- Diet & Weight Loss
An Easy Diet Plan with No Exercise that Works
I Was Still Gaining
Easy Ways to Lose Weight
I've heard it said that diets are basically worthless without ongoing lifestyle changes. That's why I avoided dieting! I knew that I would never crave celery or get excited about exercise.
It. Just. Wasn't. Going. To. Happen!
Which is why, at 49 years old, I had only dieted once - fifteen years ago. I used a low carb diet that worked fairly well. (Does the name Atkins ring a bell?) I had watched pounds melt away as my substantial girth dwindled from 171 pounds to a svelte 134 pounds - just about perfect for my age and frame, according to government standards. Then the same thing happened to me that I'd heard about: I saw the weight creeping back on, slowly at first, then faster and faster, sort of like a talented figure skater who starts to spin and then seems unstoppable!
By the time I joined Weight Watchers, my weight had topped at 198 pounds. I knew I would do whatever it takes to avoid seeing a "200" on my scale! But I didn't want it to be a temporary change that would ultimately see my weight balloon to 250 in a couple of years.
It was a dilemma for me. I knew Weight Watchers had a great reputation for its effectiveness, but I also understood that people didn't always keep the weight off. Plus, I'd rather not spend money if I don't have to. At $40 a month, I steered clear at first. (I relented when I learned I could get the mobile ap for just $20 monthly.)
Now I'm 40 Pounds Lighter and Enjoying My New Lifestyle
My Obesity Caused Health and Social Problems
According to the BMI tables, I'd progressed from overweight into obesity when I tipped beyond 190 on the scale, but over the course of six months or so, that number crept upward still to 198! I hated the way I looked, but worse, I hated the way I felt! As a result of my weight, I experienced a lot of unwanted symptoms:
- Plantar fascitis - a crippling pain in my feet that turned everyday walking into an exercise in torture, especially when I climbed out of bed in the morning. My podiatrist said we would discuss surgery at my next appointment if the expensive, custom orthotics she prescribed didn't fix the problem.
- Chronic pain - Various doctors examined me and failed to make a full diagnosis. "Non-specific myalgia" said one. "Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis" speculated another. "Possible ankylosing spondylitis," said another. I was checked for enlarged heart, Lyme's disease, sleep apnea, and more because of the widespread, chronic pain throughout my joints and connective tissues.
- Low stamina - I don't know if it was the chronic pain, menopause symptoms, or my weight that zapped my energy so badly, but I suspect it was a combination of all three factors. I would feel utterly worn out after very short effort. Exercise was not an option for me because I was just too worn out!
- High blood pressure - this was the most serious symptom I experienced, and it is one that has completely vanished since losing weight. I no longer take daily medication to manage the silent killer that affects so many overweight people! After consistent daily tracking and guidance from my doctor, I was able to eliminate my prescription altogether.
- Depression and anxiety - I've always struggled with these to a mild degree, but I found myself truly despising myself for being too weak, too ugly, and too unworthy.
- People became less friendly, less courteous, and less caring. They made eye contact less often and smiled less frequently than they did when I had been thinner. They didn't mean to be rude, I am sure, but it left me feeling extremely isolated in the new city where I had recently moved!
Other symptoms that are common to overweight individuals include:
- Heart disease/failure
- Blood clots
- Diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome
- Gall bladder problems
- Some forms of cancer
- Sleep apnea
- Other psychological disorders
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How I Determined My Ideal Weight
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Easy Diet Plans
The first time I dieted, I used the Atkins method, restricting my carbohydrate intake enough that white food didn't cross my lips much at all. Breads, sugar, rice, potatoes, and pasta were all verboten! That was fine with me at the time, since the protein heavy diet let me enjoy as much meat and cheese as I wanted, which kept me sustained since I had no plans of becoming a vegetable lover.
Unfortunately, when I tried to return to the Atkins Diet after gaining back nearly all I'd lost, I just couldn't stick to it. Part of it was the simple fact that it truly was too restrictive to turn it into a lifestyle. I remembered how I started to regain weight if I ate just 30g of carbs in a day, which is practically nothing, and I literally didn't go an entire two days the second time around!
This same principle ruled out Paleo, South Beach, and Keto diets for me. I sure did not want the Beach Body diet that my friends were plunking down $200 a month for, and I'd heard that Slim-4-Life was nearly as expensive. Another drawback for these diets was that I'd be stuck eating stuff I couldn't control while watching my husband eat whatever looked yummy.
Luckily, a friend who was using Weight Watchers successfully explained it to me. I was happy to learn that I didn't have to go to weigh-ins or group meetings if I wanted to use the Weight Watchers mobile ap plan, and it would save money, too. While there are many people who love to cheer each other on and get acknowledged for their weight loss achievements, I'm a lone wolf of sorts. I felt mortified at the idea of people becoming familiar with such details of my life.
