Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week #19 - Eating Without Distraction

I've had this window open on my laptop all weekend waiting to write up my thoughts on our latest routine. But apparently...I've been distracted. Ha!

I am terrible about eating while distracted. Many of my meals and snacks are taken while in front of the TV or a computer. As I've been taking some time to think about our routine, I've been thinking about how to change this and whether or not this is really a problem.

One of the big reasons that distracted eating might be something to avoid is because it results in overeating. To some extent, this isn't a problem for me in particular. Many of my meals in front of the computer take place at work. There, I am eating a portion of food that I have pre-measured and I know the PointsPlus value of. There is no accidental overeating. In this sense, there is no problem to be solved.

One could argue that by eating while distracted, it's hard to evaluate hunger signals. This could certainly be taking place. If I'm working on spreadsheets while eating my soup, am I paying attention to whether or not I could stop with some left over? So there certainly is a potential upside in making sure I'm focused on my meal: it could result in consuming fewer calories.

Probably the biggest upside I see to being mindful of my lunch is satisfaction. Maybe you have noticed that if you aren't paying attention to what you eat, it's almost as if it didn't count. You don't feel as if you really ate it. Your mental satisfaction hasn't kicked in.

As we work our way through this month, that's what I'm going to be thinking about, particularly when I look at my routines concerning meals and snacks at work. This is going to be a busy month of quarterly forecasting, so I will be more challenged than usual to take some free time out of my day, but in the end, it's not about perfection. It's about evaluating your routines and seeing if they can be improved. And if they can, about how you can slowly evolve into something that has a healthier end result.

Good luck!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Week #18 - Find Your Anchor

Wow. I haven't posted anything here in a month! It turns out that I am not always inspired to share my thoughts on the weekly topic. And while I do find the value in wearing an activity monitor and monitoring my activity in general, I guess those things didn't really inspire me to share much.

We start a new routine this next week that I think will be much more thought-provoking, because it gets to a behavior that can often cause us problems: mindless eating. When you come to the meeting next week we'll start talking about the routine of the month which is "To eat all of your meals free of distraction." This is a routine that will truly be a joint effort, because it's one that I confess I am not very good at following. With how much we all multi-task these days, it's a rare moment when we can sit, eat, and not do anything else. Will that be possible? Will it make a difference? There are probably lots of ways we can interpret the routine and apply it with the end result of more mindful eating, so be ready for that in May!

In the meantime, I do want to reflect a bit on having a weight loss anchor. Over the years I've used a lot of different objects to be a reminder to me of why I continue my healthy habits:

* Before photo - I actually don't have the photo that caused me the most angst before I re-joined (because I tore it up and threw it away!) but I have a vivid memory of it.

* Marathon finisher's medal - this reminds me of my perseverance, and if I can run when my body wants to stop, I can probably say no to a doughnut.

* My weight records from when I was losing weight - I didn't lose quickly (a year to lose just 26 pounds?) and so it's a good reminder of patience.

* Mantras - these have evolved over the years (Outsmart the Fat! being one, and you've probably seen plenty of them around the internet) but having wise words always helps. I even have one set as a reminder to me on my phone every day.

Whatever helps you tap into those inner resources can become an anchor. Even if you've never successfully lost weight or improved your health before, if you possess the traits necessary (patience, persistence, focus) as applied to another area of your life, you've got what it takes to succeed. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Week #14 - Why We Do What We Do

Things have been quiet lately here at Outsmart the Fat Central. It's not always easy to come up with profound insights on the weeks' topics, especially when so often it boils down to "Get yourself a game plan!" or "Make changes that will be easy to stick to!" (perhaps I should embroider those on a pillow!)

I figured this week would be different, because we were attempting to explore the underlying reasons for our behavior. You surely didn't disappoint when it came to the discussion this week! There were a couple of thoughts that you brought up that I think bear repeating and thinking on some more:

The notion that once someone cleans up their environment, and there are no longer foods handy to use as a band-aid, it allows time for contemplation of what's really going on, and what emotions are really at play.

If you look at success statistics for the weight loss industry, the numbers overall are pretty harrowing. You may be part of those statistics – I know I am! I lost weight, quit, gained it back. Many people have done this, and continue to do this. What I've discovered in my observations is that being overweight is often a symptom of a larger problem, not the problem in and of itself. Sure, there are people who come to Weight Watchers who simply need to know which foods are healthy and how much they ought to eat of them. But think about the laughs we've shared. It is more often over an admission of eating a dozen doughnuts, not over our realization that broccoli was actually a healthy food! You can learn how to clear your spaces, you can learn healthy behaviors, but if you don't fix the real problem that you were using food to solve, you run a real risk of falling into old habits and creeping back up to your old weight.

The notion that digging into what's really going on can be frightening and painful.

When you stop and think "gosh, why did I do that?" sometimes the answer is simply "because I was bored" or "because I went grocery shopping when I was starving." Those are awesome insights because they are easy to fix. But sometimes the answers are more like "because something tragic happened to me and I have no other way to deal with it" or "because I've always hidden behind my weight, and if I get thin I'll have to deal with people noticing me." Those are awesome insights too, but not as easy to fix.

So what do we do with this? I'll be honest: I am a Weight Watchers program facilitator, not a licensed therapist. I can help you with the easy fixes. And I can help you recognize the harder ones by helping you ask yourself the right questions. The weekly meetings can help you acknowledge those harder ones and know that you don't suffer through them alone. That can be a huge help and can often get you far enough along to reach your health goals, which may in turn empower you to make some other Major Life Changes. I'd be lying if I said I never considered getting myself some professional help to deal with those other, deeper issues. I know in general, once our heads are in the right places, making healthy lifestyle choices tend to be much easier.

I definitely feel like I'll be mulling this one over far after we've moved on to different meeting topics. I hope you will, too!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Week #10 - What's Your Next Meal?

Okay, it's time to launch a new monthly routine! This month: after each meal or snack, decide how many PointsPlus values you'll use for your next meal.

I like the way this routine is worded, because so often when we talk planning, it's about what you're going to eat. While for me this is no big deal, there are people who like to be a little more...spontaneous about their food choices than I am. So having a PPV or range of PPV that you plan on spending is a good compromise - it allows you to change your mind or go with whatever craving you've been having.

This week's entry is going to be a mish-mash of stuff, because there are a couple of things I want to share, mostly as a result of this past week's discussion.

First, I wanted to share with you the dressing I mentioned that went on my Really Big Salad this week: Tofu Herb Dressing. Yes, it has tofu in it, but if you're new to that ingredient it really has very little taste, so it's the herbs and shallots that really come through, and the tofu serves to create a nice creamy base. VERY flavorful!

Second, I thought I'd share my egg salad recipe. I didn't run it through the recipe builder since I'm doing Simply Filling this week, and everything in it is a Power Food. I made a pretty big batch, but you could scale it as needed.

