Weighing in on Weight Watchers

I started writing this post years ago and never quite put the finishing touches on it. I recently re-joined WW to get back on track after an indulgent holiday season. My sentiments about it are still the same as when I wrote this – so here’s my story!

Also, a lil disclaimer before we get into it. This isn’t about weight so much as it is about feeling healthy and comfortable in my body. In doing WW, I enjoyed seeing the physical changes, like my clothes fitting more loosely, and feeling slimmer and more limber (haha), more than worrying about the number on a scale. Weight is only one measure of health, and by itself, it really doesn’t mean much at all. 

Reality Bites

It’s the day after Christmas 2017. I’ve been gorging on gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies, pumpkin pie, candy canes, chocolate, you name it. I notice my mom has a sweet digital scale in the bathroom. I haven’t weighed myself in a while, so I step on. The digital display bluntly reveals a number well over what I expect to see.

I squeeze my eyes shut and open them again. The number hasn’t changed. Even during my “baby fat” days of puberty, or after gaining the “senior 15” in college (I was a late bloomer), I had not weighed that much.

It wasn’t a complete surprise that I’d gained weight. I’d noticed that I’d been getting a little pudgy around the middle. As I thought back, I realized I’d been packing it on for a while. How long had it been since I felt comfortable wearing a fitted shirt? Or shorts that revealed my thighs? The past summer I had been resorting to wearing tights underneath my white jeans to smooth out the cellulite.

At doctors’ appointments throughout the year, the numbers were slowly creeping up. 5 pounds here, 5 there, but I chalked it up to the sweater I was wearing at the time. You know, that 15-pound sweater I wear sometimes.

A week after New Year’s, while dressing for a party at a friend’s house, I was dismayed that NOTHING seemed to fit right. I even put on Spanx in a last-ditch attempt to reign it all in. I felt like a sausage. I stuffed a few cookies in my mouth and vowed to figure out how to get back into shape.

Weight Watchers 

Before then, I’d never given much thought to how balanced my diet really was. I tried to eat healthy foods as much as I could, but I was also sure to include daily doses of chocolate, candy and treated myself to an after-dinner dessert nightly. (Everyone does that, right?)

In one aspect of the genetic lottery I’d been lucky – I inherited my dad’s genes for consuming tons of sugar and carbohydrates without gaining weight.  At least from childhood to early adulthood, and then it turned out there was a limit to what my genes  could handle. I was going to have to rethink my diet.

At work, a weekly Weight Watchers group had been formed and I jumped at the chance to join. I was a little skeptical of how it would go, thinking they might try to encourage us to eat weird, pre-packaged meals and shakes or something. But it turned out that while they offered WW brand snacks for sale at the meetings, the emphasis was more on how to turn your regular diet into a healthier one.

The premise for their plan is pretty simple. You get an allowance of points per day, and foods are assigned a point value. Things like fruits, leafy greens, and many vegetables are 0 points. Beans were 0 points. Grains, pasta, rice, and processed foods all had points, depending on the carb, sugar, fat, and calorie content contained within.

I quickly discovered that a lot of the staples of my diet, such as rice, pasta, and potatoes, were all high in points. The sugary drinks I was so fond of (Oregon Vanilla Chai, and Sweet Iced Tea) were an astounding number of points.

Damn it all. I was going to have to give up or cut down on a lot. Could I make it work?

How I made WW work for me

The thing I liked most and that really helped me stick with the plan was the WW App. It made tracking my points and my weight super easy. It has a scanner in it so you can actually scan the bar code of a food label to find out how many points the food is. Plus, it did cute little celebrations every time I reached a milestone.

On my first day of tracking, I went over by a lot of points, but I soon learned to plan out my day so that I would eat a lot of low-point foods early on and save points for later in the day when I was more hungry and more likely to want a point-heavy food. I also learned to always have no-point foods on hand for snacking – clementines were my personal favorite, but any kind of fruit would work.

