What to Expect at a Weight Watcher’s Meeting

A few posts back, I shared my battle with maintaining a healthy weight.  Before stepping off the scale, my better half and I knew we had to do something.  We headed back to our old standby—Weight Watchers.

If you’ve never joined Weight Watchers you may have a few preconceived notions—I did before joining.  Let me clarify a few.  Weight Watchers meetings are not a group of hefty soccer moms holding a low-fat muffin in one hand and a Starbucks Venti cup in the other.  Members don’t sit around listening as the group leader shares the latest recipes for low-calorie baked goods.  Like Mommy and Me Class Weight Watchers meetings are not strictly women-only events, men go to Weight Watchers too.

If you are undecided here are a few things I noticed.

This could have been modeled after,me.

The Weigh-in – If you want the full Weight Watchers experience, start with the weigh-in.  It’s not as entertaining as The Biggest Loser but it has its moments.  Picture a long line of overweight people clutching little books and stripping down to as little as possible before climbing aboard the scale.  It’s not a pretty sight, or so I’ve been told—repeatedly by the wife.  If you’re hyper obsessive like we are, you wake up early on weigh-in mornings looking for ways to shave off an extra half pound.  We’ve taken Chico for two-mile walks, done full gym workouts, and run half-marathons before stepping on the scale.

The Plan Changes Weekly or So It Seems – If you’ve jumped on and off the program like an adrenaline junkie at the X Games, you notice the plan changes—a lot.  Staring over means another post-meeting walk of shame to your group leader so you can learn the latest buzz words and changes to the Points Plus plan.  The only thing changing more is the celebrity endorser—I’ve been through Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, and Oprah during my many memberships.

They Sell More Products than QVC – If you’ve taken three children to Disneyland you have an idea of the kind of money a brand-new gung-ho member can spend.  Offering a full catalog of branded products including starter kits, cookbooks, and prepackaged snacks, members can easily drop more dollars than pounds on the program.

It’s an AA Meeting for Fat People – Weight Watchers is a support group for those having an unhealthy relationship with food.  Although we don’t introduce ourselves, “Hi I’m Frank and I’m a fat person,” meetings offer support and encouragement during those rough weeks.  The group leader offers constructive suggestions and keeps the conversation from going off course.  I’ve seen meetings sidetracked for twenty or thirty minutes as members discussed Oreo binges and debated the point value for a bag of microwave popcorn.  One meeting went off the rails explaining the term food porn to a confused member.  To this day I’m pretty sure she thinks it means something else.

But Seriously – I keep going back because the program works.  I’ve learned portion control, healthy options, and not to get too down on myself after a bad week.  Since starting on January 2nd, I’ve lost 17 pounds—a good start but still a long way off from my final goal.  Sitting next to members who’ve lost over 70 pounds and have maintained it over ten years says maybe there’s hope for me too.

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Because You Can’t Flush a Cocker Spaniel

Cristian at the Long Island Aquarium

If you follow this blog you know I’m a cranky dad, a marathon runner and a dog lover.  When my better half and I were dating, her dog Chico’s approval helped seal the deal.  Chico was more than a pet—he was a friend and my practice child.

Chico’s passing left a void.  Esther and I want another dog, but we have too much going on right now. A dog is a major commitment, demanding time and attention we don’t have—plus we have someone who keeps us busy with walks, feedings, and cleaning poop—I’ve been writing about him for almost two years.

This summer Esther, Cristian, and I did the family thing, going to Sesame Place, summer carnivals, and a couple of aquariums.  We quickly learned he likes playing in water, but he loves fish. He loved the big tanks at the Long Island Aquarium, the small tanks at Petco, and the movie Finding Dory.  You should have seen him freak out when he saw me eating sushi that looked like Nemo.

Cristian’s love of fish had Esther and I considering getting him a fish tank instead of a dog—okay more her than me.  One night at the carnival, the decision was made for us.   We were playing a game, throwing ping pong balls into small holes when we won a goldfish.

I wasn’t worried, I won goldfish as a kid, they all died and were flushed a week later—but this was different.  Before handing me a fish-filled plastic bag, he went into sales mode. “You have a fish in a bag, but do you have a fish bowl?  No?  For only $10, I’ll give you a fish bowl, a second fish, and I’ll even throw in some fish food.  Now how does that sound?”

