By Jackie Stinson
I’ve Tried and Failed at Least 50 Times
I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t struggle with my weight. If I had to guess, I’d estimate that I’ve tried and failed at least 50 times. I would mentally prepare myself by reading every article about health and fitness I could find. I always decided I would start on a Monday. This inevitably meant that I would pig out on Sunday night. I would get all of my favorite foods, eat until I felt physically sick, and then wake up on Monday morning thinking, “Okay, this time it’s going to work.”
Whatever diet and exercise plan I happened to be trying at that particular time, here’s how it would usually work: I’d go to the supermarket and get whatever limited foods the diet allowed. There were always restrictions (low-fat, low-calorie, no carbs, no refined sugars, only leafy greens, only protein shakes for one or more meal a day), so I loaded up on whatever the diet guidelines told me to. I’d also have some great fitness idea. For example, instead of easing into an exercise program or figuring out what I enjoyed doing, I’d decide that I’d work out two hours a day, six days a week. I allowed myself no room for error. Mistakes were unacceptable.
Needless to say, I set myself up for failure every time.
What Went Wrong?
I thought I was doing the right things. I thought that if I just told myself I was going to do it this time, it would happen.
I am a smart person. I love learning and can accomplish what I set out to do. I could not figure out why it wasn’t working when it came to losing weight. If you’ve tried to lose weight and have failed, you know what it feels like to blame yourself. If only you’d been stronger or had more willpower, you could lose weight. If you’re like me, you’d compare yourself to someone who’s thin—even if they had a genetic pre-disposition to be that way—and think that something must be wrong with you. I remember mentally and emotionally beating up myself so many times because if I were stronger or better or had more willpower, I’d be successful at weight loss.
It never occurred to me that I was looking at it the wrong way.
What Went Right
As I said, at first, instead of considering how I live my life and what I like to eat and do, I tried to completely change everything. I tried to change the foods I ate, give up what I like to eat, and top it off with a grueling work out plan that wouldn’t easily fit into my schedule. Looking at it objectively, it’s easy to see why it didn’t work. Instead of trying to fit a square peg (a diet of foods I didn’t like and a workout plan that I couldn’t keep) into a round hole (my life), I needed to take an inside-out approach. I needed a program built for human nature; built for me.
And for me, that was Weight Watchers. It worked because it was based on me.
I Lost 67 Pounds*—I Never Thought It Would Happen for Me
When I first learned about PointsPlus, I thought that there was no way it could work. I’ve been told for years that I’d have to give up foods I loved to be successful at weight loss. Now there is a “diet” that would work while I ate foods I loved? No way. But it worked. I lost 67 pounds*. I never thought it would happen for me.
The PointsPlus program made it possible for me to control what I ate. I stayed within my target. For the first time ever, I felt a strong desire to make healthier decisions. I didn’t feel like it was someone else’s idea of what was good for me. It was all within my grasp.
I still had moments of weakness, which, unfortunately, I was not prepared for. My inner bully assumed that it was because I was weak and didn’t have enough will power. If only Weight Watchers 3600 existed at that time!
(*People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.)
Weight Watchers 3600—A Better Way
Weight Watchers' 360 program was introduced in December 2012. It incorporates new ideas and strategies that are not focused on having higher levels of self-control, but rather, creating an environment that makes it easy for you to eat healthy.
Weight Watchers has been around for 50 years and have helped millions of people. It’s not surprising that they’re looking at new research and figuring out ways to help even more. Admittedly, I had great success using a combination of Weight Watchers meetings and then Weight Watchers Online tools to track my success and lose a great deal of weight. But there was always that element of feeling weak when, for example, there would be a work event where I was surrounded by my favorite foods. If I gave in to temptation, I assumed it was because I was not mentally strong enough to not eat it. If only I knew…
What Has Research Uncovered?
Biologically speaking, when our bodies are hungry, our blood sugar drops. That signals our brain to eat. We eat to regulate our blood sugar. Thus, when it rises back to a normal level, we stop eating. But, if this alone were the case, none of us would have extra weight to lose. We’d all just use food as fuel and as a regulator for bodily processes.
But new research has uncovered that hunger is not caused only by the absence of food (low blood sugar levels). Simply seeing, thinking about or smelling highly palatable foods can lead to food consumption, even after satiety has been reached (i.e you have just eaten a big meal).
Weight Watchers’ Program—Weight Watchers 3600—was developed to fully capitalize on this new realization.
