Saturday, September 26, 2009

Shameless Plug (but true!)

Last weekend, Weight Watchers' iPhone application was released on the iTunes store. My horrifically biased review: it completely rocks the house. Particularly for a version 1.0 release. OK, I said I was biased.

What's the point and why do I care?

As noted in prior entries, I have often said that I needed the meeting to lose my weight with Weight Watchers, particularly the weigh-in which kept me honest and focused. As I've also said, I rely on the website in general, and Weight Watchers eTools (many of the same tools as Weight Watchers Online) in specific. I don't track my POINTS all the time, but when I do, it's the internet or nothing. I guess I'm just not a paper tracker kind of a fellow.

This works well except for the fact that I look a little conspicuous whipping out a laptop in the middle of a restaurant or grocery store. In other words, the web site is great, but what if I need to do my program business on the road? Once upon a time, we had a Palm application, and it was pretty slick. Until I stopped using a Palm. Then we launched Weight Watchers Mobile, which totally works, but it just does not have the same kind of umph of the web site.

Before I go further, one other point of important bias-related caveating: I am a total iPhone super freak. LOVE it. LOVE it. LOVE it. It is always a good time to pull up Google Maps for no apparent reason. The browser rocks. The interface is beautiful. Etc.

I had seen screen shots of the new iPhone application, but the technology team did not provide me with a demo prior to its release. Therefore, I got mine roughly when you got yours. It really did surpass my expectations, particularly in user interface, graphics, resources, etc. It is one of those applications where you keep discovering new stuff. Most importantly, I can now track and search on the fly.

I even use it as a video game of sorts. I call it "Let's find the scariest thing at the Restaurant." Yesterday's winner was the Arthur Treachers (listed under Nathan's Famous) Shrimp Boat. 88 POINTS. I kid you not. I'm not really sure what a shrimp boat is (I think it is fried shrimp, tartar sauce and fries), but for that many points it should be able to fit a person inside of it (not the other way around).

A few important notes about the iPhone app... 1) anyone can download it, but you need to be a Monthly Pass/eTools or Online subscriber to get full access to all the tools (in which case they are free), 2) you need to have a live connection (cell or wifi) to enter POINTS into your tracker, and 3) it's only going to get better. I say this in a self-serving attempt to avoid scorching flames from any potentially irate users.

Give the iPhone app a go and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

That’s great about your weight loss. Now please talk less.

So I’ve lost my weight, and I’ve been maintaining it (officially) since this past February. When I was losing my weight, I definitely talked about it a lot in various forums: meetings with staff, family, co-workers, people at Weight Watchers meetings, etc. I was part of the crowd that was sharing the struggle. When I went into maintenance, my need to talk about it did not subside. In fact, I even started writing this blog so even more people could listen to me talk about it. Frankly, some people found this a bit irritating.

From the perspective of someone has either just starting a weight loss effort or is perhaps just contemplating it, hearing from people on maintenance can be either incredibly motivating or intensely grating. The reasons it is motivating are fairly obvious, and by chance, I happened to be someone who liked hearing from people who had gotten to their nirvana weight loss place.

So why would having someone on maintenance regaling you with stories of their success and continued struggles be annoying? Frankly, I think the reason is that sometimes they (I) are being annoying. Specific behaviors that I and others on maintenance can be guilty of include:

  1. Look at me, dammit! I’m thin! OK, it’s true that looking thinner can be great fun and a really big boost. It’s been a great accomplishment to lose weight and keep it off, and I’m proud of it. Further, I really like compliments and accolades due to my inherent shallowness. It’s just that it’s kind of sad to ask for the compliments (even in a passive-aggressive sort of way).
  2. You should learn from my example! There are few people more ponderous than the converted. We have a tendency to proclaim our healthy lifestyle virtues at excessive decibels and frequency. “NO THANK YOU WAITER, I DO NOT WANT ANY DESERT.” Ex-smokers can suffer from this as well.
  3. Am I disciplined or what? This one is somewhat similar to #2. I push myself pretty hard on the lifestyle thing, and I don’t mind others knowing about it. It would also be nice if they would kindly take the time to heap praise upon me and perhaps carry me on their shoulders while running off the field.
  4. Yes, in fact, I am all-knowing. I possess all useful tips and knowledge about successful weight loss, and it is my right to over-dominate every conversation to ensure that all others benefit from my vast and unending expertise.

There is nothing wrong with feeling any of the underlying emotions in the above four points that might lead to the ensuing behaviors. I should celebrate my success, and a nice compliment goes a long way. I can show by example. I do have useful information to share, and I can help others. I think the trick is to make it less about myself and a little more about wanting to help the people I care about. This will help me in getting the volume levels a bit better calibrated.

Lifetime Members are an invaluable source of information, motivation and support in our meetings, particularly those that the become Leaders and Receptionists who run our meetings. Most of them do a really good job of getting the aforementioned balance right. I promise to do better!

So for everyone I have bugged over the past eight months, please accept my apologies for my ponderous rookie-like maintenance behavior. But seriously, do these jeans make me look fat?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spreading the word on LFG

I love the Lose for Good campaign on a lot of different dimensions, not the least of which is that it's a really good cause and a great incentive to tackle a weight issue. I am also continually amazed by the amount of attention it attracts. Last year, we had more articles covering the campaign than any other event in recent history. We are starting to see the same interest this year. I think this is the result of two big factors: 1) it is a very timely event and 2) the power of our community.

Lose for Good seems to be striking an even bigger chord this year. Today, there is so much discussion about the importance of dealing with the obesity issue and our lack of healthier habits as a nation. In the context of the ever-increasing healthcare bill in the US, there is no shortage of policy makers eager to have a positive impact on the obesity problem. It is a key part of reducing the cost of health care in the US.

I have no doubt that policy makers can make an important contribution to the cause, but the real solution ultimately lies in each one of us. Doctors can guide us, but they cannot fix our weight problems. The government can create policies to encourage weight management, but it cannot fix our individual weight problems. Only we as individuals can solve them, and we all recognize that a weight issue is not such an easy problem to permanently solve. Adopting healthier habits and making them second nature takes some time and effort, and we all face the temptations to quit.

Sometimes we need a little extra incentive and boost of motivation to help us push through and to give us a sense or urgency to succeed. As I mentioned on an earlier post, having this job gives me a great excuse to stay OP. Lose for Good is another fantastic reason to stick with the program. Every pound we lose goes to help both ourselves and someone else. What better incentive to lose weight than the reward of doing some good.

To put it all in context, the two arguably biggest issues facing our country are healthcare and the economy. Lose for Good is a great way to do our part to have a positive influence on both. Solving our own weight and lifestyle challenges is a direct way of helping to fix our healthcare system. Given the recession's impact on so many people, families and children in the form of hunger (example: demand at food banks is up 40% in many communities), the food drives we are running are a great way to help ease the pain of this economic crisis.

Simply stated, Lose for Good is the right idea at the right time. Combine the idea with the power of the Weight Watchers network of service providers (20,000 strong), meetings members and Online subscribers, and we have a campaign with power that is terrifying to behold.

We are already seeing the pickup of the campaign in the press on both a national level and a local level. I did my own little bit yesterday with interviews on CNBC and Fox News. Amusingly, I showed the producer of the Fox News segment my blog, and she had them post my Before & After pictures on the segment. Now I really have to keep the weight off.

Here are the clips.