Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Phantom Weight Watcher

My wife and I both concluded that we needed to lose a little weight. I am smart enough to know that I should not indicate how much my wife intends to lose, but as for me, my "ideal" weight is nearly 40 (!) pounds lighter, if you believe what they say for my height. I don't, so my goal is not to lose 40 pounds, but instead 20, which would take me to where I was in my early 20s when I was pretty fit and trim.

To this end, my wife has joined Weight Watchers. I've refused to join, primarily to save myself time and money, but I have willingly been reading up on all the strategies and tips that it takes to be part of the program. Yes, I am a "Phantom Weight Watcher!" (This term is now trade-marked, so you can email me my royalties when you use it ...)

I've been "on the program" now for over a week, and have lost somewhere around 3 pounds. The program itself doesn't really have any magical ability to make you lose weight -- instead it makes you mindful of your portion sizes and the calories that are contained in everything you eat. Using a funky chart that matches calories, grams of fat, and grams of fiber, one can deduce how many "points" everything you eat is worth. Yes, this completely ignores protein and salt intake (yeah, go ahead and drink that gallon of soy sauce, it's okay!). Then, by taking into account your current weight and average daily activity, you can determine how many "points" you should consume in any given day. Ideally, consuming fewer "points" in a day should result in a net loss of weight.

It's actually pretty straightforward. By considering everything that you can eat as a specific number of "points", you can remove some of the emotional aspects of eating. For me, this has meant that I now have the willpower to move past the secretaries desk without grabbing a handful of peanut M&Ms from the bowl she sets out. For my wife, this has meant spending more time doing meal planning and being a more conscientious shopper. While it does introduce a bit of frustration -- I really do still want to eat those M&Ms -- so far it seems to be working.

My wife and I also recently purchased "Wii Fit". This is a handy little tool that, among other things, measures your Body-Mass Index (BMI) and tracks it over time. My wife and I both get on it about once a day and it has served as a remarkable reminder of why we're doing this (since our BMI is considered "overweight", our little avatar on the screen is portly!). It helps with the accountability, and is far more accurate than our old scale in the bathroom.

One thing that I stumbled across the other day was an article on a recent study on fat cells. According to the article, even with major weight loss, you retain no fewer fat cells throughout your life than you had when you were 20 years old. This is bad news to those who were overweight at that age, as it makes re-gaining lost weight easier. For me and my wife, however, this should be pretty good news. At 20 I was a missionary biking my fanny off in the summer heat in Texas. At 20, my wife was, well, she was looking good. (Not to imply that she doesn't, you know, ... um, well, she looks pretty good now, too, come to think of it. You know what, I'll just shut up now.)

So, this should give us hope. If we're stuck with what we had at 20, we should be able to shed the extra weight we've gained since then. It's a good theory, right? I'm going with it.

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