Walking home, trying not to spill water as I balanced the fish bowl on top of Cristian’s stroller, I wondered what just happened.  Did I miss something?  We left home planning on letting the baby run around a little,  playing a few games, and eating a sausage and pepper hero and maybe some funnel cake.  How did we end up with a couple of fish?   Good thing we weren’t looking for a used car.

When we got home, my better half started researching home aquariums, aka fish tanks.  If you’ve met my wife, you know she’s a big-picture type of person—big goals, big dreams, big ideas. I’m the one who brings her back to earth when she goes off the deep end.

My mental image of what our home aquarium would look like.

This is usually when I worry about how big a picture.  Are we ordering tropical fish, converting a room into a full-sized aquarium, getting a school of piranhas?  Okay the piranhas were my idea.

What do I know about fish?  I’m a dog person.  My family had dogs for as long as I remember.  Dad brought home Susy, our first dog, when I was in second or third grade and she lived until a few years after I graduated from college.  All I knew about fish was you flush them when they die.

Around the time we flushed our original goldfish into Jamaica Bay, we set up a ten-gallon tank in Cristian’s room, complete with new fish, gravel, and columns.  Although fish are lower maintenance than dogs, they aren’t maintenance-free, so instead of waking up early to walk a dog, I’m cleaning a tank every two weeks or so.  Saying goodnight to his fish is now part of the baby’s bedtime ritual.  It’s not the same as a dog, but for now it will do.

Cristian’s Fishtank
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Remembering Dad A Year Later

Dad in mid conversation, probably talking politics.
Dad in mid conversation, probably talking politics.

A year ago today my Dad passed away and I’ve spent the past week with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.  Whether it was driving past the nursing home where he spent his last days on the way to the baby’s My Gym Class or seeing images of him in a slide show at my niece’s Sweet 16 Party last weekend.  Last Friday night’s torrential rain awakened more memories than expected.

I remember a painful conversation with Mom as I drove her home from the nursing home in a heavy rain. I told her the doctor said Dad developed pneumonia, and probably wouldn’t make it through the weekend. That was the best case scenario—the worst case scenario was he wouldn’t make it through the night.  You would have thought a diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer and three months of doctors and hospitals would have prepared us for this—it didn’t.

When my phone rang at 6am the next morning, Esther and I knew it was bad news.  How many early-morning calls are good news?  I felt numb calling Mom, my brother Bob and various aunts and uncles, informing them of Dad’s passing as I walked Chico.  The conversations were short and quick, the numbness stayed with me a few months.

We spent the weekend after Dad’s passing decluttering Mom’s house, devouring cold cut platters, and reliving memories.  I’ve always been amazed how people achieve saint-like status simply by dying.  I’ve written about my Dad several times he was a good man with many wonderful traits—but he was no saint.  We lightened the mood, spending parts of the weekend reliving stories of our favorite meltdowns or Mom and Dad bickering like George Costanza’s parents on Seinfeld.  Fifty plus years of marriage will do that.

Dad with my Maternal Grandfather in Puerto Rico in 1980
Dad with my Maternal Grandfather in Puerto Rico in 1980

A lot’s changed in the past year, Esther, Cristian and I moved in with Mom to help out with the house and dealing with losing Dad.  Esther and I do much of the former, Cristian handles the latter.  The numbness is gone—it’s been replaced with sadness and regret.

I regret not asking him more about the Spanish side of my family tree, about his dad and his brothers.   I never met them—they all died too young.  I regret being a stubborn child who didn’t pay enough attention when he tried teaching me basic carpentry and household projects.  I regret not thanking him for all he gave me, did for me, and for not saying I love you.

Dad helping pop a champagne cork to celebrate my 14th Birthday.
Dad helping pop a champagne cork to celebrate my 14th Birthday.

These days many people are concerned with their legacy.  Once considered the domain of athletes and politicians it’s now a concern among many average people.  Maybe it’s a product of the age we live in.  I doubt Dad put any thought into his legacy, but he did leave one behind.

To the many carpenters, electricians and other skilled laborers, most from Galicia, the part of Spain he was from, Dad’s legacy was helping them with a well-placed phone call to an employer or union rep finding them a job or a union card shortly after arriving in this country.  To him it was paying forward the kindness extended to him by a friend named Viña many years before.

