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Back in the (Weight Watchers) Saddle, Again

That’s me, last weekend. Stephen and I finally, after nearly four years, had a night away together. And what do I take away from it? How fat I’ve become. See, I’ve been avoiding the camera recently since I’m well aware things have gotten out of control. I’m full of justifications, but mostly they come down to:

  • I’m writing a cookbook! I have to be around food all day.
  • I’m writing a cookbook! And when I’m not writing or cooking, I’m with Harry. I have no time to exercise.


The cookbook is for new parents, and it’s full of healthy recipes. It specifically addresses the fact that so many new parents (mothers & fathers both) want to lose some weight. So the problem isn’t with what I’m cooking. The problem is what I’m eating. There are no Joe-Joe’s in Parents Need to Eat Too. When I’m on deadline and can’t quite figure out how to phrase something, those lightly sweet sandwich cookies have a magical ability to inspire. And apparently I’m on deadline, stumped, a lot.

I can’t blame this all on the siren call of Joe-Joe’s, though. There’s also ice cream. And Flourless Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. And a quick quesadilla for lunch a few times a week. If I even have lunch, that is—most days I’m so busy noshing I never get around to an actual mid-day meal. Plus, let’s not forget the whole exercise thing. If you asked me a decade ago, when I was in the gym for 90 minutes six days a week, if I’d ever lose my working-out habit, I’d have laughed. It seemed ludicrous to think I’d done all that work to lose 100 pounds, only to risk gaining it back by slacking off. Ha. I haven’t exercised regularly since 2006, the summer Harry was born. I’ve made half-hearted attempts since then, even picked up some exercise videos so I wouldn’t have to leave home. And I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve tried each one.

So. Last night I went back to Weight Watchers, again. I was a hair’s-width shy of a very ugly weight milestone, so it’s a good thing I didn’t wait another day. I’ve got 26 pounds to lose to get back to my wedding weight, which I maintained for years (before the wedding, that is) comfortably. Now I’m learning the program (again), since things have changed quite a bit since I last sat in a meeting room. And I’m writing this with stomach a-growling, paralyzed by the fear of eating a snack with too many points, thus ruining my entire day. Can you say “all-or-nothing thinking”?

Weight Watchers friends, what are your favorite zero- or one-point snacks? I know all about vegetables and fruits. I’m looking for something a little bit more exciting. This list looks promising, but it has a disturbing number of processed foods on it. I’d love to be able to lose weight without resorting to fake foods.

And as an already stretched-too-thin parent, how do you fit in exercise? That’s the part I haven’t figured out at all. To lose 100 pounds, I worked out 9 hours a week most weeks. I don’t have more than about 90 minutes to myself each week lately, and I usually spend those 90 minutes reading, just to relax a tiny bit. The thought of giving up that smidgen of me-time for exercise is, well, uninspiring.

Suggestions, please! I need help here.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. @kalenski

    Get your exercise in 10 minute bursts–use some hand weights, a workout DVD, etc. Also make time to slip out for a walk, either on a lunch break (I'm terrible about getting up from the desk but I MUST!) or first thing in the morning when everyone's out the door.

    You might also look at the Simply Filling program, what used to be Core. You may find, aside from things like fat free Cool Whip and cheese, that it fits in better with how you already eat. WW is such a great program–if it weren't for all my food allergies, I'd be back in a sec. I lost 40 lbs and maintained it for more than 5 years. Have about 15 now to shed.

  2. Jennie, RD

    Check out the Metabolic Effect book. They have a nice weight training plan that takes 30 min, 3x/wk using compound exercises (in other words, multiple muscle groups).

    I had joined WW but dropped out. I don't like their plan at all. The portion control is very nice, but they reward you for eating high carb foods (b/c they have fiber), and penalize you for eating fat. Both things I HIGHLY disagree with.

    Personally, I'm more of a higher protein, moderate carb philosophy a la the Zone Diet. I would suggest doing Zone Style portions (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat), but continuing WW for the calorie tracking and group support. Good luck!

  3. Christina

    I hear ya sista! i too am back on the WW sadle again. And I say think knowing full-well its going out the window when I set off on our Cruise May 8th. Well, they do have Cooking Light options on the cruise. H11 I hear the midnight buffet calling!