There were some things I did not like about the WW system. Mainly, the focus on points (calories) vs. nutritional content of food. I felt like it would be easy to eat a really poor diet and still lose weight, but it would not be sustainable in the long term. That being said, I understand why they do it that way. It definitely makes it easy to lose weight if you just stay at or below your point limit each day.

As a long-term vegetarian, I learned that I was eating way too many carbs. It’s a very easy mistake to make on a vegetarian diet. But I learned ways of swapping out carb-heavy foods for healthier options, like using zucchini to make noodles for pasta instead of using spaghetti and buying sprouted whole grain bread instead of just whole wheat bread.

Other things I did

In addition to revising my diet, I also began moving more. My goal was to exercise 5 times a week and to get at least 8,000 steps every day. I did not always meet my daily goals, but I felt that anything was better than nothing, so I just did what I could.

I also made it a priority to get more sleep. My success with this has varied – some weeks I do well, and others I am lucky if I can get close to 7 hours a night. When I can sleep as long as I want, I get over 8 hours of sleep. I’m still trying to figure out how to make that work during the week.

The results

It would be nice if I had a before and after picture to show you, but I was not about to photograph my pasty white Pillsbury doughboy “before” body. And even now that I am happy with my body, I am not about to post a picture of it because I just don’t need to share my body on the internet. So that’s that.

I *did* however, take my measurements when I first began WW. I lost 3 inches from my waist (woo hoo!), 1 inch from my bust (cue sad trombone), and 1 inch from each thigh! (I was not expecting that) I didn’t lose anything from my hips, which is kind of weird, but maybe goes to show that my weight was awkwardly placed.

I didn’t stay on WW after I got back to my pre-gluttony body, and I did pretty well for the next 3 years. Then the pandemic came and I found Ben & Jerry’s edible cookie dough to comfort me through the anxiety.

Long-term WW

It’s really easy to fall back into the habit of indulging “just this once,” except it turns into every day. Or telling myself I’ll overindulge because it’s a holiday/event/party/weekend/travel.

Since my initial experience with WW in 2017, I have re-joined it a couple of times, just for a month or two here and there. This year I joined it in January and have been on it since, though not without some skipped days.

I have found that WW is a good way of practicing mindfulness around food. By thinking about how many points different foods and meals are, I am paying more attention to what I am eating and not just mindlessly shoveling food in my mouth whenever I get bored.

For me, it’s pretty easy to eat within my point range and not feel deprived. If I plan out my whole day, I oftentimes have enough points left over to actually have a treat, like a few pieces of chocolate, or a bit of ice cream. So it’s really not like you have to say goodbye to everything delicious and good in life. It just takes some planning ahead and being sure to have enough healthy food on hand to make it work and to stay full and happy.

So there’s my story. If you are on the fence about trying WW, they do offer a free trial, so it’s worth a try!


6 thoughts on “Weighing in on Weight Watchers

  1. Thanks, Heather!

    I, too, have had success with WW in the past.  I find myself heavier than I have ever been in the past due to the drug therapy used to treat my cancer.  I have resolved that I have to do something and since WW worked in the past, I’m going to give it a go again.

    Thanks for sharing your encouraging story!



    1. That is frustrating when medications contribute to weight gain! Though of course the goal of overcoming the cancer is the important factor there and I’m glad they did the job with that. Good luck with doing WW again, I hope it works well for you.


  2. Thanks for sharing this – I too have done Weight Watchers with great success. I don’t have the will or the discipline at the moment, however. I laughed out loud repeatedly – 15-pound sweater, anyone? 🙂 You’re such a great writer – so honest, and funny too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good for you! As you get older it’s easy to pack it on. My labs lately have shown some nutritional challenges, so I’ve been trying the smoothie route. I’ve lost a few pounds by substituting a strawberry banana smoothie for a bowl of Fudge Ripple ice cream. I doubt I’ll ever get to my target weight, but the journey does make you healthier.


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