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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The Road Back to Badass

A few posts back I wrote about exorcising 2016’s demons and weight gain. I actually started gaining weight in 2014 during Esther’s pregnancy.  I always thought stories of expectant Dads gaining weight during their wives pregnancy was bogus, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster—until it happened to me.

Over the past two years I waited for some kind of event or trigger to snap me into weight-loss mode.  Oddly enough waddling around after a hyperactive toddler and a closet full of tight-fitting fat clothes didn’t do it for me.  Three weeks ago, a bathroom scale saying 242.2 provided the much-needed wake-up call.

Make a Plan and Own It
– I’ve done many diets and weight-loss plans over the years, including Atkins, South Beach, and Weight Watchers, with mixed success.  I never, ever, not even once, wrote my goals down on paper or any form of electronic device before starting any of them.  Not until now.

The Good Men Project called me a badass because I’m over 50, run marathons, and am a first-time dad.  It’s been awhile since I’ve felt like a badass so getting back there that tops my list.  Losing 50 pounds is a close second. I also want to run another marathon, and cross the Empire State Building Run-Up off my bucket list.

I interviewed for my current job as at an art college in September.  For the interview I was unable to button the jacket on any of the suits — I have four of them.  My department is responsible for the school’s graduation ceremony in May.  I thought about buying a new suit but not any more.  My new goal is fitting into one of the suits currently sitting in my closet.

Find a Partner in Crime
– The minute I stepped off the scale, I knew who this was — she stepped off the scale about a minute before I stepped on.  Big goals seem daunting without having a partner with similar goals.  It makes things easier for both of you.

Misery Loves Company
– No I’m not talking about my marriage.  Three weeks ago Esther and I joined Weight Watchers — it’s an excellent program that’s worked for us.  Spending the first ten days or so detoxing, as our eating habits changed from pizza and fast food, to healthier foods brought some crankiness to our home.  Why do they insist on running commercials for cooking shows and burger joints the night before the weekly weigh in?

Set Short-term Goals – Finishing 12 marathons and two ultramarathons, taught, me to break a big goal into a series of smaller ones.  I break a marathon into three pieces, 13 miles, 18 miles, and the finish line.  Since my stating weight was 242 pounds, I wanted to get under 240 as quickly as possible.  After that I’m focusing on getting to the next five-pound increment.

Set Long-term Goals – After Thanksgiving I noticed many of my clothes fit way too tight but I refused to buy new ones.  Maybe it’s because I’m cheap, stubborn, or knew changes were coming after the New Year but buying bigger clothes seemed like surrendering.  My first goal is fitting into smaller clothes.  I’d also like to start running five-mile training runs, pushing Cristian in his jog stroller as I go, and racing again.  I have a ways to go before I get there.  For now it’s one day at a time, one step at a time, one meal at a time.

Esther and I after I finshed the Long Island Marathon. Running another another marathon is one of my goals.
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New Challenge—This Time It’s Personal

Weighing 220 pounds a few weeks ago,
Weighing 220 pounds a few weeks ago,

Parenting is full of challenges, mine started the first night.  Exhausted but elated I spent the night trying to soothe my cranky son who was on a hunger strike as he weaned off the epidural used during his delivery.  I remember him licking the back of my neck as we turned laps in our hospital room.

Each step in his development brings with it a new challenge.  This is nothing I didn’t know when I signed up for this parenthood thing—of course experiencing it is so much different than reading about it in parenting books or talking about it with other parents.

Esther and I after the 2013 Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park
Esther and I after the 2013 Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park

As the weather slowly starts warming up it’s time for my next challenge—a personal one—it’s time to lose weight.  I gained about 25 pounds during Esther’s pregnancy and a winter spent playing with our new baby and eating comfort food did little to help that.

For me this isn’t a new challenge—it’s an ongoing one.  Over the past 15 years I’ve lost 200 pounds, 20 pounds 10 times.  I’ve tried the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet and several others, they all worked for a short time but weren’t the answer, so a few weeks ago Esther and I joined Weight Watchers.

If you are unfamiliar with Weight Watchers you probably think it’s a room full of fat middle-aged women swapping recipes for low-fat muffins.  I did.  However the program works it you follow it.  I lost 45 pounds in 2013 before getting derailed by family issues.

When I joined in the past my goals were simple, lose weight and be healthier.  They still apply but there’s more to it now.  I’m the 50 year old father of an adorable son. Facing the challenges needed to raise him will require energy.  I owe it to him to be there.

My latest challenge is me against the scale.
My latest challenge is me against the scale
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