Enter Hedonic Hunger…
When I look at a table filled with succulent foods and smell the aromas, I’m not thinking objectively about regulating my blood sugar with fuel. I’m thinking that I want to load up a big plate and indulge. Also, there have been plenty of times when I ate a meal, felt full and satisfied, then saw a commercial for ice cream and thought, “Yum! I could go for some of that!” Again, I assumed this was because I was weak. Research has uncovered that this is not the case. There is biological phenomenon called hedonic hunger. It refers to the desire to eat more, just for mere gratification.
What Does This Mean for You?
What this essentially means is that when you see, think about, or smell foods that you love, you are likely to have a biological reaction to it. You’ve probably, at one time or another, called yourself an “emotional eater” or “stress eater.” While it may be true that at stressful times you turn to food for comfort from a distressing situation, there is now research to suggest that there are physical components to it, too. This means that if you’re craving your favorite food, even after a big meal, it’s not because you’re weak. It’s not because you’re not emotionally stable. It’s not all in your head – it’s really in your brain! It’s how your nervous system is wired. It’s in your hormones.
Why What We Thought About “Hunger” is Deficient
The traditional interpretation of eating was based on the concept of food deprivation.
- A man consumes food simply because he hasn’t eaten for a period of time.
- A man will stop eating when he is full.
If this were actually the case, would anyone be overweight? Would there be an obesity epidemic? No.
In other words, if change in our blood sugar levels were the only regulatory system for eating, then people would not be obese. They would stop eating once they have eaten enough for their blood sugar levels to come back to normal. But we keep eating, and we gain weight. Therefore, there must be an additional biological function that controls food consumption.
In light of the new research, we now know that this mechanism is “hedonic” hunger. It basically means that people will often feel a desire for food not because they need to restore the body’s energy needs but because they are driven by sheer pleasure. This drive has strong biological (hormonal) base.
The Real Cause of Overeating
Endocrinologists say that our favorite food can activate certain endogenous rewarding chemical signals that—here is the interesting part—OVERRIDE our body’s internal cues that we have eaten enough to restore energy.
Hedonic hunger is as real as hunger we feel after not eating for hours. The concept of hedonic hunger may go back to our very early ancestors.
Why “Hedonic Hunger” Evolved?
When our ancestors were hungry, food was not necessarily around. There were times when food may have been more available and other times when it was scarce. So, a biological mechanism should be in place to ensure humans:
- Eat more when food was available. By eating more than needed to just restore energy they actually filled their energy reserves (fat tissue) for the times when access to food was limited or non-existent.
- Consume highly-caloric (high fat) foods since those foods contain more energy.
What’s interesting, nature developed a system to make this eating behavior easy and pleasurable. And so it developed hedonic hunger: “eating for pleasure”. From an evolutionary perspective, hedonic eating is nothing but a protection mechanism. If humans stopped eating when they were full, they wouldn’t store excess energy for time of food scarcity. By eating for pleasure, humans not only enjoyed their food more, they could better adjust to their calorically unstable environment.
Of course, things are different for most of us now. Lack of food is never an issue. I can get in my car and drive for less than 10 minutes and have access to any food I desire. However, that “protective” biological mechanism still exists, although we probably don’t need it any more. Hedonic hunger means eating for pleasure. I’ve certainly done that thousands of times and I’m sure you have as well. Food is delicious. If we all thought of food simply as a means of giving our bodies energy, no one would struggle with their weight.
What Does This Mean For You?
As a person trying to lose weight, the concept of hedonic hunger is as important to consider as actual physical hunger. It’s real and you’re going to experience it as you try to lose weight.
When I decided to join Weight Watchers, I didn’t stop having emotional reactions to food. I didn’t stop craving ice cream and pizza – my favorite foods. So, there was more to losing the weight, and keeping it off for more than three years, that I needed to consider.
How Weight Watchers 3600 Helps you Control Hedonic Hunger
We already know that hedonic hunger is as real as the hunger we experience when we’ve gone for hours with no food. So, how can it be controlled?
A. The Power of Your Food Environment (Spaces)
If you are not managing your Spaces you are going to have a really hard time succeeding in the long term. This is where an important element of Weight Watchers 3600 comes into play. Since we can’t control our bodies’ reactions to looking, thinking of, or smelling delicious foods, we have to control our environments (Spaces). Thankfully, this is something we have control over. This means that we have to try to stop over-stimulating our brains with these food sensations that lead to overeating.
