I lost 3.7 pounds in my first week on Weight Watchers—more than I’ve been able to lose after four months of trying on my own.
There’s no question in my mind that Weight Watchers works…IF you follow the program. And that’s the hard part.
It’s been a year since I tracked points, and it was a huge wake-up call. It helped me clearly see why I haven’t been successful at losing on my own—I’ve been eating too much.
Despite all the diets out there with different claims to weight-loss fame—low fat, high fat, low carb, high protein, etc.—there remains one single way to lose eight: Consume less calories than you burn. It’s possible to lose weight by eating nothing but Twinkies if you’re burning more calories than the Twinkies you’re eating. It’s also possible to eat all the good things and not lose weight because you’re eating too much of them, and this was my failure.
When I’ve lamented my weight loss struggles to my husband, he’s said, “How can you not be losing weight? You run all the time, and all you eat is tomatoes.” I would be like, “I know, right?!” But, of course, I’m not just eating tomatoes. Yes, I eat a ton of veggies and fruit, but I also eat beans and oats and nuts and soymilk and avocados and whole-wheat wraps and vegan mayo and pretzels and much more, and all those have calories; some have lots of calories.
I remember years ago, sitting in a Weight Watchers meeting, wondering how someone could not know that butter wasn’t a condiment and actually had calories she needed to consider. I’m embarrassed to realize that I was making the exact same assumption about vegan mayo!
Here’s an example of a meal makeover from this past week. My usual breakfast is oatmeal with peanut butter in these amounts:
- ½ cup of oats
- ¾ cup vanilla soymilk
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- Cocoa powder & stevia
That meal is 13 Weight Watchers points—nearly half of my daily target of 30 points!
I reduced the servings to the following, which brought the points down to 8.
- 1/3 cup oats
- ½ cup soymilk (with some water)
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
And that’s the challenge of Weight Watchers and what makes it hard. While no food is off limits, you have to balance how everything fits into your whole day. When I wanted to have a hard cider on Friday and Saturday night, I had to plan out my day to include them. When I wanted to have some candy Sunday, I had to plan for that too. Weight Watchers does give 35 weekly points that you can use to supplement your week to give you more flexibility. I was never able to stick to my 30 daily points and used every one of my 35 weekly points.
You also earn activity points that you can swap for food, or you can choose to not swap them to lose more quickly. I chose to not swap this first week.
It was difficult at first to adjust to the WW program and learn (again) how many points I was actually eating (that vegan mayo “condiment” is actually 3 points for 1 tablespoon.) And I worried that I would be constantly starving. I thought my reduced-portion breakfast would never be enough to fill me up like my usual bowl of oats did. I pictured myself collapsing on the trail during my morning run. But I was just fine. I was a little tired in the first few days but I never really got hungry, even from eating so much less.
As the week wore on, I remembered why I’ve loved Weight Watchers so much. I actually really love the tracking aspect. Some people hate it (they have another option for those who don’t want to track), but I loved planning my meals to try to keep to my points target. It was kinda like planning my workouts to achieve the 80/20 ratio and is almost like a puzzle–how many X does it take to reach Y. Fun stuff!
I also love that Weight Watchers encourages better food choices through its point system. While nutritional information is factored into points, all fruits and vegetables are 0 points to encourage people to eat more of those, and sugar-heavy foods and beverages are very high in points. Even though I typically eat a lot of fruits and veggies, I found myself reaching for them even more.
Some people criticize WW because some healthy foods are higher in points, like nuts (1 tablespoon of peanut butter is 3 points) and avocado (1/4 is 3 points). And you don’t even want me to tell you how much a single medjool date is! Okay, it’s 4 points, the same as a hard cider or ½ pretzel bagel plus 1 tablespoon vegan cream cheese! The point is that eating too much hinders weight loss, and that’s exactly what was happening with me. Here’s my food diary from one day this week so you can see what eating on WW is like.
Breakfast (8 points)
- Banana (pre-run) (o points)
- Oats, soymilk, and peanut butter that I mentioned above (8 points)
Pear (o points)
Lunch (6 points)
- 1/2 cup brown rice (cooked in veg broth with curry powder and other spices) (4 points)
- 4 oz baked tofu (I marinated and baked it myself so I could be sure of the points) (2 points)
- 1 red pepper, sliced (o points)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes (o points)
- 1 cup strawberries (o points)
3 clementines (o points)
Dinner (17 points)
- Smoky Black Bean & Spinach Wraps
- 1/2 cup black beans (3 points)
- 1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s vegan mayo (3 points) mixed with hot sauce and chipotle pepper powder
- 2 Trader Joes’ reduced-carb wheat tortillas (2 points)
- 1/4 avocado (3 points)
- spinach (0 points)
- 1 cucumber (0 points) with 2 tablespoons hummus (2 points)
- 13 Trader Joe’s sesame sticks (2 points) with 5 Trader Joe’s whole-grain pretzel nuggets (1) (This was the tiniest, saddest portion of snack mix! I could have had more but I was trying to get close to my 30 points because this was the day before my weigh-in.)
- 1 Larabar Chocolate Mint bite (1 point)
Total points: 31
Overall, I’m happy to be back on Weight Watchers! Members typically lose a lot in their first week and then slow down, so I don’t expect to see this high of a loss continue, but it’s nice to know I’m on the right track. I don’t plan on doing a post each week I’m on the program, I’ll be giving regular updates on my progress.
For those struggling with weight loss who don’t want to join WW, try reducing the portions of every single thing you eat. That’s what I did in a nutshell in my first week.