    Anyway…every day is a struggle and exercise is something Im really struggling with. I truly love to do it but cant find the darn time. So, for the past 4 months my husband and I have been doing the Jillian Michaels 20 minute Shred. We do it ever other night even though its meant to be done every day. It has made a difference and I highly recommend it to anyone who is very busy. Sure, its not anywhwere near what i used to do (3 cardio kickboxing classes per week) before I had the baby, but its something. We do it at 8:30, right after we put the baby to sleep.

    As for snacks, i find i need to limit those when im trying to regain my food composure. I can slowly introduce them when ive gotten a grip but in the beginning, best to steer clear. What I do love are Chocolate Vita-tops (1 point), Fat Free Greek Yogurt with a 2 point granola bar crushed into it (4 point snack), 1 small fun sized pkg of M&M;s (2 points)- Can u tell i like sweets?

    And last night I made egg whites and peppers with avocado and hot sauce wrapped in 4 small corn tortillas (total 5.5 points) soon to be a blog post! Corn tortillas are a great snack and only 1 point for 2!

    Let me also say that i lost 18 lbs before my wedding on WW. then slowly gained it back due to my thyroid failure and laziness. I luckily lost all of my baby weight but still have lbs I gained after my wedding,before the baby to lose. I find it very hard to be as motivated as i once was and tracking is just not for me anymore. I found new excitement in the WW Iphone app and love tracking on that. Give it a try.

    We should be WW buddies and encourage each other. I sadly believe a lot of Food Mama Bloggers don't like admitting their battle with the bulge because it looks as though they arent practicing what they preach (moderation, good health) but we are ALL HUMAN and I applaud you for writing this! Us Bloggers dont have some magical cure for weightloss and to mamas who follow our blogs, it might seem as though we have it figured out. We dont! thanks for your honesty. You'll get there!!

    Congrats on the book!

  4. debbie koenig

    Wow, this is such great info!

    @kalenski, I wondered about that program–they didn't mention it last night. I tried Core the last time I did WW and had a surprisingly hard time restraining myself. Makes me nervous, at this point.

    @Christina, good luck on the cruise! Cooking Light options is pretty ingenious. And good idea to get my husband to exercise w/me. (And I share your fondness for sweets, you may have gathered.)

    @Jennie, interesting re: fat/fiber. When I lost 100 lbs on WW, it was with the Fat & Fiber program: high carbs, low fat. That totally works for me–I'm a major carb-lover. Protein, not so much. Atkins was never, ever a possibility for me 😉

  5. Ann

    I don't know anything about Points, but if you like coffee, I love making a "Vietnamese Iced Coffee" shake with cold coffee (or decaf), ice and sweetened condensed milk in the blender. 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk is only 130 calories and I find that makes it too sweet for me.

  6. Anonymous

    Hi there. Long time reader, first time commenter. As a mommy of two (my newest is 6 weeks old), I have had to re-think my ideas about "time to myself". When I have 90 minutes or an hour, I would love to love to hit Starbucks with a magazine BUT instead I take a walk with my Ipod and take some much needed deep breathes.

    I also fit in 15-20 minutes of walking when I'm running errands. This is dorky, but I take a few extra laps at the mall/Target/Costco/Ikea whenever I'm shopping. Is harry still in a stroller?

    Also, not sure if this works for you, but I hire a teenage neighbor to come every Friday afternoon for 2 hours specifically so I can get to the gym to kickstart my weekend. I'm adamant about it … even though I would really prefer to get a manicure.

    Good luck!

  7. growfamilygrow

    Oh yeah, I'm with you. The new 20 minute Weight Watchers cook book is fab.

    Exercise? I get about 50-60minutes 3 times a week by biking to and from work. This weekend we actually rode on our bikes as a family both days. With the not so little one in a bike seat. I realize NY is not as bike friendly a place, but perhaps something similar you can do as a family?

  8. Anne

    I have been having some success with EA Active and EA Active More Workouts for the Wii. I never find time for the gym so I like the fact that I can workout for 30 minutes at my convenience. There are workout programs you can follow or you can create your own plus you can change the intensity levels. My kids are older (12 & 8) and I work part time so I try to fit it in before they come home from school. On weekends, I workout in the mornings. I feel like I am in much better shape, stronger and toner. I still need to lose about 10 pounds but since working out I have found clothes fit better even though I haven't lost much weight. My biggest problem is portion control.

  9. Fit Mama

    I'm a Weight Watcher too! Lifetimer trying to bounce back from my second baby (now 3 months old). I lost my weight on Core, but have been trying to do Points this time around. My snacks are mainly apples… Also string cheese (2pts) or a hard-boiled egg (2pts). I have to limit most things due to breastfeedings, unfortunately, which leaves me feeling deprived.