My colleague said both he and his wife were losing weight well, and that they felt it was "a little" restrictive, but not bad. He went on to tell me that no foods were off limits, as long as they were tracked and portioned in a way that fit the subscriber's plan. Without exercise, he had lost over fifteen pounds.
That's all that needed to be said. It sounded like Weight Watchers was the easiest diet plan I was ever going to find if I wanted to also stay healthy. At last, I was ready. I signed up and was assigned to eat 30 points a day worth of food, give or take a couple points. I also had 35 extra points I could use at one sitting or spread out across the week.
I soon discovered how easy it was to look up how many Smart Points an item contained. Many common fast food items are already in the database. However, I figured out that many of the foods I liked used up an awful lot of points in the serving sizes I was used to! My first week or so with the Weight Watchers Smart Points system was challenging. I felt hungry and uncomfortable too often.
In order to make the Weight Watchers plan a lifestyle, I needed to find some hacks so I could still eat the foods I wanted in a way that let me have serving sizes that satisfied me, too.
After a week or so, I set up some habits that have helped me lose 40 pounds in 90 days. I am just 10 pounds from my goal now, and then I will face a new challenge: Weight Maintenance. By sticking to the points plan, I believe it will be quite manageable for the rest of my life.
Most people start to regain when they feel they have achieved their goals. The temptation to reward oneself, or getting lackadaisical about tracking points, can undo gains rapidly. Now that I'm feeling better I may start a regular exercise program, but I'm confident that even if I don't, I am in control of my body now instead of letting it control me!
My Tips to Lose Weight
Weight Watchers is essentially a negative calorie diet. As someone who had never counted calories or serving sizes before, I was glad for the app that let me quickly look up the points value of a particular item. However, I have one criticism of the Weight Watchers app: It won't allow you to look up which foods are worth a certain number of points. Early on, this irritated me because I wasn't familiar with low point foods at all. It seemed everything was too calorie-rich for me to eat, and I wondered if the low-cal foods were kept secret! If I had just 14 points left for dinner, I found myself struggling to figure out which restaurants would have items I liked.
I learned a few hacks, and compiled a list of low point menu items from restaurant chains. My Fitness Pal is a terrific, free tool for dieters and also for seeing points values on restaurant items not yet in the Weight Watchers database.
My preferred method of using Weight Watchers involves keeping my points use low during the day, and finishing up my points at my dinnertime meal and a late night snack.
First, I take my vitamins: A good multivitamin, some vitamin E and collagen to prevent stretch marks as my skin shrinks again.
Then I scramble up one cup of Egg Beaters ® for 1 point. Either original flavor or southwest is fine. These are practically indistinguishable from regular eggs despite being made entirely from egg whites and leaving out the rich yolks.
Secret hack: I add a heaping teaspoon of Benefiber to help me feel full longer. I can't detect a difference it taste or texture from the added fiber, and it's a healthy choice for weight management anyway!
Add-ins for variety:
- 1/2 ounce of lean, diced ham (1 point)
- 1/2 ounce of real bacon bits (1 point)
- Ketchup (0-1 point)
- Salsa or diced green chiles (0 points)
- Mushrooms or other veggies (0 points)
- Salt and pepper to taste (0 points)
By varying my add ins, I have a wide array of scrambled eggs for breakfast. I can add my favorite bread, too, which you'll see in a moment.
I find that a low point sandwich ties me over nicely until dinner, but I'm not always at home. When I am, a simple PB&J, a gooey grilled cheese sandwich , or a deli meat and cheese cold sandwich can all be made for less than 6 points using the ingredients below. Sometimes I have a half sandwich and supplement my lunch with a stick of string cheese or a mini SlimJim®.
- Sara Lee Delights bread - (1 point per slice)
- Kraft Singles Cheese product made with skim milk (1 point per slice)
- Light mayo (2 points per tablespoon)
- Ketchup or yellow mustard (0-1 point per tablespoon)
- Deli turkey or chicken slices (2 points per ounce)
- Sugar free Polaner jellies (0 points)
- Powdered peanut butter (2 points per tablespoon) - this amazing stuff is very close to creamy peanut butter in both texture and taste!
- Frigo light string cheese (1 point per stick)
- Miniature SlimJim snack (0.28 oz = 1 point)
- Gorton's grilled fish fillets (1-2 points each, depending on which flavor is selected)
- V8 as a meal substitute (2 points for the energy drink, and 3 points for the original, high sodium beverage.)
Although most of the items on my list could be used at my office, when I'm out and about, I've discovered a few fast food "go to" solutions that I enjoy, too:
- Taco Bell steak or chicken soft taco "al fresco" style (4 points)
- 7-11 mini tacos (1.5 points each, so I usually eat 3-4)
- Long John Silvers grilled fish patty (not the platter! 2 points)
- Grocery store build-your-own salad (0-3 points with fat free salad dressing if no croutons, cheese, sunflower seeds, meats, or chickpeas, are used. Tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, radishes, spinach, onion, anaheim peppers, corn kernels, pepperoncinis, bell peppers, and bean sprouts do not add points.)