Before writing this piece I thought about Dad’s legacy.  Was it fulfilling the American Dream?  He arrived in this country in 1956 with little more than the clothes on his back, a few dollars in his pocket, and a trade—he was a skilled carpenter.  Over the next 60 years, he married, raised a family, built a home, saved a few dollars, and gave his children a better life than the one he knew as a child.

Although impressive it’s incomplete.  As a father he taught me more by his actions and examples than his words.  He and Mom were married for 56 years and sure they bickered a bit as they got older—show me an old married couple that doesn’t—but it was his genuine concern for her in his last days that touched me.  He insisted I keep him up to date her latest doctor’s appointments, making sure she was taken care of.

Ever the doting grandfather, he waited 88 years for his elusive grandson.  Seeing his hazel eyes light up whenever I brought Cristian to the nursing home was one of the few bright spots for me during his last days–but there were sad memories too.  I’ll never forget him playing with his nine-month old grandson saying, “You’re beautiful!  What a shame I won’t be able to see you grow up.”

Today we’ll honor Dad’s memory, with a memorial mass for him and Esther’s Mom Maria—she lost her fight with Pancreatic Cancer three years ago this week.  After paying respects at the cemetery, I’m firing up the grill, serving up sardines and other grilled meats along with wine and beer just like Dad would do on any Sunday afternoon in July.  I can’t think of a better way of keeping his memory alive.

 

Grandpa's Stone

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50 Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Father.

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Time has a way of sneaking up on you.  I have a hard time believing I’ve been a parent for over year and a half.  Spending time with friends recently reminded me how much my life’s changed in that time.  I love my son and being a dad, but it’s a lot of work.

This list is a public service to anyone thinking about starting a family.  Take a good look, this is required reading.  I invite any parent to add anything I missed or to share what lies ahead.

    1. Did your better half’s pregnancy hormones make you look forward to your next prostate exam?
    2. Did picking a baby name remind you of Congress trying to agree on immigration reform?
    3. Let’s work on the nursery means she plans layout and design and you move furniture back and forth again, and again, and again.
    4. Did your wife’s friends use possessive terms like our baby?
    5. Did you call them up at 3am because our baby was screaming like a banshee?
    6. Did you carry your newborn son around like Mufasa carrying Simba at the beginning of the Lion King?
    7. Did you show the baby to everyone on the maternity ward, including security guards and the maintenance staff?
    8. Was putting the baby in your father’s arms for the first time the best gift you ever gave him?

      Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
      Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
    9. Did it take you at least 45 minutes to figure out how to install the car seat correctly?
    10. Did you put the baby’s car seat into the car gently like you were handing a carton of eggs?
    11. Was driving your wife and child home from the hospital the slowest you’ve driven since you took your road test for your driver’s license.
    12. Was your first night home alone with your baby the scariest night of your life?
    13. Did the first few days of childcare make you feel like a sequestered juror on a high-profile trial?
    14. Friends and family will want to see the baby. This isn’t a bad thing.
    15. Remember when friends ask what can I bring, think big. It’s a limited offer so think surf and turf not chicken nuggets.
    16. I’ve spent many a sleepless night wonder at the logic of giving a baby with a well-functioning digestive system prunes.
    17. How long did it take to you to learn, babies will pee on you?
    18. Have the words onesie, boppy and binky become part of your vocabulary?
    19. Do the words Butt Paste make you giggle?
    20. I’m convinced anyone advising sleep when the baby sleeps, never took care of a baby.
    21. Things are easier if you know a good Baby Whisperer
    22. You will be required to take your child on a Baby Tour for the benefit of family members who couldn’t make it to your home.
    23. The dog or cat who was your child before the baby was born will go back to being a dog or cat. Sorry Chico.
    24. Don’t expect to sleep through the night for a few years.
    25. Why are the baby wipes and diapers always at the bottom of the diaper bag?
    26. Few things in life change your mood faster than a diaper blowout.
    27. Are you the only Dad in Mommy and Me class?
    28. Am I the only Dad whose nipples were sore after Mommy and Me class?
    29. Mommy and Me class will make you channel your parents.
    30. Do you wonder who is more annoying Daniel Tiger or Caillou?
    31. Competitive parents suck.
    32. Don’t be too anxious for the baby to start walking. Trust me.
    33. It’s okay to look silly in front of the baby.
    34. Your home will look like the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.
    35. Does Netflix and Chill mean you actually sit on the couch and watch a movie?
    36. How long did it take you to learn there are no quick trips to pick up anything for the baby?
    37. If you think babies don’t throw tantrums until they are two-years old, I have a surprise for you.
    38. Is getting your toddler to sleep a Darwinian Survival of the Fittest?
    39. Have you thought of putting a Fitbit on your toddler to see how many steps he takes in a day?
    40. Do you compare notes with other parents on the strangest places you’ve found poop and puke?
    41. Do you remember when being awakened at 3am meant you were getting lucky, now you hope the baby rolls over and goes to sleep once you’ve given him a bottle.
    42. Are your iPhone and iPad high-tech pacifiers.
    43. Have you told people, “Don’t let his smile fool you?”
    44. Do you flood social media sites with pictures of your child?
    45. Have your family and friends planned an intervention because of posting too many baby pictures?
    46. Have you chased a twenty-something working in GNC around the store with your screaming child to reinforce the importance of birth control?
    47. Do you think sitting in cramped airplane seat with a screaming toddler in your lap should be used as a fraternity-hazing ritual?
    48. Your child will soon crawl in and out of his crib with ninja-like efficiency.
    49. When you are singing Elmo’s Greatest Hits or humming the Pepa Pig theme, it’s time for a night out.
    50. Everyone is an expert.  You will get lots of unsolicited advice from all sides.  Get used to it.
Linky