10 hard boiled eggs
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, diced
Several celery ribs, diced
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped a little
Pepper and other herbs to taste (I used one of those all-in-one salt-free spices)
spinach leaves or other greens to serve under the egg salad

Once you've chopped all the veggies, mix everything together but the spinach leaves. Season it how you like, and serve over the greens. I divided this recipe into five containers, and am bringing it to work for breakfast all this week.

Finally, I thought this article, Create the Habits of Being Lean in 7 Years was interesting. I think we all tend to be in a hurry to get everything in our lives changed at once. That can be overwhelming and difficult! It's a little bit easier when you take your time. And in my experience, I've found my life, health, and habits are continually evolving, well after hitting my original goal weight. The way I eat and exercise now is far different from how I did these things fifteen years ago.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Week #8 - Ready, Set, Goal!

As we wrap up February, it's time to reflect on the month. Our routine was "know how you'll be active tomorrow." And early in the month, I asked the group to consider whether or not you are as active as you would like.

If the answer to that question was (and still is) "NO" then it's time to start thinking about how to make activity more of a routine. Knowing the day before how you can get active can help, but looking even longer-term can also help.

As many of you know, I ran a marathon in January. To do that, I had a training plan laid out - there was no way that I could have just gone out and run that far without working up to it, right?!? Having that event as a long-term goal helped me stick to the day-in, day-out activity that I needed to do to get there. I knew there were consequences if I stayed in bed and bailed on my progressive training plan. I know for sure that my activity patterns would have been different had I not had a goal to focus on. (Thanksgiving weekend, while out of town, I ran 14 miles in an area I wasn't too familiar with - I can tell you with 100% certainty that if I hadn't have signed up for a race there is NO WAY I would have done that. I might have taken a jog through the neighborhood, but that's it!)

Setting an activity goal doesn't have to be something like signing up for a marathon or half-marathon like some folks in the meeting room have done. It can be anything! It can be any sport. It can be any hobby. It could be an event (triathlon, 5K, climbing a particular mountain) or it could be some sort of performance goal (lifting a certain number of pounds, swimming a particular amount of laps, doing 100 pushups). As long as the goal means something to YOU, it's good!

Setting a goal is maybe not something that 100% of you will want to do. One of the best things I've done during my weight loss/maintenance process is come to terms with what makes me tick. If you are a person who is not motivated by a goal like this, no big deal! You likely have other ways to motivate yourself. But one thing to consider: if goals haven't worked for you in the past, make sure it wasn't just because you set them too aggressively. Make them SMART and my "R" in there is Realistic! Maybe all that stands between you and a goal is setting a goal that isn't too ambitious!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Week #6 - Be a Portion Pro

As we focus on getting active as our routine this month, it might seem puzzling that this past week focused on weighing, measuring, and paying attention to portion sizes. How does that make sense?

Well, if we're going to get the most benefit out of getting active, it's important to not ruin your efforts by unintentionally eating more than you think you are. I follow quite a few fitness and health blogs, and there's a quote that crops up quite a bit: You can't out exercise a bad diet.

It's not always possible to have access to a scale and measuring cups like we did in this week's meeting. But practicing at home can help hone your estimating powers so that when you can't weigh and measure, you have a better sense of what a proper portion looks like.

You can also use common household objects to help you with portion size. If you can envision a tennis ball, you're picturing roughly one cup. I know everyone has a camera in their phones these days, but if you can picture a digital camera, that's about three ounces of protein. These and plenty of other tips were in this past week's Weight Watchers Weekly.

Which reminds me...if you miss a meeting, did you know that we keep a few copies of the Weekly from the past couple of weeks? When you return after an absence, be sure to ask for any copies you might have missed. Chances are we'll have a copy for you!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Week #5 - How Will You Be Active Tomorrow?

It's a new month, so it's time to start work on a new routine. In February we'll be focusing on getting in some activity every day.

One great way to ensure that you get your activity accomplished is to Have A Plan. I know, I pull out the Have A Plan card all the time, but really! It helps!


One of the things I love about our 12-Week Tracker is the Weekly Plan pages. I probably mentioned this before in relation to meal planning, because while the photo above is for your activity, there's also a page to plan out your meals!

So what you see here is a blank slate for my weight loss week, which starts tomorrow. As soon as I get this post up, I'm going to start my planning for the week. I'm going to put in my exercise plans as well as do some meal planning. With this done, the week becomes a no-brainer.

Do you plan your activity ahead of time? If so, does it help you stay on track? Even if you don't know specifically what activity you'll do, planning for the time it will happen could be enough to get you out there and doing it. I know from this Wednesday's meeting that we have some really active people out there, and you inspire me!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Week #4 - Believe to Achieve

I think any time you set out to make big changes it's common to have moments of self-doubt. Making over your lifestyle is certainly one of those "big changes" don't you think? It's no small feat to overcome old habits (some that were many years in the making) and create some new ones. So it's probably not surprising that you'd have moments (or days, or even weeks) when the task at hand seems overwhelming, maybe impossible.

If you are a fan of my Facebook page, or happened to overhear me chatting with someone before our meetings on Wednesdays, you might know that I ran a marathon last weekend.


That's my ActiveLink summary from that day - proof, baby! Anyway, covering 26.2 miles on foot all in one go is certainly a big undertaking. And I absolutely questioned my sanity and wondered how this was all going to come together at several points during the event.

But I knew I was going to finish.

I would have crawled across the finish line if it had come to that (and apparently someone DID actually finish like that, shortly after I finished!) but there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to do it, and here's why:

I'd done it before - this was not my first marathon (it was my sixth), so I had the benefit of knowing that this was something I'd successfully done before. As you sit here working on your lifestyle change, think about it - have you successfully lost weight before? Have you ever been regularly active? If so, there's your proof! You can do it! If you haven't successfully done something like this before, you'll have to think outside the box a little. What traits do you think a successful healthy person has? Now scour your life to find evidence you have that. If you've gotten a promotion at work, raised a child, finished a college degree, or any other sort of accomplishment, it probably took those same traits. So apply them to getting healthy!

I trusted the training - I spent the last six months following a training plan. I put in the miles on Saturdays building up to the event distance. I kept to my mid-week exercise plan. I had experimented with different fuels on the run, and different pre-run meals to see what worked and what didn't. I did this through the holidays, through a head cold, did training runs in the Michigan woods and the New Mexico desert. I'd done everything to prepare for it. So I just trusted it and ran. If you're eating a well balanced diet (Good Health Guidelines ahoy!), if you're paying attention to your portions, if you're adding in movement, trust that all that will pay off. It might take longer than you expect, which leads me to...

