During her lunch hour each Wednesday, Sue Phillips, 38, steps onto a scale for a weigh-in. And she is not alone: at least 15 of her co-workers take turns climbing onto a scale, and then scribble the numbers that pop up into a little book chronicling their weight-loss journey.
“Some weeks I won’t see any fluctuation and other times I’ll see that I’ve dropped two pounds and that helps me get back on track,” Phillips says. “Or sometimes it just takes gaining a few pounds to get back on track.”
Phillips is a member of Weight Watchers — just one weight-loss option available locally.
Weight Watchers’ goal is for members to achieve a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. The cornerstones of the program are eating healthy, staying in motion and sharing successes and setbacks with other members. Weight Watchers operates on a point system: roughly 50 calories equals one point. Daily point allowances are based on gender, weight, height and activity level. Phillips, for instance, is a female who wants to lose 40 pounds, and who’s anchored to a desk while at work, putting her in the sedentary category for activity level. She’s granted 22 points per day.
And to keep on task, Phillips and other Weight Watchers members attend meetings composed of other people who are either focused on losing weight or have already successfully achieved weight-loss goals. Joan Gunter, ambassador for Weight Watchers in Kansas, is quick to tout statistics that prove the benefits of attending meetings.
“People who attend meetings lose three times more weight than people who try to do it themselves,” says Gunter. “We teach members to make healthy and sustainable choices, which will become habits.”
The program emphasizes activity level, encouraging members to get moving any way they can. Even household chores such as scouring the bathtub, or scrubbing a tall stack of dishes count as calorie burners.
Phillips walks two miles per day, and when she follows through she can eat more that day: calories burned, equals calories earned. And once Weight Watchers members reach their goal weight, meetings are free — as long as they keep within range of their goal weight.
Results fetched from dieting are usually not sustainable, says Staci Hendrickson, a dietitian at Healthy Balance, 535 Gateway. Hendrickson says restrictive diets are damaging in more ways than one. Typically 40 percent of all eating disorders begin with a diet, she says.
Hendrickson calls herself a nutrition therapist. And her client roster is composed of people who are fed up with dieting and yo-yo weight loss.
“My overall goal is for clients to make peace with food, feel good about exercising, feel good when they exercise and to meet their natural weight,” says Hendrickson.
Hendrickson says there are a lot of distorted images of beauty floating around — for men and women — and it’s important for people to aim for a realistic, healthy body weight.
Hendrickson embraces what’s called the intuitive eating approach. Intuitive eating categorizes food choices into two groups: external and internal. An external cue could trigger you to wolf down an entire cheese burger, even when your tummy hurts midway, because you want to finish it; you eat until the external cue tells you to stop, i.e. the food is gone, not until your hunger is satisfied. An internal cue is legitimate hunger or a true desire for the food. The goal of intuitive eating is to get people to eat primarily from internal cues. Hendrickson wants clients to recognize when they are hungry, to eat when their appetite kicks in, and to stop once their hunger is satiated.
Hendrickson also says it’s important to incorporate physical activity into weight-loss goals, but she emphasizes the importance of finding an exercise that’s enjoyable. For instance, one of Hendrickson’s clients joined a dodge-ball league instead of joining a gym. Exercise should not be viewed as a chore, she says.
Terri Driscoll, owner of Curves, doesn’t see exercise as unpleasant. In fact, after years of working out in gyms without fetching much enjoyment, Driscoll was so delighted with the workouts at Curves, she decided to buy the business last January.
Curves, which exclusively targets women, offers a 30-minute workout of resistance training that knocks out both strength training and cardio in one go.
“It’s something you can easily do. You can burn up to 500 calories on your circuit,” says Driscoll. “You don’t have to worry about what you look like when you go here, First thing in the morning you can just brush your teeth, jump in the car and (drive) here.”