Posts Tagged With: pointsplus

What it Means to Eat “Healthy”

In the last couple of months, I’ve had to completely re-learn what it means to eat “healthy” foods. I’ve realized that for the past three years I’ve been in the dark — like many Americans — when it comes to the true meaning of labels like “organic” and “natural,” and how to determine whether or not a snack that claims it’s nutritious is, in fact, merely a glorified candy bar masquerading as health food.

I’ll be the first to admit that when Weight Watchers announced it was rolling out a brand new program, PointsPlus, I was less than thrilled. I had lost 90 pounds on the “old” program, and my first response was: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Plus, I thought I knew it all: I had devised a variety of schemes for getting the most bang out of my POINTS buck — like seeking out snack foods fortified with fiber, which lowers their value on the program — and I wasn’t ready to accept that fact that my beloved Kashi GoLean crunch was now 5 POINTS per cup, or that even good-for-you dinnertime staples like brown rice and whole wheat pasta were also increasing.

But in the spirit of fully embracing the new program — and taking the initiative to educate myself on nutrition — these last couple of months have been truly eye-opening.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about some things you really need to do to eat “healthy”:

1.) Stop reading nutrition labels. Yes, you read that correctly. My first instinct used to be to check the calorie, fat, and fiber content on a food, and then immediately start estimating its POINTS value. Here’s why that doesn’t always work: a food can be low-fat and low-carb, which now ultimately makes it a POINTS bargain, but if you look at the actual ingredients list — a detailed outline of exactly what you’re putting into your body if you consume that food — more often than not you’ll find a long list of barely pronounceable chemicals, preservatives, and fancy words for “sugar” (e.g. sucrose, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, etc.). Meanwhile, snacks like nuts have a high fat content that scares most dieters away, but they’re a nutritional powerhouse of protein and fiber that keep you full and are great for your heart. These days I’m looking for products that, ideally, contain five or fewer ingredients, and I won’t touch it if that list includes anything I can’t even pronounce!

2.) Don’t believe everything you see. These days, many of the boxed, canned, and bagged items available at the grocery store have been stamped with claims like “all-natural,” “healthy,” or “organic.” But do a little sleuthing, and you’ll realize that these claims are, in many cases, a load of you-know-what. This includes the items at Whole Foods Market, which is just as guilty of selling junk food as your local grocery store. Other than “organic,” these food labels are not regulated by the FDA, and so manufacturers are taking full advantage of this to trick you into buying their product and thinking its actually good for you. If I see one more commercial from the Corn Refiners Association about how “your body don’t know corn syrup isn’t sugar,” or the ones from Frito-Lays about how only natural ingredients are used in their fatty, greasy potato chips, I’ll scream. Again, it comes back to scanning that ingredients list: lots of seemingly healthy boxed foods scream “good-for-you” — like the Fiber One bars I’ve touted on this blog more than once — but if you take a gander at all the added sugars, chemicals, and sodium, I might as well have been grabbing a Snickers bar.

3.) Remember what food looks like in nature. In a society where many of us spend 8 hours a day chained to a desk, and grabbing a bite on-the-go has become the norm for busy weeknights, it can be hard to recall what potatoes that aren’t deep fried actually look like. For example, I had been snacking on these “natural” pomegranate fruit bars. They almost taste like a pomegranate, they kind of smell like a pomegranate, but do they even remotely look like a pomegranate? I don’t think so. One quick glance at the ingredients list and it became abundantly clear that what I was actually consuming were 18 grams of sugar and 20 grams of sodium in a tiny, completely dissatisfying little snack. Why bother when I could just as easily eat a real pomegranate? Before I go to eat anything now, I ask myself just how far removed that food is from its natural state. You’re better off eating an orange than reaching for a glass of OJ, and throwing together your own mini pizza with whole wheat dough, cheese, and tomatoes than cracking open a box of DiGiorno.

Now, is this to say that I’m eating 100% “clean” all day, every day? Not exactly. While I eat fruits and veggies like it’s my job, have completely replaced most of my old go-to snacks with nuts and cheese, and won’t touch many of the frozen and processed foods I once relied on to lose my first 90 pounds, I’m still not willing to give up my Kashi cereal — a food that contains a long list of ingredients that I do actually recognize, but is still, nonetheless, a processed food. And, of course, it’s unrealistic to think that every restaurant or social gathering will be able to accommodate a completely processed-free diet.

But the bottom line is that I just can’t stop thinking about how, just three short years ago, I was literally poisoning my body every single day with nothing but highly-refined, overly-processed snacks and meals that were not only full of chemicals and potential toxins like MSG, but were also loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and oil. That’s why it so important to me to make up for lost time by educating myself on what’s best for my body, and to stop taking my health for granted. (Oh, and as a bonus: the scale is moving again, and I’m feeling better than ever!)

In fact, I just interviewed the woman behind the 100 Days of Real Food experiment for a magazine article, and I’ve signed on to participate in her blog’s “mini-pledges” to help further my commitment to ditching processed foods once and for all.

Kicking my addiction to Splenda and artificial sweeteners is next on my personal To-Do.

What are some of the ways you’re eating “cleaner?”