I had patience - I've been running now for a total of 15 years. That included a few years when I actually didn't run, because I had a foot injury that I needed to heal. That's when I learned to love spinning, Pilates and weights classes. But gradually I returned to running, and over the course of a few years got ready to start increasing the distance. I said that this was marathon #6 - my previous marathon was in October of 2004, over 8 years ago. I didn't just get up one day and decide to run for almost 5 hours! It took great time and preparation. So whatever you do, have patience with yourself. You will not accomplish everything and make the Big Change in one day or one week. You have the rest of your life, so while you don't want to dilly-dally, you also don't need to be in a hurry.

Believe it, and you'll achieve it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Week #3 - Design a Dinner

Doing a meal planning activity in this week's meeting turned out to be a fantastic idea, in my opinion. This week's meeting was the embodiment of what Weight Watchers is trying to do with the meetings - they are calling them Active Meetings. We want to get you focused on ACTING on those healthy ideas, we want to get you ENGAGED with the group, and LEARNING from them. Doing it with the idea of giving everyone a host of meal ideas was the perfect setting for it.

Many thanks to those of you who brought in copies of recipes to share with the group! When I took copies for myself, I probably should have written on them who shared what, so apologies that I can't call you out personally. Here are the recipes that are available online:

Broccoli and Chicken-Topped Potatoes - this recipe uses the Green Giant Frozen Vegetables that you can buy at the store, which has our PointsPlus logo on it. There is apparently enough cheese in the package that you can easily throw in some extra vegetables and still have sauce to share!

Garlic Chicken with Orzo Noodles - did you know you can share a recipe you create with the Weight Watchers community? This is a recipe that was built using the Recipe Builder, and then shared in the Community Recipe section!

Stuffed Acorn Squash - I actually was on the ball and wrote a note to myself that Linda shared this recipe, that appeared in the newspaper on January 16th. She made this recipe, so it is tried, true, and husband approved!

This is a great time to remind you that you are always welcome to bring in meal ideas, recipes, products, anything that you think makes your healthy lifestyle easier. If you think it might work for someone else, please share! I will always make time in a meeting for that kind of thing, so don't be afraid to ask!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Week #1 - Fruits & Veggies All. The. Time.

It's a new year, it's a new month, so it's time for a new routine. This month we turn our focus to including fruits and vegetables at every meal, and if possible at every snack.

When I'm planning how to attack our meeting topic each week, I like to think about these routines in terms of what I'm doing. Am I following the routine that I'm about to introduce? It helps to practice what I preach, and even after 15 years of Lifetime membership, I find there are still lessons to be learned. And sometimes lessons I've learned have to be RE-learned.

I'm happy to say that fruits and vegetables have a large place in my life. We get along really well. Here's an example of how I've followed this routine over the past week:

Breakfast - this week I made myself some buckwheat cereal, and I topped it off with some thawed frozen berries (a combination of raspberries and blueberries).

Lunch - I used up some leftovers from the prior week's kitchen adventures, so lunch was, depending on the day, a tofu stir-fry that had a bunch of bell peppers, bok choy and snow peas, or else it was a squash stuffed with things like onion and cauliflower (I used a recipe from the Nov/Dec Weight Watchers magazine).

Dinner - I made a one pot casserole that had some sauteed onion, bell peppers and zucchini, and a few of the days I served it with a salad on the side. There were plenty of vegetables there!

Snacks - my snacks were (and usually are) all about the fruits and vegetables. I love snacking on grape tomatoes and red, orange or yellow bell peppers. I have a banana every day (and I did that even when we had to spend TWO POINTS on them - remember those days?!?), and then usually some other sort of fruit. Right now it's mostly apples or citrus, and I can't wait until we get into the summer months when I can throw more variety at my fruit snacks.

So there you have it. This particular routine is one I'm already on board with. And you'll probably find that as we make our way through the year and the routines sometimes what we focus on is something you're already doing. And then other months it will be something that maybe you've always intended to do but weren't quite there yet.

I think for the remainder of this month, my living the routine will involve making sure that on the weekends I'm doing just as good of a job as I do during the week. Once Saturday and Sunday rolls around, my life is much different, so I need to be extra mindful that I add enough fruits and vegetables.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

It's 2013!

Happy new year, everyone!

We're now in that short period where it seems most of the world is focused on healthy behaviors. Or at least giving lip-service to practicing healthy behaviors! Now is the time when our meetings get bigger, the new members join up, and maybe you see someone in the meeting room that you haven't seen in awhile.

I know that the beginning of the year seems like the time to make a huge change and some big grand gestures, but keep in mind that you are a human being. You will make mistakes. You will struggle. You will find it hard to make some of these changes. So start small and know that little things done well will cascade. One thing becomes routine, so now you have the brain space to work on something else. Hold yourself accountable, clean up your environment, adopt some healthy routines. That's it. That's what our program is all about.

On a personal note, in the spirit of "little things that add up" I am starting the year off with a focus on HONEST AND COMPLETE TRACKING. It's so easy to fill in a tracker when I make smart choices. But the minute I eat something unplanned, go over my allotment, or do something silly, all of a sudden putting pen to paper gets much harder.

I have some other thoughts about things I'd like to accomplish for the year, but as many of you know, I am in training for a marathon, and that rolls around at the end of this month (YIKES!) which means that now is not the time for big changes to my habits, exercise, or eating plan. With my focus on tracking, I figure I'll naturally gravitate to cleaner choices, which will help me fuel properly for my remaining training runs and the race itself. But for now, it's all about keeping on keeping on.

Once race day passes, then I'll be looking ahead to what's next. Chances are I'll share them with you then!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Week #52: REBOOT!

Those of you that were able to get to a meeting this week know that Weight Watchers brilliantly chose to have us discuss getting back on track. As if they had some sort of inkling that a week full of holiday celebrations might make that necessary!

I don't know what kind of impression you have of me, and I know that as a meeting leader I might represent some sort of "other" who isn't exactly like you. But, like probably many of you reading this, I ate and drank too much in the past week or two.

How do I know? Just weighed in this morning! Friday morning is my usual weigh-in day and I attend a meeting as a regular member. Santa was kind enough to bring me 3.8 pounds this year.

So that means it's time for me to get back into my regular routines and get my head back on straight! You can relate, right?

I am five weeks in to using our new 12 week Track book, and I am loving the weekly plan pages. As I sit in the meeting room waiting for the meeting to start, I pencil in what my activity plans are for the week. Because I do grocery shopping on Friday evenings, I can pencil in what many of my meals will be for the week. I basically get to plan what's going to happen to me over the next seven days!

This is a great way for me to reboot. New Year's Eve isn't a real celebration for me, so effectively the holidays are OVER. And I am ready to get back to eating right. I feel so much better when I do.

So step 1 was to weigh in and face the music. Step 2 is planning my food and workouts. Step 3 will be hitting up the grocery store. Join me in taking some healthy steps, won't you?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to be leading and working meetings as usual for the rest of the year (and will be subbing a little extra too!) but am going to take a break from updating here until the beginning of the year.

