The Weight Watchers Breastfeeding Diet, Part Deux

NOT how I look right now.
NOT how I look right now.

Last Saturday I returned, like a frightened lost sheep, to my Weight Watchers flock.  It has been a little over a year since I achieved Lifetime status and received the Golden Keychain of Victory, but I hadn’t darkened the doors of the Roseville chapter in over eleven months, because I was too busy being pregnant with our second daughter.

It was a bittersweet return.  On the one hand, this program absolutely saved me a couple of years ago.  On the other, here we are again. I had put on about fifty pounds when I was pregnant with my first child and had heard far too many women say they had never managed to take the baby weight off.  None of my clothes fit me, except for maternity gear, and there’s something particularly demoralizing about having to wear maternity underpants when you aren’t pregnant.  My back hurt and my knees creaked, and I wasn’t sure how much of all that was due to postpartum carnage as opposed to lugging around more poundage…

Though I was anxious to drop the extra weight, I was also afraid of taking things too far, because I was exclusively breastfeeding my baby and didn’t want my milk supply to dip.  My body WANTS to be fat–in fact, I ran a genetic test with 23andme and discovered that I face about an 80 percent chance of obesity.  I’m well aware that the pounds start to creep up when I become too sedentary or stop paying attention to my diet, but I also have to power to disengage from my hunger signals and start to under eat.  So, following the Weight Watchers breastfeeding diet made sense, because it’s obviously designed to keep your food intake at a level low enough to lose weight, yet high enough to meet the demands of breastfeeding.  It was all about regulation and routine.

All in all, the program worked amazingly well.  Since I was breastfeeding, I enjoyed an amazingly generous points budget for my size, and still dropped weight rapidly.  While there were nights I wanted to eat a little more, it was actually more common for me to struggle with eating enough points.  It didn’t hurt that having a screaming newborn at home made exercise class suddenly seem more like a spa day than a chore (ahhh… bask in the quiet!). Ultimately, I managed to successfully feed my little one while reaching my high school fighting weight and maintaining it successfully for months.

Then, my husband and I decided we wanted one more baby.  We further decided that we didn’t want there to be too much of an age gap between them, since we wanted them to entertain each other, and should therefore get started right away. Sigh… I had just lost all that weight.  People were even cautioning me not to lose another pound. Well… problem solved!  Preserving my streamlined figure wasn’t enough to keep me from having another baby, but dang, it sucked to think about unravelling all that hard work in a matter of months.  While I mostly eat healthy food when pregnant, I’m not about to regulate portion size… avoiding another glass of milk or handful of almonds makes me panic that my baby isn’t getting all the nutrients she needs and then someday she can’t do math and it’s all my fault.

I comforted myself with the idea that since I lost the weight before, I could do it again, and that many women keep getting successively bigger with each pregnancy because they never lost the weight from the last one, but it still wasn’t fun to need larger and larger clothing as my body steadily inflated.  I didn’t weigh myself the entire time… what  was the point?  As my expanding belly became ever more cumbersome, my exercise sessions became less and less intense before practically disappearing.

Then finally, our second beloved daughter was born.  It was all worth it, of course, though our daily life has become an extended game of whack-a-mole.  Fast-forward a couple of months and I decided it was time to return to Weight Watchers.  I wanted to give myself enough time to establish a milk supply, but I’m also convinced that weight is harder to lose the longer it stays on your body, so I wanted to get back on the horse as soon as it was safe to do so.

Finally facing the scale last Saturday, I flinched to learn that I was 35 pounds heavier than my last weigh-in… it was even harder to go home and take my “before” measurements.  I am seven inches bigger in the hips and TEN inches bigger in the waist!!! I restarted my fitness routine and tried my best to keep my chin up while exercises that I breezed through only a year ago made my muscles shake violently and collapse.  But this is not the time to run away; it’s time to bring everything back into balance once more.