- Grocery store fruit from the salad bar is also permitted for no points in most cases. Melons, pineapple, apples, mandarin oranges, are typical offerings, but beware of fruits that could be served in light or heavy syrups, because they may be packed with calories and have high point counts. Pears, peaches, and cherries are frequent culprits of hidden points.
- Chick-Fil-A grilled chicken nuggets (just 2 points for an 8-piece order of nuggets only, and another 1-3 points for BBQ sauce or honey mustard sauce. Ranch dressing tends to to swindle a dieter out of points, so I've started buying fat-free ranch at home, but avoiding it at restaurants.)
Secret Hack: some foods are considered zero points when served in small enough quantities, like the Kraft singles that are 0 points for one slice, but 1 point for 2 slices. I have found that I can trust the point values as long as I don't go back too quickly for more! I guess our bodies will use it up quickly, but it does take some time to process these foods. This means I find myself eating numerous times a day for 0-1 point and I don't feel hungry or deprived, but I continue to lose weight.
As you can see, by now I have usually used 5-8 points by dinnertime. I can't usually have a full meal at a restaurant, but I find that many places serve hamburgers, french dips, or other sandwiches that are in the 14-18 point range, leaving me with enough points for a couple onion rings or fries. Grilled chicken, grilled fish, and other lean meats help. If I'm at home, the Sara Lee Delightful product lineup also has hot dog and hamburger buns that are low point breads that let me fill up with goodies.
Whole grains are a phenomenal substitute for rice or potato side dishes, but it can be tricky finding the right ones. Applebees has an excellent peppercorn steak with whole grains item on their menu for just 10 points, but I wasn't able to find that for home use.
The only one I have found for home use that is truly satisfying is the Ikea® brand whole grains, found in the orange or purple bag. An entire cup for just 5 yummy points means I don't feel shortchanged at all. It's easy to prepare, too. Bring it to a boil, then remove it from heat and let it soak up the water.
Secret Hack: I have been using a variety of seasonings and adding chicken, carrots, chili peppers, mushrooms, and other zero or low-point additives to make it a little different from one day to the next. This is one of my favorite meals because it's just so satisfying and delicious! So far, two friends have stamped their approval on the dishes I've created with these grains, too.
While high sugar snacks are probably off my list except perhaps in extremely rare special circumstances, I love microwave popcorn and it just so happens that Act II Butter Lovers ® popcorn is just 4 points for an entire 4 1/2 cup bag!
Other snacks I've noshed on include sausage links (1-3 points per stick, depending on brand), reduced fat Cheez-Its®, and Weight Watchers brand ice cream. I'm not a chocolate lover, but my friend that introduced me to Weight Watchers is. He said his love of chocolate was his biggest threat to success. I was happy to share my discovery of Hershey's zero-calorie chocolate syrup with him! (Look for the white label for your zero-point syrup to enjoy on strawberries, bananas, or whatever works for you!)
On days where I have been home a lot and able to eat conservatively, I sometimes have sufficient points to enjoy something sweet or an adult beverage (sorry, folks, but they have points values, too!)
Secret Hack: For satisfying a sweet tooth, Elli Quark is an excellent 2-point treat. Their website calls it cheesecake in a cup, and that's the best description of it I can give. Pick your favorite flavor and enjoy. (I like plain with a little no-calorie jam on the reduced fat Ritz crackers, but if you prefer flavors like salted caramel, brownie batter, or fruity flavors, it's all 2 points for a generous 6-oz serving.)
My Most Important Diet Staple
I can't detect it in anything I mix it in, but I especially like to mix it in with my Egg Beater breakfast for a satisfying meal that will keep me full for at least 4 hours. It also helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugars.
One Last Bite: An Easy, Low Cal Dessert Idea
Faster Results with Dietary Supplements
Although it's not necessary to do more than just taking a regular multivitamin and any other medications your doctor may have prescribed, some people want to speed up their results. The only medication that is available over the counter and approved by the FDA for weight loss purposes is a drug called Orlistat, sold as "alli" at your local drugstore.
I bought it but never used it with the Weight Watchers plan because the precautions in the packaging warned that it could cause oily, urgent bowel movements that might not make it to the restroom! I wasn't willing to take a chance, but it is supposed to be quite effective with a low-fat diet. Weight Watchers Smart Points system helps keep fat count in line, so I imagine the results would be faster weight loss when used together.
If you can be satisfied with 1-2 pounds less per week, though, your body may have a better chance to adapt to new dietary guidelines and to adapt to your new shape. After all, dramatic weight reduction can leave a body riddled with stretch marks and loose, flabby skin! By being a little conservative and adding collagen and vitamin E supplements to your daily regimen (if advised by your doc that it'll be ok to do so!) you may be able to avoid permanent changes that you don't want and see just the changes you really want to see.
I'm happy with my continued progress, and I'm eager to wear a bathing suit for the first time in about a decade! How will you celebrate your svelte, new shape?