Monday, August 8, 2011

Why I'm On A Diet

After this week's LVW column on the local Weight Watchers cover model appeared, I received a lot of email similar to this blog comment from Josh of VegasMavens.Com:

How much of your success with WW would you attribute to wanting to enter your Fellowship "leaner and meaner" or, perhaps, just leaner? Would you consider posting a more detailed posting on your experience with WW on your blog or perhaps on the podcast?

As Miles will tell you, there's nothing I enjoy talking about more these days than my diet because, well, it's going so well and has been relatively easy for me.

But first, an important disclaimer: I have been gifted with my mother's efficient metabolism. I am not Frank Bruni. I merely abused that gift and am now in course-correction mode. Recall these photos from prior blog posts:

That's a lot of snacking with impunity. I was always reasonably thin regardless. Here are some shots of me from age 21 to 34, when I covered the OJ Simpson trial alongside Dominick Dunne:

And then something happened. All that glorious junk food decided it liked hanging onto me. Here, in order, are shots that show the story. The first one, from a 2008 political memorabilia convention, was less than a year after the one above with Dunne. After that, I'm in San Antonio for my Little Brother's Air Force boot camp graduation (March 2009), covering a deadly courthouse shooting in Vegas (January 2010), at Casa Wayner (January 2011) and at Barry Manilow's piano (March 2011), plus the shot atop this post covering the Tea Party rally in Searchlight in March 2010:

I could see where this was going and I had to buy bigger clothes, which simply offended my thrifty Jewish sensibilities too much. Trouble is, as you can see, I'm not someone who had to worry about this before. And, also, I'm not someone particularly inclined towards exercise. But then I developed an inflammation in my left heel that my podiatrist believed had to do with recalibrating my gait to accommodate my weight gain, and that freaked me out even though it was merely a theory for the foot pain I've been experiencing.

So, yeah, with all these other massive life changes coming, I decided to do something about before it went too far, I got too old and I just became contented being a larger and larger person who can't bear to look at myself in photos.

I opted for Weight Watchers mainly because Miles and I had discussed it for a while and it seemed like a plan that provided the best structure without forcing people to eat their food, as Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem do. Miles has opted not to work on his weight until we get to Michigan, which I respect, but I didn't want to hold off any longer.

Here's the part where I'm going to sound like a WW evangelist. I like how it works. They weigh you and take your height, and from that they give you a certain number of points that you can eat per day. In my case, I got 46 points each day and I started at 219 pounds, a figure that completely shocked me.

The points are calculated by some WW formula in which carbs, protein, fiber and fat are tabulated via a special WW calculator. To keep you from being discouraged or feeling deprived you also get 49 extra "bonus" points a week, although I don't believe I've ever use any of them.

I'm not sure I could have bothered with WW a year ago for two reasons. First, the old program counted various fruits and vegetables against your points, and that's a lot of what I eat to avoid being hungry. The new "Points Plus" system allows as much of most fruits and vegetables as you want without counting them in your daily total. But, secondly, in the old days people had to carry a WW calculator and book to figure out or look up the point values of various foods and then you'd have to hand-write what you ate.

That's much too much work and baggage. But the WW smartphone application handles all of that for you. It has the calculator, the entire database of food and a means for you to track what you've eaten and how many points you have left.

Because I've lost the weight I have, my points total has been reduced to 43 a day. I generally only input things that are worth points, so what you don't see are the grapes, bananas, carrots and diet drinks I consume. I also don't pay much mind to inputting what part of the day I've eaten something, so I can assure you I did not eat a bowl of cereal and a tuna melt before noon on Saturday.

What I'm impressed by with WW is that there really isn't anything I like that I can't have. I just have to alter how much I have. My weakness is Crunch N Munch, and we still had a box when I started WW in June. Rather than throw it away, I read the box and then broke it down into servings in individual plastic baggies. Then, when I wanted some, I had a feeling of completion and I'd only cost myself six points.

The weight loss has been slow but very steady. I'm down 17.6 pounds through 10 weeks as of last Friday, when I went for my weekly weigh-in. Other people don't go to the WW meetings, they just do the thing online and keep their weights for themselves on an honor system. Odds are good when I get to Michigan I may transition to that approach, but for these past few months I've found it very useful to listen to the discussion of how to eat better and suggestions for tasty low-point recipes or store-bought products. Also, I like being accountable to someone else, in this case the lady who does the weigh-ins at the WW place.

It's been relatively easy for me, but that's partly because it turns out I'm not naturally an intensely hungry person and, also, I've always loved a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Also, I love cooking for myself and have been reading Vegetarian Times for a while because my 85-year-old friend, Walt, doesn't eat meat and I try to feed him sometimes. Thus, finding foods on the "good" side of the ledger that I'll enjoy and will be satisfied will be pretty easy. By doing the calculations and reading food labels more carefully and just paying more attention, I've got a much clearer sense of how to eat well and what reasonable portions are.

I had decided to see how far I could get down without having to start a serious exercise routine. I'm not looking to be an adonis, I just want to be healthier. I already walk the dogs, sometimes two miles a day, and I know I'll be walking and biking plenty in Michigan anyway until the snow arrives.

A few years ago, I read a column by the R-J's Jane Ann Morrison, who was discussing how some candy resulted in some expensive dental bills. The passage that always stuck in my head was this:

When it turns fall and the temperatures cool down, even ever so slightly, I enjoy the occasional caramel. At 170 calories each, they're not something I eat regularly. But Halloween isn't far away and it's one of those candies that bring soulful satisfaction.

I didn't understand this. Really. If she loved the candy so much, eat it! Eat the whole bag! What's the big deal? How could a piece of candy provide a "soulful satisfaction?"

Now I get it. Healthy people pace themselves. They allow themselves an occasional treat and, thus, they enjoy and savor it that much more. The serving-size baggie of Crunch N Munch was far more delicious and satisfying than back in the day when I inhaled the entire box during a sitcom and could barely stand up afterwards. I mean, I can eat it, finish it and remain conscious! What a deal!

I'm down to 201.4 pounds now. My official WW goal was 200, which was about a 10 percent loss from 219. But for my height, I really shouldn't be more than 185-190, so I'm aiming for that range. I'll let y'all know if I get there.

The big challenge right now is that, in leaving Vegas, loads of people want to take me out for meals. And there's a ton of great food around here that I'll sorely miss. I'm definitely going to have to suspend the diet when I scratch Pamplemousse off my bucket list, I can tell you that!


Steve Stern said...

A metaphor: Samuel Johnson said "'tis better to live rich than to die rich." As I've grown older, I've thought that I don't want my last meal to be a tuna sandwich.

Ruth F said...

Love this quote! "Healthy people pace themselves. They allow themselves an occasional treat and, thus, they enjoy and savor it that much more" So true, in my personal experience after losing some weight myself. And it has to be worth the "calorie real estate/expense" -- or points, in the WW system -- to make it worthwhile. See you soon! Congratulations.

Josh said...

Thanks for the detailed post.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Now give up diet soda for water. It will make a difference.

I am down close to 20lbs by smaller portions, etc. and have been stuck here for a while. Not sure if I really want to push lower or not as I like food.

Giving up scotch was a plus or rather a minus too.


Anonymous said...

Coming in next Wednesday for my birthday. Thanks for the info on Pamplemousse. We are going to try that instead of CUT Friday night. First night is always Pierros, second night is always Asian. Third used to be steak, but thanks to you, it will be French on this upcoming trip. Love you, Love Miles, Love the dogs. Miss you already.


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