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ALGEBRAGIRL Posts: 1,925
9/8/13 2:33 P

'From what I've read about it, it's extremely hard to calculate the points in some things - like a chinese takeaway, which my sister and I have every week. '

This is so true - about any diet. I don't think I could ever guess the calories or carbs or fat or anything in a Chinese takeaway meal (take-out, here in the U.S.). What WW will do is try to focus on the standards offered in Chinese restaurants and describe what size the portion should be when you count the basic dish. For example, beef and broccoli.

But, who's to say what is in that prepared food item? That's why I've saved my bonus points for occasions, once a week, when we might eat in a restaurant.

Dieting is basically staying within a certain calorie limit, and adjusting that limit as you lose weight. That's all WW does, but they do offer excellent support. Judging portion sizes is my downfall, but WW shows you to use your hand as a guide. So smart, because you always have a hand, right? It's attached to your arm. Putting a piece of beef in the palm of your hand is so many ounces of beef. Count that. But, you say, what if I have a big hand? Well, you might have a big hand. But becoming fat from eating more and moving less doesn't hinge on the incremental differences in hand size - it's a day in, day out, long term process! Involving eating more and richer food, and doing less physical activity.

ICEDEMETER Posts: 1,332
9/6/13 10:59 A

Not a "pipe dream" at all - actually, it sounds pretty darned realistic to me! Kudos on your dancing and your lifting (squatting 90 --- woohoo!).

What you both might want to do first is go to your doc for a full check-up, including a full vitamin/mineral panel, to make sure that there isn't a deficiency that is causing your sister's drop in stamina (not unusual at all for there to be iron deficiency in women).

If all is well, then your sis might want to start experimenting with when she eats prior to class, to see if she feels better eating sooner than you do. We're all pretty individual in our reactions to eating prior to exercise, and she just might need a boost 30 minutes or so before class.

You also might want to see if you can get in to see a sports dietitian - someone who specializes in supporting dancers or other athletes. You can see if you can get a referral from your doc, check with your dance instructor to see if they have someone they use, or chat with your friends and see if anyone they know happens to be taking that in University and wants someone to "practice" with. I'm thinking that you likely both need more protein than you're eating now (which will help to build the muscles that you want), as well as just needing some tweaks to your fat and carb intake to help with stamina. You might also want to check out the message boards from the site that I linked earlier to see if there is someone in your local area who can recommend the sports dietitian that they use.

With all that you are doing, 1500 calories a day is likely around half of what you actually should be eating to maintain weight and build muscles. No wonder you felt horrible eating at that level! It sounds like you are pretty used to following your hunger cues for eating the right amount of calories, so now you just need a hand in making sure that the majority of the calories are the right type to support what you are doing.

Best of luck to you both!

CMCOLE Posts: 2,667
9/6/13 6:50 A

I don't believe I need to add a lot to the already great information you've been given.

What I will add is - hurray!! You're supporting your sister in her desire to get healthy, and you're doing it by looking at information and not just giving her your (or someone else's) opinion.

That's wonderful.

I wish you both well on your journey to health

NIRERIN Posts: 14,275
9/6/13 6:11 A

pipe dream? no, i think that finding that space is the only thing that truly works long term, perhaps with the exception of calorie counting [there are some people who just will have to do that forever].
one of the best things that you can do is to make the stuff you love better. we have a family recipe that calls for butter, onion, broccoli, cream of soup, rice, and cheez whiz. it makes 9 servings and uses 2 sticks of butter. so that's almost 200 cals per serving from butter alone. so one of the first things to happen was to cut out a stick of butter from that recipe, which took out almost 100 cals per serving. since even the extended family didn't notice the difference, we cut back to half a stick of butter, bringing the calorie savings to nearly 150 cals per serving and that's without people noticing the swap [and this is dead grandma's recipe, so there are limits to how much people will accept in terms of change]. when i make it now just for me, i omit the butter entirely and use a Tablespoon of olive oil [so the whole me modified recipe has fewer calories from olive oil than a serving had of butter in the original]. i also double the vegetables when i make it and use about half the cheese [or cheez if i go that route]. and frequently, instead of cream of soup, i'll just make a roux and add more vegetables to that.
and that's the general idea. if you love fried chicken and collards, tweak it. bake your chicken instead of deep frying. try using a heartier breading [like oats]. try skipping the breading and just seasoning and baking the chicken. that's not to say you can never have the deep fried original again, just that most of the time you should have the slightly lighter version. for the collards, try cutting half the fat out. or if you buy from a place, cut the collards with plain steamed collards that you mix in yourself. you could also separate the heavier meals and pair them with something that complements them. so instead of having fried chicken and collards you might have fried chicken with zucchini fries, roast vegetables, baked squash, a green salad, steamed broccoli or cauliflower. and you might have the collards with black bean cakes, a broth based bean soup, baked chicken breast, or some other not as calorically dense protein source.
if you love mac and cheese, that might mean always having a veg side with it, adding vegetable matter to the noodles, scaling back the quantity of noodles you use, lightening the sauce a little. if you love burgers that might mean making smaller burgers, occasionally having them open faced, adding to the vegetable toppings you put on them, adding smaller quantities of condiments, having side salads instead of fries, baking the fries that you do have, and other little tweaks that keep the calories down. again, that's not a call to never have what you love the exact same way again, just that most of the time it needs to be a little tweaked for more frequent consumption.

