March 29, 2014

Week 10: Weight Watchers' Zero Point Foods & Healthy Low Cal Snacks

Early on in my current journey I explained that I was using an app to track my food which is based on Weight Watchers Points Plus system.  Since I have only ever used their online program (many years ago) and have never been to a meeting I thought I should investigate how their new system works.

I quickly picked up on the basics such as zero points foods.  These foods are designated as zero points in the Points Plus system.  Simply stated most all fruits and vegetables are zero points with the exception of avocados, olives, potatoes, corn and peas.   Yes bananas are zero points, but obviously if you go hog wild they could overtake the built in 5 servings they plan for in this program.  It would seem that their goal on the surface is to encourage eating healthier. My wife and I agree that providing these zero point foods is a good way not to make folks choose between nutritious whole foods and processed junk.

Not everyone is using a point system so just to emphasize my point here is a list I found online of 100 calorie snacks using whole foods.  Ok not exactly snacks because some are quite large, but this list will give you an idea of exactly how much more food you could be eating if you choose right.

100 Calorie Examples

1/4 of an avocado
1.75 cups apple slices
1 medium banana
1 cup grapes
2 cups berries
1.5 cups sliced peaches
1.25 cups orange sections
1.25 cups blueberries
2 cups diced watermelon
1 cup sliced pears
1.33 cup diced pineapple
1.5 cups raspberries
1 cup cherries
2 large kiwifruit
3 clementines
4 cups cherry tomatoes or 10 plum tomatoes or 3 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 medium baked sweet potato
1 small baked white potato
2 cups carrot strips or slices
12 cups torn lettuce
10 large broccoli spears
8 cups sliced cucumbers
5.5 cups sliced bell or sweet peppers
5 cups whole raw mushrooms
32 spears cooked asparagus
2.5 cups cooked green beans
80 snow or sugar snap pea pods
4.5 cups mixed vegetable salad (without dressing)
1/2 cup cooked grain/rice/pasta (most, bulgur is 3/4s cup)
1 jumbo hardboiled egg
20 large boiled or steamed shrimp
2 oz chicken breast meat (a little more than 2 oz)
2 oz sirloin steak (a little less than 2 oz)
0.75 cup plain fat free yogurt
3 cups air popped popcorn

I think you get my point.  Here are some links to 100 calorie snacks that may be easier than 12 cups of lettuce.

100-Calorie Snacks That Actually Satisfy Your Hunger 

88 Unexpected Snacks Under 100 Calories

18 Low-Calorie Snacks That Satisfy

Weigh-in: I lost 2 lbs this week for a running total of 22.4 lbs lost.  See you all next week.

March 22, 2014

Week 9: 20% of the way there

This week sees me breaking through my second ten pound goal.  To date I am down 20.4lbs.  This means I am 20.4% of my way to losing 100lbs.  Two 10lb losses down and 8 more left to go.

I know you are all wondering exactly what is the secret to my success, well I'll tell you.  I owe all of my success to staying out of the drive-thru window.  This week marks 2 months with-out once stopping for fast food.
At 280lbs I had to consume around 3000 calories a day to maintain or slightly grow my weight and a 2 cheeseburger meal (2 Cheeseburgers, Fries & Diet Coke) from McDonald's was part of that equation.  This wonderful meal clocked in between 800 and 1000 calories depending on whether I got a medium or large fries.  My only saving grace was that my caffeine addiction is sugar free in the form of diet coke or I would have tacked on another 280 calories to the meal.

So besides coming up with a plan to avoid the honor bar of snacks at work I had to ensure I ate dinner prior to heading off to work or that I had healthy alternatives waiting for me at work in the freezer.

That's my big secret thus far, don't eat junk.  This week I weighed in at 259.8 for a loss this week of 1.6lbs and a running total weight loss of 20.4lbs. See you again next week.

March 15, 2014

Week 8: Body Mass Index and Me

I set my initial weight loss goal of 180 lbs because it seemed to me that 100 lbs was a nice round number.  I also recall back in 1979 thinking to myself for the first (and last) time that I was starting to look fat, at the time I weighed 183 lbs.  As it goes 183 lbs is just within the normal weight range for my height as outlined by the Body Mass Index commonly referred to as the BMI.

BMI is a guideline on body fatness based on height and weight.  It is a fairly good guideline when dealing with large populations, but on occasion fails miserably when dealing with individuals.

