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Our Weight Watchers Advice


Gilyan has added her WeightWatchers at War document for those wanting to know how to keep on plan at events.  Follow the link.

For the last year or so, Gilyan and I have been on Weight Watchers.  I say, Gilyan and I, but she was the one who talked me into it, as I was a bit "wishy-washy" as she puts it.  We started Weight Watchers because we both were extremely concerned about our weight.  As of the writing of this article, I've lost 80 pounds and Gilyan has lost 65 lbs.  Together we've lost 145 lbs (which equals a Daffyd).  We started this page because we've received a lot of questions from people about "How we did it" and "what our secret" is, and because we're fairly proud of what we've achieved, and we want our friends to also be healthier and in better shape, we thought we'd sit down and write up the "what worked/what didn't" primer.  The title is an reference to a friend of ours, Daffyd, who being the smallest and thinnest of our friends, has come be used as a benchmark.  It is not untypical to hear "Man, that thing weighed half a Daffyd".


The Proof

We've included pictures below of us (both in garb and out) as before and after pictures... the changes are kind of striking.  The ones on the left are the before, and the ones on the right are the after shots.  The top ones are at Christmas 2002 and Christmas 2003 respectively.

And for event pictures, the one on the left was at April 2002, and the one on the right is March 2004.


What Worked

It is our opinion, that if you only do one thing to improve your life, it will be to write down what you eat.  If you don't keep track of what you eat, there is no way for you to make substantial changes to your eating habits, and there is really no way to evaluate whether you actually are making changes to your eating habits.  Human memory is pretty bad, and you'd astonished at what you forgot that you've eaten unless you write it down.  Gilyan and I each have our own methods of keeping track of what we eat, but the one thing that we both do fairly religiously is keep track of what we eat. 

The Weight Watcher's method of tracking points is the manner in which we keep track, but in all honesty we could have as easily just used calories and fat and done the same thing.  The Weight Watchers method just makes the numbers easier to play with, as counting up to 30 by 1 is a bit more normal for a human than counting up to 1300 by whatever calories something has is.  The other thing that the WW method gives you is an idea of what accurate portions are (not the ones suggested by McDonald's et al) and how much a human should really consume. 

Excel Database

Gilyan: I have created an Excel database to keep track of what I eat, and how many points I can eat, as well as the point values for the foods I eat often and recipes we cook.

WW Online

JP: Ok, I'm a major computer guy.   Use it for anything I can, and it makes my life easier.  The Weight watchers online site has a lot of really nifty tools for making keeping track of your weight.  Like Gilyan's Excel database, it keeps track of my favorite meals, can tell me how many points a recipe is (although I can usually do that in my head), allow me to add in my favorite recipes, and keeps track of my weight on a weekly basis.  It costs me $15 a month, but since I'm rarely far from a computer for any length of time, it works out well for me to use their tool.  Theoretically, once I achieve and maintain my weight goal, they'll waive the monthly fee.

The Hacker's Diet

I personally feel, that after keeping track of your weigh, that reading and understanding the Hacker's Diet was a key to our doing so well.  The main point of the Hacker's diet is this:

  1. Most of the weight fluctuation that people experience (and notice the most when they are dieting) is based upon water fluctuations
  2. The human system is a complex one, but basically energy in (food) minus energy used equals weight gain.  To wit if you consume more calories than you use, you'll store them and gain weight.  Use more than you consume, and you'll lose weight.
  3. If a method could be found to filter out the effects of water to show the "true" loss or gain of weight, people could more accurately adjust their eating.

The Hacker's Diet gives you a spreadsheet that basically filters out the effects of water fluctuations and shows you the actual trend of your weight.  The plan has you weigh yourself every day (which most plans say is bad), but the key is to not pay attention to the daily weight, but to look at the trend instead. 

Now, as an engineer, this makes a lot of sense to me.  I had used it a bit before to keep track of my weight, but at that time I hadn't been doing the other part of the equation, the keeping track of what I eat.   I didn't have both parts of the equation, the input and the output.  Now I was able to see the effects over time of what I was eating, and since I kept good track of what I eat, I was able to see those effects.

Read the Hacker's Diet.  Take their advice.    I've included an image of my weight over the last year.  Its typical of what I see from many people who use the hacker's diet.  Notice the fairly big daily variations in weight and the evident trend line.  When you take a daily reading, its possible to get this information.


