I was once mistakenly presumed to be pregnant. I was not. This wasn’t after I’d given birth. I’ll never forget my adorable nephew visiting me in the hospital after Gray was born and exclaiming “Tata, do you have another baby in your belly?” while he pointed at my still round tummy. That was funny. This was not.
It happened years before I even met my husband (who I’ve never even shared this story with). It wasn’t on a day where I was dressed in a certain way where you could imagine someone making that false association- like a muumuu or a top that was belted right under the chest and blousing out. No, I remember feeling confident and cute that day as I waltzed into my favorite nail place for a pedicure.
My regular nail tech saw me as I entered the salon and she smiled big as she rose to greet me. “Hi!” I sung happily, getting ready to pick my color and grab a few magazines before treating myself to thirty minutes of luxury. She walked straight towards me, arms out, and placed them right on my midsection. Before I could register what was happening, she said with a look of innocent joy I’ll never forget, “You have a baby! I’m so happy!”
I froze. What she was saying quickly registered, and I felt a lump rise in my throat and the sting of tears about to come that you just can’t turn off. Blinking them back, I took a few steps back and I turned and literally ran out of there. I know it sounds like a line out of a poorly written young adult novel. But that’s what I did. I don’t even remember if I was able to choke out any words at all. I was mortified. I never returned. When I think of it now, I feel way worse for her than for me. One of my biggest fears is to unintentionally offend someone like that, and I’m sure it was traumatizing for her too. I wish I’d reacted better. But I was caught off guard, and I was crushed.
Two disclaimers before we move on.
Disclaimer 1: This is a long post. If you’re not interested in Weight Watchers you will be likely bored to tears. Like one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs says, “Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn ya”.
Disclaimer 2: This post is not sponsored by or affiliated with Weight Watchers in any way.
I told you that story so you understand that while I am thin now, it doesn’t come naturally to me. And also so you know that I know the exquisite pain that comes with feeling bad about how your body looks. I know all about eating your feelings, or eating out of boredom, or having zero disclipline when it comes to food. I’ve been there.
In my 20’s, I had a truly unhealthy lifestyle. Waitressing in restaurants had me immersed in bad eating habits, access to way too much great food and a pretty wild nightlife. When you work until midnight, you stay out late, and end up at a diner eating cheese fries at 4 AM after nights of heavy drinking. We’d sleep in, order bacon egg and cheese sandwiches and coffee, and rarely do physical activities before working that day. I look back on photos and I feel like I looked so bloated and unhealthy. But I was enjoying my life, and I wasn’t overly self conscious.
The first time I joined Weight Watchers, I was in a really damaging, mentally exhausting, soul-sucking relationship. I’d also just lost my maternal grandmother, who I was very close to, and I was in a bad place. My mother was beside herself with grief. We joined together, and I told myself that I was doing it for her, so that she’d have something positive to focus on and that we could enjoy doing it together. And we did. But I now know that I was also craving an element of control in my very out-of-control existence. Anyway, I digress. I was a Weight Watchers success story and then some. I lost the weight, I kept it off, I convinced anyone who would listen that they should join too. I scoured supermarkets with my little points calculator in hand, furiously typing in the nutritional information of each peanut butter on the shelf so that I could be sure to select the best bang for my points value buck. Those weekly meetings were my safe place where I felt I belonged, I had a purpose and I was capable of autonomy and of being good at something. The discipline it required gave me a much-needed anchor in my turbulent life.
When I finally got out of that unhealthy relationship, I slowly let myself ease into a different lifestyle once again and I stopped following the program. I let myself off the hook, and then I went back on the program at certain times of my life (like before my wedding) and went off again at others (like when I was pregnant/ postpartum/ pregnant again/ postpartum with two babies and indulging in every delicious bagel with cream cheese or panini with brie and some mayo-based sauce I could get my hands on with zero motivation to actually do anything to lose the weight I’d gained).
During my two pregnancies I allowed myself to eat literally any old thing I wanted. I don’t regret it. It was lovely. I couldn’t drink alcohol, I couldn’t sleep, I could hardly walk from some serious pelvic girdle pain but damnit, I could drive my Altima through the Wendy’s drive thru and order up a crispy chicken meal with a Frosty and a side of chicken nuggets (only a 4 piece though, guys, I’m not a monster) and inhale it happily before I pulled into my driveway! I denied myself no things. I pigged out! Woohoo! And though my gain was within the safe realm of weight gain during each pregnancy, I’m sure that my food parade (I’m picturing Templeton the rat at the fair in Charlotte’s Web) took a toll on my bounce back timeline.