Let me give you some examples where this guideline may fail.

1. If an extremely fit Body builder were to enter his numbers in a BMI calculator it is quite possible for this individual to come up with a BMI indicating that he is obese.  The algorithm does not account for the fact that this individual has a body fat percentage of 7% and has more muscle then is normally found on a person. The bottom line is that it may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build.

2. If a 70 year old were to enter their data they may register as normal weight, but in fact be overweight because they no longer have the muscle mass they once did.  To say it differently BMI may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle.

3. Kids need a calculator aimed at kids and even then they all grow at their own pace so using a child BMI calculator to judge an individual child may be problematic.  Further info on BMI for children and teens.

BMI limitations aside setting an initial goal weight equal to a BMI around 25 is a good target for most folks.  After you reach that goal then you might want to fine tune your goal for a specific body fat percentage or fitness level.

The reason I am talking about this today is because every time I enter in my weight into my app it lists my BMI next to my inputted weight and then states in simple terms Obese Class II.  Well today when I entered in my weekly weight it changed to Obese Class I. I am celebrating that milestone and looking forward to hitting my next goal of losing my second ten pounds.

I estimate I'll have to get down to around 224 lbs before it stops referring to me as Obese and starts referring to me as simply overweight.  I can hardly wait.

So as you can see my current weight is 261.4 lbs making my weekly weight loss 2.2 lbs and my running total is now 18.8 lbs.  Talk to you all in another week.

March 8, 2014

Week 7: Good News

It seems that my wife has been paying attention to her crazy husband and asked me what I've been using to loose weight. I pointed her to the Food Diary App I've been using and she has decided that she wants in on this action.

This should make things quite a bit easier since she will be counting her daily allotted points too.  Now when she chooses something to prepare for the family I'm sure it may be a healthier choice today than in days past.  It should also fit into my points allowance since this is something she'll be tracking as well.  At this point portion size will be key.

Another app I pointed her to is Fast Food Nutri. & Weight Loss app which has the Points Plus points (lists as Units) for all of our local restaurant / fast food joints.  This allows us to make informed choices when dining out.  She often frequents Panera Bread and this app allows her to look up what points are in various dishes before she orders.

Speaking of Apps, the app I use for food tracking has an extensive database of items, but this list is crowd sourced.  This means the folks that use this app can input items into the database.  On occasion the entries may be slightly off either because the item was entered in wrong or because the item may have been actually changed slightly by the company.  Just be careful.  If you have the item you are looking up in hand then verify the protein, fat, fiber etc... before entering it into your favorites to be used over and over again.  Also ensure the serving size in the item you are looking up matches the serving size of what you have in your hand.

Weigh-in - This week I clock in at 263.6 lbs for a weekly weight loss of  2 lbs which makes my running weight loss total 16.6 lbs.  See you again next week and if you were wondering about the above quote... I'm very happy.

March 1, 2014

Week 6: Then and Now

When I retired from the Navy I weighed 240 lbs.  Sixteen years later I weighed in at 280 lbs.  That equates to 2.5 lbs gained each year.  At 2.5 lbs a year it slowly creeps up on you and before you fully realize what was happening you are huge.

I have heard of obese folks saying that even after they lost weight they still see a fat person.  I suspect this is because they still haven't addressed the reason they were obese in the first place so they still see someone that they don't think is worthy.  I may have mentioned this previously but I had the exact opposite problem.  Even at 280 lbs it was hard for to see myself as obese.  I guess I was in denial.  The bottom line is I don't have a self-image problem and have never doubted my own worth.

So when I say that 280 lbs just sort of crept up on me over the years when I wasn't "looking," I mean exactly that.  I only talk about this line of thought because I came across the below image and wondered if perhaps changes in portion sizes over the last 20 years may have contributed to my weight gain.

Investigating this image led me to the site that had these 2 quizzes Portion Distortion 1 (2003) and Portion Distortion 2 (2004) covering portion sizes and calorie differences over a 20 year period.  Take the quizzes for yourself I think you'll find them interesting.

Well with that behind us lets get down to my weekly weigh-in.  Today I weighed-in at 265.6 lbs for a running weight loss total of 14.6 pounds.  So far so good. I'll talk again in a week.  Stay Positive!

February 22, 2014

Week 5: New Hampshire Whoopie Pies and Self Sabotage

Photo by Flickr Artist F_A (CC)
This week I got tripped up by 2 things.