Keep those healthy spaces and routines going, pop in to a meeting, and keep focused during these crazy next few weeks. Above all, enjoy the holiday festivities!

Snowman gift happy holidays
MySpace Graphics at KewlGraphics.com

Friday, December 07, 2012

Week #49 - WW 360 Launch & Pack a Snack

This week marked the launch of our latest program innovation: Weight Watchers 360!

So what's new? Anything related to the PointsPlus system? Nope, that's all the same. Values are the same, targets are the same, Good Health Guidelines are the same, Simply Filling Technique is the same.

Um, so what's the big deal?

The PointsPlus food plan is a good one. It nudges you to make healthy, satisfying food choices. And yet...how many times do you end up making a choice that is by no means healthy, or physically satisfying? How many times do you give in to temptation and feel like you have no willpower?

One does not lose (or maintain) by willpower alone. Our brains are wired to desire and respond to high-fat, high-calorie foods, so it's no surprise that we can "fall off the wagon" so to speak.

The innovation in this year's program is that it's not just about the food choices. it's about making the spaces you live in more manageable. Safer, and more plan-friendly. And it's about building routines - healthy things you do without even really thinking about them, because it's just what you do. These mental tips and strategies help make the dangerous food environment we live in a little bit easier to navigate. And when we don't repeatedly test our willpower, we find out that it doesn't fail us as much!

As with any new program innovation that Weight Watchers presents, there are some new products available for purchase. One product is our Member Kit. We've had a kit for years, and it's always been some form of long-term tracker and food value listings. This year the member kit is WAY different, and it's good for the newbie or the veteran.

So what's in it:

Track (our new 12 week tracker - it's bigger, and allows for more planning ahead)
Silicone collapsible measuring cups
Flexible measuring tape (to track your inches lost!)
Jennifer Cohen exercise sampler DVD
PointsPlus values stickers (label those packages!)
Success Handbook (written by Liz, Jennifer Hudson's leader)
What to Eat Now (pictured below)


What to Eat Now is more than just a cookbook. There are meal ideas, snack ideas and a list to help you stock your pantry with good for you options. See those pink post-it flags? I've already earmarked several recipes, and will be trying out two of them this weekend!

The member kit basically gives you the tools you need to manage your spaces (portion control, at home/no excuses workouts, meal ideas). Buy one this month and save five bucks - only $34.95!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Week #48 - What's Your Holiday Plan?

I hope everyone survived the Thanksgiving holiday with minimal damage, and that you're not letting one holiday turn into a spiral of food and shame that you'll emerge from, bleary-eyed, at the beginning of January!

To help with that we talked about having some sort of a plan for the rest of the month. I definitely encourage you to take a look at your calendar for this next month or so. See how jam-packed it really is. How many days/meals do you have an event, and how many days will be Business As Usual? Those BAU days are perfect opportunities to stay focused, get active, and eat healthy. In fact, schedule that activity right now before anything else can take its place!

To help you survive the holidays (and beyond) Weight Watchers is going to be rolling out something called Weight Watchers 360 - I guess if our CEO can write about it, so can I! As they say, PointsPlus taught you how to eat, this new stuff we'll be delivering will now help you figure out how to live.

We'll be focusing more on helping you develop and maintain healthy routines. Sure, you know what foods are good, but how can you ensure that they are the foods you actually choose? And yes, you know that movement is good for you, but maybe you haven't found a way to regularly just get it done. The new mental tools we'll be rolling out (and we've already started to sort of go down that road in the past month or so) use the latest in habit research. David Kirchhoff is a huge fan of books like The Power of Habit and others that dive into behavioral science, so it's no surprise to see it infiltrate our Weight Watchers program.

Losing weight is not just a matter of having willpower. In fact, it's about making the need for willpower as small as possible! Develop routines and spaces that support making healthy choices, track what you eat, and there's no way you won't lose. So stick with me this holiday season, and I think you'll like what you see.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Week #46 - Why?

I hope that after this week's meeting, you will spend some time reflecting on why you originally joined Weight Watchers, and why you continue to spend Wednesday mornings with us.

Preparing for and delivering a meeting every week gives me a chance to reflect as well, and I spent a little time remembering what was going on in my mind back in October 1996, when I (re)joined Weight Watchers the time I made it to my weight goal.

Vanity.

Yep, I joined Weight Watchers because I didn't like the way I looked. I'd seen a photo of myself in a sleeveless shirt and was not happy. My clothes were tight, and I knew that wearing ill-fitting clothes wasn't really doing me many favors.

As many of you may have discovered, the original reason to join is often not enough to be the reason to sustain. So the question I then reflected on this week became "why is it I've stayed with Weight Watchers for so many years?" And there are a whole host of answers and reasons.

From a health perspective, things are 100% different. I was inactive, didn't care about what I ate, and based on family genetics was probably on track to develop high cholesterol and heart disease. Now I am consciously eating a well balanced diet, and get regular physical activity. When I go to the doctor, my vitals are always impressive. In short, Weight Watchers has given me good health.

Weight Watchers has helped me develop a community of like-minded people to surround myself with. Some of my really good friends are fellow Weight Watchers employees. Because I am now regularly active, I've met and formed friendships with people who enjoy working out and eating healthy. It has enabled me to build a village of people whose goals are similar - some form of healthy living and eating. That makes it a million times easier for me to stick to the routines I built while losing weight.

One other thing I'd like to attribute to Weight Watchers is confidence. It could just be coincidental, that I became a Lifetime Member at the age of 23 in the midst of developing my entire personal and career identity. But knowing that I could accomplish something like changing my lifestyle was huge for me. I'd always been the fat couch potato...and now things were changing. I was now the healthy eater in the office. The one who always had some sort of workout scheduled.

And most importantly, working for Weight Watchers gave me my voice. Remember those people in school who were the WORST public speakers? The nerves, the quivering voice, that was me. Thinking about speaking in a room of 50 people I didn't know was frankly a fate worse than death. The training, mentoring and practice I got from becoming a Weight Watchers leader means that in my "real job" I'm the person to volunteer for the job of presenting. Small talk is still something I can't say I'm thrilled about having to do, but practicing it each and every week has made me so much better at it than I used to be.

Had I known back in October 1996 that all this would have happened, I'm not sure I'd have believed it. So if you're ready to change, get out there and get on it. What do you have to lose? And more importantly, what's out there that you have to gain?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Week #45 - Power Foods!

When I am eating food that is healthy and filling, life is a lot easier. I have the energy to do what I need to do, and I spend far less time thinking, obsessing, and jonesing over food. I am physically satisfied. I don't need to go looking for anything else. So it's really no surprise that I tend to eat a lot of Power Foods - those foods that Weight Watchers has identified as the healthiest and most satisfying!