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The Winds of Change

(I thought this title was appropriate given the 55 mph gusts we’re experiencing here in New Jersey this morning).

Thanks to my efforts to acknowledge (and face) my fears, I’ve finally started making some changes that — believe it or not — may actually be making the scale move! I’m proud to report that I’ve lost 1.2 lbs at my weigh-in for the last two weeks in a row, after several weeks of gains or .4 pound losses. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but for me, it’s huge: I’m back down to a total loss of 86.4 pounds, and for the first time in over a year, I’m confident that I can (and will) reach my goal of losing 100 pounds. I’m determined to break out of my rut and do whatever it takes to realize this goal, and now I see just how easy this whole process could have been all along.

I needed to shake things up. It’s that simple.

Here’s how I’m doing it.

1.) I signed up for my first 5K. FINALLY! I have acknowledged my ability to run 3.1 miles, and am ready to prove to myself and to others that I can do this. Thinking of my treadmill sessions and runs in the park as “training” as opposed to “calorie burning” is truly motivating me to go faster and farther. Best of all, it’s a race to benefit childhood obesity, a cause that couldn’t be closer to my heart. The only problem is I hastily registered for the event (because I didn’t want to give myself time to change my mind!) before realizing that May 1st is the day I’ll be returning from a week-long vacation to celebrate my boyfriend’s 25th birthday in Vegas…on a flight that lands at 6am. Yikes. On the one hand, having a 5K looming over my conscience while I’m whooping it up on the Strip might just help keep me on track, but either way, I know that I’ll be exhausted and jet lagged upon my arrival home. Regardless, I have my mind made up to run this race, and I know that if my time isn’t that great…well, there’s always the next one!

2.) I switched my weigh-in day. I’ve been weighing-in on Sunday mornings at 8:30am since I started my weight loss journey in November 2007. I’d go out to dinner on Friday night and (usually) Saturday night, weigh in the following morning, and then make the remainder of Sunday my free-for-all day, chock full of mindless binge eating. Because, you know, I had the whole week ahead to make up for it. Well, no more. For the past two weeks I’ve weighed in on Saturday morning at 8:30, right before my Muy Thai Kickboxing class. And guess what? I’ve lost more than a pound both weeks. Guess what else? I’ve magically stopped feeling the need for a “cheat” day, and — brace yourselves — I’m even tracking all weekend! Yes, that’s right. Without that “end of the weekend” weigh-in day mentality, I’ve started looking at my Friday night dinner out with my boyfriend as my last chance to stay on track before my weigh-in, and the weekend has suddenly become just two regular on-plan days. Who knew something so simple would make such a huge difference in my mindset, and my ability to start tackling my weekend eating issues once and for all?

3.) I’ve made protein my new best friend. I’ll be the first to admit that while I eat whole foods most of the time, before the PointsPlus program was launched, I was snacking on empty carbs just a bit too often. Who doesn’t love munching on baked chips with a sandwich, grabbing a handful of whole grain crackers on the go, or enjoying yummy whole wheat pasta dishes for dinner? I didn’t want to admit how much I relied on carbs — albeit “healthy” carbs — until the higher POINTS values forced me to start cutting back. Now I’m eating much smaller portions of cereal and brown rice, I won’t touch processed, ready-made meals with a ten-foot pole, and I’m committed to finding new ways to incorporate more lean protein, nuts, beans, and — of course — fruits and veggies into my diet. (Now I just wish I could learn a strategy to choke down fish without gagging). And you know what? I’m not feeling so hungry all the time, and I have more energy. I know I have some body fat to shed before I can truly admire some of these muscles I’ve been working so hard to build, and I think I finally figured out what has to be done.

4.) I fell in love with my new workout. I’ve already written about my Muy Thai Kickboxing class, but I cannot even express how much having a workout to look forward to — as opposed to mindlessly pounding the treadmill every day — has made all the difference. I leave that class three times each week feeling strong, powerful, and ready to take on the world. I’m torching major calories, I’m watching muscles sprout up everywhere, and I don’t even realize how hard I’m working out because I’m having so much fun. I’m now convinced that once you start looking at a physical activity as “training” as opposed to simply “exercising,” it really can boost your motivation to keep going to class and working towards your next goal (in this case, my yellow belt).

5.) I’m inspiring others. Okay, okay, so this last one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a change I made, per se’…but I like to think I had some influence on my boyfriend, who recently started eating healthier and exercising 4+ times a week. Truth be told, his newfound commitment to eat well, work out, and, as he says, “not die in 10 years,” has had more of an impact on me than he knows. I’m beyond thrilled to have a workout partner (yes, he even joined my gym!), but even more importantly, it means so much to me that I’ve been able to inspire him on his journey to better health. I know he hasn’t been feeling so great about himself, and I’ve worried about his health for years. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of watching him completely change his life — he’s eating fruits and vegetables, for crying out loud! — and I couldn’t be more proud. Plus, now I feel like I have to set a good example for him, so it motivates me to keep making the right choices. He has always pushed me to be my best, and now I’m so glad that I can do the same for him.

What are some of the things you’ve done to “shake things up” when the scale stalls? I’ll take all the ideas I can get!

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