Point Shaving

The Hacker's Diet has an implied message that we took another direction.  The implied message is "cumulative effects overwhelm local ones in time".  For example, if you lose a pound a week, and maintain that rate for one year, you'll have lost 52 lbs.  To lose a lb a week requires only cutting your intake by about 300 calories a day.  Conversely, if you eat 300 calories a day too much (a candy bar) every day, you'll gain 50 lbs too.  Cumulative effects count.

But, they can count for you too.  If you can shave half a point here, half a point there on stuff, the sum of the bits and pieces can really add up.  For example, take a turkey sandwich.  If you buy off-the shelf stuff, and make a turkey sandwich with a slice of American cheese (1 point) , 1 serving of mayonnaise (1 point), regular bread (2 points), and turkey (1 point), it will cost you 5 points.  If however, you replace the mayonnaise with reduced calorie or fat-free mayonnaise (1/2 point), replace the american cheese with low-fat cheese (1/2 point) and the regular bread with light wheat bread (1 pt), you can make the same sandwich for 3 points.  You can almost have two sandwiches for the same cost.  Yes, it tastes slightly different, but if you add some lettuce and tomato you'll never notice.  And you'll get to have two sandwiches. I personally would rather have two sandwiches than one.

Frozen Dinners

Gone are the days of cardboard frozen dinners and TV dinners.  The current crop of frozen dinners are healthy (usually low fat, high fiber, high protein, and low sodium), tasty (there is a surprisingly large variety of meals),  relatively cheap (between $2 and $3 a meal) and convenient.  The have all of the nutritional information on them to make it easy to calculate the points, they usually cook in 5 minutes (much faster than the trip to the nearest fast-food restaurant).  We find that the Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, and Smart Ones (Weight Watcher's line) to be the most tasty meals that we purchase a lot of. Heck, we like them so much we created a web-site review area so that we could inform people of which meals were the best. 


The old mantra is "eat-less and exercise".  While its true that you can lose weight if you just eat less, its much easier if you throw a good amount of exercise into the mix.  I feel that one of the reasons I have lost weight a bit faster than Gilyan is that I tend to exercise two times more a week.  She still exercises also, but not quite as much as I do.  Weight Watchers is actually very good at reinforcing the exercise, as they give you more points to eat when you exercise.  There have been quite a few days where I was not really wanting to go exercise, but if I wanted any more to eat, I'd have to get my butt to the gym.  And I did :)  Doesn't matter what kind or how much, every little bit counts.  Although it is a bit of a hassle to find the time for the exercise, it is *still* worth it, especially if, like me, your job keeps you on your butt at work.


Our friends have been wonderful and extremely accommodating.  They have willing changed the types of restaurants we go eat at, and have never tried to "push" food on us.  I hear that many people feel like they are being sabotaged by their friends, and I've never felt like our friends have done this.  As a matter of fact, they've gone the other way to support us.  Asoph even put considerable effort into making us dinners that are WW friendly.

Dottie's Weight Loss Zone

Dottie's Weight Loss Zone is a boon to any person who's trying to keep track of what they eat and have a tendency to eat out.  With Dottie's, you can get the nutritional information of almost any major fast-food restaurant in the U.S.  If you have a PDA (Palm or Pocket-PC) you can even download the information to them, and refer to them as you go out to eat.  I have a T-Mobile Pocket-PC phone, and I keep that information on their.  We can almost always find the restaurant we're looking for, and if not we can find a similar one and use it to estimate.

Belief in the importance of losing weight

Now, I know a lot of people respond with "I couldn't force myself to do all of that".  Well, its necessary.  To be honest, if my body naturally stopped me from eating when I'd consumed enough calories, I would never have become the size I did.  Obviously my body does not have a "Whoa there big daddy, that's enough calories" mechanism.  I had to understand and accept that I am probably going to have to write down what I eat for the rest of my life.  And since the odds are that it will now be a longer life (due to reduced risk of Diabetes, heart disease), I'll have to do that even more.

But its not difficult.  Keeping control of my weight *is* the most important thing I do.  It allows me to do everything else that I'm now becoming used to.  Moving easily, buying normal sized clothes, and feeling good about the shape I'm in (I'd feel good about the way I look, but losing weight only helped so much :) ).


What Didn't Work


    Gilyan: I went to the meeting on campus and wasn't impressed at all.  From what my friends had told me, the meetings were supposed to be your support group, to keep you going during the rough times, to be excited for you when you were feeling down.  This group of people couldn't support a feather, let alone raise enough excitement to blow it into the air.