This entry is about to turn into a linkapalooza. Weight Watchers can do this stuff WAY better than I can!

Here's a great article from the Weight Watchers website: Power Up With Power Foods Within the article there are links to more information and suggestions for how to incorporate Power Foods like eggs, sweet potatoes and Greek yogurt into your day.

I love trying to cook with as many Power Foods as possible. Just this week, dinner was Tuscan Casserole, which is almost completely filled with Power Foods. That particular recipe is one I've made multiple times...and I don't often repeat!

Finally, if you're ever in doubt as to what qualifies, check this list: PDF list of ALL Power Foods - use it as a basis for your shopping list!

Eat more Power Foods, feel much better? Lose more weight? It couldn't hurt to try!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Week #44 - Take 5

When I was preparing for this last week's topic, I was excited. I am a huge proponent of checking in on how things are going, and laying out a plan of attack. That's mostly because I am a big time planner. I plan things well in advance - whether we're talking Weight Watchers or just the family vacation!

But as I was sitting in my own meeting yesterday morning, I realized one area that I could focus on more: checking in AFTER THE FACT. While it's second nature to me to check in beforehand to figure out what my strategy is, I don't as often check in after an event, or at the end of the day to assess how it all went. So that's my own personal focus for this week - take some of those five minutes to not only look at what's coming up, but to look at how everything went.

In my time internetting these past few days, I found this article Why the Fitness Habit Is More Important Than the Plan. It really struck a chord with me, and it dovetails nicely with what Weight Watchers has been training staff on recently.

You will (maybe) notice a little bit of a shift in the way we tackle our meeting topics. We're going to be focusing on teaching you how to adapt your behaviors and habits so that being healthy becomes a no-brainer. It's not going to be about sweeping changes that totally turn your life upside down. It's going to be about small, doable changes that you can make and incorporate into your existing lifestyle. There seems to be a lot of research out there regarding creating and maintaining habits, and I'm happy to see Weight Watchers incorporating this into our message. I didn't maintain my weight loss this long by working my fingers to the bone every single day on it. I did it by creating habits that are now second nature. I'm absolutely NOT saying that it is easy, but there are plenty of things I do to support a healthy lifestyle that I really don't even need to think about at this point. And that's what I will be endeavoring to help you do, too!

We're also going to incorporate the concept that "adults learn by doing" which means that we're probably going to see more hands-on activities, small group discussions, tasks where you jot down an action plan in your Weight Watchers Weekly. Because those are things I've not typically done very often in the meetings I lead, that might seem different, too. But the end result is to get you committed to the changes that will improve your health!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week #42: Late Night Noshing

Okay, usually I post with some sort of wrap-up or thoughts from the previous week's topic, but this week I'm going to deviate from that, because I have better stuff to say, and I just can't help it!

3rd Annual Unstructured 5K & snack-picnic
October 28, 2012
4PM (or whatever time you can be there because it is unstructured!)
Mission Bay Park
Earn a 5K Charm!

Wear your ActiveLink and bring your pedometer and your family and friends and a snack to share, if you want. We will meet just north of the Information Center area. You reach it when you turn right at the end of Clairemont Drive. There is a huge parking lot because the boat ramp is nearby.

Look for the Weight Watchers sign and banner so you will know you are in the right place. Fellow WW leader Helen will be 'home-base' and stay with anything you want to bring but don't want to carry as you walk. Bring a chair if you want to hang around and watch the sunset. From 'home-base' you can walk north or south, or both until you complete your unstructured 5K. Bring your baby buggy or your crutches or cane or walking frame if you need to! This is an all abilities 5K!!

There will be a sign-in sheet at 'home-base'. Please .....print your name and the meeting you will be attending, to receive your 5K Charm.



Steve shared a story this week about his escapades at Subway with "shaving the bread." If you missed it, he attended the Friday noon meeting, and after the meeting decided to grab a sub at the shop down the sidewalk. When he ordered his sandwich, the employee asked him if he wanted his bread "shaved." What this turns out to be is having the innards of the roll scooped out so there's less bread and more room for fillings. Apparently this is a popular thing amongst the Friday WW meeting crowd!

Well, today I met the bread shaving guy! This particular Subway outlet is one I visit...a lot. It's close to my house, close to WW, close to my full-time job. While chatting with the guy making my sandwich (who most definitely knows I work for Weight Watchers), we got on the topic of trying something different next time, and he said I could always try shaving the bread. I'm sure the look on my face was priceless as I exclaimed "You're the guy!" I shared Steve's story, and as I walked out the door, he sent me off with "You've got to keep track of the Points!"

Indeed, Subway guy. Indeed.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Week #40: Track & Bring It Back

I sat in my own Weight Watchers meeting this morning (the one I go to as a member, that is!) and the leader asked "Who is excited about tracking?"

I won't lie to you - I wasn't one of them. Do I enjoy tracking? No, I don't. Do I find it a valuable tool? You betcha. Unfortunately those conflicting opinions mean that over the years I've started a lot of different trackers...only to abandon them at some point. So the fact that 3 weeks ago I finished a 3 Month Tracker with every week filled was a pretty big victory. I'm not saying every day was filled, but the fact that I didn't give up within the three months is huge!

So maybe you're just as challenged as I am when it comes to tracking. You don't want to do it. Why should you do it? I did minutes hours of internet research to provide you with a few pieces of proof that tracking really works.

You can lose twice as much weight if you track. This is a SparkPeople article, so of course they are going to plug their own tracker, but they reference an actual scientific study from 2008 that found study members who tracked lost twice as much weight as study members who did not. So why track? It works!

Have you ever heard of the National Weight Control Registry? They keep track of people who have lost weight to see not only how they lost their weight, but how they continue to maintain it. They collect statistics on what works, and there are definitely some trends. One study that used the NWCR information found that successful members regularly tracked their weight (by weighing themselves, obviously). So while tracking usually refers to food intake, it can also refer to weighing. I personally have noted that my most successful Lifetime Members are those who still regularly attend meetings and weigh themselves. Catch gains when they are small!

The Weight Watchers folks across the pond share some general tips from tracking, including some of the things we discussed this week. You can learn a lot from your tracker. Taking some time to review what has happened can help you identify your successes and learn what areas you might have for improvement. Track for weight loss TRIUMPH!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Week #39: Eight Weeks 'Til Thanksgiving!

Oh my goodness, thinking that Thanksgiving is only eight weeks away is crazy! But this is the time of year when we really need to buckle down and keep focused. Getting through the last few months of the year can really be challenging.

Over the next eight weeks we'll be featuring weekly challenges that will help you keep that focus. We'll highlight behaviors and habits that our most successful members use, and challenge you to incorporate those behaviors to ensure your success.

