I’ve struggled with my weight since I started peri-menapause in my mid-forties. I’m not sure why my metabolism went haywire so early, but it did. At that point I’d enjoyed around 25 years of being able to eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. And when I did gain weight, say on a trip or over the holidays, all I had to do was cut out desserts for a week or so and the weight just melted off. It was heaven!
I did have a lot of experience with dieting though. I had a period during my adolescence when I gained weight and had to struggle to take it off. Also my mother lived on a roller coaster of weight gain and loss, often for medical reasons, so she was dieting on and off throughout my life. The only weight loss program my mom and I knew about was plain old calorie counting. We had little booklets with the caloric values of the most common food items and that was our bible. We were scrupulous about weighing and measuring our food and keeping track of our daily calories.
When I gained weight in my forties, I tried the familiar calorie counting and then went on to try two fad diets of the day – a high protein, low carb diet and the opposite – a high carb low protein diet. I lost weight on both but I wasn’t happy with the unbalanced diet I was eating. I also regained most of the weight once I added back the ‘omitted’ foods into my diet. I ended up losing weight on Weight Watchers with their point system, which is similar to counting calories.
I managed to maintain my weight for many years and when I gained ten pounds in my sixties, I went back to Weight Watchers. I hated the forced obsession with food and the endless decisions about what to eat and how much. But it had worked before, so I went back. But this time I ran into a problem. They recommend a minimum diet of 1200 calories a day. I made the mistake of telling them that 1200 calories is maintenance for me and that I had to go below 1200 calories to lose weight. They said they could not condone such an ‘unhealthy’ program and refused to work with me!
My son had already switched from Weight Watcher’s to Jenny Craig and was loving it. He recommended that I try it too so I did. I was initially reluctant because Jenny Craig is one of those programs that provide you with most of your food for each day. You add fruits, vegetables, salad, and yogurt to what they give you, but basically everything you eat each day, and when you eat it, is prescribed by the program. I was afraid I’d hate the ‘frozen food’ entrees and was suspicious of eating mostly ‘manufactured’ food rather than fresh. I was also reluctant to give up my freedom of choice, which is part of the joy of eating – to have what you want when you want it.
From day one I realized how wrong I was about everything. It took me a while to weed out the food items I hated and zero in on the ones I liked. But I had an epiphany. For me, the best way to diet is to stop thinking about food altogether. Eating processed meals is a good way to do that. I have no problem eating their food and in fact, find some of it tasty, particularly their Mexican, Italian and Asian dishes.
I would shun this food when not dieting, but for me, not ‘craving’ food is essential for a successful diet. A major reason this plan works for me is that I don’t have to think about choosing or preparing food at all. Jenny Craig suggests recipes to enhance their dishes, but for me, it’s great that I don’t have to do anything but heat up, defrost or unwrap my meals and snacks. Looking forward to food and seeing it as a major ‘activity’ of the day, is the real problem for me.
To be fair to Weight Watchers, they now have a cornucopia of frozen foods on sale at most supermarkets, complete with point values for each item. My son is using some of their foods to help him stay on track with his calorie/point goals. But for me, there’s still too much choice and too many food decisions to be made every day. I want my eating to be mindless and mostly uninteresting when I’m dieting (though I love the yogurt and the energy bars I have to eat every day and the desserts are pretty good too.)
On Jenny Craig, I have to eat something every few hours so I don’t ever get truly hungry. The food is also designed so that smaller than my usual portions are satisfying (extra fiber?), so I never feel like I’m suffering. Portion control has always been one of my biggest eating issues.
I eat healthy food but I generally tend to eat too much of it. If I like something, I want to eat lots of it. And I find it very hard to resist food that’s right in front of me, so, for example, I usually end up eating large quantities of appetizers that are left out on the counter. I seem to have a unique stomach – I rarely feel full, so I usually don’t feel a physical need to stop eating. I tend to stop when I intellectually decide that I’ve eaten enough. With Jenny Craig, this is not an issue. When the meal or snack is gone, you’re done. No more temptation.
I should add that in both Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, the plan includes weekly meetings with a diet consultant, complete with a weigh-in. I found that useful when I started the program, but once I was acclimated to it, I skipped the sessions and just went in to buy my food and get weighed (this is for their records. I weigh myself at home and use my home scale as the measure of weight loss.)
Once I lost the desired weight on Jenny Craig, I had no trouble maintaining it, even after I went back to eating ‘real’ food. First, I initiated a transition program for myself – mixing Jenny Craig food with ‘regular’ food for several weeks before phasing out of Jenny Craig food altogether. I may keep some of the energy and dessert bars as part of my usual routine since they are quick, easy and satisfying and keep me from winging it on desserts and snacks, my weakness.
I’m hoping that my extended time on Prednisone didn’t permanently affect my metabolism. I’m still dealing with high interocular pressure which was also caused by the Prednisone. I only want to lose 8-10 pounds, which isn’t a huge amount, but it’s enough to make a difference in how I feel and how I think I look. So, we’ll see how this diet works for me this time around.
I’m sure it won’t be the last time I have to go through this!