I’ve already told you that I love ice cream and pizza. They are the foods that I consider my triggers. If they are in my house, I will eat them. And I won’t just have a little bit – I will eat them until my spoon scrapes the bottom of the ice cream container or until the pizza box is an empty shell. So, I do not have these things in my house. It’s a choice I make. Out of sight, out of mind.
I don’t walk down the ice cream aisle in the supermarket and I don’t order pizzas. My home is an easy environment to control. I make the shopping list and buy groceries. I load up my pantry, fridge, and freezer with foods I love and foods I won’t overeat.
This can become slightly more challenging when the environment is not within our control. Dinner parties, office parties, or other events we don’t plan can spell disaster. But they don’t have to. For example, I often inquire about the menu before I attend. I have a conversation with myself before I go. I plan as best I can. If I know that some of my trigger foods will be on the menu, I make a choice before I even leave the house to only have a small amount of the food. It’s a conscious choice and I’m in control of it. It may sound silly to have a conversation with yourself. But trust me, knowing what to expect takes the guesswork out of the equation and helps you make the best choice. These are just habits I’ve picked up along the way.
B. The Power of Tiny Habits to Change Your Life for Ever (Routines)
I’ve already told you that when I attempted other diets and failed, I assumed it was because I had no willpower. Now, with Weight Watchers, I will tell you that it’s become a habit for me to walk by cakes and cookies that some well-meaning co-worker leaves on the break-room table. When I leave home I always pack a healthy snack. This, and other routines, has helped me enormously. But this did not happen all at once. That happened over time because I made small changes that led to those habits. I don’t exercise willpower over those types of things anymore because, now, it’s not a matter of having the mental fortitude to say no to desserts and empty calories, it’s just part of my routine.
You may experience similar things. For example, have you gone to lunch with a friend and decided to get a salad loaded with veggies and light dressing rather than fried chicken? You may have thought of that as willpower. But when you think of that as a choice rather than a force like willpower, it puts you in control. It’s empowering, and when it comes to weight loss and health, the more we can empower ourselves, the more success we’ll experience.
What’s great about Weight Watchers 3600 is that these types of tips and guidelines are built right into the program. You don’t have to figure it out through trial and error. The concept of Weight Watchers 3600 means that you’re surrounded by all of the things you need to always make the best decisions and be armed with the tools you need to have to succeed.
Having the understanding that hedonic hunger – our physiologic drive to eat the things we love – is not something we can eliminate through self-control or willpower is in and of itself a strong tool. It means that we have to exert control in other ways – namely our routines and our environments. Weight Watchers 3600 is aimed at providing tools to help influence these external factors through what we can control. For example, don’t stock your pantry with foods you crave and will overeat. Ask the server not to bring bread to the table. Control what you can and take charge of any environment in which you find yourself.
Weight Watchers 3600 is the next step in the evolution of what Weight Watchers is all about. Based on the holistic approach it takes to weight loss and health, it takes everything into consideration. So, everything that’s led to the success of Weight Watchers members for the last 50 years, including my own success, is wrapped into Weight Watchers 3600. All the years of discovering what works, what doesn’t, and the why and how of it is being considered with the latest program.
Environment and Tiny Habits—Spaces and Routines
Human behavior expert Dr. BJ Fogg determined there are 3 things that can create new behaviors in a person’s life. The first is to have an epiphany. Now, I’ve had some dazzling thoughts in my life. But I wouldn’t call any of them an epiphany. My weight loss success didn’t come from an epiphany, that’s for sure. But here are the other two ways that, according to Fogg, behaviors are created:
Change your Context (what surrounds you)
- Take Baby Steps
Those two things were definitely keys to my success. They form the foundation of the Weight Watchers 3600 concept. This latest form of Weight Watchers 3600 takes into consideration these principles and pairs them with food tracking (PointsPlus), around which Weight Watchers has evolved.
So, What is Weight Watchers 3600 All About?
The three elements of Weight Watchers 3600 are Tracking, Spaces, and Routines
Tracking is done through PointsPlus. Those who are familiar with Weight Watchers know that every food is given a PointsPlus value. eTools and mobile apps for iPhone and Android make it really convenient. Enter the foods you eat and stay within your PointsPlus budget for the day. This part is tried and true and I would have never experienced my weight loss success without it.
