Burn more calories than you consume. Sounds like a simple enough formula for losing weight. Yet, simple doesn’t always mean easy, and when it comes to weight loss it can sometimes take years to wrap our heads around very simple ideas.
The good news is that there are some tools out there to help us lose weight that don’t just deal with the food we eat or the exercise we do. They deal with the whys. They’re there to help us wrap our heads around those simple ideas. Here are three I’ve tried, along with some pros and cons, and how I think they can help you:
You’ve seen Jennifer Hudson promote it. You’ve seen Don Draper’s ex-wife go on the program in its early days. But does it work? The short answer is: yes. The accurate answer is: it, like anything else, works if you stick to it. Thankfully, there’s a lot about it that makes it easy to stick to. Unlike other programs that make you buy their food, Weight Watchers focuses on helping you navigate eating in the real world. It’s unlikely you’d drink shakes, or eat special meals in a box for the rest of your life. However, with the way Weight Watchers approaches real food, you’ll learn the tools you need to help you make healthy choices even outside the program.
How it helps your head:
In addition to teaching you how to relate to food in a new way, the meetings are an important component. Regularly reporting to someone else to weigh in keeps you accountable. Meetings provide support and tips from people who are on the same journey as you are. The structure and support system in Weight Watchers keeps you motivated, assigning points to food the way they do as part of their Points Plus system teaches you that some foods are “worth more” to your body than others, and paying a monthly fee means you’re more likely to actually use the program.
Flexibility – you can go to meetings daily, weekly, or monthly, and you can pay that way, too. Obviously, you save money if you pay per month, but if you’d rather pay per meeting, that’s also an option.
Technology – Weight Watchers’ e-tools are great, and allow you to monitor and manage your progress from your computer, or your smartphone. They also sell products that allow you to calculate your points on the go, or keep track of your activity so you know exactly how much exercise you’ve gotten in a day.
Support – In addition to the members you’ll meet at meetings, the staff at all the Weight Watchers centers are all members, too. They’re really knowledgeable and are always willing to help you with whatever you need.
Money –I pay a little over $40 a month for my monthly pass, and that might be a big expense for a lot of people. Then again, you’ll be eating less, so you won’t be spending as much on food. And aren’t you worth the investment? You could easily spend $40 a WEEK at Starbucks. Just sayin’.
Meeting times – depending on where your nearest meetings are, it might be difficult to find one at a time that’s good for you. I’ve had to become a morning person (on the weekend!) to make my nearest meeting.
Corporate mentality – despite not needing to buy Weight Watchers food to be a part of the program, they do do their fair share of product-peddling. They’re a business after all. That said, as long as you keep in mind that there’s a free/cheap alternative to any of the products they sell, it’s not a problem.
This one you might have heard of if you’ve seen the show Mike and Molly. When I first moved to L.A. I didn’t have the money for a gym or Weight Watchers, but I wanted to take charge of my overeating, so I looked up an OA meeting and went. It was a life-changing experience. OA is totally free and volunteer-run. And yes, it’s a 12-step program. In fact, it uses the same book that Alcoholics Anonymous uses – and that’s the truly life-changing part; the acknowledgement that food addiction is just as serious and real a problem as any drug or alcohol problem. It’s worse, actually. I mean, no one tells an alcoholic that they have to have 3 shots a day to stay healthy, but they’re not allowed to touch alcohol the rest of the time! But sticking to three meals a day when you’re addicted to food? Yeah.
How it helps your head:
Again, it’s all about the support system. Going to weekly meetings with people going through the same stuff as you is a huge help. What’s more, after a couple of meetings you’re encouraged to find a sponsor, someone who’s completed all 12 steps who can guide you through the process and act as your personal coach. They’re someone you can call when you’re feeling like you’re going to binge eat, or you’re having trouble going through a troubling time and feel like you might backslide in any way. And what do those 12 steps entail? They’re designed to help you look within and examine all of the stuff in your personality and your past that have all added up and caused you to seek solace/comfort/validation in food.