    When I only had my toddler, I would wake an hour early and work out in the morning. I haven't been able to do that lately because of the infant, but hope to get back to it when she starts sleeping more. I also currently work full time, so there's not much free time! Sorry I can't help much there!

    Good luck!

  10. Alexa

    Can you join a class with Harry? Like swimming? Being in the water with a toddler is a workout on its own.

  11. Jennie, RD

    Hey Debbie,

    Sorry — let me clarify. Obviously I think fiber is great. I just meant I wish WW didn't penalize for fat, otherwise I would recommend their program to my patients. Carbs satisfy your hunger, but cause your blood sugar levels to go up and then down (insulin). Fat helps slow the digestion of food down, so you feel fuller longer and your blood sugar is a little more steady. Protein stimulates glucagon, so you feel satiated longer. When WW only focuses on fat and fiber, I feel they're ignoring some key points to hunger/satiety and glucose control.

    Some people need more protein than others, but as a dietitian who has worked with a lot of people, I can say that everyone does better when they balance their carbs to their protein (in other words, balancing insuling to glucagon), and they feel much less hungry over all.

    Obviously you've found what works for you, and above all else, that's what is important. In my original comment, I was suggesting you increase your protein so you're fuller longer and not on the hunt for 1 point snacks. Didn't mean to butt in! But I did want to clarify.

  12. @kalenski

    Also, Debbie, you might look at The Perfect 10 diet. As Jennie said, I do have an issue with being rewarded for high carb/low fat foods. P10 is not low fat and is actually somewhat similar to the Core program. With all of my food allergies, it fits my lifestyle better, though I really need to get back on track. Lost 6 lbs in 6 weeks but then I remembered grains….

  13. debbie koenig

    Thank you sooo much for all this great input!

    @Jennie, I understand your reservations about WW and back in the Fat & Fiber days I completely agreed. That program did work for me, but I educated myself about nutrition and ultimately, for maintenance, followed something like you describe. I've just fallen off that wagon over the last 5 years or so. I know that the structure of WW works for me, so I'm going to follow their points plan and apply what I know about nutrition as I go. Today I was looking for zero or one-point foods because I know myself and my ridiculous need to always be grazing. If I ate a *real* snack every time I felt the urge to put something in my mouth I'd be taking in 40-50 points a day!

    (I actually write for WW, so as far as the knowledge/research goes, I feel quite confident. My problem is the application of that knowledge.)

  14. jeanneeatsworld

    I recently jumped back on the WW bandwagon myself. I lost 35 lbs tracking on Sparkpeople in 2007/2008. But since then I've been using it purely academically (Huh, 300 calories over again today! Please pass the chicken wings.)

    I have been liking steamed artichokes sprayed with a bit of olive oil. Mostly because they give a lot to play with and take a long time to eat. Also air-popped popcorn, occasionally with bacon salt.

  15. AmyB

    As a fellow foodie, and with children much older than Harry (14 and 10), I have found that I do much better if I put in a 30 minute walk every day. Not just a stroll, though, you actually SHOULD break a sweat (or breathe hard). Unfortunately, at my age (39…no lie)I have also found that the blasted scale just does NOT move!

    SO, I preach FRESH, FRESH, FRESH (veggies & fruit) and try to keep those cookies to a minimum. My best friend started at the gym with a personal trainer, and she is having a hard time with the scale moving too.

    Maybe portion control is a problem. I was given some advice recently that said to NOT eat in front of the screen…TV, computer(very guilty of that), and to sit and actually enjoy your food.

    Random thoughts, I suppose! Wishing you the best and standing with you!

  16. debbie koenig

    Jeanne, artichokes are SUCH a good idea! They take forever to eat.

    And Amy, those are all good thoughts. When I lost all my weight & was actually maintaining it, I walked EVERYWHERE. Almost never took the subway. Now that I work at home, I hardly ever leave the house! Ridic.

  17. Anonymous

    I think the points are calculated slightly differently in the UK than they are in the US… but I like to eat a Weightwatchers yoghurt (half a point) PLUS an apple (also half a point) for my one-point snack. Somehow having TWO things to eat (and especially if I cut up the apple and put it all on a plate and actually sit at the table to eat it) seems to make a big difference to my satiety.

