A few weeks ago, I woke up one morning to find quite a number of e-mails on my phone from friends who "liked" my updated Facebook status. (For those of you not quite up on current social networking technology, "Facebook status" means an area on the Facebook Web site where the night before, I wrote something about how I was feeling. "E-mail" is a way to send free messages via the Internet. The "Internet" is the thing you're currently reading this column on. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you know what a "phone" is.)
I briefly racked my brain trying to remember what status had garnered such a positive response. Not that having people like my updates is particularly rare; I often write pithy things that I believe people will appreciate, and they often do. What was different about this one was the vigor with which people seemed to like it. Among the responses were, "Yes! In the face!" and "This just became one of my favorite FB posts of all time. Well done." That's fairly complimentary for something I couldn't remember writing.
I clicked on the link to take me to the Facebook post in question. "Ah, yes. Now I remember." What I read made me happy and sad at the same time: "F*** it. I need to lose 60 lbs. Every time you see me eating, punch me in the face."
That's when it all came back to me. Sitting at a bar with a couple friends, looking at all the people around us, generally feeling as though the eyes of every single woman in the place were completely passing me by (along with the rest of them, of course. It would be weird if their eyes passed over me and their bodies still stopped by to talk). I suppose I was getting a little maudlin, but really I just felt as though my weight, which has been noticeably added to in the past few years, was not doing me any favors.
I tell this story, in part, because some of you may have experienced similar feelings of pudge while engaged in a similar activity, and, in part, because it's a totally kick-ass way to explain the life decision I made three weeks ago.
I cut off my penis.
Kidding. I joined Weight Watchers.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Isn't Weight Watchers only for nonnie boys and sissy tulips?" I have no idea why you think that way. Those aren't even expressions. You scare me sometimes.
But to your point (however poorly worded it might be), no. More on that later.
Those of you who have been following my column semi-regularly (heck, I don't even read all of them) may remember that I have, in the past, made such claims as "this summer I will be svelte" and "I once invented invisible socks." Neither of those claims turned out to be true (I was actually just barefoot), but it's not for lack of trying.
My attempts at weight loss in the past have been met with varying degrees of success:
1) Eat less and exercise - not bad. I learned to love miso soup. I learned to hate the girl I was losing the weight for.
2) Eat more and exercise. Less successful, but I achieved a kind of stasis. This often accompanied such thoughts as, "Oh, I can have the Big Mac. I'm going to the gym tomorrow." It was kind of a slow gain.
3) Drink more and think about exercise. If I ever need to prepare myself for the sumo ring, this is definitely the winner.
4) Coke habit. Actually, a Diet Coke habit. Very different, still low in calories.
I've played racquetball on a weekly basis; I've played soccer on a weekly basis. I've gone to the gym multiple times per week. I tried running with a friend, but it turns out I get shin splints running on pavement and he got tired of waiting for me to walk to him. All in all, I've recently discovered, the real problem has been my diet, or, in recent years, lack thereof.
Which is where Weight Watchers has come in (offered at a corporate rate by my company, no less). For the uninitiated, it's a really, really simple program. Essentially, each food is assigned a point value based on a complex calculation including fat content, fiber content, protein content, carb content, and whether the food is Weight Watcher's brand. I am then assigned a set number of daily points and a weekly number of "whenever" points. I can also earn extra weekly points with physical activity. If I've used up all my daily, weekly, and activity points before the end of the week, I can roll a 20-sided die three times and take the average of those points, but I have to battle an orc and find my way out of the Forest of Zoltan.
Piece of cake. Well, slice of watermelon, anyway.
In all honesty, I'm actually pretty excited about the program. For starters, all fruits and most vegetables are 0 points, which is nice. I can wake up in the middle of the night, jonesing for a snack, and grab myself a tasty rhubarb stalk or sprig of parsley. Or a pound of parsley; it doesn't matter. Still 0 points. And believe you me, a pound of parsley is quite filling.