If you want help beyond the meeting room, you can join the eTools Community Challenge. There you can discuss strategies, find members who are working on the same things you are, and get a little inspiration in the hours when you're not at a Weight Watchers center.

Click on this link to get to the Community Page and scroll down to find the Thanksgiving Challenge. You can also find other non-holiday related challenges that might be more your speed. Use our online community to enhance your support system!

Coming up next week: TRACKING! Be sure to bring a copy of your tracker with you to the meeting.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week #38: Be a Weekend Warrior!

Fitting that I'm posting about this on a Saturday morning. It's the weekend! And as many of you related this week, the weekends can be a challenge. There's less structure, more things that need to get done, more running around, socializing, eating and drinking.

Dealing with the weekends is honestly something I still have to work on. I've tried lots of things over the years, including giving myself Saturday as a "free day", but then I ended up using the remainder of the week as damage control to make up for one day's eating. Not a good way to lose weight, that's for sure!

One thing the weekend allows me to do is get in a lot of activity. I've shared with some of you that I have been training for a half marathon (that was supposed to happen today - but got cancelled, and the less said about that THE BETTER). To do that, I've got to make sure I get up on the weekends and get those training runs in! That helps me get a healthy start to the weekend. I can't be eating trash on Friday nights and expect to get up on Saturday morning and do a long endurance workout. And being able to sit here at 10am on a Saturday morning having already met my ActiveLink goal for the day is pretty cool, too.

A topic of discussion this week related to weekends was trying the Simply Filling Technique as a way to continue the healthy eating patterns on the weekend with perhaps less burden of tracking when there's not as much time for that sort of thing. Many of you seemed pretty interested in it, and I think that's great!

Simply Filling Technique (in which you eat Power Foods until satisfaction and need not count PPV of those foods) is almost like what I think the ideal eating habits would be. Focusing your calorie intake on fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains? Staying away from lots of sugar and fat-filled snacks? Learning to obey your hunger signals and stop before you're full? GENIUS.

If the "eat until you're satisfied" part sends chills down your spine, here is something to think about. When you walked through the door on day one, did you know everything you needed to about how to lose weight? Most likely not. You had to practice changing habits, learn some new things, and figure a few things out about yourself. This is another one of those things. Sure, you may not be able to stop at satisfaction TODAY, but that doesn't mean that you can't practice that skill and master it over time.

If you knew how to stop eating before you were full, wouldn't that make all the difference in the world? What's stopping you from trying to master it?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Week #37: Rehab Your Habits

Since we discussed changing habits this week, I want to share something I've noticed. When one adopts healthy habits and gets on a roll, one can often extend those habits into situations where it might not always be safe to do so. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

This morning, I left the house at six in the morning to go for a run. Already it felt like a typical fall San Diego day - a warm, dry tinderbox. According to The Weather Channel, it got up to 106 in Clairemont yesterday. And if you actually clicked on that link, you'll see that yesterday's temperature was a full twenty-seven degrees hotter than the day before. If you're not a weather junkie like I am, you may have been caught off-guard.

Today is shaping up to be more of the same, and while the temperatures right now are even warmer than they usually are this time of year, September and October are traditionally warm in our neck of the woods. And if you're new to exercise, this might be a new experience for you.

If you're going to exercise in these next few days, do it early, or do it inside. If you feel woozy, light-headed, or feel like you're going to be sick, STOP EXERCISING. Here is a great article with symptoms of heat illness and you'll also find links to how to treat those illnesses.

No APPV or blinking lights on the ActiveLink are worth potential health hazards. So while you're trying to keep that healthy momentum going, be safe!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Week #36: Believe in Yourself!

This week's topic is really not an easy one for me to sit here and pontificate about. What on earth can I possibly say in a blog entry that will convince you that you actually CAN reach all of your health goals? If it was as easy as writing something and bam, you changed your mind, well, we wouldn't need to bother with our weekly meetings, now would we?

Hopefully you were inspired by hearing about the stories of your fellow members this week. Whether it was one of our staff members, or just the person in the next row over, there are lots of success stories all around you. Consider that the next time you're waiting for the meeting to start...that person over there that looks like they don't "need" Weight Watchers? Find out that person's story! I mean, how many of you at this week's El Cajon meeting would look at our coworker Diane and think "now there's a woman that clearly used to be 100+ pounds heavier!" I know I wouldn't think so!

Collaborating and sharing our stories becomes one of the most powerful things we can do for each other. We inform, we inspire, and we find out that at the end of the day, none of us is doing this alone.

And now, to completely switch gears, I want to remind you that our Lose for Good campaign is officially under way. Every pound you lose between now and October 20th gets tallied up, and Weight Watchers will end up donating ONE MILLION DOLLARS to two food charities. So you can help by losing weight, but here's another way....

Saturday, September 15th! - all of our Weight Watchers stores in San Diego (Clairemont, El Cajon, Rancho San Diego, Poway, etc.) will be open for a huge one day food drive! Your donations will help local charities distribute food to the people in our very own neighborhoods who suffer from food insecurity. Please stop by any time between 7am and 4pm with your donations of non-perishable food items (please, no glass jars). There will be special activities (member panels, eTools demonstrations, raffle prizes) and special one day only joining offers. Stop by quickly to drop off your food, or linger and see what we have to offer!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week #35: Getting Back To Routine

Despite the silly flipchart this week implying that once fall arrives we’ll all be wearing ski suits, the concept of figuring out how to get back on track is a very important one. Assuming you’ll sail along on your journey to goal without any slip-ups is pretty na├»ve. Most everyone “falls off the wagon” at some point. But what separates the Lifetime Members from the rest is the ability to get back on track and continue on the journey.

Meeting topics often work out to be very timely for me, and this is no exception. A few weeks ago I realized that where once I was a very faithful and regular morning exerciser, something at some point had changed. More hours of daylight, an occasional meet-up with running friends in the afternoon, and all of a sudden I was sleeping through my alarm. On days where I ended the day with a bout of exercise that was okay, but more and more I found myself sleeping in…and then doing nothing in the evening either. Once I was tasked with making my ActiveLink lights blink, I knew that had to change! And staring down a budget season at my full-time job, where overtime is often necessary but not known until the last minute, I knew I needed to get back into the habit of getting my exercise done in the morning, when there were sure to be no other conflicts.

One of the tips in this week’s topic was to start with baby steps, and that’s just what I decided I’d do.

Step 1: I at least need to wake up to my alarm!

That’s really the hardest part, isn’t it? I told myself all I needed to do was to get out of bed. That’s it. Even if I don’t exercise, I at least need to get back into the habit of getting out of bed at zero dark thirty.

Step 2: I just need to put my workout clothes on.