Bounce back. The term makes me think of a pendulum swinging from one side (pregnant) to the other (Kate Middleton). Beacon isn’t Hollywood and I’m not one to go out and buy waist trainers (though I’ll admit, I clicked on a few popup ads and checked them out). I felt okay, for a long time- except when I had to actually try to look nice- when we’d be going on a date night or to an event and I’d try on everything I owned or go shopping and nothing- nothing, made me feel attractive.
I’ve always been pretty good at hiding extra weight. I know the silhouettes that flatter, the colors that conceal, the layering techniques that don’t show off all the parts of my body that were excessively doughy. The parts that didn’t get the memo to “bounce back”. I could wear dark tights and a light bodysuit and a dark cardigan and a patterned flouncy skirt and a heel and your eye would be tricked into thinking that I was pretty freaking thin (yes that’s pretty much the formula for those of you aren’t interested in dieting). Especially in pictures! Give me the right lighting, the right angle and I could drop 10 pounds before your eyes.
But I got tired of being uncomfortable in my clothes. Tired of being mortified when my toddler would pull up my shirt at the playground to reveal my roly-poly, round sweaty tummy with red marks where my jeans had cut off the circulation. Tired of hiding my body, of dressing just to conceal. I didn’t want to delete the photos of me off my phone when I was trying to make new space to capture every moment of my babies lives. But I would go through them and think “I don’t like how I look” and those captured moments of me with my family were gone forever. That feeling sucked. So after a lonnnng hiatus of feeling kinda icky but having valid excuses for not doing anything about it, I decided to draw a line in the sand and go back to the one and only thing for me that always worked: Weight Watchers.
It’s pretty simple. Every food in the universe has a points value. You get assigned a daily points value and an additional weekly points value which you can use however you want. Meaning- you can eat all your extra weekly points in one meal, or split them however you want through the week. They’re your “insurance policy” so that if you want to splurge, you can, safely.
WW’s program (you can find pricing here) has changed a few times since I started. The current program has a bunch of zero points value foods which initially terrified me when I rejoined the program a few months ago. Because the zero points value foods are all fruits and most vegetables, eggs, boneless skinless chicken and turkey, lean ground chicken and turkey, tofu, beans that aren’t packed in oil, salsa, greek yogurt… I linked you above so you can check out the whole list if you’re interested. But I was like, HOW can you lose weight if you eat all these foods as much as you want? Here’s the thing- it TOTALLY works. You can’t eat nine eggs a day and a whole chicken but you can eat to the point of getting full (I have been posting meals in my Instagram stories to show you my super-filling low point meals) and not break the point bank.
So- you track the food you eat by points value. The app makes it easy- it even has a barcode scanner that contains 99.9% of the foods that exist. You can scan them to assess the points value and/or add the food to your daily used points. You track and you budget your points based on what you’ve got going on and if you don’t eat all your points, you can roll over up to 4 points to the rest of the week in addition to your extra weeklies (good for that week only). If you track every BLT (Bite Lick and Taste, for you newbies), you always know where you stand. Tracking is key.
Once a week, you weigh in at a Weight Watchers Meeting Location. Note: you can also participate in the program remotely and weigh yourself weekly but I’ve never done it that way. I’m a meeting girl! You can attend a meeting and opt to not weigh in, or go weigh in and not stay for the meeting. I usually do both but I do make myself weigh in every week. Sometimes it’s at a meeting that isn’t my regular meeting, at a different location or with a different leader- but the program is accommodating and so widespread that it is easy to maneuver into your schedule if, say, you own two tiny humans that cling to your body like small monkeys and dictate your life with their naps.