In addition, Weight Watchers actually does have a brand of foods that I've found are pretty tasty, and not only the desserts. This is especially useful since I've determined that I'm really just not good at estimating amounts of foods - "Is that a half-pint of rice? What does 3 ounces of steak look like? One cup of uncooked spaghetti? I don't even know how to measure that. Do I crush up the spaghetti? How will I twirl it on my fork?"
So I buy a lot of the frozen meals.
In addition to keeping track of my daily/weekly points (through a really useful online tracker that also has a database of probably thousands of foods with their point totals just a button-click away), there's also a weekly meeting. I've been to two so far. As the program is offered through my company, my weekly meetings are held here at the office. This is convenient, but also a little daunting, since I see some of these people every day. And I think at least two of them have the power to fire me.
One thing someone pointed out at the last meeting is there are actually more men in the company on Weight Watchers than women. I believe this is for two reasons: a) we live in an age where men are finally okay with admitting that we, too, want to look our best and don't really have a desire to be diabetic at 47 and dead at 53. And b) my company employs a lot of thin women. The upshot is, relative to your weird question earlier, Weight Watchers is no longer just a haven for pansy guys and whistling Marys. (Where do you come up with these phrases? Jeez.)
The meetings are good, though, as they've definitely been keeping me honest. I have, I admit, considered cheating at least once - that cupcake would really have gone well with my beer - but the thought of getting up in front of the group the following Wednesday and having to explain why I've gained a pound (and still have icing in my goatee) inspired me instead to have a handful of grapes and punt one of my neighbor's pets out the window. Both healthy alternatives.
What I've learned, so far, is that it's actually pretty easy to stick to a diet for which I don't so much have to change what I eat as I do the amount I eat. I really want a bag of M&Ms? Great, but I better forget about those shumai at dinner. In addition, some of the foods I figured were healthy (or not that unhealthy) it turns out are a whole bunch o' points, and some I assumed would turn me into Augustus Gloop aren't actually that bad (fiber is wonderful stuff). For example, a regular turkey club is something like 10-20 points, depending on the restaurant (to put that in perspective, a McDonald's McDouble is 10 points). Popcorn, however, is apparently a wonderfood (un-buttered, of course), as 3 cups of light microwave popcorn is 2 points. Which means, for those of you who need me to do your math for you (please stop calling me on Sunday morning) that if I forego the Papa Gino's small turkey club sandwich, I can replace it with 19 cups of light popcorn. Or maintain my self esteem and eat neither.
If there is a downside, it's that every now and then I realize that I have to do this for the rest of my life. But then I realize that I should be doing it for the rest of my life anyway. Not paying attention to what I ate and drank is what got me to this point in the first place. And they tell you that it's a gradual process. I can expect to lose maybe a half-pound to 2 pounds per week. So the way I figure it is when the apocalypse comes next year, I'll finally be light enough to just float up to Heaven. (Because that's how it actually works. Betcha didn't know that.)
So I've got that going for me.
Oh, and one last thing: please, in the interim, stop punching me in the face. Thanks.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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dr. jay gross
5.11.11 @ 8:51a
Your circumference, divided by your head diameter gives you a more realistic number vs. BMI or glycemic index. Really, there's no proven way to truly lose weight. I get frustrated by not eating those things that I really like...and as much as I want, but I have to.
Your pound of parsley is almost as appetizing as two stalks of celery covered with non-fat, unflavored yogurt, and has the same effect. The only system I've found that truly works is to use a product called SENSA. That is a tasteless powder that you sprinkle on everything you eat - no restrictions on content or calories....because the powder helps make you feel full after a couple of bites.
One important thing to do, without fail, is to get a blood screen to establish your A1c (blood sugar) level, and know your cholesteral and triglycerides. Small portions, eaten frequently every 3 hours, will give you a semi-bikini like shape. (I never want to see you in a 2 piece or even a Speedo!)
Good luck on your slim (narrowing) quest.