By now, you may be thinking I work for Weight Watchers, but I promise that I don’t.  I’m simply one of a gazillion postpartum women that may be simultaneously stressing about milk supply and post-baby body carnage that wants other women to know that she successfully managed to breastfeed while dropping weight by using the program.  In that light, I’d like to share a few helpful insights I’ve picked up during the process:

1.  Going to meetings works much better than doing the online program.

Many times, while sitting in a room hearing about how you shouldn’t watch TV while eating or standing up, I’ve thought, “while these are helpful reminders, they aren’t telling me anything I don’t already know.”  There’s nothing stopping you from weighing yourself while following the program at home without having to burn an extra hour a week hearing about how you should be eating on smaller plates.  So why pay a higher fee to go to meetings when you can just do all of it at home anyway?

Because it works.  It’s incredibly easy to rationalize eating another slice of pizza or to blame weight gain on water retention.  You can outsmart yourself with all kinds of convoluted logic and sabotage your own efforts without breaking a sweat.  There’s something so much more official-seeming about having to drive somewhere to attend your diet meeting, and a much greater sense of accountability surrounding stepping on an official scale to have your official weight recorded by another person.  There’s a mild sense of shame that accompanies a weight gain, even in front of a perfect stranger, and corresponding sense of accomplishment with every loss.  You are much less likely to blow off your diet when you know someone will be checking your weight the next day.

Additionally, going to meeting taps into your inner social animal.  Since you’re dieting, you become a little fixated on food and want to talk about it all the time, and face it, the only other people who want to hear about it are other people on a diet.  And where else are you going to get  a little gold star and round of applause for losing five pounds?

2.  Fast Food is evil.

After our hectic daily routine, folks are tired.  All they want to do is collapse and watch a little comedy TV to lift their spirits.  It’s such a pain in the butt to go shopping, chop up all those vegetables, cook a proper meal, and sit at the table to eat it… especially when fast food and the occasional take-out pizza is so tasty, convenient, and relatively cheap. Now, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally grabbing a fast food meal when you’re absolutely exhausted or have no time to cook (a couple of Jimboy’s tacos are a reasonable point value, for instance), but it becomes a way of life far too easily.

Having to track your points teaches you what a crappy nutritional deal you get from fast food joints. The food rarely has significant produce, unless you get a salad with a fat-bomb of dressing, croutons and cheese.  It’s designed to quickly appeal to your love of sugar, fat and salt, and is processed beyond recognition–packed with cheap, easy ingredients and a thousand chemical scents.   Eat fast food too much, and you’ll either explode your points budget or not get enough “real” food to remain satisfied.  You can cook a decent meal, even involving steak, for the same number of points as a tiny McDonalds hamburger or single slice of pizza, and who really stops at one?  Just avoiding fast food will alone improve your diet immensely.

3.  Fruit is your friend.

I really love the new Weight Watcher program’s take on fruit. Most fruits and vegetables are free and unlimited.  This solves the problem of being uncomfortably hungry on a diet… you can always snack on fruit.  After all, if you aren’t hungry enough to eat a piece of fruit, you aren’t THAT hungry.  Watch a few episodes of “Naked and Afraid” to learn what truly hungry people will eat.

As an ex-lowcarb dieter, I was a little afraid of the WW fruit policy.  Fruit is supposed to skyrocket your blood sugar and lead to all kinds of insulin mayhem that makes you fat.  But since I was adhering to the program, I put aside my doubts and ate fruit whenever to mood struck.  I wasn’t modest about it, either–I ate three or four bananas in a row if I wanted to and ate clementine oranges like I was in some kind of food competition.  Nevertheless, I lost weight rapidly. My fruit fears were clearly unfounded and I firmly believe your body processes the calories differently than it does “fake” food.  Of course, if you are diabetic or suffer a long weight loss plateau, you may want to investigate your fruit intake more carefully, but for me, none of the fruit seemed to budge the scale, even when the sheer number of calories seemed like they would.

Whew… I’m sure I will be revisiting this topic in the many months to come.