Probably the most popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and get in shape. It’s also the one that most people give up on after a couple of weeks. I beat the rush this year by joining Weight Watchers (now just WW) the last week in September.
I’ve been on diets (off and on) since I was five years old. I have a not-quite-normal thyroid and a genetic disposition to being overweight. When I was five, my thyroid was underactive, and I took medication for that, as well as an appetite suppressant. I must have lost enough weight to satisfy my doctor, because I was taken off the medication.
My mother tried to help by putting me on all kinds of fad diets. I think the worst was the cottage cheese and fruit diet, where you ate nothing but cottage cheese and fruit for three meals a day for three days. It might have been more, or maybe my mother had me doing it for three days, then eating regular meals for four days, then back on the cottage cheese and fruit. Now, I used to like cottage cheese, but after this regimen, I never wanted to eat it again. To this day, it’s a rare occasion when I’ll have some.
I’ve tried many diets since then, usually when I had some special occasion coming up like my son’s wedding. I’ve lost fifty pounds at least twice, only to put most of it back on after the diet was over. I love food. I love salty snacks like potato chips and onion dip and sweet snacks like cookies and cake. I love cheese. And I was taught emotional eating by my family.
I’ll never forget the time I was at my grandmother’s house and something happened that had me sobbing with hurt. I don’t remember what it was specifically, perhaps something I’d been told I couldn’t do or been left out of, and I couldn’t stop crying. And my grandmother, bless her heart, asked, “Would you like a piece of cake to make you feel better?”
I stopped crying and picked up my head to look at her and see if she was serious. Even I knew cake was not going to fix what was wrong. When I determined she was dead serious, I put my head back down and resumed sobbing.
Last year I was trying to figure out how to handle meals and writing at the same time. Frozen meals like Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice aren’t totally satisfying and tend to be heavy on pepper to make up for the fat and sugar that’s not in them. And, over the years, more and more of them have replaced vegetables with starch-heavy selections like pizza and pasta dishes.
It’s not much fun to cook for one person. For one thing, most recipes are for four or six or eight people. If I make them, I’m eating the same thing every day of the week. There’s also the prep time. It’s always seemed stupid to spend an hour making something that takes me fifteen minutes to eat, especially when I was trying to spend more time writing and would often forget about eating until I was starving.
Then I discovered Martha McKinnon and her Simple Nourished website, probably through a Facebook ad. She has a ton of slow-cooker recipes that are relatively simple to make, all with WW points included. So I bought a five-quart slow cooker and started trying them. I do whatever peeling and chopping is necessary (most recipes are heavy on the vegetables) after breakfast and throw everything in the pot to let it cook all day. Then, when I’m hungry for dinner, I portion it out into containers alongside my bowl or plate. Half of those usually go in the freezer, to be thawed and microwaved on another day. Usually, I’ve got two different meals in the freezer at a time, and that, interspersed with a baked fish or chicken meal, does away with the eating-the-same-thing-every-day problem.
Then I decided I wanted to attend another “event,” this one a writers’ conference next November. I thought about meeting all those new people, scary enough for an introvert, and being judged—even if it was unintentional—on the way I looked. I’d started avoiding looking at myself in the mirror even before this. The image I have of my body in my head is very different from the one reflected in the mirror. I cringe when I see how wide I am, so I try not to look. That wasn’t the way I wanted to go to this conference.
So I joined Weight Watchers for the fourth time. The first time I’d been a member was one of the times I’d lost fifty pounds, so I knew it worked. The other two times, I decided I could do it on my own without paying the fees, but that never lasted more than a month before I went back to old habits.
I’m finding the new Freestyle program really works for me. With so many zero points foods, it’s a lot easier to follow and not feel deprived. Peas and corn are zero points, along with spinach and green beans. Fish and turkey and chicken are all zero points. It still feels odd that when I’m hungry, I can eat a whole chicken breast and not have it count against my daily points allotment.
Last week I realized I’d had a change in mindset. I’d decided that for the holidays, I’d treat myself and prepare some foods that were high in points. I was helped by my son giving me a bag of chocolate-covered hazelnuts for Christmas. On Christmas day, I made a bacon-wrapped filet of beef with a large potato slathered in butter, along with shortbread cookies for dessert, followed by a bunch of those hazelnuts. I enjoyed every bite of it. Still, I wasn’t sure about those hazelnuts, no matter how good they tasted.
For New Year’s, I also bought myself a party snack, an individual portion of hummus with pretzel thins to dip in it. I scanned the barcode when I was in the supermarket and it would use 11 points of my daily allotment of 23. Oh, well. On New Year’s Eve, I didn’t feel like eating it. I did, however, dip into those hazelnuts again.
Since then, I realized that I wasn’t really craving all those things that used to make up such a large part of my diet. I haven’t bought potato chips in three months, instead buying pretzels (counting out 17 minis and putting them in a bowl before starting to eat them) and SkinnyPop popcorn, which I try not to eat directly out of the bag. LOL
But last week, I didn’t replenish my supply of pretzels. I threw out that bag of chocolate-covered hazelnuts because I didn’t want to finish them. I’ve been choosing to snack on grapes instead. The pint of Haagen-Daz chocolate chip ice cream sits half-finished in the freezer while I eat one of the WW snack bars for dessert after dinner. It’s taken over three months, but I’ve definitely made a lifestyle change. And I’ve lost twelve pounds.