Funny enough, once I get out of bed, it’s not so hard to take the next step. But maybe I don’t feel like going out for a run. Well, it doesn’t get me sweaty to put on my workout gear, and strap on the heart rate monitor. Just do that. Something that I found is that I am 100% successful at exercising when I put on my gear. Mentally it seems ridiculous to me to go through the act of changing clothes only to then not use them – especially when I will then have to change clothes AGAIN to go into work. Why go through the hassle of changing two times in the morning if I’m not going to do anything with it?

Step 3: I don’t have to work out hard or for a long period of time, I just need to do something.

So now that I’m awake a little bit and dressed, I’m not dreading exercise as much, but maybe I’m not feeling like running for a whole hour. Okay, well how about a walk? How about running for ten minutes? Just get out the door and DO SOMETHING. Usually, once I’m out there, extending the length of time is easy – I get the momentum going. Or if I’m walking, I realize how much longer it takes me to cover the same distance, and so I start to run. Sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I end the route at a shorter distance than I intended. But at that point, what I’m doing is gravy. A month ago I was sleeping through my alarm. Now I’ve run for 30 minutes! Victory!

So far I’m about two weeks into it. The more I practice the habit, the easier it gets. With practice, it transforms from ZOMG THIS HABIT I’M DOING THAT’S A HUGE CHANGE into Hey, This Is Just What I Do.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Week #34: Your Unhealthiest Habit

In the last several years I have considered myself an active person. I go to the gym, I run outside, I have workout classes that I enjoy. Like probably a lot of you reading this, I have a desk job. Most of my day at work consists of sitting at my computer and working on spreadsheets. Despite this fact, I still considered myself an active person.


The above is my ActiveLink report from yesterday. Wednesdays are my "rest" days. I start the morning (at a time when on other days of the week I'd be working out) at Weight Watchers. Right after I finish the meeting, I go to my full-time job. After work I do yoga. By the time I get home, it's 7pm and I've been away from the house since 5:45am. It's then time for dinner and chores around the house.

I barely met my baseline yesterday, much less my ActiveLink goal! Even the yoga didn't help much, which initially when I started using ActiveLink was concerning. But then I thought about it - the kind of yoga that I'm doing on Wednesdays is very focused on flexibility, focus, and holding poses. It is not what you'd consider "power" yoga. I burn very few calories during a session, and I don't frankly move much - I get into a position and hold it. At any rate, does that daily graph look like an active person to you? Hmm, maybe I need to re-evaluate what I think I am....


And now here's a Sunday from a week or two ago. I started the morning at the gym cycling, then from about 11am-1pm I worked a Weight Watchers meeting. I'm not sure what I did the rest of that day, but while the green bars aren't crazy high, I can tell I wasn't loafing around the rest of the afternoon either. Still, it's clear to me that my primary source of movement in life is through my exercise.

So I've been leafing through this week's Weight Watchers Weekly and picking your brains at the meetings this week to try and figure out how I can move more at work. Since I already do some of the usual things (park farther away in the lot wherever I go, for example) I am working on becoming more "inefficient" in my movements. If a letter needs to get dropped in the mail room, instead of combining it with a trip to the restroom, it now gets its own trip.

It still doesn't add up to much, but I guess the fewer minutes I spend sitting on my duff, the better!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Fifteen

Instead of writing up my thoughts on last week's topic, I hope you'll indulge in a little self-disclosure.

It's now August 2012. Most of us are wondering where the last eight months have gone, but I'm sitting here wondering where the last fifteen years have gone! Because in August 1997 I reached my weight goal and became a Lifetime Member. FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY, Y'ALL.

I remember sitting in my meeting a few weeks into joining, and the leader celebrated a woman who had reached her eighteenth year as a Lifetime member at goal. Those of you who have been members for years might remember that we used to give out ribbons for ten pounds lost, and embroidered stars for each additional ten pound increment. Then, when you became a Lifetime member, you received a white ribbon. And on every anniversary you received an embroidered shooting star. So here was this woman with her white LT ribbon virtually covered in these shooting stars. She was happy, she looked vital, and if I hadn't known her history, I never would have guessed she ever had a weight problem. I remember thinking "someday I want to be her." Doing the math, I am now 83% of the way there!

If you had asked me back then whether I'd have kept my weight off this long, I'm not sure that I would have said yes. Even now, I wonder if I would have been able to remain at my weight goal if I hadn't immediately started working for Weight Watchers (where my weight is monitored monthly to make sure I remain a good role model).

So what have I learned in the past 15 years?

Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not. While I have remained at or under goal the entire time, my weight has fluctuated almost ten pounds. Some years I have a really good cushion, other years I am right at goal. (In full disclosure, recently I have been in one of those "right at goal" years, something which I am trying to change!) Just like when I was in weight loss mode, sometimes I had it dialed in, other times I got a little lax.

Weight maintenance is a different mind-set than weight loss. In maintenance, you have to learn to not freak out over a 1 pound gain. Your weight never stays exactly the same, so fluctuations up and down are a part of the process. If your behavior is consistent, a gain this week will likely be followed by a loss the next. If it doesn't, check your behavior.

My habits have evolved. The way I lost my weight isn't the way I'm maintaining. I was not a runner when I was losing weight. Fifteen years later I've run five marathons and countless half marathons (the next one is coming up next month!). When I was losing I ate lots of prepared, frozen and canned food, and rarely ever cooked. Today, I'm buying staples in bulk and cooking them myself, loving every step of the way.

My life has evolved, and so my habits have had to keep up. When I hit goal, I was married. I still am, but it's to a different fellow. A lot of things happened in between. I've had four different full-time jobs during the last 15 years, each with their own set of hours, overtime demands, and corporate culture. Currently I'm in a "free food all the bloody time" environment, and trust me, that's a challenge!

What has been constant the whole time is the notion of regular weigh-ins to keep an eye on things. Regular tracking of food intake so I don't relax too much. Sometimes I track more than others, but I do still track. Regular physical activity is a must (although what I do for it has changed many times, and likely will continue to change).

Part of my success in this journey have been people like you. Yes, you, reading this. Whether you are in one of the meetings I lead, maybe you're someone I've weighed, maybe you just found me through Blogger or Facebook - you make the difference to me. Helping you to change your habits and reach your goal gives me a feeling that no other job I've ever had has given me. It inspires me to keep this going, to keep on track, so that I can continue to work with you and see how you shine.

So thank you for reading this. And here's to another fifteen years!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Week #30: Build a Smarter Salad

I have eaten a lot of salads in my day. Some of them were the boring bowl of iceberg with a pale, mealy wedge of tomato, and some of them were big fat calorie explosions (Taco Bell taco salad in the fried tortilla shell anyone?).

Then three years ago, Mark Bittman entered my life with this article. "101 Simple Salads for the Season" became my salad reference book that summer. The list made its way around the members of my cooking club, and we even planned a gathering based on the list - everyone picked a number and brought it.