 

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My Favorite Posts from I’m Not Grandpa’s First Year*

Sono 1Wow I can’t believe it’s been a year since I launched I’m Not Grandpa—well sort of.  My first post, the Introduction, went live September 26th 2014 followed by a second post about a week later.  Unsure of the tone and voice and being deep into a high-risk pregnancy I put blogging on hold until after the baby was born because my mind was elsewhere.

Cataloging experiences between naps and diaper changes I started writing at the end of February.  Memories of Esther’s pregnancy, our first days as parents, and unsolicited advice from all directions poured from me like poop out of a diaper.

With three posts in the can and halfway through a fourth I published my second first post (the first two were warmupsand asked friends to check out I’m Not Grandpa when the fourth post went live.  Imagine my surprise when parents said they could relate to it.

Fatherhood and blogging are new experiences, I’ve enjoyed both, but I’m still learning.  I made a list of my favorite posts.  Click on the links below to check them out.

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Esther’s Pregnancy—Nine Months in a Few Paragraphs — This is the most popular and shared post.  Published by The Good Men Project, I wrote about my surviving the wife’s pregnancy.  Written strictly from the male point of view, more than a few friends told me how relatable it was.

My response to anyone suggesting we name our child Brooklyn
My response to anyone suggesting we name our child Brooklyn

What’s in a Name? — You found out your having a baby?  Congratulations!  What a tremendous feeling, until you realize you have to agree on a name.    It’s not as easy as you think.  Men and women have different concepts of what makes a good name.  This is my favorite post.  If you are debating baby names this post is a must read.

Dad playing with Cristian on his last birthday.
Dad playing with Cristian on his last birthday.

For Dad — I wrote this the day before my Dad’s 89th birthday as a birthday gift (he hated receiving Christmas, Father’s Day and Birthday Gifts).  Written from the perspective of a newly-minted Dad, he made it look easy.  At the time none of us knew he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.  He passed away three months later.  This post was the frame work for his eulogy.

One and Done — I was 50-years old when Cristian was born meaning he’s probably going to be an only child.  I wrote about my concerns.  The response I received from single-children parents was overwhelming.

Déjà vu All Over Again  — After Dad passed away we moved in with Mom to help out.  Moving back home is difficult under any circumstances—doing it with your wife, baby, and diaper-clad dog is a sitcom in the making.  We miss you Chico.  Settling in I experienced Déjà vu.   Mom and Dad moved into the same house with two young children 50-years earlier.  This post shows a few changes in the years between both sets of Priegue parents moving into the same Cape Cod House in Queens.

Baby 2.0 – Your Survival Guide — My intervention post to any parent thinking it gets easier after your child’s first birthday.  Published by The Good Men Project this survival guide lets you know what to expect.  Don’t worry you can join a support group—they meet at most local bars.

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