"I'm convinced that the only way to successfully lose weight and keep it off is to cook from scratch as much as possible and be very selective in the prepared products used in cooking and meal planning."


(Back to page 1)

Calories Matter

Remember this: For every 3500 calories you eat that youíre not burning off each day, you will gain one pound. Conversely, every time you eat 3500 calories less than what you need each day, you will lose a pound.

You can search the Web and find many articles that discuss how many calories you're burning a day, based on your age and activity level. I've included a couple of such sites below.

Based on my weight loss for 2015, which recorded daily calories, I've learned that for me, my daily burn with minimum exercise is about 2,000 calories, and to lose a pound a week, I need to keep my daily calorie average somewhere between 1300 and 1400 calories and get at least some exercise every day, even if it's only running errands or shopping or going up and downstairs several times.

Here are sites I have often used to get nutrition info for a product before I buy it, or when I'm converting recipes:

Includes many options when you punch in a food item, including calculations for some brand name items.

Calorie King.com
Includes a BMI calculator, a TOOLS tab where you can search for nutrition info and get different calculations based on weight, search for health recipes, and more.

Includes a FAST FOODS category that may be helpful to some. This site is getting its data from USDA, so you have some good averages to work with here. You can also search for nutrition data about any food manufacturer's products or what's on the menu of your favorite restaurant.

SELFNutrition Data (Know What You Eat). This site includes a BMI and Daily Needs Calculator so you can get an estimate of your BMI and daily caloric burn by indicating the exercise you get each day. You can search for nutrition data of countless food items and also register for other benefits.

Weight Watchers SmartPoints--Struggle or Success?Martha McKinnon's blog post about the changes WW keeps making to its program has generated many comments.

What Is Weight Watchers Cooking Up for 2018? US Freestyle! UK Flex! And yet another change in the program is coming. In the UK, the program is apparently going to be called "Flex" while in the U.S. it will be "Freestyle."

This blog post about Weight Watchers has now been removed from the Web, but I'm leaving the excerpt to illustrate the dissatisfaction some WW dieters have about the program.

Excerpt: "The thing that they seem to have going for them is an uncanny ability to convince their clients to credit WW with short term weight loss and blame themselves for the weight regain that almost everyone experiences, and convincing people to keep coming back for multiple rounds of the same (me includedóI'm a 6-time WW veteran.) When I speak out about Weight Watchers I always get fat people who say 'You shouldn't say it doesn't work, their program worked for me six times!' These people have a different definition of 'worked' than I do."





Copyright © 2016 by Barbara Brabec. All Rights Reserved.

Page 3 of article, "Tired of Being Fat? How to Finally Lose that Unwanted Weight"

by Barbara Brabec

Cooking from Scratch

MY SISTER AND I AGREE that the only way to successfully lose weight and keep it off is to continue to cook from scratch as much as possible and be very selective in what prepared products we use in our cooking and meal planning. We need to build our meals around fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats, fowl, and fish, while also greatly reducing the number of carbs we used to eat in the form of bread, pastas, crackers, cookies, candy and other sugar-laden foods. (All carbs turn to sugar in our bodies, some more quickly than others. Google glycemic index for more information on this topic.)

There are many fat-free or low-fat products on the market, but we must check the nutrition label before bringing them home and compare one product brand with another to choose the healthiest product. We should also pay close attention to the calorie count of an individual serving as well as the grams of fat (especially saturated), carbohydrates, and protein. Avoid all products with unhealthy trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.

If you have high blood pressure (as one in three American adults do), note how much sodium (salt) is in an item and see if there is a lower-sodium choice available. We don't have to lift a salt shaker today to exceed the recommended maximum of 2,300 milligrams (1 tsp.) of sodium a day for young adults. But the middle-aged, the elderly, and African Americans should get no more than 1,500 mg. a day, according to this article on Harvard Health. It discusses this topic in detail, showing where we get most of our sodium (77 percent from food processing), and offers tips on ways to cut our sodium intake.