NINAM128 SparkPoints: (78)
Fitness Minutes: (120)
Posts: 19
9/6/13 4:47 A

Thanks everyone. Susan, I am seriously impressed!

Both my sister and I are feeling the effects of not being super healthy. We are both hip-hop dancers and classes and rehearsals are intense. Thankfully, with this style of dance we are never put under any pressure to be thin. They like a fit, toned look, so we are very good at heavy lifting (I squat 90lbs...on a good day) and of course we get a lot of cardio. It's like bootcamp five times a week.

For me personally, I must do class on an empty stomach, with my last meal being around 3 hours before - if sooner, then it must be very small. My sister is saying that she's losing stamina in class after about 60 minutes, and most of our classes run 90-120 minutes. She's never expressed a desire to be thin, but we both understand that in order to be the best dancers, we need to be as fit as strong as we can be. And to do that we need to fuel ourselves properly. But we also need a lot of calories. I ate around 1500 for a few days and not only did I not lose any weight, I thought I was going to go crazy!

In an ideal world, for both me and my sister, I would find a way of eating healthy, allowing for the stuff we love, and getting not too much and not too little, but without having to count every little calorie. Pipe dream?

DEANNA0725 SparkPoints: (22,611)
Fitness Minutes: (13,947)
Posts: 2,072
9/6/13 3:38 A

WW has geared me towards living a healthy lifestyle, but now that I am exercising more it seems that I am having a harder time staying within my points.

ROXIELU0422 Posts: 317
9/5/13 1:02 P

I've been off and on WW for a long time, over 15 years. I've been off of it for a couple of years since they changed their program. It just didn't work for me. I hate counting anything. HATE IT. Do I track? Yes. Do I really look at calories? no. I look at fat and fiber.

I think she really needs to look at WHY she is wanting to lose weight. If she is healthy, then why do it? at 17, she is probably feeling the pressure to be "thin and pretty" which she probably already is, but sees models and possibly friends of hers that have ribs sticking out and she feels "fat."

My advice, do not take her to WW. She will learn bad habits and good habits, but she's not ready for that. This isn't about weight loss, this is about fitting in.

MICHELLEXXXX SparkPoints: (12,229)
Fitness Minutes: (5,920)
Posts: 3,780
9/5/13 12:32 P

Love her; encourage her. She'll find her way.

GABRIELLE42 Posts: 10,916
9/5/13 11:28 A

For starters WW has a minimum starting weight depending on your height so if a person is already at a healthy weight they won't even let you join. That being said I feel that WW is a very healthy plan that if you follow it you will lose weight and keep it off.

I don't know where people get the idea that it is not a healthy plan. They encourage the healthy guidelines that includes at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 to 3 servings of low fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein and 6 liquids per day. There is nothing unhealthy about this. As far as eating out there are tools to help you either find the points plus values or at least come up with a good estimate. It is also possible to fit in extras as long as you stay within your points values.

If you don't wish to count points you can do the simply filling plan which sticks to power foods which is mostly fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.

It is always an individual decision on what plan to follow but WW is a lifestyle, not just a weight loss plan.

SUSAN_FOSTER Posts: 1,229
9/5/13 11:19 A

I want to speak up and say I lost 50 pounds on weight watchers, and have maintained that loss for 12+ years.

9/5/13 10:57 A

My coworker is doing weight watchers. It sounds like they have a lot of tools and education articles but you can also do the program just eating frozen foods and very little exercise. Like many things you will get out of it what you put into it. I don't think that WW does anything that SP doesn't.

