in the same write up!  While some women are able to use the scale as positive motivation, women that struggle with disordered eating may have the tendency to turn the scale into their worst nightmare.

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind these tips when you come face to face with your scale:

1.)  Weigh yourself in the morning after you’ve been to the bathroom, with no clothes on.  If you’re going to weigh yourself once a day, or once a week, make sure you’re weighing yourself at the same time consistently for the most accurate reading.

2.)  Keep in mind that things like eating a big meal, eating meals high in sodium, etc. can cause your weight to fluctuate during the day.  Resist the urge to weigh yourself more than once a day at different times.

3.)  If you find that jumping on the scale each day is causing you to obsess in an unhealthy fashion over your weight, put the scale out of sight.  Take it out once a week to weigh in, or have a friend/partner do the weigh ins for you so you don’t see the numbers.

4.)  Remember that weight can sometimes be an inaccurate measure of your health.  Take measurements monthly on your waist size, or whatever else you’re interested in, and be sure to factor in your BMI as a guide.

Whatever your method for tracking your weight loss, remember that depriving your body of the nutrients found in food is counterproductive to losing weight.  Whatever the number, never let yourself get so frustrated that you stop eating!  Be realistic about your calorie needs to ensure that your body does not start storing fat instead of burning it.

I read a lot in magazines and online about fitness and health.  I have my go-to sites, and Fitness Magazine‘s online information is quickly becoming a daily visit for me.

My sister started to read Fitness magazine a few weeks ago and was constantly telling me about the workouts she was finding, which she found to be really great.  The last thing I need right now is another magazine subscription, so she told me that most of the resources are online.  Fitness Magazine is owned by the same company that owns Better Homes and Gardens, so it turned out I already had a log-in!

My sister wasn’t kidding.  The workout suggestions are pretty great, and different from the usuals.  Fitness Magazine takes into account that a lot of people might not have equipment at home or a gym membership, and there are workouts that do not require a treadmill or any other equipment.  I think this is a great trend for fitness columns to move to.  While I do have a treadmill and weights, I don’t have an elliptical or stair climber, and it’s nice to see some variety that still gets the job done.

Another feature that I thought I had exhausted on other Web sites is the Healthy Recipes section.  I get a daily email that includes some great tips, with links to recipes and snack ideas.  I thought I had seen it all, but Fitness Magazine provides a new variety that is both reasonable and tasty.  While I’ve been unable to find a feature that lets me save them to my profile on the site, it’s just as easy to email them to myself.  (And store them in a folder labeled Cooking-yes, my personal inbox is THAT organized).

As I mentioned, I do subscribe to some of their daily emails that seem to integrate with other magazines under their fold (like Diabetic Living).  I typically delete a lot of the emails I get, but I’ve found myself clicking through on every link to at least browse what they have to say.

Of course Fitness Magazine also has a lot of features I haven’t delved into yet, like Communities and Videos.  Since I have so many options when it comes to videos on demand, I typically don’t turn on my computer to work out, but maybe down the road it would be worth trying.  Or, if you travel a lot, it’s a must!  I tend not to join Communities, but I’m sure they can be inspirational for those that like that sort of thing!

Just when I thought I’d seen it all, Fitness Magazine provides another great portal to inspire me with workout ideas, snack ideas, and more.  What’s more, Fitness Magazine is reasonable in their suggestions without bordering on unhealthy.  It’s great to see another magazine portraying positive ideas and thinking.

 

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