We donít have to give up "eating out" when we go on a diet, but we must become aware of how many calories weíre ingesting, especially when we visit a favorite eating place. (See "Calories Matter" sidebar at left.) Today all restaurants offer nutrition information on the Web so diners can pull up a menu and select healthier, lower calorie choices before they get there. But be prepared to find that a meal in most restaurants and fast-food eateries can easily total 3,000 calories. You may joke that a meal like this will go straight to your belly or hips, but it isn't funny.

Creating a Nutrition Reference Handbook

THE FIRST THING I DID after I joined WW was take a few days to copy to a notebook the nutrition information for every food item on my shelves and in the freezer so I could punch that data into the WW online calculator and determine points for an ounce, a cup, or one or more pieces of something. A few things I'd bought turned out to be so bad for me that I closed my eyes when I put them in the garbage because it was like throwing money away.

Unless one is retired or has a lot of time on their hands, they arenít likely to have the time to do what Iíve done by working full time on my "diet project" for several months, but this sort of thing could be done a little at a time, as meals are being prepared with ingredients on hand. As a WW member, you could log in, get the points for whatever youíre eating that day, and jot it down on paper so you could start your own typed reference guide. (If/when you leave the program later, youíll have something to work with as you continue your weight loss efforts.)

After I learned how the WW program worked, I decided I didn't want to do anything online except get points for common food items and cooking ingredients. But I quickly got more serious about calories, which WW takes into consideration in determining points but wasn't providing in membersí food product searches when I was in the program.

Protein Considerations in a Diet. Wanting more from WW than just the points for a meal, I took it upon myself to create a detailed record not only of points, but calories and protein as well. My doctor was thrilled when I said I had joined WW, but told me that this program doesn't take into account the higher protein needs of older people, so she urged me to not worry about exceeding my daily WW points if I was getting more protein in the bargain.

My research suggests that I need about 80 grams of protein a day, but I'm still finding it hard to stay within the WW points limit each week without eating larger portions of meat, fish, or fowl and increasing my calorie level at the same time. "You need to eat more beans," my doctor advised, which delighted me because Chili, which is high in points, is one of my favorite Saturday night dinners. This year, I'm not going to press so hard to lose a pound a week as I did last year, but up my calories and points a bit, at least on weekends, in exchange for getting more protein into my diet. After all, this isn't a marathon run for me. I believe Aesop had the right idea when he said, "Slow and steady wins the race."

Once I had a considerable amount of nutrition info and had calculated WW points, I started my "Weight Watchers Points Bible," a Word document that includes nutrition info on every food item I normally eat, as well as every ingredient I use in cooking and baking. I formatted pages in this document to fit a 6x9-inch 3 ring binder that is now worth gold to me. (Page size could more easily be an 8-1/2 x 11-inch book if you don't want to use a paper cutter to make smaller pages. A small book is simply what I prefer, and it matches the size of my two typed recipe books as well.)

Barbara Brabec's Weight Watchers Points Bible

DIVIDED INTO VARIOUS food/ingredient categories, the pages of this book contain countless food items with their calorie, protein, and WW points info, and I continue to add new food items and calculations to it all the time, printing out replacement pages when I have made a lot of changes to any one page. Bit by bit, to make it easier to convert a recipe, I have refined individual entries to include different measurements from a tablespoon or ounce to various cup measurements used in recipes, and I continue to add new commercial food items to my lists once I find they can be worked into the WW program. Lately, having become aware of how much sodium is in every commercial food product, I am now starting to add this information to my book as well.

Starting Your Own Diet Recipe Book

BEFORE I JOINED WW, I had already decided to type all my favorite recipes, which were in many forms and hard to find when I wanted a specific recipe I knew I had somewhere. Some were on 3x5 cards, some in various cookbooks and file folders, and many were in the two diabetic cookbooks I had written by hand when my husband was diagnosed with diabetes and I had to learn a whole new way of cooking. I gave myself a crash course in nutrition at that time so I could convert all my favorite recipes to diabetic exchanges, and now I have once again converted most of those recipes to work in my WW eating plan.

To me, one of the biggest benefits of having my treasured recipe collection on computer is that it is now backed up on Carbonite, and I will never again worry about losing my recipes in a fire or tornado. Another benefit is that a Word document is keyword-searchable, so when I have certain ingredients on hand and am wondering what to do with them, I search the document to find recipes filed in general categories in my recipe books, much as many of you probably look for recipes on the Web.