ICEDEMETER Posts: 1,332
9/5/13 10:45 A

It sounds to me like both you and your sister are interested in learning to live a healthier lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and healthy activities, but aren't entirely sure where to start.

You're already here on Spark, and your sister could sign up for Spark Teen for now, which is the right price (free!) and has a ton of info. I would suggest setting up your trackers to monitor a few basic nutrients (iron, calcium, B12, folate, fibre, sodium, potassium) and track what you normally eat for a few weeks to see where these things (along with the carbs / fat / protein) might need to be tweaked. You'll need to keep in mind that a few of these aren't required to be listed on food labels, so you'll have to make your own food entries with this info (you can find it on to track relatively accurately.

That's basically what I did, and I've had a lot of fun actually figuring out what foods I could ADD to my diet to get these nutrients. A couple of my favourite adds for iron are good quality cocoa powder and blackstrap molasses --- I either add to yogurt or use in my own stir-fry sauces. For folate, I increased the amount of asparagus and spinach that I use (both are fabulous on a cauliflower crust pizza). By concentrating on what things that I could add that I really enjoyed, I've found the transition to a healthier diet to be a lot easier than you might think.

I would also suggest that both of you look in to joining a gym and getting a start on strength training, as well as get in to the habit of cardio. This article might give you something to think about:

While you don't need to go quite *that* far, lean muscle mass is hugely important in living a healthy and active life.

Try a few things, find out what you like, don't be afraid to experiment with both food and exercise, and remember to have fun with it! The more fun you have, the more likely that it will be something that you will keep with for the rest of your life.

Kudos to both of you for starting on this path now!

NINAM128 SparkPoints: (78)
Fitness Minutes: (120)
Posts: 19
9/5/13 9:54 A

Nuts have HOW many calories?!?! Hot-damn.

NIRERIN Posts: 14,275
9/5/13 9:10 A

the first thing that should be done is to get your sister to her doctor for a realistic health assessment and get her bodyfat percentage. a doctor should be able to give a less emotionally involved response and accurate assessment of where she is. keep in mind that at 17, she still likely has a final growth spurt to go through in a couple years, even if she has already hit her full height. bodyfat percentage is also going to tell you a lot. if she's at a point where she has a high bodyfat percentage and does need to lose, then starting sooner is better in my opinion. it takes a lot less time to get a handle on things early rather than taking the time to gain a lot of extra weight and then trying all the quick fix ways to lose it and then actually losing it and keeping it off.

counting calories [and points because points are just an arbitrary unit of calories] , while it can seem obsessive, is just a way for someone to learn how to do something that their body isn't doing on it's own. it's kind of like hooked on phonics for food. you have to learn how many calories the foods you eat have [nuts, while good for you, have a 1/4 cup or 1oz portion. so many people hear nuts are good for you, then eat two cups of the things only to find out that's eight servings and a full day's calories for most small women] and how what you choose to eat needs to fit into the calorie range where you maintain your weight [and/or lose weight]. and it's a learning experience. one of my foreign language teachers said that you had to hear a word 80 times before you could remember and use it. so if it takes her fifty times of weighing onions to realize that the margin of error is pretty low on that food [in other words, if she's off by a half cup of chopped onion that's it's only about a 30 cal difference] and that her efforts would be better spent paying attention to things like oil [40 cals a teaspoon] or nuts [200 cals for 1/4 cup], then it takes her 50 times to learn enough to get to that point. because no one is born with the innate knowledge that if you're sweating veggies it should be the oil that you sweat. most people have to learn it at some point. if in six months' time she is weighing out lettuce and celery by the gram and keeping those as low as possible while eating little else, then you should be worried and take action. but she'll have likely found out that those are foods that it's okay to be a little off with.
as far as the chinese goes, the number one thing to remember about chinese is that it is served family style. which means that one order of chinese is four servings of food, which is why it's about 2000 cals an order. my local chinese place serves an order in a quart container plus another 22oz container of rice. that's a lot of food. so if you do want to have chinese, suggest you split an order [1000 per each] or even split an order and eat it two days in a row. in other words, get an order on friday night. split it in half and keep half for saturday. then split what you left out so that you're each only eating 500 cals of food, which is a reasonable meal size.
as far as other people being able to do things, some people are double jointed, some are great at math, other people are wonderful gymnasts and you can't compare what other people do to what you [or your sister] do. there isn't one right way to do things it's a work in progress to figure out what works for one person. saying that she should just be able to eat reasonably during the week and the relax a little on the weekends and still be in balance is kind of like thinking it's perfectly reasonable that she should be a classically trained cellist. yes it sometimes just happens, but most of the rest of the time there has to be a significant amount of groundwork involved. and learning what's in food and how to make up meals that fit your needs is the nuts and bolts learning part of it. there are a good deal of people that that type of eating just triggers binges. and when you say you know people who do this how well do you know these people? is it possible that they are doing [or did] the same things that your sister is learning to do but have seriously downplayed the amount of work and effort it took to get them where they are? unless you are with these other people 24/7 it's difficult to take what people tell you without a grain of salt. it's very hard to know what goes on in other people's heads and homes without being there to see it and make your own judgement call.