It’s Free – It costs nothing to go to meetings and get the support you need. There’s an envelope passed for donations at every meeting, since it is a volunteer-run organization, and there’s often a rental fee for the meeting venue, but they only ask for whatever you can pay. You also have to buy a copy of the AA book, but I borrowed my first copies of stuff, and fellow members are usually generous with their resources.
Anonymity – Knowing that you can attend an OA meeting and have no one know about it allows you to be more honest in meetings than you might be anywhere else. Everyone takes the anonymity part very seriously. No one shares last names, and you only get to know each other as much as makes you comfortable. My choosing to write about my participation now is my choice, but I would never “out” anyone else. I’ve seen celebrities in OA – but I would never tell you who. In the meetings, everyone is exactly the same.
Getting Into the Muck – OA, moreso than Weight Watchers, gives you a structured way to get into why you eat so much. Overeating is never just about the food, and the more meetings you go to, the more you realize that your eating might stem from other, unexamined stuff. Getting into that stuff is important for long-term success.
The Vibe – Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a lot of great people through OA, and it’s extremely helpful. But I ultimately left, because the vibe of the meetings just seemed increasingly depressing. (One friend I made in OA said that she went to an AA meeting with a friend of hers who was in THAT program, and joked about how upbeat alcoholics are in comparison to people who overeat!) That said, I might not have felt that way had I broadened the meetings I attended. Meetings are as different as the people who attend them. I’m actually thinking about going back, as I miss the discipline the program gave me.
Also, the spiritual aspect of the program might make some people uncomfortable. It’s not a program for everyone. That said, there are plenty of atheists and skeptics in OA – and there’s even a chapter in the AA book devoted to them, letting you know that Higher Power can mean anything you want it to be. One member I heard about, when asked to come up with a Higher Power, looked up and said “The Ceiling – it’s above me and it keeps shit from falling on me from above.” So, whenever that member needed help and a place to focus, they thought about the ceiling. Whatever works!
Ultimately, if you want to deal with the stuff that contributes to your overeating, it might pay to go right to a professional. I was in therapy years ago after my mother passed away, and it did me a lot of good. Sadly, she decided to leave her therapy practice to go back to her private law practice, and when she asked me if I wanted her to refer me to someone else, I told her it wasn’t necessary because I thought I was done. HA! I wasn’t done. I’m actually looking into a new therapist right now.
How It Helps Your Head:
It’s talking to someone about your problems who’s trained in how to guide you to the answers you need. A lot of people are anti-therapy because they figure “I have friends, why can’t I just talk to them? Why do I have to pay someone to talk to me about my problems?” Thing is, what if your friends are part of the problem? Or are in the same boat you are? Or are friends with the people or close to the situations that are making your life difficult? It’s important to be able to talk to someone who not only knows what they’re doing, but also has no agenda in your life other than to help you
Trained Mental Navigation – As I mention above, it’s not just about having someone to whom you can vent about your problems. It’s about having someone who’s trained in dealing with it. Your friends will listen to you and support you, but they might not always give the best, most helpful advice. Having an impartial voice in your life is important.
Personalized Help – Whereas the tools I mention above have a lot of navigating issues in a group setting, therapy is entirely for you. You have the time and space to tailor advice and solutions to your life. You can deal with why you overeat specifically, as opposed to why people might overeat generally.
Money – Therapists can be expensive! However, they can also charge on a sliding scale. If you do your research, though, you can find someone who’s both of quality and fits your budget. Don’t be put off by a therapist just because they don’t charge a lot. Price doesn’t always indicate quality. A close friend of mine is a social worker, and is brilliant at what she does. She works at a clinic where they charge on a sliding scale, but invests all of herself in her clients. Sadly, she’s in New York, or I’d recommend her to you! (New Yorkers, if you want the info, email Ms. In the Biz, and I’ll send you her way!)
Hopefully, any or all of these tools can help you wrap your head around your food issues so that you can finally live the healthier life you were meant to!
See you next week! And if you have any other suggestions of methods of dealing with the whys of eating, leave them in the comments below!