It’s been, well, irritating and effective in more or less equal measures. My progress in weight loss terms has been slow but generally in the right direction despite that pesky business of Christmas the misery month of January and I’m down just under 7 Kilos/not quite a stone since the first week of December.
WW works around the smartpoints system- where you get a set amount of daily points and a weekly budget of top up points, or the no-count system which I will talk about another time. I do smartpoints for the most part.
There is a complicated way that these points are calculated but they basically work around the calorie content of a food with some adjustment for the macro content. Protein and fibre bring the points down, sugar and fat take it up so 250 calories worth of crisps will hold a different points value to 250 calories worth of cod. As such, one is steered towards fruit and veg and lean protein leaving you a smaller treat budget for Dairy Milk and the odd glass of wine as you can. One of the biggest tag lines of WW is that no food is off the menu, but realistically you are going to get used to much smaller servings of a lot of foods. The majority of veg and whole fruit is free, as are small amounts of some ultra lean, low sugar stuff. As an example, up to 100ml of unsweetened almond milk or half a tin of tuna wont hit your budget at all.
Initially, I really struggled with the points because the way I was eating was destroying my total very early in the day to the point where it felt impossible to get along with. I reset my week four times in the first ten days trying to use WW before accepting the realisation that I needed to make significant changes rather than keep trying to squeeze my normal way of eating into the plan. As an example pre WW my usual weekday morning would consist of a coffee whey shake first thing then a couple of boiled eggs mid morning- a ball park of 400 calories and less than 1/3 of my daily calories target. On WW this came to a whopping 13 points- just under half of my daily points- which I try to stick to on school days thus saving weeklies for the Saturday night beer drinking. Adding in my usual lunch of a baked potato with salad and a small amount of olive oil dressing left me 8 points to count for dinner and all snacks and drinks that weren’t water or black coffee. If I had couscous for lunch this went down to just 4 points remaining. In theory, this sounds fine. In theory, you snack on nothing but fruit or carrot sticks and enjoy a dinner of steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes and grilled skinless fish. Every. Single. Day.
It wasn’t working, I felt like I was constantly failing, going well above 30 points on a normal day and then hitting 45 or 50 from what I wouldn’t even consider a proper cheat/treat day. It’s not just wine and chocolate that will wipe out your points. Potatoes, pasta, any kind of oil, avocados, fruit juice, sweetcorn, peas, all hold a value that chips away alarmingly at your total before you even think about salad dressing or a cheeky glass of Pinot Noir. One of the biggest challenges came from the fact that I just don’t eat a lot of the WW trick foods- the low/no points fillers that the program steers you towards. Diet fizzy drinks, not ever. Frylite or similar spray fats, absolutely not. Protein cheese- eeeeeeeeeeeeeurch. Heck sausages- well we’ve all heard about them recently haven’t we!
So I got despondent and I blew it all out for a weekend. And I ate what I felt like and I got to Sunday night and I felt terrible about myself so I sat down and tried to work out the damage before setting into a new week. And it wasn’t actually that bad, alright I was nowhere near within target but a lot of the foods I had assumed would throw me out of points and thus avoided since I made the switch were lower than expected. A binge bowl of non fat greek yoghurt with some blueberries and maple syrup was half the points of a coffee whey shake, and I considered that a weekend treat. I never had greek style anything when I was calorie counting, as it racked up more than non fat natural yoghurt. It came out as a cheaper points option on WW due to the higher protein content, so you can have much more Greek for your points than Natural. For once, the tastier option was also cheaper. Ok this was only yoghurt, by maybe it could work after all. I did more research, read a few blogs and magazine articles on WW staples and found more things that I had been keeping out of my basket were actually easy to fit in without going off plan.
I wont bore you with the myriad of swaps I started to make in order to tally my smartpoints, suffice to say that I have now worked in a daily plan for school days that keeps me full without too much trouble and I come home with at least 9 points left for dinner. Some days we do have steamed veg and a lump of chicken breast, and I don’t kid myself that going to bed with 4 points to spare is going to sabotage my journey or throw me into some BS starvation zone. Some days I still suffer from violent hunger and hit the vending machine and we have a curry and popadoms and I dip into my weeklies too and this doesn’t void the effort that has gone in to the other days before and to come. If I’m vigilant (and honest) and track everything, I tend to be about 10 points over the desired total at the end of the week and lose just under half a kilo. Which is ok. If I’m super dedicated and don’t enjoy myself at all and come in with a few weeklies left, it is more like 3/4 a kilo. If I’m good all week then say to hell with it and have a few beers and a pizza and a full Sunday lunch at the weekend, I stay the same. I have fallen off the wagon frequently but very rarely put on- Christmas and PMS weeks not withstanding.
So what is my point here, that I’ve been a bit half arsed about it all? Yes, I have. But I still got my 5% body weight loss target thingum and that is why I think this plan can work. The gimmicks. The psychology. Because any idiot can work out the amount you should be eating to lose weight. It’s getting you to actually do it that is the real trick. Somehow, my brain is better at trying to preserve points as I count down through a day rather than rely on myself to not go over a target I am building up to. There is probably a clever scientific term for this. I don’t know what it is but keeping in my final three points is a much bigger motivator to me than not going over that 1500 calorie limit. I think it is something to do with not getting to 0 left over rather than aiming for a total target that builds up through the day. The funny thing is that with some rough calculations I can see that my weekly WW points total is very similar in calorie terms to when I was counting those and successfully losing weight. It’s a similar amount of food, made up slightly differently, that is just easier for me to stick to. Because of the countdown psychology. Because of the little cartoon rewards that I get sent when I log a loss in the app. Yes, I know they are automated programs that essentially mean nothing. I still like them.
So I am staying with the program for the time being. I’m not going to groups, and have no desire to start. The app is easy to use and sustainable value at £13 a month to access the foods database and calculators, plus an amount of chat-based support from WW professionals if required. With a sun holiday and bridesmaids duty pending, I am going to try and rein it in a little bit for the coming weeks along with upping my running and yoga now that my stupid legs are back to useable condition after some injuries last summer. I have to say the dieting section has become slightly easier in the last month with some digestive issues I’ve been experiencing but that is another post for another time. I am carrying on with the carrying on now with an almond milk latte (better than it sounds) and I’m feeling OK about it all. Yes, it has been slow going but it is going. I’m down a dress size since Christmas and up in savings after selling my nicer Fat Frocks in the confidence that I wont be wearing them again any time soon. I feel good about it. I might feel better if I was making Biggest Loser style mass losses of double digits every week but to be honest, I’m not huge enough to warrant that and although my losses aren’t sensational, they seem to be sustainable. Slowly but surely isn’t very sexy I’ll grant you, but then neither were those Fat Frocks.
If you are undecided about trying the Weight Watchers plan for a new start or as a switch from some other regime, I can say it’s worth looking at. There are almost always free joining sessions or cut-price web memberships on offer so get to google or if you know someone on the plan you can probably get a sweet deal for both of you via some kind of introduction kick back. There is a UK WW Members facebook group too which is unofficial but I find it incredibly useful for both eating ideas and lighthearted support.
Until next time.