The first thing was my wife's best friend in New Hampshire mailed us a care package of goodies.  This included a bunch of her home made Whoopie Pies.  Now in case someone is unfamiliar with these concoctions I included a picture to the right. There is a fascinating history of the Whoopie Pie over on Wikipedia.  All I know for sure is that I hunted down and consumed 2 of these bad boys.

The whoopie pies in and of themselves wouldn't be that bad, but as fate would have it I accidentally sabotaged myself this week.  When shopping I came across some low fat no sugar added ice cream sandwiches.  I thought I could sub these in for the 1 point Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Fudge Lites that I had at work the week before.  Unfortunately the ice cream sandwiches were 4 points each.  The good news is I only bought a 6 pack and not a 12 pack.  Still those 4 point wonders were at work and the only way to remove the temptation was to eat them.

When all was said and done I weighed-in this week at 267.2 lbs for a weight loss of .8 lbs, giving me a running weight loss of 13 lbs.  Bottom line, even with the unforced errors I was still able to drop my total a little this week.  I don't know about you, but I'm going to call that a win.

February 15, 2014

Week 4: Sweet & Salty

This was a good week.  I'm still experimenting with items at work to keep me from snacking.  This week in addition to last weeks list I added:
  • Pimento stuffed olives - 1 serving 5 olives - 1 point
  • Blue Bunny - No Sugar Added Sweet Freedom Fudge Lites - 1 Bar - 1 point
  • Utz Sourdough Pretzel Nuggets - 10 pretzels - 2 points
These items satisfy my sweet and salt desires and keep me out of the junk that fills my work space.

At home my wife made some great dishes and figuring out proper portion size was a little bit of a challenge.  But I did my best and thoroughly enjoyed her cooking.

Additionally I added some new things to help me manage at home. 
  • Egg, Hard Boiled - 1 egg - 2 points
  • Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt - 5.3 oz. - 3 points
  • Apples - 0 points
  • Bananas - 0 points
  • Tangelos - 0 points
  • Salads - 0 points
  • Milk, skim - 2 points per cup
These items are easy go-to items that help keep me on track with decent nutrition.
It is still early on, but so far I have been achieving my small goals such as sticking to recording everything in my food journal via my Android app.  Week 4 is complete and definitely a success.  My weight loss this week was 2 lbs. for a running total of 12.2 lbs lost.

February 8, 2014

Week 3: Have a plan & death to Shortbread

This week went well enough.  I have been experimenting with items to keep me out of the honor bar at work.  If you recall less than 10 feet from my desk is a small book shelf packed with tons of cheap goodies.  All I have to do is stand up and drop some money in the honesty pig and it is all mine.  To prevent my down fall I have been ensuring that I have items on hand to eat during my 12 hour shift.

This week I have placed in the freezer at work various Healthy Choice items to try.  This is what I have on hand this week to combat the honor bar.
  • Apples - 0 points
  • Bananas - 0 points
  • Tangelos - 0 points
  • Yoplait Light Blackberry Pomegranate yogurt - 2 points
  • Snyder Pretzel Rods - 1 point each rod
  • Healthy Choice - Cafe Steamers Ravioli And Chicken Marinara - 6 points
  • Healthy Choice - Cafe Steamers Pineapple Chicken - 8 points
  • Healthy Choice Chicken Enchilada Bake - 8 points
  • Healthy Choice Roasted Chicken and Potatoes - 4 points
  • Milk, skim - 2 points per cup
You can see that Weight Watchers is planting the seeds of clean eating by putting zero points on all fruits and vegetables except corn, peas, potatoes, avocados, and olives.  At least I think that represents their position.  Choosing from this list instead of grabbing a bag of chips or a Snickers bar is definitely a step in the right direction.

At home though there is an entirely different set of problems.  First off my wife is an excellent cook so when she makes Spaghetti with hot Italian sausages or Meatloaf with mash potatoes I have to do 3 things.
  1. I have to be honest with myself about exactly how many points make up these dishes.
  2. I have to understand exactly the portion size allotted for any given point value.
  3. Stick to the portion size I identified in step 2.
As long as I am honest with myself, do a fair job determining the points per serving and do not gorge myself then I can thoroughly enjoy my wife's cooking.

Finally there was one box of Girl Scout cookies staring at me all week.  And it never blinked.  I did though.  I put the cookies to the test and this time there was no transfat (nor any Partially Hydrogenated oils).  The saturated fat and sugar were about 40% of the Thin Mints from last week.  The results were 3 points four 4 cookies.

