“Weight Watchers made me Gain Weight!”

“Weight Watchers made me gain weight!” You would be surprised how many times I have heard this statement. Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that focuses on sensible eating habits to promote slow and steady weight loss. The entire program revolves around “counting points,” and as long as you stay within your recommended daily allotment of points, you should lose weight every week. Points are now calculated using an equation that factors in a food item’s total amount of calories, fat and fiber. Generally, the higher the fiber content and lower the fat content of a product, the lower it will be in points. Fruits and veggies are considered “free points,” so they are unlimited on the meal plan. No food is considered off-limits as long as you count your points for the menu items consumed.

I simply want to inform readers that it is not the right meal plan for everyone and if it didn’t work for you, here’s why..

The program was launched in the 1960s by housewife Jean Nidetch, who had lost weight and recruited the help of her friends to help her keep the weight off. Since then, the methods have observed quite a few changes, but the basic principal of community support and consistent accountability remains solid.

I am not here to bash Weight Watchers. In fact, you can’t ignore the fact that it consistently tops the charts of “best weight loss plans” because many people are quite successful with it. I simply want to inform readers that it is not the right meal plan for everyone and if it didn’t work for you, here’s why:

Calories In vs Calories Out: This is based on the most basic principle of weight loss. In order to lose the pounds, you must reduce the amount of calories you eat and increase your activity level. With Weight Watchers, the total calories you need to consume a day equals your determined amount of points allowed. As you achieve weight loss milestones, your points goal will decrease. I have had several patients state that they are at the lowest level of points, exercise every day and still cannot lose a single pound. Does this sound like you? If so, that’s because more and more we are learning that the type of calories one consumes plays a very important role in metabolism. Another factor may be that you are not getting enough protein or enough fat on the limited amount of points/calories. Plus, it’s never fun (nor a good idea) to starve your metabolism in order to achieve weight loss!

Too High in Processed Food: Since Weight Watchers is such an established corporation, they have their own line of products from cereals to cheese to ice cream novelties. They list the point value on the front of the packages and make it extremely convenient for the on-the-go Weight Watchers participant. Even though these food items are low in calories and perfectly portioned, it still does not negate the fact that they are very processed and contain an astounding amount of chemicals and preservatives in them (just like all of our processed foods)! Sometimes, in order to lose weight, our bodies need to focus on nature’s ingredients and cut out the ingredients that are added in at a factory.

Too High in Carbs: When I have evaluated eating plans that follow the Weight Watchers methods, I often note that it is quite saturated with items like whole wheat bread, low calorie cereals, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, brown rice, beans, 100 calorie portions of popcorn, baked chips and crackers, pretzels, fat free yogurt, skim milk and perfectly portioned sweets. What do all these foods have in common? Carbs! Sometimes, our metabolisms do not respond well when our diets are too high in carbohydrate intake. High carbohydrate food items can cause blood sugar spikes, insulin spikes and leave you hungry and feeling deprived all day long!

Again, I want to reinforce that Weight Watchers is not an all-things-terrible meal plan. It has certainly helped thousands of individuals achieve a healthier lifestyle. I am just reinforcing that it is simply a meal plan. Not all meal plans work for everybody; just like vegetarianism and the vegan lifestyle are not right for everyone. If you have tried Weight Watchers or any other meal plan and feel you were not as successful as you should have been, please consider contacting your Springfield Clinic dietitian. It is our job to find the best meal plan that will work for you and your metabolism!




28 Reasons to Exercise

Why do you exercise? Are you doing it for the right reasons?

Why do you exercise? It’s a simple question that can have hundreds of answers. I polled my coworkers and received a variety of responses: to feel healthy, to relieve stress, to lose weight, to train for a 5K, to feel more energy, to not gain weight, to get away from my husband.

I was inspired to write this blog by a conversation I overheard in the locker room. Two women were talking about their journeys with weight loss and how they were tracking their eating and exercise points using the Weight Watchers system. One woman was particularly upset because she had worked out for an hour and this only gave her 3 extra points to eat according to her Weight Watchers scale. She went on to say, “It’s like I worked out for nothing”.


That is the phrase that broke my heart. Regardless of how long or short or how hard or easy your work out is, no exercise session should go unappreciated. And, there is no such thing as a wasted workout. Remember, 10 minutes of walking on your lunch break is better than 10 minutes of sitting and playing on Facebook. When your purpose of exercise is solely to burn calories, it sometimes takes the enjoyment factor out of the equation. Also, we shouldn’t view working out as an ability to eat more. While a good sweat session does leave your body requiring more fuel, it shouldn’t be your sole purpose for heading to the gym.

Throughout the years I have worked out for both good and bad reasons. Today, I have a brand new mindset when it comes to exercise. One of my goals focuses on strength gains in the gym and in order to allow my body to adapt, I have to treat it correctly with proper fuel, rest and most importantly, recovery. These goals have been put on a hold for a while since I am pregnant so my focus at the moment is to simply maintain an active lifestyle. Regardless of what your goals are, remember there are hundreds of benefits that are experienced by the body when we simply get up and move!