STHEROUX1 SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (7,975)
Posts: 5
9/5/13 8:14 A

I think it's never too early to develop a healthy lifestyle. But, with that being said, my question for your sister is, what are her psychological reasons for wanting to join Weight Watchers?

Being that she is only 17 years old with a BMI just over 25, and is already talking about "giving up" foods/social activity (Chinese night with you...something that she enjoys) I see "red flags" for an eating disordered mentality. Tracking food, counting points, monitoring activity can become obsessive for some people, not to mention the "high" of losing weight.

In my opinion, it's not really about whether she should do Weight Watchers or Sparkpeople or any other plan. The question is, why does she want to do it? And depending on what her answers are, finding the plan that's best for her.

Just viewing it from a different perspective.

MISSRUTH Posts: 4,294
9/5/13 6:59 A

I have never done WW. I know several people who lost weight on WW. But every one of them gained it back with the notable exception of my very good Spark friend, who was doing WW when she joined Spark, and then transitioned out of WW and just into using Spark to track her food etc etc.

I think just about any plan (or "diet", if you will) will work as long as you stick with it. The question becomes, is it something you can continue to follow for the rest of your life? Because if you stick with it just to lose the weight, and then after you've slimmed down you go back to all your old ways.... you will gain the weight back. To be truly successful, it needs to be a complete lifestyle change. It needs to be a program you're willing and able to follow for the long haul. The beauty of Spark is that there is no food that is off limits; we can eat anything we want, in moderation. Your chinese take away can be fitted into your weekly plan for eating.

There is a Spark program for teens; your sister might be interested in that. This site is a wealth of information on good nutrition and healthy habits. Plus it's free. WW is not.

NINAM128 SparkPoints: (78)
Fitness Minutes: (120)
Posts: 19
9/5/13 4:39 A

I just wanted to get people's opinions on this. I don't have weight to lose so I'm not thinking of joining, but my sister is hell-bent on joining, and at 17 I think that she's too young to be worrying about this - especially since she's only a couple of pounds over a BMI of 25.

I've come across some really negative opinions on Weight Watchers, from mild resentment (people were hungry, it doesn't teach you NOT to eat junk food etc) to other more in-depth critiques, such as because of lack of focus on protein-rich foods, and allowing you to (in theory) eat all the sugar/carbs you want and still lose weight, you lose a lot of muscle and over time it gets harder to maintain the weight loss.

From what I've read about it, it's extremely hard to calculate the points in some things - like a chinese takeaway, which my sister and I have every week. She'd have to stop doing that, she told me, not because it's unhealthy but because she wouldn't be able to accurately track the points. On the other hand, I know people who eat healthy through the week and allow themselves a meal on the weekend where they don't have to worry about the calories, like a treat meal. Surely that's less obsessive than point counting?!

But, I'm not sure if calorie counting is any better. My sister currently counts the calories in an onion, which I think is absurd. And she weighs peas. She'll write things down like '127 calories' to the unit!!

But on the plus side, when I looked at the diet, I liked that vegetables and fruits (limited) are free. That might encourage healthier eating, no? And counting to 30 is much simpler math than counting to 1500! (for me, anyway!)

I'm just not sure if I can work out whether it's a terrible idea or a great idea. It seems great in theory, but it seems Weight Watchers has a dismal failure rate and the majority of people I've come across both in person and online seem to have either lost a tiny amount of weight before giving up, or gained it all back. Lots of people say things like 'Weight Watchers has worked for me many times' LOL! Red flag!

Any opinions?

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