Back in the day — in my last year in college — I managed to lose 70 lbs on Weight Watchers in 7 months. Later, it took me more than 12 years, but I also managed to gain it all back. Since then, I’ve been on the WW plan probably a dozen times, and it’s changed dramatically — it’s all points, instead of exchanges, and it’s pretty darned flexible, for better or for worse.
Doing Optifast taught me that I actually do best with rules — lots of rules — and little flexibility. With flexibility comes an opportunity to make decisions — decisions that can put me over the edge to over-consumption. When I’m making the decisions, rather than relying on a known effective plan, I doubt myself constantly. With flexibility I can theoretically eat anything I want (in appropriate quantities) anytime I want.
But what flexibility doesn’t do is give me the assurance and resolve that the appropriate quantities are enough. It also doesn’t help me eat the mix of food that’s needed to satisfy. With flexibility, I can eat my breakfast points in sugar-laced cereal, all but guaranteeing that I’ll be ravenously hungry — and totally out of my mind with a sugar crash — in not too long.
With rigidity, I develop the confidence that the small amounts allowed — if they’re the right things – will be enough to satisfy me and get me through to the next meal. It may be difficult at first. Of course it will be! But when I know that I’ll eventually get accustomed to the portion sizes, and that I’m eating healthfully and naturally, it’s (hopefully) easier to manage.
All this to say that I’ve drawn up an eating plan for myself that relies largely on the ancient 80s-style WW, as laid out in the book pictured above — which, unlike in the current versions, actually describes the whole program for the reader.
There’s a set menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And when I say “set” I mean for breakfast you’re to eat one serving of fruit and another of protein (eggs, cheese, peanut butter, meat or legumes). For lunch and dinner, you get a larger portion of protein. Then there are set amounts of (additional) fruits, vegetables, milk, bread and fats, which you can either add to the meals or eat as snacks. As in later versions of WW, there are some vegetables that you can eat to your heart’s delight. But others are limited.
So, I’m writing this to psych myself up to start seriously dedicating myself to this plan as of today — I really think it’s something I could follow for the rest of my life. It gives me just enough structure (protein at every meal!) to ensure I’m not going crazy with choices, but enough flexibility so I don’t go nuts if I’ve run out of grapes and have to eat an apple instead.
I can’t talk myself into things like “just this once,” or “it’ll be OK,” or “this food is allowed,” because there are strict boundaries. And, best of all, there’s no cost associated with this. I don’t have to join anything or buy any special food — a good thing considering my current financial situation. I did have to buy the book, but that was just a few dollars from a used bookstore.
Since I’ve quit Optifast, I haven’t done terribly badly — I’ve only gained 3-4 lbs over my “red flag” weight. But my eating is going downhill when left to my own devices, and I still want to lose, not just maintain. Here’s the plan I’ve drawn up for myself (and posted on several magnetic surfaces around the house) in case you’re interested in exploring this approach yourself. Send good vibes my way, please!