Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nuts and Bolts - Pick a Program

Author's Note: I've been having trouble getting this simple series off the ground. My entire motivation for writing a blog is to share how I managed to lose weight.  I keep falling into a trap of framing my thoughts in much grander terms than I am qualified.  I am here to be a cheerleader for anyone looking to make a change for the better in their own life.  In this Nuts and Bolts series I will give some of the specific changes and tools that I believe have helped me get to where I am now and that I continue to use in my daily life.  I am not the originator of most of the ideas I will share but I hope that my repeating good ideas will help to crowd out the less helpful ones.  Take what may work for you and leave the rest, we are all on our own path and have our own needs.

To Begin - Pick a Program

Once I knew that it was time for a change I picked a program, Weight Watchers.  I have been trying to speak in broad terms as often as possible when I talk about my approach to eating but the bottom line is I learned how to a healthy way to feed myself when I joined Weight Watchers and I stayed because, just like their marketing slogan says, "it works."  The program allowed me to make my own choices about what I put into my mouth on a daily basis while providing healthy guidelines and parameters to help me make those choices.

I focused only on the calories I was consuming.  I don't think I could have built the kind of sustainability I have achieved if I had tried to change more than one lifestyle component at a time.  Changing my approach to food was a huge change all by itself because I had to completely relearn how to eat.  Weight Watchers provided me with my daily PointsTM target.  Everyday when I woke up I had a new budget of PointsTM to spend before bed.  I really enjoyed the game of planing how to use my daily PointsTM.  At first there was a lot of trial and error but taking each day as its own puzzle helped me have fun and quickly move past the frustrations that come with learning a new skill.  Best of all because the program stair stepped my PointsTM total down as my weight loss continued I didn't go through a huge change in food volume all at once and I wasn't hungry all the time in the early days (or ever).

I think anyone looking to begin a transition to different way of eating should work with some established program.  The choices are vast and it can be a stumbling block just to begin.  I obviously recommend Weight Watchers because it has worked so well for our family.  There are some on-line that help you track your eating and encourage a balanced approach and increasing activity.  I think a really great place to begin is a reference from a health care professional that knows a bit about your specific situation.

Personally I would hesitate to start any program that focuses on creating a diet where entire food groups are eliminated or severely restricted, unless it is medically supervised.  In my program no food is specifically off limits, I just weigh the PointsTM total against my daily budget and decide if it is worth the deduction before I put it in my mouth.  I think this exercise of determining a food's value has helped me become a more creative and adventurous cook.  I find myself seeking out ingredients with bold flavors and unique textures but low or no PointsTM value and combining them in ways I haven't tried before.  Weight Watchers also has daily Healthy Checks and participants are encouraged to mark off items like dairy, water, and vitamins as they are consumed.

My final recommendation when beginning a new program would be, give it a trial period of no less than 4-6 weeks.  Breaking and learning new habits takes time and many changes have a rocky and uncomfortable start.  Ask a lot of questions in the early days and make sure you understand not only what to do but why.  Having a solid understanding of the basics helps ensure a sustainable future and sets you up to add more components as you are ready.  If the first program you try doesn't fit your life try another one.  Everyone is different not all programs are going to work for all people it is not a reflection on the program or its participants and it certainly isn't personal.

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