  18. Sarah

    I work very long hours and live a long commute away from my place of work as well. The only opportunity I have to exercise is 5am in the morning before the kids get up. So that's what I do! A 30 minute run in the morning wakes me up very effectively. I put on a pot of coffee and soak some bircher muesli before I leave the house so that breakfast is ready when I stumble back through the door at 5.30.

    In my experience starting is always harder than maintaining. It takes 6 weeks for a habit to form. That exercise is just habit now, and so less of a struggle.

    It is also really important for mothers to make time for themselves. Women in our society today are expected to be super-mums and super-career women as well. Take the pressure off yourselves sometimes by allocating other people for certain responsibilities, or by simply designating some 'me-time' where others are not allowed to disturb you. In the long run, you will be a better mum and a better role model if you are a healthy, calm, and balanced person for your children to look up to.

  19. Liz Tee

    Just found you and wow, did you strike a nerve! I recently turned 50 and am at an all-time high weight. Even though I lost 30 lbs on WW 20 years ago (even got my big key!), I haven't seriously considered going back. I've cycled through those lbs several times since then, via Atkins and South Beach and Eat to Live and other 'plans', gaining more each time of course. Now I have officially reached the point where I don't know what to do. Maybe it's time to go back to WW. I have 20 to lose to get back in my normal range. I know I'll never see my 30yo weight again, but now I know it's not sustainable.

    I hope it goes well for you – thanks for the 'food' for thought. 🙂

  20. Sarah

    My favorite is a sliced apple (the apple slicer gadget saves my knuckles) with cinnamon sprinkled on it. Laid out on a dessert plate, it looks pretty and takes a while to eat. Apples have enough fiber to take a while to digest, so this one helps tide me over so I'm not starving when meal time hits. It's the spice that makes it more special than a regular apple, and no more points.

  21. Alisa Bowman

    Since I just saw you in person, I can tell you: you don't look fat.I thought, "Wow, Debbie is so beautiful and radiant." I think as women, we are our own worst critics when it comes to our bodies and our faces. I totally get wanting to fit into the clothes in your closet and all of that (so THERE), but I did want to pipe in and tell you that you are just as hot as ever.

  22. debbie koenig

    Thank you, Alisa. Considering that I just came back from a semi-disastrous WW meeting, your timing couldn't be better.


  23. Maureen F

    Good for you: I'm down 40 on WW and struggling w/ excuses of my own: new job, new medication, blah blah… The thing that works for me when I'm working at home is to pack my lunch and daytime snacks while I'm making my breakfast. It can stay in the fridge in its little area, but it helps me define my day a little better. About an hour before lunch, I always have my tupperware of cut veggies. Lately, organic carrots and fennel have been very cheap, so that's this month. I pack them into a one cup container for zero points, and I tend not to overeat at lunch if I make sure to snack. I eat them in front of the screen, against WW advice, but it works for me.

  24. emma

    I did WW to lose the weight from #2, it helped, immensely. I'm socially motivated. Now, x months later, I'm playing around with 5-7 lbs, up/down, in circles, whatever, as long as it comes down, who cares, right? Regardless, a friend & I are sharing babysitting while we participate in a women's 5k training program (it's cheap, 400+ women signed up & it's incredibly empowering). Did I mention that I already have a (nice) gym membership (which I do use at least 2x a week, but not when life goes crazy, or when the kids are sick..)? But this program is scheduled. I show up every monday night. It's on my calendar, DH knows it's part of my plan for those 8 weeks & it's my commitment to myself. There are 4 groups, walkers, walk/run, beginning run & intermediate run. Turns out I'm in a different category than I though (pretty cool, actually!), but there are women of all shapes & sizes. Make a commitment to yourself, find an exercise buddy, schedule exercise – we manage meals daily, why not exercise. Even walk after dinner. I agree with teh previous poster – pack your meals, pack your snacks, buy that to die for peach that you're not sure about the price – keep it around – but don't buy it in bulk. Keep it fresh, eat whole, yummy foods & try not to eat stuff you'd 'sneak' around your kids. I survived WW by blowing off one meal a week – dinner out – it didn't matter in the big pic of a whole week. I also found that I needed to stop penalizing myself for bananas, sweet potato & avocados (even brown rice) – all high point foods! 🙂 Good luck & you have our support!!

  25. Coreopsis

    I haven't read the rest of these comments, but the best way to exercise with small children is to go out with them–walking, biking, ice-skating.

    And don't ever eat off their plates (besides consuming a whole lot less calories, you'll pick up a whole lot fewer germs).

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