Barbara Brabec's Weight Watcher Recipe Books

Adapting a Recipe. In adapting a recipe for your diet, it helps to have some "cooking sense" so you know how much butter, oil, sugar, or salt you can eliminate without harming the recipe, and you also need to experiment to find which high calorie ingredients might be replaced with lower-calorie substitutes. For example, a recipe may call for cream or half-and-half, but be just as tasty (though not as thick) and much lower in calories and points if you used 2% milk. Although many recipes list two or three tablespoons of oil to saute a skillet full of food, if you use a nonstick skillet you can do this with just half a tablespoon.

Because I canít stay on a diet if I canít have desserts, I am experimenting with alternative sweeteners such as Stevia and Truvia, but am using them only in small quantities. WW recipes never include alternative sweeteners, and as this article on the Mayo Clinic site suggests, they can be helpful in weight loss but should be used with discretion.

I donít even try to convert any dessert recipe that starts with more than a cup of sugar in it, and Iíve found that you can cut nearly half the sugar in any cookie recipe and still end up with a tasty treat. (The texture changes but flavors intensify.) I will soon be experimenting with using honey and applesauce as more healthy alternative sweeteners.

Insight on the New
Weight Watchers Program

WEIGHT WATCHERS once again revised its program for 2016, still trying to find what really works for their members. On logging into the new site in January, my sister found all the changes so frustrating and different from what she was so familiar with that she left the program, planning to deal with her weight loss goal on her own by following the basic guidelines of the old program.

Note: Both Mollie and I cancelled our membership in WW using their online cancellation page, and both of us found charges on our credit cards for the following month's membership. If you leave the program, be sure to get a confirmation number to prove it. This wasn't provided on WW's web page confirmation of my cancellation notice, and I had a hard time getting my money back without it, even though I thought my proof was the fact that I could no longer log in after I cancelled.

Articles on the Web (see sidebar links) suggest that many previous members were unsatisfied because they regained the weight they had lost, and I wonder how many members WW will lose because they have so dramatically changed the program again. What used to be PointsPlus when I joined in April 2015 is now called SmartPoints, and many of the point values in previously published recipes have changed. But this makes no difference to me because the points calculations I used to create my nutrition handbook and convert my recipes obviously works for me. (My real secret here is that I cracked the code WW used in its calculator, so I can still calculate points for any new food item by using my own "secret calculator," which I can't legally share with anyone.)

(NOTE: I updated the sidebar links in November 2017 when I learned that some of the critical WW blog posts originally included in this article had disappeared from the Web. And now I see that yet another change in the program is coming for 2018.)

Recording Your Daily Food Intake. WW wants its members to do everything online, but who wants to live on that website? I chose to do everything on paper, not wanting to have to go online every day to monitor my daily points, log my weight loss each week, or type in recipes to get a points value for a serving. I simply created a daily worksheet, and each week I print a set of seven, staple it and keep it handy on the table along with my "Points Bible" so I can immediately log everything I've eaten after each meal. I don't snack between meals, so that simplifies things a bit for me. I now have pages in this book that list the single serving nutrition info for recipes I use all the time (soups, favorite dishes or dinner combinations), as well as my favorite breakfast and lunch meals, so it takes only a minute to grab the info I want to log to my daily food log.

Yes, it takes discipline write down everything you eat, but doing it on paper takes only minutes to do once you have created your own points or calorie reference handbook of foods you eat all the time. I've found it important to log food intake after each meal so I can adjust my dinner menu if I've eaten too much for breakfast or lunch. In fact, being able to see my day on paper is the only way I could stay on this diet. I suspect that most WW members soon tire of having to constantly log in to tally a day's food intake, and I wonder if this is one reason why many don't do well on this program. If you log in only at the end of this day, unless you have an iron-clad memory or have made notes all day long, youíll surely forget some of the things youíve eaten that day.

To page 4  ->

What It Takes to Stay on a Diet * My List of Favorite Food Treats * Clothing Challenges During Weight Loss

[Back to Top]