I’m extremely conscious that over the last 18 months or more, I have written on more than one occasion that I really think that this time I’ve found the key to losing my excess weight without returning to dieting. And yet here I am, still carrying that excess weight round with me.
I read a lot around emotional eating and different coaching approaches, make another little breakthrough with my understanding of my emotional eating and for a week or two I’m really conscious with my eating and the scales start to drop. Then life happens, as it tends to do, and my mind wanders back into its old patterns and I’m back where I started, or occasionally a little heavier. So it is, that in the 18 months since quitting Weightwatchers and dieting as a whole, I have ended up about 8-10 lbs heavier than I was on quitting. My mental state and my attitude to food is undoubtedly better now, and I have detoxed myself of the fear of certain foods and re-normalised most things into my diet, but I have still not shifted the excess.
After a gorgeous long weekend away in Wales with 4 friends at the second May Bank Holiday, I came home feeling bloated and a few lbs heavier than I left – extended social occasions are always the toughest on my eating – and this time something shifted in my brain: I absolutely did not want to return to dieting, but I fully recognized that I needed some extra tool that was missing from my repertoire to help me … and so I signed up to Weightwatchers again with a plan that this time things would be a little different.
Let me explain: whenever I did Weightwatchers previously (let’s call it Weightwatchers Original) or any other diet, I always approached it as the Solution To All My Problems. This Plan would tell me everything I needed to do to make the weight fall away and as long as I followed it faithfully (and perfectly!), success would surely follow! I would contort myself into whatever patterns the diet told me to, cut back my intake drastically and for a while it would probably work. Then I would get resentful of the restrictions, fall foul of feelings of deprivation, over-eat a bit, decide that if I couldn’t do it perfectly there’s no point in doing it at all, beat myself up, eat everything in sight, beat myself up some more for good measure, and eventually viciously restrict myself to get “back on track” and “make up” for my dieting indiscretions. I gave all authority to the diet and assumed I could make myself fit it.
A model, I think we can agree, that is clearly flawed.
Enter my intended new way of doing things, which we shall call Weightwatchers Plus ….. otherwise known as utilizing the Weightwatchers tools to suit me personally.
During my time away from dieting, I have come to conclusion that I get easily distracted from what I have consumed throughout the day, and I wanted a way to stay aware of what I’d eaten. A way to track my food and therefore make fully conscious decisions. What I didn’t want was the accompanying set of standard rules and regulations – I want to trust myself to work out for myself how many points I need and to take a more flexible approach to how I eat them throughout the week, rather than falling into the increasingly extreme binge and restrict cycles that I ended up in by the time I quit Weightwatchers back in 2015.
I am choosing to sacrifice fast, “guaranteed” weight loss in favour of conducting some research on myself over a series of weeks to build a picture of how much I can eat in order to lose weight, maintain or gain. I’m trying to become my own expert on me and take responsibility for the results of what I eat.
It’s been 4 weeks since I started this new Weightwatchers Plus approach. For the first couple of weeks, I haven’t intentionally restricted my food at all, but I have faithfully tracked everything and consequently I sometimes find myself making more responsible decisions based on what I’ve already had that day. I’ve started writing down at the end of the week how many points I’ve consumed in total and calculating a points per day for that week, recording what deliberate exercise I’ve done and what weight I’ve lost, and I’ve kept an eye on those stats. They’re pretty fascinating. Weightwatchers Original plan would have me eat 37 points a day on average (including my Flex allowance) – that first week I averaged 47 points a day and lost nearly 3 lbs.
It turns out that, at the moment, I can lose weight by eating anywhere between 45 and 55 points per day on average, and over the first 4 weeks I lost just shy of half a stone. So this is what I’m now calling Weightwatchers Plus – my own personalized plan. In the first month, I have religiously tracked everything because I don’t have rules on how much I can consume so I don’t need to be embarrassed or disgusted at myself about anything. There are no bad days or bad food. Curiously, since taking this new approach I haven’t had any of those binge days that used to plague my original attempts to follow Weightwatchers, no days of 100 points or more or even close to that. It always fits into my life, because it’s completely flexible. I’ve noticed that the items I’m least keen to have to add to the tracker are the things I’m debating eating due to something other than physical hungry and the thought of it seems to be enough to slow me down and have a think many times.
I am conducting an experiment in Me. I will continue eating roughly as I am, and tracking the results of that, until the current losses tail off, and then I will look to just reduce my intake a little bit – maybe even just a few points a day on average, until I observe losses picking up again.
I have bought quite a few habits with me from my time off-dieting, including not being afraid to use a healthy chunk of points on breakfast and things like avocado or peanut butter which pack a hefty number or points, but also happen to keep you full for ages. Consequently my snacking levels are still down and it’s rare for me to feel super hungry. I’ve started cooking properly again, including batches cooking dishes so I can bring leftovers for lunch and I’ve recently been rekindling some affection for moving a bit more and getting some activity on.
I have no expectation on what kind of losses, or rate, I can expect, and in many ways I’ve resolved to focus on what I’ve already achieved and be grateful for it, rather than get hung up and impatient about the next target to reach – it’s so unsatisfactory and negative to always focus on what I don’t have rather than what I do.