Here comes the Christmas cookies and the eggnog. Only the thin people and the people who don’t care how much they weigh get to enjoy the treats of the holiday. The rest of us are going to have to employ some strong discipline and willpower to stick to the obligatory party vegetable tray throughout the holiday season.
Mary, a veteran of many weight loss wars says, “I used to think that was true. I was convinced, heck, I had the indisputable evidence, that eating a single Christmas cookie or sipping some eggnog – with or without rum – would instantly undo all my weight loss work. Not only would the indulgence kill my diet, but it would instantly cause me to gain 5 pounds right where I hate it the most. It would give me 5 new pounds of belly fat.
In self-defense I’d avoid as many parties as I could. I had my excuses ready to go. “Thanks, but I got to take care of my elderly neighbor shut-ins that night,” or “Gee, I’d love to but I’m taking my cat to the vet.”
Steering clear of parties wasn’t enough to keep my diet on track. There were the unexpected plates of fudge that showed up at the office. If I could have worked from home maybe I would have been able to resist them. It must be noted, by the way, that the fudge and cookies and other goodies were begging me to eat them, and their efforts to get me to wreck my diet were further reinforced by my co-workers, friends and family who got in my face trying to make me try just one.
What these people who wanted to see me taste their delicious treats didn’t understand was that “just one” wasn’t in my vocabulary. I didn’t understand the concept. It was none or many. Year after year, I would succumb to the Christmas goodies and I’d gain weight. It wasn’t a lot of weight, but even gaining a single pound was enough to convince me that my fat genes were too strong to overcome.”
Like a lot of people who are overweight and don’t like it, it was always just a matter of time before Mary would start her next diet. She never thought she’d really lose weight and keep it off but that never stopped her from trying again.
“I’d get to a point where I just couldn’t stand myself. I was uncomfortable and my weight affected everything I did. Walking was an effort, my knees and back ached all the time, and I couldn’t stand the feeling of my rolls and bulges.”
In the fall of 1998 Mary did something she said she’d never do.
“I joined meetings at Weight Watchers. I said I’d never do that. I hated the idea of meetings. I did it because of a friend who’d been going for about 6 months. She’d lost a lot of weight and was looking really good. She talked me into going with her and if I wasn’t so desperate I would have refused.”
Mary was surprised that she looked forward to her weekly meetings. “They were fun,” she laughed, “I never expected that.” More than fun, they were educational. “Members shared so many tips and insight that really made a difference for me,” she enthused.
“It wasn’t just a lot of recipes and clapping for each other for every pound lost. I learned how to assert myself when ordering and which local restaurants were the best places to go. I got tips on where to shop to save money on fruit and vegetables, which became foods I ate and enjoyed a lot more than ever before.”
Mary appreciated the accountability of a weekly, private weigh-in, but what really changed things for her were the focused discussions that changed how she thought and talked to herself.
“I never thought of myself as a negative person. I’m usually happy and I’m a positive and supportive friend, but I learned that when it came to myself I was pessimistic and mean. I didn’t have confidence in myself and I never missed an opportunity to make myself miserable over even the tiniest, little mistake. I had created a fat person identity for myself and didn’t realize it. Weight Watchers meetings totally changed my perception of who I am and what I can do.
That’s what I got out of Weight Watchers meetings more than anything else. I learned to adjust my mindset. I started focusing on my strength, ability, creativity, intelligence, and tenacity. These were all resources I already had and used in other areas of my life, but never used them to lose weight.
Weight Watchers meetings helped me go from negative to positive thinking about food, exercise, myself, and most importantly my weight loss success. I discovered that one Christmas cookie didn’t have to lead to too many cookies. I learned that parties are fun and eating is part of the fun. Eating a little more at a party than I usually ate was okay. I could give myself some treats without sacrificing control. In fact, I learned the real definition of control is being able to loosen it sometimes without letting go altogether.”
It took Mary about a year to lose 50 pounds. They’ve remained off, for the most part, for almost 20 years. “There’s been a few times when my weight started to creep up. I would go right back to my weekly meetings when that happened. I also adjusted my goal weight upwards by 7 pounds. I’m older and my original goal just wasn’t realistic. I’m still at a healthy weight, but changing my goal is a better fit for my life. I don’t want maintenance to be a full-time job.”
Mary loves that losing weight and maintaining her goal will never mean saying “no to Christmas cookies” again.