The Battle of 5 Extra Pounds and Real Food

Jan 24, 2014
Tagged with: The Battle of 5 Extra Pounds and Real Food

After an extended holiday season and some life stresses, I recently found myself carrying a few extra pounds (about 5 of them to be exact). On a BMI scale, I was already at the top of the limit for “normal weight” and the extra 5 pounds put me solidly into the “overweight” category. While I know the BMI scale has its flaws, I have also had my body composition measured and I am no longer the muscular athlete that I was in college, so I figured now would be a really good time to try dropping a few pounds. Being familiar with research on weight gain over time, I know that now (my late 20s) is prime time to get everything in check, because its those few pounds every year that really start to add up over time.

I decided that I should set a goal of being right in the middle of the “normal weight” category for BMI. At 5’4″ that puts my goal at 135 pounds. That is about how much I weighed when I graduated from high school. I still lift weights and I’ve always been a bit stocky, so I am aiming to keep as much muscle as I can, but trim down the extra “winter warmth” layer. I plan to have my body composition measured again in the spring.

In the past I’ve just watched what I ate and increased my exercise to shed pounds here and there, but I was motivated by the new years promotions and my possession of a smart phone to try an actual established program.  Taking hints from recent surveys of weight loss tools, I went with the advice of “experts” and chose Weight Watchers and committed to one month.

I’ve been using Weight Watchers online for the past 2 weeks. I am into my third week and have lost 4.5 pounds. Now at 142 pounds, I am hoping to hit my goal before my birthday on February 20th. I like the WW program because it does a great job teaching you how to eat the smart stuff so you can save up for your splurges. In the last two weeks I have still had cookies, cake, pizza, beer, wine, and french fries. But I save up my indulgence points to have dessert once per day, and my activity points go toward a fun meal out once or twice per week.

I really do like the WW program and I think the points system is an easy way for you to gauge your consumption without having to count individual calories (which can be very misleading) but I have a bone to pick with the WW recipes. Why are you encouraging people to eat fake foods?

What fake foods you might ask? Fat-free cream cheese, fat-free sour cream, fat-free cheddar, sugar-free maple syrup….These (in my humble opinion) are not foods! Miracles of modern chemistry, yes, food, no.

I understand that they significantly decrease the fat, sugar and subsequently the calorie content of various foods, but I think they also contain nasty chemicals and encourage bad habits. Michael Pollen in his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” discusses how French people eat very “unhealthy” foods but don’t have the same weight problems as Americans. Why? Because they eat a lot less of it and enjoy it while they do.

I prefer to go with the French method, which I am trying to fit into my WW plan. Instead of dropping a glob of fat-free sour cream onto my 99% lean turkey taco, I choose to eat a smaller beef taco with a smaller amount of REAL sour cream, then fill the rest of the plate with filling options like salad, beans and grilled veggies. I just can’t bring myself to eat a fat-free version of something that is almost all fat (fat-free mayonnaise? Seriously? What do they make it from then?) I also eat more slowly and deliberately. I take smaller bites and really savor the food, instead of mindlessly noshing while watching TV. Research suggests that consuming fats with your food is very important for maintaining that feeling of fullness and I agree, but I’m learning just how much of the fat you can have before the calories catch up with you.

I hope to keep you all posted on the progress, and I hope my small goal might encourage you to set a goal for yourself, too. Have you been on a weight-loss journey? What do you think about recipes that call for “fake” ingredients? I would love to know your thoughts.

Author: Susan Silverman



  • bobl07

    Susan, Thank you for the tip. I just signed up for the Scale Back program. This will come in handy. Good luck with your battle.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Susan, I, too, am a fan of WW and lost 25 pounds using their online tools nearly 5 years ago (and have kept the weight off). I agree about the fake foods and have found that they can trigger an overwhelming desire to overeat. I think my body knows they are fake and says, “Hey, I want something real!” What I really think is more helpful than WW or Scale Back or any weight loss program I have tried or heard of is mindful eating. There is a recent TED Talk on this very subject. Thank you for your post!

  • Bob Lujano

    A Ted Talk called Mindful Eating? I plan to check this out. Thanks, Elizabeth

  • Susan Silverman

    I definitely agree about the fake foods triggering a desire to overeat. In general if I have a very low fat or fat-free meal, I am hungry again about an hour later. Fats are important for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and making you feel satisfied after you eat, but mindful eating is so important, especially because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know your belly is satisfied. Congratulations on keeping the weight off! I think you look fabulous :-)

  • Susan Silverman

    Thanks, Bob! I didn’t know about the Scale Back program until I was already two weeks into my journey, but we have a group in our office participating and we have started walking together after lunch. Good luck to you, too!