A year without Weight Watchers

Running and Weight Watchers helped me lose 90 pounds in 2010. After I met my goal, I continued weekly weigh-ins for a few months before cutting back to once a month – a regimen I maintained through December 2013.

In all that time, I never once failed to make my 135-pound goal weight.

2014 was my first postfat year without Weight Watchers. It wasn’t my intention to drop out, but ironically, it was training for a marathon last January that set me on that course. (Note: If you don’t want all the details, skip down a few paragraphs to “What I learned”).

I figured it would be easy to make weight that month with all that extra running. Trouble was, I found it hard to engage in the sort of weight-cutting maneuvers I was used to while I was training so hard. I couldn’t be in fasting mode for days at a stretch and keep up my mileage. I was hungrier than usual, and ate more than usual. By the time I stepped to the starting line in late February, I was carrying 5 extra pounds.

Having broken my streak of successful weigh-ins, it was hard to go back. I no longer wanted to do the fasting and dehydration workouts that I’d often used to make weight. The reality was, even while I was accumulating impressive statistics as a “lifetime”  Weight Watchers member, I usually spent most of the month a few pounds over goal, worked like heck to get there by the deadline, and then promptly celebrated with a big feast that put me up a few pounds the very next day.

During my time in Weight Watchers my weight range would veer from 135 into the 140s. On occasion, like if we were doing the YMCA weight loss contest, I’d let it go as high as the upper 140s for an initial weigh-in.  I always made it back down by the end of the month, but it was tough – not to mention stressful.

It was liberating to forego the monthly weigh-ins and all the rigmarole that went with them, but without that deadline pressure I was now pretty much staying in the upper end of my weight range. By summer I was sitting just under 150, feeling like a cow – and then I got injured.

Freaked out that I was on the brink of spiraling back into fathood, I decided to try the Slow Carb Diet. I’m not much of a meat eater, but I loved the Cheat Days. It was cool to be losing weight even while I wasn’t running. Even better was realizing that it wasn’t that hard to contain my sugar intake to one day a week.

I got pretty close to my old Weight Watchers weight, stabilized, then crept up a few pounds over the holidays as I began to tire of Slow Carb rigidity. (Once again, weight gain came with training for a long-distance race, in this case a 50k. Let’s just say I no longer trust my ability to “outrun my diet”.)

Since then I’ve been tinkering with creating my own highly customized meal plans and eating routines – one of the weirdest being my “big bag of  cashews” lunch on Mondays – and I’m slowly working my way back down again.

So what have I learned in my year without Weight Watchers?

On the one hand, I felt like a failure. Even though I “chose” not to weigh in anymore, that was a cop-out because I knew I was over the limit and I didn’t want to have to pay a fee to go back.

On the other hand, as my sister pointed out during one long run where I was self-indulgently whining about this (free therapy sessions being one of the perks of long runs with a training partner), I basically stayed within my previously established weight range the entire year.

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned in the past year is to gauge my weight by how my body feels, rather than being a slacker who crams for an ‘A’ on the test and then promptly forgets everything she learned.

I don’t have to consistently weigh 135 to be happy. (And yes, I could certainly shoot for less than that on my frame, but that’s well under the 141-pound max WW sets for my height, and like I said, I want to be happy – not in constant dieting mode.)

I do know that I feel much better physically when I’m under 140. And I HATE – will absolutely not tolerate – being over 145. It makes me feel sluggish. My clothes feel tight. I don’t like it, and I’m not willing to put up with it just so I can eat more crap.

I guess that’s what they mean when they say “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” That’s a familiar Weight Watchers refrain. But even though Weight Watchers was a lifesaver for me, and I met some folks there I do care about, I can’t say I ever really embraced the true meaning of that mantra until I dropped out.

Will I ever go back? It’s possible. There’s a part of me that would like to reconnect with some of the people there – if they’re still going – and to help support others who are just starting their weight loss journey.

But let’s face it: Underneath it all, WW is a business. It’s a worthwhile enterprise that can change lives – and it helped change mine – but underneath it all, I can never seem to forget that money is what drives this organization. If people don’t pay the fees and don’t buy the products, then the whole thing comes crashing down.

I guess at this point I feel a stronger allegiance to a growing network of people, both online and in the physical world,  who care about health and fitness, exchange ideas on what works and encourage each other.

For me, Weight Watchers could become a part of that again, or not. But it’s real, and that’s what gives me strength going forward.

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3 Responses to A year without Weight Watchers

  1. bgddyjim says:

    I loved this post… I went through a whole range of emotions reading it. First, and this has always bugged me, I don’t get cheat days. In my world, cheating isn’t only cheating, it’s courting death (it’s that simple). On the other, a beer is a lot different than a burger (or four). Then there was the training weight gain. I can relate to that incessant hunger, it’s not easy to get that delicate balance of maintaining weight. I did find that when I eat plays a big part in making it a little more tolerable and I also know that the hunger only lasts two weeks while my body adjusts – if I can live through that two weeks, my weight loss potential is huge. In the end, what impresses me most is that you have a drop-dead, “I will not cross this line” weight.

    In truth, I wish I could cheat. I wish, I wish, I wish. Alas, near beer is near death. I crave the escape alcohol provides. The escape from having to deal with life on life’s terms. In the end, with alcoholism, it’s the engine that kills ya, not the caboose. While your way doesn’t work for me, it does for you, and that is a beautiful thing – and that’s what really matters.

    • tischcaylor says:

      Reading your blog has made me think that there are plenty of parallels between food addictions and alcohol addictions. It sucks that cheat days aren’t one of them. On the other hand, I really envy the support system of AA, as described by you and Stephen King (I just tread “Doctor Sleep”). I probably was too hard on Weight Watchers; the reality is that I wasn’t much of a meeting attender, just stopped by to weigh in because I always thought I was too busy to stick around. So WW probably does provide a good support group for some people. But not as devoted as what you get in AA, I suspect.

      • bgddyjim says:

        I don’t know what I’d do without those meetings… Trick is, by working with others to help them recover, even by seeing newbies come into meetings, I get a stark reminder of what’s out there for me. It absolutely helps with the focus, keeping recovery before everything but God… Without my recovery, my family, my job and everything good in my life is gone. Impossible. What saves me (and hurts groups WW or OEA is the immediacy and certainty of huge trouble due to a relapse. If I relapse, I have, best case scenario, two weeks of happy partying. My wife and kids will leave within that time or shortly thereafter (because my wife knows what comes down the road), I’d lose my company within a year, my house within that same year and my life (literally, not figuratively) in less than a decade. For WW or OEA, fat kills but it’s more insidious, easier to sweep under the mind’s rug. It’s easier for people to deceive themselves into thinking “a little here and a little there will be okay” – cheat days prove that this is true. My obsession with alcohol is so complete that if I were to try a cheat day, it would turn into a cheat week followed by a cheat week and month. It’s happened too many times for me to delude myself that it could turn out otherwise.

        There are more, minor points related to differences but that’s the big one.

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