Monday, October 5, 2009

Looking for a bargain (and eating cheese fries).

One of the things I most appreciate about Weight Watchers---bearing in mind that I’m only three weeks in---is the fact that nothing is off-limits. The basic idea is that all foods have a “point” value, which is a simplified way to express fat and calorie content (minus fiber content). You get a set amount of points per day based on your gender, activity level of your job (personal trainer v. biglaw cog), starting weight, and whether you are breastfeeding (highly correlated with gender). I have 22 daily points. You also get 35 points per week to use however you want (I call them “flex points”). You can divide these however you want---so you can go over your daily allowance by five points every day, or you can save up your 35 points and splurge on a gigantic buffet at the end of the week.

So this means you can eat what you want within these bounds.

Want that slice of chocolate cake? Fine, go for it! That’ll be 12 points.

What? Don’t want to spend more than half your daily allowance on a single slice of cake? Well, you could always have 1/12th of it and push it away (1 point). Or bring along a diet-friendly 100-calorie brownie for these occasions. Or, if you’re like me, realize that you don’t want to look like a douche by unwrapping diet food while everyone around you eats delicious chocolate birthday cake, suck it up, cut yourself half a slice, and eat the whole thing. And you better enjoy it, too, buddy.

I have been managing pretty well so far by substituting things I usually eat for very similar things that have dramatically lower points values.

Example: a typical New York Bagel is 6 points, and can be 7 or 8 with cream cheese. A lowfat wheat English Muffin is one point. Two points with lowfat cream cheese, and still one point with sugar-free jam. Do I still eat bagels? Yes, sometimes, but not that often anymore. The nice part for me---The Jewish Girl---is that it doesn’t feel like a restriction, it just feels like I’m eating something on sale. I get a bagel-like item for 84% off the price of a bagel?!?! SIGN ME UP! nom nom nom.

When I look at the diet this way, it becomes more of a shopping challenge than a diet challenge. I buy foods now trying to find the best points “price” for my money, which is kind of fun (if not a little calculator-heavy).

Some of the things I’ve been relying on for the last few weeks to satisfy me for half-off the original brand name food:

  • Weight Watchers Yogurt, 1 point (other fat free yogurt: 2 points)
  • 94% fat free popcorn, 3 points per bag (regular popcorn: 15.5 points per bag) (sometimes I’ll spray on some “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray for extra nonbuttery goodness and zero points)
  • Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches, 2 points (regular ice cream sandwiches: 3--4 points)
  • Edy’s Tart Yogurt Blends Honey Flavor, 2 points per 1/2 cup (regular ice cream: 4 points) (this flavor of frozen yogurt is FABULOUS even if you’re not watching your weight. It’s like Pinkberry meets Haagen-Dazs.

The best part about all the points I save by making these choices?

I can spend them on a cheeseburger and cheese fries at Shake Shack. :-)

This picture does not do these fries justice. That cheese sauce tastes like macaroni and cheese, just without the macaroni. I recommend getting it on the side, so you can dip. The whole experience is like angels singing in your ears while Satan gives you a foot massage. It’s amazing and totally worth 10 points.

Actually, when you think about it, these cheese fries themselves are a huge saving over my favorite cheese fries in the world from Outback Steakhouse, which pack a whopping total of 73 points. Of course, that’s the point value for the whole plate...but honestly, if I order those cheese fries, I’m not sharing.

(Another kind of funny note: it was really hard to find the nutritional information for a whole plate of cheese fries. Everyone assumes that people will eat a normal human serving, which is about a fourth of the plate. When you order the cheese fries as your entree, as I have been known to do in my heyday...)

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