My recommendations from the list:

Salad #2 - yes, tomatoes and peaches DO go together quite nicely!

Salad #13 - I took this "red" salad to a party, and went home with an empty bowl. Turns out tomatoes and STRAWBERRIES go together well, too. Hmm, I sense a theme here.

Salad #19 - I haven't tried this one, but you white bean aficionados out there know who you are. Report back if you try it!

Salad #38 - watermelon and feta are a dynamite combination. Man, I love summer produce.

Salad #95 - this is in the grain salad section, so we're getting outside the box a little. This was breakfast one week!

These salads are great for improvisation. Swap out one fruit or vegetable for another. Season it a little differently. If you're using good ingredients, you can't go wrong!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Week #29: Activate Your Activity

This week marked the official launch in Southern California (and Boston and Chicago) of ActiveLink - our new activity monitor. It paired up nicely with the topic of the week, which was managing your environment to make activity easier.

I thought I'd share my experience so far with the device. I know that buying a new gadget for $39.95 with a $5 per month fee isn't something that everyone will be in a hurry to do. Some of you will want more feedback, know how it really works, what the benefits are. And so I will attempt to do that here. You should know up-front that as an employee of Weight Watchers, I received the device at no cost to me, and do not have to pay the $5 monthly fee.

Set-Up

ActiveLink is super easy to set up. You'll plug it in to a USB port on your computer, and you will download some software. My device was essentially fully charged when I pulled it out of the box, so by the time I'd downloaded the software and given it my information, it was charged and ready to wear. An eTools account is required to get your ActiveLink set-up, because the device needs to know your age, height, weight & gender so that it can ultimately perform the calculation of how many Activity PointsPlus values you earn every day. It also will drop those values you've earned right into your eTools tracker so they are available for swapping.

Assessment Period

The first 8 days you wear this device is the Assessment Period. Your goal during this time is to go about your daily business while remembering to wear the device. Do not attempt to increase or decrease the amount of activity you do. You want the ActiveLink to get a good feel for what your typical life is like. You should wear the device as much as possible, whether you're exercising, running errands, or just sitting on the couch. You can wear the device when you sleep, but since you aren't moving, there's nothing for it to pick up. You could also wear it in the shower (it's waterproof!) but really? Are you that obsessed? (Don't answer that question!)

I was so excited to receive my device and get started, I began my assessment the day before I left for a weekend away in San Francisco. My assessment period was most definitely not a typical week for me, but since I received this device on June 26th and here we are launching it July 15th, I'm glad I did, so that I could get real life experience with it before I had to pitch it in a meeting. My time in San Francisco involved a lot more walking around throughout the day than usual, but also didn't involve any structured workouts. When all is said and done, it could have been a wash. I may choose to do another Assessment at some point in the future, on a week that is more "typical."

During the assessment you don't get much feedback from ActiveLink. It's collecting data on you. You plug it into your computer regularly (say once a day, although if you miss a day, no big thing) to synchronize the information. You don't really get any feedback, and during this time you will need to manually calculate any Activity PointsPlus values you earn because the device isn't ready to do it for you yet. If you track via eTools, you won't be able to track activity in your tracker online during this time, so be prepared to track on paper until the assessment is over.

The Challenge

When the assessment ends, and you've synchronized your device, you'll learn on average how many Activity PointsPlus values you earned per day over the last week. You'll be prompted to answer a few questions about your activity habits, and you'll be presented with a challenge. It appears that whatever your actual average value earned was during the assessment, your challenge will bump that up by two. So for example, if your assessment showed you earned an average of 2 APPV per day, you'll have 12 weeks to increase that to 4 APPV per day.

This is when the fun starts. The lights on the ActiveLink will start giving you feedback on how close you are to your goal. One light = 25%, two lights = 50% and so on. When you plug ActiveLink into your computer, your movement information will show up on the screen represented by varying shades of green bars. The higher and darker the bar, the more you moved. You can look at this information by day, week, even hour and minute! This will help you spot those idle times in your day.

I am an exercise nut, but I also have a full-time job that involves sitting in front of a computer. So it was interesting to see those tall green bars for an hour while I was at the gym paired up to low green, even gray (no movement) bars representing time on my behind.

Activity Baseline

This is a new concept and frankly, probably one that I should leave for its own entry. Short story: Weight Watchers has always built into the program the assumption that we move a certain amount during the course of the day. The Activity PointsPlus values it allows us to earn are assumed to be on top of that. But the reality is that many of us don't move much throughout the day - technology these days doesn't require it of us! With this device, we can actually tell how much we are moving, and for many of us, we will realize that even by doing a dedicated workout, we might not be getting that "standard amount of activity" that was always assumed.

So here's a warning: you may find out you're not earning as much as you thought. Tough to swallow, but think of it this way - technology is now allowing you to get better information. And that better information might help speed up your rate of weight loss. To me, that's worth it!

But What About Those Other Devices?

ActiveLink isn't the only activity monitor on the planet. There are other companies putting out similar devices, there are GPS watches, heart rate monitors and pedometers. Here is how I think ActiveLink compares:

vs. a GPS Watch/Pedometer

ActiveLink won't tell you how far you've gone, how many steps you've taken or how fast you went there. If that kind of thing is important to you, you won't get it here. It will track your movement in 3 directions - front/back, side/side, up/down. Distance covered isn't the only kind of movement out there! But if you're an avid walker/runner who is keeping a mileage or step log, you'll want to keep whatever tool you've got for that.

vs. a Heart Rate Monitor

ActiveLink doesn't keep track of your heart rate, and it also won't tell you how many calories you've burned. I find that kind of information informative and helpful in managing how hard my workout is, so I continue to wear my HRM strap & watch in addition to my ActiveLink.

vs. Other Activity Monitors

You may have heard of Fitbit or Bodybugg, and it's even possible to buy a monitor from the same company who makes ActiveLink (it's called Direct Life). The cost of those devices varies - but they are typically priced $99 and above. Some devices have a monthly subscription fee and others don't.

ActiveLink has a lower entry cost, in that the device will only set you back $39.95. Some of the costlier devices do keep track of more data. Some will analyze your sleep, many track your calories burned. Fancier devices come with a fancier price tag.

The biggest upside to me (as someone who on many occasions was ready to pull the trigger on ordering a Fitbit) is that it integrates with eTools. It calculates your Activity PointsPlus values. So many people out there use devices that calculate calories burned, and then want to know what the APPV equivalent is of that calorie burn, and you just can't do it. (Oh, I know, you can create some rules of thumb, but it's never been an actual part of the Weight Watchers plan to do that.) This device tells you exactly what you've earned, in a language that doesn't need translation. Bottom line, if I were a member paying for meetings, and I was considering a device, that feature would probably have been the thing that would have sold me.


So, have you picked up an ActiveLink yet? I'd love to hear your feedback....