28 Reasons to Exercise

  1. Helps develop a stronger core and better posture.
  2. Develops stronger bones and healthier muscles.
  3. A chance to enjoy the great outdoors!
  4. Reduces joint aches and stiffness.
  5. Helps prevent falls and fractures.
  6. Elevates mood and improves mental health.
  7. Lowers the risk of stroke.
  8. Reduces the incidence of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
  9. Improves blood sugar control in individuals with diabetes.
  10. Can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 40%.
  11. Exercise induced changes in body’s immune system can help prevent some forms of cancer, such as colon, endometrial and lung cancer.
  12. Reduces blood pressure.
  13. An opportunity to inspire others.
  14. Can reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by 50%.  
  15. Improves sleep habits.
  16. Reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and can help raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
  17. Experience higher blood sugars after a meal? A quick walk can help bring those levels down.
  18. Regular exercise during pregnancy can help better condition the body to handle labor and delivery. Women who work out during pregnancy have a much easier time with bouncing back to their pre-baby body.
  19. Studies suggest that the best time to study, do a project or memorize a speech is after a good sweat session.
  20. Decreases insulin resistance.
  21. Can help reverse the damages experienced in the body from stress.
  22. Improves body image/self-esteem/self-worth, even in the absence of dramatic body changes.
  23. Coined as the “runner’s high”, exercise can produce a sense of euphoria in many individuals.
  24. Creates opportunities to bond in a healthy way with family and friends.
  25. Prevents/slows down the decline in cognitive functioning associated with aging.
  26. Relieves anxiety.
  27. Can help keep constipation at bay.
  28. May help reduce leg swelling from improved circulation.

Pregnancy Update!

Why 28 reasons? Well that’s because I am 28 weeks along and finally in my 3rd trimester! And remember just because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you should take a 9 month absence from the gym! I continue to go to Crossfit 4-5 days a week and enjoy leisure walks with my hubby and our dog, Bamboo. While every woman’s pregnancy is different, I am confident that my exercise habits have continuously contributed to my good moods, energy levels and proper weight gain. Remember to always discuss your exercise routine with your OB-GYN.

Your Holiday Swapportunities!

The holidays are a special time of year in which we celebrate with families and friends and good food. It’s perfectly fine to indulge a little bit on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but make sure you are not indulging Thanksgiving through Christmas. While losing weight during the holiday season may be too stressful of a goal, just maintaining one’s weight can also prove to be its own challenge. Two major culprits to weight gain during this time of year are increased caloric intakes (from dishes with excessive carbs and fat) and decreased physical activity levels. Staying healthy this time of year is much easier than one may think. All it takes is a few food swaps and better exercise patterns.

Food Swaps

food3_MP9004117011. Bring on the vegetables! Vegetables are such a great food group in our diets because they are low in calories, generally lower in carbohydrates and pack in a ton of vitamins and minerals. Add 1 cup of cooked winter squash and 1 cup of tossed green salad to your plate for healthy carbs, fiber and nutrients. Adding mushrooms, onions, shredded carrots and zucchini to meat dishes can help cut down the fat and calories per serving.

2. Swap vegetables for common starches. Swap 1 cup of spaghetti squash for 1 cup of pasta and save 158 calories. Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of bread with your next sub sandwich order and save up to 350 calories. (Calorie count based off of a regular Jimmy John’s sandwich vs. their un-wich variety)

3. Pull out the yolks. I love a protein-powered breakfast with eggs, but if you are using multiple eggs, the calories can add up quickly. For every egg yolk you take out, you save 55 calories.

4. Swap nuts for empty snack foods like pretzels and crackers. This swap may not change the amount of calories you are consuming, but it will improve the type of calories you are taking in. Nuts are full of nutrients, protein and fiber; and they have a lot more staying power than a handful of pretzels.

5. Be mindful of your breads. Did you know that a bagel has more than double the amount of calories of an English muffin? The thickness of your bread also raises the amount of calories it has in it. If you’re big on sub sandwiches, try scooping out some of the excess bread from the top bun which will reduce the amount of carbs and calories with your meal.

Recipe Swaps

1. Try using plain yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes. This will lighten the calories of your dish plus add some protein, calcium and Vitamin D.

2. Substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg in a recipe. Save calories and fat by taking advantage of this healthy swapportunity.

3. Use prune puree in place of oil in chocolate desserts. At first glance, this swap seems pretty terrifying, but I was totally hooked after I made a batch of chocolate fudge brownies with this alternative. Reduce the fat in your recipe in half and replace with ¼ of prune puree. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, reduce to ½ cup and add ¼ cup of prune puree.

4. Use a can of diet soda in place of oils. Choose a diet cola for chocolate desserts and diet Mountain Dew for light-colored desserts. Mix one can of diet soda with one box of cake/cupcake mix and bake as directed. This is an old Weight Watchers trick that my mom used to use. While it is still not the healthiest of dessert options, it does slash the amount of fat and calories in the recipe.

5. Use ground turkey, ground chicken or lean ground beef in stews and casseroles. A lot of people have a hard time switching to turkey or chicken burgers because the lack of fat in the meat causes them to dry out very easily. It’s best to use these substitutes when making a dish with a sauce component such as spaghetti sauce, chili or a casserole. The moisture of the sauce will help keep these leaner meat selections from drying out. Remember to look for all-white meat varieties. Regular ground chicken is made from a blend of both white and dark meat chicken so it has potential to contain just as much fat and calories as ground beef varieties.