So the way this works is, you arrive at a location (if it’s your first time you can sign up ahead of time online OR arrive a few minutes before), you get on line to weigh in. The weigh in is handled privately between yourself and the receptionist. You give them your card or your phone to scan the Weight Watchers app barcode, and they tell you to get on the scale when they’ve got your information pulled up. You take your shoes off and step on the scale. They tell you when your weight has been registered and then quietly tell you “You’re up .2” or “You’re down 1.4”- whatever your gain or loss is. Sometimes, if you’re me, you jump up and down, or you start sobbing at the staffer’s feet. I’m kidding. But to be honest, it’s the culmination of your entire week- the good choices you made, the indulgences, how accurately you tracked your points- and at least for me, it’s always an emotional high or a little bit of a bummer.
Then- the meeting. The meeting leader runs the show. It involves audience participation IF you want to share. Most of us usually do! We’re asked to share scale victories, non-scale victories, challenges we’ve faced, challenges we’re anticipating. It’s a supportive crowd. There are tears. There are cheers. For me, the weighing are all about accountability. The meetings keep me in the right mindset during the week. I draw from other women’s experiences and recall people’s happy victories when I make bad choices.
I’ve been to a bunch of leaders’ meetings and I urge you to find one that has a style that works for you. My current leader, Teri, is uplifting, motivating, funny, and has all the info. She’s my Facebook friend and she always posts foods she’s found with low points values. She’ll message me if I miss a meeting just to make sure I’m okay. When you first meet her, you’re like, wow. She’s a total babe and she dresses beautifully. You’d never ever know she lost A HUNDRED AND TEN pounds on WW over 20 years ago and kept it off. She’s an inspiration, she talks the talk and walks the walk and celebrates the group’s successes and brings people up when they struggle.
When you’re a Lifetime Member, which I am, you’re considered a member even when you’re not following the program. A Lifetime Member means you’ve achieved the weight loss goal you’ve set for yourself (which you can adjust at any time during your weight loss journey) and maintained it within two pounds for six weeks. And guess what- Lifetime Members don’t have to pay for their memberships. BUT- you have to maintain your weight within 2 pounds of your goal weight and weigh in once a month for your Lifetime status to remain.
I reached my goal (again) last month and now I’m in maintenance mode. I always say for me it’s harder to maintain than to lose! I fluctuate. Last week I was up 2.4 pounds. I was a little blue, but I know what I need to do, and I know the choices I made that led to that. It’s a little tricky, not trying to lose, but not letting yourself gain. But I know it’s what I have to do if I want to keep feeling good.
When you join, your leader will stay with you after the first meeting to get to know you and answer any questions you may have. They’ll tell you to take a little time to find your “why”. Your why is the reason that you want to do it. It’s a personal answer, but they encourage you to think about it, as it will help you stay on course. At first, like any mom, my obvious answer was “my kids”. I mean, they’re my why for everything. I want them to have a mom who feels great about herself. I want them to have a mom who is healthy, who exemplifies good eating habits. These things are true. But I thought about it and I changed my answer. My why is ME. Almost everything I do is for my children in some respect, and I’m happy about that and it’s my pleasure to do it. They are my everything. But this, this is for me. It’s so I feel good. It’s so I don’t give and give and give and then go home and finish off my kids’ mac and cheese right out of the pot and eat every meal standing up and feel sad about my reflection. It’s so when I get to have a date with my handsome husband, I see the woman he always saw despite my weight, when I look in the mirror. It’s so I don’t dread going to waterparks or beaches with my babies. But, yeah. My why is me. I did it for me.
The reason I love WW is that it allows you to screw up. It’s meant to accommodate every possible scenario. I drink a lot of wine. I need (and will never live without) cheese in my life (see top photo). I also love fine dining and I don’t hold back when I go out to a nice dinner. And I never say no to birthday cake. Ever. But I weigh the same now as I did at my wedding, because the program allows for all of that. It gives you room to eat what you want. And at the end of the week, the scale doesn’t lie, but it’s just information. Information and an opportunity to assess the previous week and make changes.
The closing will be brief since this post was way too long according to every “how long should a blog post be” search result would suggest. If you’re not feeling good about yourself, if you’re uncomfortable in your skin and you’re able to do what you have to do to carve out the time to make it work- I encourage you to think about trying it out. Different diets work for different people. This is what has worked for me.
If there’s anything I didn’t cover here, please let me know! I’m happy to share more about my experience. Follow me on instagram where I’ll be sharing meal ideas with their points values at @togetherishmom!