I had 20 of them.

Live and learn, acknowledge your short comings, pick yourself back up and move on.  There are always going to be bumps in the road but as long as you manage the bumps and look forward, placing yourself back on the proper path, you should be fine.

It becomes a giant issue when you slip up and decide that it is no use that this week you failed so you may as well throw the food journal aside and treat yourself to a binge.  After-all we can always start again next week.  Starting again next week is how many of us got to the point where we are currently.  How many times have you said, I'll start on Monday?

Twenty Shortbread cookies, no big deal.  I listed them in my journal acknowledged that it wasn't the best food choice and choose to eat healthier the next day.

This is the end of Week 3 and I lost 2.6 lbs. for a total to date of 10.2 lbs.  This means that I have hit my first goal of 10 lbs.  Now I just have to do this 9 more times.
Woohoo! 1st 10lb Goal Completed!

February 1, 2014

Week 2: Girl Scouts versus the Food Journal

Well the end of week 2.  There have been many things that have tempted me this week and yes I gave in to a few, but more on that later.  I said last week that I would be talking about how I plan on losing weight.  Let's get started.

Keep a food Journal. Seems simple enough but so many folks over look the obvious.  This one little item is critical to changing your old habits and creating new habits.

You can use a notebook a scrap of paper or if you have a smartphone use any of a zillion available apps.  The important thing is that whatever you choose to use is convenient to you.  If it isn't convenient it will be easy to dismiss the idea entirely.

Additionally there are web sites that you can log onto to track all of your food. My Fitness Pal is one that comes to mind.  The only problem with web sites is the the old adage “out of sight out of mind."  So if you choose to use a web site carry around a small notebook so you can track items as you consume them.  If you don't log the items at the time of consumption it will be that much harder later in the evening when you go to log your items on the site.  The odds are strong that you will forget items and fail to make the most out of the online tool you chose to use.  Shortly you'll wonder why you aren't losing weight and your food journal may not help if it isn't accurate.

Personally I chose to use the Ultimate Food Value Diary Plus app on my Android tablet.  This app is available for both Android and IOS platforms.  This app seems to be based on the current version of Weight Watchers Points Plus system and during setup allows you to choose from the USA, UK or Australia versions of this system.

Years ago when I experimented with Weight Watchers Online the point system was different so I am going to have to do more research to fully understand this system.

The App is easy enough, simply enter your info and it tells you how many points per day you are allotted. When I played with this app a few months back I found the total points allowed per day to be too many so when I set up the app I chose to check the boost option which automatically drops your allotted points.  To start off I am allowed 43 points a day with an additional 49 points allotted for the week in case the mood strikes me.  As I lose weight my daily number of points will be slowly reduced since I will no longer require the same minimum calories to survive.

The app has many features to help you track your food including the ability to scan the barcode and enter your item quickly.  I also take advantage of the ability to add Favorites, this keeps those items I eat regularly on hand for quick entry.  For more details on this app read the info on their site.
Image from

My second week of using my food journal, attempting to lose weight and what should appear magically in the house?  You guessed it, the enemy of every person trying to lose weight.  Girl Scout cookies.  By the way did I mention that my wife is currently not trying to bring her weight back in line with historical standards.  Who am I kidding even if she was attempting to lose weight too buying cookies from our neighbors little girls is the neighborly thing to do.

The good news is I logged every single cookie in my food journal.  Over the week the grand total was 22 Thin Mints, 12 Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, and 5 Caramel deLites.  Fortunately I only drink skim milk because there was a lot of milk to go with those cookies.

As I pointed out I do have a lot of points to play with because I'm still a large guy although I managed to only use 10 of the extra 49 points I was allotted for the week.  The nice app I am using allowed me to scan the barcode and easily add and account for the points from the Girl Scout cookies.  Looking back on the week the app has ONE huge drawback.  Since I simply scanned in the barcode I didn't have to manually enter the Fat, Protein, Carbohydrates or Fiber which means I didn't have to look at the Nutrition Facts label.

Still what did I miss.  It couldn't have been too bad, could it?  Well if I had actually taken the time to read the label of the Thin Mints this is what I would have seen.  So what was the damage from the 22 Thin Mints?
  • Saturated Fat - 27.5g
  • Sodium - 687.5mg
  • Carbohydrates - 121g
  • Sugar - 55g
  • Protein - 5.5g
Roughly the same amount of saturated fat as found in 4 tablespoons of butter with almost 14 teaspoons of sugar.  To top it off the other 66g of carbohydrates that weren't sugar were processed flour and essentially would have metabolized as easily as the sugar.