The element of Spaces refers to your environment, what Dr Fogg calls “your context”. I’ve already mentioned how I control my home environment by not having my trigger foods around. Weight Watchers 3600 provides a number of tips and suggestions for helping to control external environments and traversing the obstacles that could impact success – like those office parties or dinner parties hosted by friends. There are even tips on organizing yourself at home, work, and even in your car so that you’re always prepared to easily make the best and most healthful decisions.
Finally, the element of Routines is where Fogg’s concept of “Take Baby Steps” is found. If you’ve ever tried to change your habits or routines, you know it’s not easy. If you’ve ever tried to change multiple habits at once (like my example of completely changing everything I ate and working out for hours a day), you know it can be nearly impossible. Fogg’s notion of changing one’s context and taking baby steps is an essential part of Weight Watchers 3600 and success in general. This might mean that you choose a few small things to change. For me, one example is that I chose not to eat any desserts at work. There seems to be a constant flow of brownies, cookies, cakes, and candy on the table that I have to walk by every morning on the way to my desk. I made one small decision not to eat anything like that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at work. I allowed myself to eat them only the other two days. At first, I made the decision every time I walked by that table. There were even days where I said, “no”, out loud as if the desserts were beckoning me. But after a couple weeks I didn’t even notice if a dessert was on the table. The desire to eat cookies at work had gone away completely. It became a habit and that’s why it worked. It was a small change and became a big part of my success.
Why Weight Watchers 3600 is the best way ever to lose weight and keep it off
The elements of Tracking, Spaces, and Routines will work. The reason you’ll experience success is that there is nothing that is left out of the equation. Tracking, Spaces, and Routines, all blend together to make it happen for you. With Weight Watchers 3600:
- You become more aware of what you eat. Did you know we make 200 daily food decisions and we are aware of only a fraction of them? Research has shown that people who were given a large bowl overserved themselves without even noticing. When you track what you eat with a food diary you can never underestimate what you eat. Tracking your food and activity will automatically help you make better food decisions.
- You learn to make food tradeoffs you can live with. Deprivation will not get you far enough. Who can bear the misery of eating what they don’t want? But, if you learn to make smart choices (i.e choose foods that taste great, and are naturally filling) then it becomes more enjoyable. For me, I realized quickly that I could eat more if I chose foods with lower PointsPlus values. It was a no-brainer. Did I want one piece of fried chicken or a full salad with grilled salmon, delicious toppings, and a low-calorie dressing? Picking out more healthful foods meant I could eat more – done deal! Also, I didn’t deny myself what I loved. I really love ice cream. I knew that if I had to wake up each day knowing that I’d never again enjoy a dish of ice cream, I would be miserable. So, now I enjoy it in moderation and within my PointsPlus target range.
- You will control your environment. Control is a big factor. When you understand that the hunger you’re experiencing – even hedonic hunger – is real, it helps you realize that it’s not about willpower, but about arming yourself with the best ways to make the best choices. Control your environment. Control your choices. The weight loss and improved health will be a fun result of this control. With the help of simple but effective tools you now have the power to never be a victim to your food environment. You will rebuild your spaces (i.e your home, the office, your cars etc) to avoid food temptation. You will learn how to be in control in situations where you used to be out of control.
- You recognize that the best kind of willpower is the discipline to have a plan before you enter a scary food situation.
- You realize that small, easy to do routines can help to make healthy behavior second nature. Nobody can boil the ocean. But everybody can make a few simple changes at a time that can lead to major behavioral transformations. Making small changes rather than attempting to overhaul your entire life is why you’ll succeed. When you make a few changes, they become habits. Then you can make a few more and a few more after that. Soon enough, it will be second nature to walk past that dessert table or skip the ice cream aisle at the supermarket.
A Revolution in Weight Loss
Weight Watchers 3600 is a culmination of research and a thorough understanding of what it takes to lose weight, maintain that weight loss, and incorporate tools and knowledge into the life you already live. We’ve all tried things that don’t work. We’ve tried fad diets or insane fitness programs that we can’t sustain because we don’t take ourselves into consideration.
A Program Built For Human Nature
Weight Watchers 3600 works because all the factors are considered. As humans, we eat for pleasure. We are vulnerable at times and there are circumstances that are sometimes beyond our control. Weight Watchers 3600 was designed so that, even with these vulnerabilities, we can always be armed with what we need to easily make the best choices.
Putting it All Together
Take baby steps, control your space, track your choices and experience the success you deserve with Weight Watchers 3600.