The weeks are chugging along, and I have to say I’m really enjoying PointsPlus. I was skeptical at first, but Weight Watchers put their money where their mouths are. Even though things are essentially the same (counting points, tracking, etc.), it feels very different.
I’ve lost 6.2 pounds, which is pretty good for six weeks in which I’ve never felt deprived, starving or guilty. I’ve also lost an inch here or there, though that progress is primarily getting back to where my inches were in September. A friend commented the other day that I looked thinner, which is always awesome and appreciated. It’s early days, but Weight Watchers PointsPlus is a home run so far.
Let’s talk about Weight Watchers meetings. I’ve said before and I”ll say it again: Weight Watchers is like AA for fat people. If you’re going to the meetings, that is. WW has a whole incarnation of their program that is online only — you pay a small(er) monthly fee and get access to program materials and e-tools, but you don’t have to go to meetings (but if you want to, they are free with your plan). Frankly, this wouldn’t work for me — I have to be accountable to an outside force, because if I’m by myself, I will cheat. Likewise, if I don’t like my meeting or my leader, I’ll start cheating — going but not weighing (oh, the glorious “no weigh in” pass), weighing but not staying, or skipping meetings altogether.
So why AA for fat people? Meetings are like therapy, mixed with some self-help guruism and community support. I’ve been with many different leaders — an aerobics instructor, a happy “Massachusian” housewife (with the accent), a behavioral psychologist from Queens with heavy Jewish flair, and three very different people at my L.A. center – an East Coast lesbian transplant, a gentile Cali native and this past week my new “regular” (the others were subs): a loud, also very Jewish, therapy-based guru type. She said to us this week – “If you want to go to a meeting where you talk about food and leave, this isn’t the one for you. We talk about issues. I help you through this process. Stick with me, and we will deal with your issues.”
Frankly, I’m excited. My favorite Weight Watchers leader was Beth in Brookline, the aforementioned behavioral psychologist. First of all, the meeting attendants were a good bunch — actually overweight people, suburbanites and young professionals, unlike my “skinny minnies” work meeting — and Beth and I had a similar background. Everyone’s weight struggle is valid, but your outlook on life and being fat takes on a different form when you’re fat your whole (or most of) your life. Like me, Beth chunked up around puberty, and spent her pre-teens and teens on diets and going to nutritionalists (I never did the latter, but the former is all I know!). When this is your foundation, fat is really a part of your identity or, more accurately, your (warped) behaviors and feelings towards food are. Being a behavioral psychologist, Beth approached being fat, food issues and losing weight cerebrally – how and why do we do x, y, z and what mental tricks to use to overcome some of them. She also helped me accept some of my food issues – once you realize that you can’t necessarily change yourself, but can learn to manage ingrained ideas, forgiving yourself and feeling less guilty becomes easier. I didn’t lose a ton of weight with Beth (though I did lose), but I DID make a lot of progress mentally and emotionally.
When I was 14, having an upbeat cheerleader was good for me — that would be my former overweight housewife turned aerobics instructor. Tracy was peppy and funny, and though I couldn’t relate to her personally — she was petite and cute where I was tall and geeky — she was the right leader for me at the time. Now? I don’t think a cheerleader would suit my needs. But for a lot of people, a cheerleader leader — and fitness guru — is exactly what they need to make their weight loss journey. Others of us need someone who takes the theraputic approach — AA for fat people. Enter my new leader, Amy.
I’m excited to see where she takes me in my journey. Amy glosses over the “set meeting topic” and goes off-book, presenting the topic and then digging really deep into the emotions, food issues and personal stories that tangentially relate to it. The by-the-book lessons are important, but since I’ve done WW many times before and heard some topics 3-4 times now, it’s refreshing to go into the meeting knowing I won’t hear the same old thing. I think this meeting (Wednesdays at noon on Beverly with Amy, for those who are L.A.-based and curious) is the right one for me right now, because I can take the deep-dive into WHY I do some of the things I do.
There are two components to your meeting that must work in combination: weighing AND staying. If you just weigh in and skip the meeting part, you’re only getting half the benefit. And while everyone uses their “no weigh in pass” eventually, going to meetings and not weighing in for several consecutive weeks isn’t good, either. Facing the number on the scale each week (good or bad) and staying to take in that week’s lesson and share with your fellow Weight Watchers (or just listen to them) is key. Part of what makes Weight Watchers work is that it holds you accountable to the plan AND then gives you tools to get you through rough spots, and to make the plan really work for you. Very few people can diet (successfully) in a vacuum.
So it’s all about the meeting. I believe to be truly successful in the long run, you have to go. Studies have proved it over and over again. And I know that personally, I’ve seen myself fail in two ways — 1) by not attending my meetings and 2) by attending the WRONG meeting for me. My “skinny bitches” meeting was the first time I’ve been on WW and gained weight. It clearly was the wrong meeting for me at a time in my life when there were some big forces contributing to my being out of the control.
Here’s hoping this one is the right meeting, right time. I weigh in tomorrow. Fingers crossed!