Are there any pluses in all of this?  Well the label does say Transfat 0g, but if it was 0.49g or lower per serving they would have qualified to list it as 0g.  From looking at the list of ingredients I know there were transfats because they are right there in plain sight.  Ok not in plain sight because they are listed by a different name, in this case the key phrase under Vegetable oil is "Partially Hydrogenated." The bottom line is that I may have consumed approximately 5g of transfats on top of everything else that I listed.

Maybe next year I'll choose differently.

Even with all of that junk I weighed in 4.4lbs lower this week.  At 7.6lbs lost I am only 2.4lbs away from my initial goal of losing 10lbs.  On to Week 3.

January 25, 2014

Week 1: Choices

Week One's weigh-in is upon us and last week I said that proper planning was going to be critical to success. Well I took my own advice and stocked up at work with choices so I would not fall prey to the temptation of the honor bar full of snacks.

I picked up a bunch of the Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers and Lean Pockets and put them in the freezer at work.  I also picked up some pretzel rods, sourdough pretzel nuggets, apples and pears.  My first week wasn't a picture of healthy eating but I did manage to stay away from the snacks at work and it was my first week without eating at a fast food joint in a long time.

So how did I do? I lost 3.2 lbs.

Next week I'll talk in a little more detail about my plan and how I track what I eat.

January 18, 2014

Planning to Fail?

Today is my initial weigh-in to start my weight loss journey.  I'll be tracking my progression on my Weight Loss Progress page.  The starting number is 280.2 lbs.  It occurs to me that 180 lbs is just inside the normal weight for my height and I haven't been there since 1979.  So my goal is to lose 100 lbs.  Or in my case I choose to lose 10 lbs, ten times.

I have a weight thermometer in the sidebar to graphically track my progress and you can see that there are 10 gradients each representing 10 lbs of weight loss.  It seems simple enough I just have to lose 10 lbs.  Ok, I have to do it ten times... Still I'm sure many of us could look at the goal of losing 10 lbs and know in our hearts that this is something we could do.

Even a 10 lb weight loss goal requires planning. Here is some background. My job is mostly behind a desk for 12 hours at a time. During this 12 hours I am faced with a well stocked honor bar similar to the one pictured, but much more elaborate with the prices being dirt cheap because it is run by volunteers and everything is purchased in bulk.

This means I have to have a plan to keep these tempting items at bay. Fortunately I do have access to a refrigerator/freezer here also. This means that I can either bring items with me from home or use the frig and purchase an assortment of frozen dinners, healthy snacks and fresh produce to keep this monster at bay. I'll let you know next week what I tried and see if it worked.

January 15, 2014

Welcome to the New Year!
And welcome to the second life of this blog.  The new year is typically a time for new beginnings and this year my wife and I signed up to take control of our finances by attending Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University sponsored by a local church.  We've been married almost 30 years and we have never created or stuck to a budget.  Consequently we are seriously in debt.  Not so much that we can't dig our way out so participating in the course is the first step toward getting our finances in order.

I anticipate learning proper budgeting of our funds in this class and a plan on how to get out from under our debt.  It got me thinking if a lack of a budget and ignoring a problem led to our indebtedness then a lack of a plan for my weight and ignoring the obvious has led to my current weight situation.  If I can attack the home budget it seems the opportune time to attack the caloric budget too.

This is why I am posting today.  Apparently 9 years ago I created this blog and had every intention of losing weight.  It was an interesting read and the weight loss attempt ended abruptly with no explanation.  The truth is my heart wasn't in it and the main tool I was using to track my food (my palm pilot) broke.  Thus the end of what reads to me to have been a halfhearted attempt.

I turned 55 last month and in order to attack the caloric budget I have to come face to face with the truth, I'm fat.  This is a truth that is sometimes hard to see.  It is amazing how when I look down at myself I don't see a fat person.  But the scale doesn't lie.  So here I am 9 years later and about 25 lbs heavier then where I left off.

Tonight is the introductory meeting for the Financial Peace University class, next week is the first real class.  So I have scheduled my initial weigh-in for this Saturday Jan 18th.

Wish me well.