A common struggle
Suzie Dods, a 60-year-old swimming instructor in San Rafael, California, says she started struggling with her weight when she was in college, and by 2011, she was heavier than she wanted to be.
At the time, she was living in San Francisco and a friend had joined Weight Watchers, a venerable weight-loss program that was founded in 1963 and recently rebranded as WW.
The friend invited Dods to join her at a meeting. She found the program very helpful and ended up losing 25 pounds. Here’s how she and others who have followed the WW diet found success.
A time-tested option for many
On the other side of the country, Ginny Peck, now 75, of North Woodstock, New Hampshire, has also had success with WW over the years. She started WW 50 years ago when she first determined she needed to drop about 20 pounds.
She reached her goal within a few months and kept the weight off for years, but over time, the number on the scale inched higher. So she went back to WW, which again topped U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Weight-Loss Diets in 2021. “I think I’ve gone back three or four times over the years,” Peck says, and each time she’s had a lot of success.
So much success, in fact, that from 2011 through 2013, she became a group leader, sharing her own experience to help others better control their weight. She went through a special training program and began hosting meetings in her town. “I was really thinking of it as a community service, not that I wanted a new job,” she recalls.
During her time both following the plan and helping others to stick with it, she’s honed in on some helpful tips and tricks anyone can adopt to achieve weight loss success with WW.
Go in person.
Though the current COVID-19 pandemic has moved many formerly in-person activities online, Peck recommends actually going in person each week to the WW workshops and wellness check-ins as much as you can.
The ritual of checking in for just 30 minutes once a week helps support your goals by making you accountable and keeping you on a consistent schedule. It’s just 30 minutes, once a week, but the support offered can be invaluable, Peck says. These gatherings can also be a nice social outlet that doesn’t revolve around food or alcohol for those who are looking to cut back on consumption of such items. “We would have a great time at meetings,” she says.
For Dods, the meetings were made especially helpful by an excellent group leader. “We had a fantastic leader who kept me honest and on target,” Dods says. “He had lost something like 80 or 100 pounds, and he’d heard all the excuses and just had real life responses. Every time we gained a little weight or lost a little weight, he responded positively,” she says.
Do it with a friend.
While the WW approach includes a lot of support from other users and a group leader, sometimes it’s helpful to have another friend or loved one going along for the journey with you. Dods says the friend who first invited her was a big reason she stuck with WW.
Having someone you trust to bounce ideas off of and to check in with you more often can be helpful in keeping you on track.
When it comes to choosing foods, the good thing about the WW plan is that nothing is off limits. This helps eliminate the all-or-nothing mindset that can so quickly derail other diets.
“You aren’t limited to specific foods. You just make a choice. You use real food and learn to make better choices,” Dods says.
Instead of judging yourself harshly for slipping up and having a cookie, just have the cookie, write it down and move on. Save the energy you’d spend on judging yourself harshly to make a better choice, such as having a piece of fruit or some vegetables, the next time.
Focus on the positive.
Dods says one of the key things that helped her lose weight with WW was how relatable her group’s leader was and how he helped her to understand that losing weight is an up and down process. “You’re going to gain some weight, and you’re going to lose some. It’s an up and down process.” Get out of the punishment mentality and adopt a more accepting and self-loving mindset.
Peck says that the dieters she saw who were most successful were the ones who didn’t beat themselves up if they came in for a weigh in and hadn’t lost any weight. Those who could accept that it’s not always a linear progression downward were more able to weather any setbacks in a positive way.
“If you had what you consider a ‘bad week’ on the scale, what else can you feel good about?” Peck asks. “Try to bring out the positive and focus on the good.”
Don’t be afraid.
Peck says that the actual numbers recorded during weigh-ins are confidential, and getting to know your fellow meeting-goers is a wonderful way to help you stick with the program. “The numbers are kept private, and you don’t have to share that with anyone unless you want to.”
She adds it’s helpful to support others you’re on the journey with. Being a “cheerleader” for others as well as yourself can help the new healthy habits become permanent changes.
Track all your food.
Peck says that the program focuses on helping dieters track and learn more about the foods they’re eating, which can help inform better choices. “You’re being accountable and you’re tracking your normal eating,” she says, which can help you see what you’re doing and be able to identify areas for improvement.
Reducing portion sizes can help you reserve more points for other items you want to eat during the day, and being able to see it all can help you discover where you can make the small changes that add up to big improvements.
Keeping track of what you’re eating is also a key way to make sure you stay within WW’s point system. This system assigns point values to foods, and you’re encouraged to stay within certain target goals each day based on the number of points you can consume. It can be tailored to your specific health, nutrition and activity needs.
A robust digital app has replaced the notebooks that Peck used back when she first started WW, but the ultimate goals are still the same:
— Keep track of what you eat.
— How much you move.
— How much water you’re drinking.
— How much you’re sleeping.
— Aim to stay in the target zone of points each day, and results should follow.
“If you bite it, write it,” Peck says.
Find what works for you.
For Dods, WW’s balanced and holistic approach really clicked. “It just worked because it was doable. I could work it into my schedule. I had a good a support team. It was reasonably priced. And there wasn’t a single food you couldn’t eat,” Dods says.
Peck says that occasionally, she’d work with a dieter who didn’t find success on the WW program, and that’s OK. They might have needed a different approach to weight loss. The key is to keep trying until you find what works for your lifestyle, your budget and your preferences.
Incorporate the changes for the long term.
Dods isn’t actively doing WW anymore, and she says she’s gained back some of the weight she lost in 2011. But she hasn’t gained weight during the pandemic, “which is a big thing,” she says. She credits her time with WW for that. “The leader we had way back then is still in my head and encouraging me to make good choices. I’m still in touch with him on Facebook, and he’s really been an inspiration,” she says.
Making such changes for a lifetime is the key to keeping the weight off for good. “We’ve all done a grapefruit diet or cleanse or something like that,” but these approaches aren’t sustainable. In contrast, Peck has made the WW approach a a lifestyle that she has been able to adopt for a lifetime. “I’ve seen it firsthand, and it just works. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a program worth trying.”
8 tips to ensure weight loss with WW
— Go in person.
— Do it with a friend.
— Reserve judgment.
— Focus on the positive.
— Don’t be afraid.
— Track all your food.
— Find what works for you.
— Incorporate the changes long term.
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