UnFoodie Masters Weight Watchers PointsPlus

July 31, 2012

By Karen

Part 3 – What All the Counting’s About

Weight Watchers® has weathered every dieting fad since the 1960s and is widely recognized as the safest way to lose weight. If you stick to the plan, it does work — but you’ll never eat like a “normal” American again.

Weight Watchers translates calories to “points” based on certain factors, which change as nutritional science evolves. The latest plan is PointsPlus+™ 2012, and P+ values comprise, among other things…

  • Fat
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Protein

The other things are fruits and vegetables which, for the first time, have 0 points.

For the first two weeks, I became semi-anorexic, afraid to eat anything and blow it before I got a handle on points. And I lost 5 lbs.

I get 26 points a day, based on my starting weight of 177. Heavier people will get more points, which get reduced as they lose, but I think 26 is the lowest it goes.

I also get 49 mad points weekly, sort of an overdraft account I can tap when faced with normal food, like burgers and fries and birthday cake.

You can also earn exercise points to exchange for food.

P+ are higher on many foods than previously because WW is back-dooring fruits and vegetables. So even though they say some things are worth 0, there’s no free lunch.

Just to give you some idea of P+, a 3-oz. serving of chicken or shrimp is 3 points, but a 3-oz. steak is 7.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Sometimes when you double the quantity of a food, its P+ value more than doubles.

For example, a teaspoon of canola oil is 1, but a tablespoon (3 teaspoons) is 4.

Kashi Go-Lean Crunch cereal: ½ cup is 2, but a full cup 5.

It also happens with some Light Progresso soups, which bear P+ values on their labels — for half a can. If one serving is 2, the whole can may be only 3 — or 5.

Two Eggo whole-grain blueberry waffles are 5, but one waffle is 2. Two tbsp. Smuckers Blueberry Syrup is 3, but you can hit every waffle dent using only ½ tsp. worth 0.

WW claims you can eat ANYTHING, but you’re punished pretty severely for most carbs, even the healthy ones. A 2-oz. (dry) serving of any whole-grain pasta is 5 — this is maybe 4-5 forkfuls — and that’s before sauce or cheese.

So having embraced PointsPlus, I find myself thinking about food a LOT, and it’s mostly scheming to game the system to survive on the fewest points while avoiding total veganism.

I load a plate with veggies, add a lousy deck-of-cards-sized chicken breast, and my eyes are fooled into thinking I’ve got a huge meal for only 3 points.

It’s impossible to accurately calculate P+ in your head, so WW sells a special calculator for $14.95, which will keep you from making fatal errors at the grocery store. (Tip: Buy it at a local WW chapter and save the outrageous $8.95 shipping the site charges.)

With my calculator, I went through my kitchen with a Sharpie, writing P+ values on everything. When I discovered that one ultra-thin slice of Sargento cheese is 3, I gave it away. Now it’s Laughing Cow wedges for 1.

Next…PointsPlus vs. reality.


UnFoodie Joins Weight Watchers Online

July 26, 2012

By Karen

Part 2 – Meetings vs. Online

I’ve joined Weight Watchers® twice before, pre-Internet, attending weekly weigh-ins and listening to some ex-fattie-turned-evangelist extol the virtues of celery, à la Betty Draper on Mad Men.

Both times, I stopped going after amassing the literature needed to follow the plan alone. And it worked — until I stopped counting points. Then pounds came back, plus.

At meetings, what always struck me as odd was their effusive welcomes for returning members who were fat again.

Those people weren’t heroes. They were walking advertisements for failure.

Maybe I’m just too cynical.

But for years after I left WW myself, I’d periodically receive mailings begging me to come back, as if they KNEW I was regaining.

So now who’s cynical?

I’ve never needed clergy or some born-again stick figure to shepherd my spiritual progress and tell me in a group setting what’s good, what’s bad, how to think, and what to eat, so this time I opted for Weight Watchers® online.

So far I’m fine. It’s also cheaper — $18.95 a month. (Couldn’t find meeting pricing on the site, but a monthly pass is $42.95, where available.)

The site isn’t without issues. And the mobile apps are iffy, including iPad incompatibility thanks to heavy reliance on Adobe Flash, so can’t really use them.

For example, the cornerstone of Weight Watchers® is tracking and assigning points to every blessed thing you consume. The window for this task is small and not resizable. You can’t see a full day without scrolling. The pane of your past foods list, from which you can supposedly drag and drop to save time, requires so much scrolling, it’s usually quicker to just retype. It’s all very annoying.

So I track on paper and enter sketchy info on the site to make the “You’re not tracking!” exclamation point go away.

For speed, you’re also supposed to be able to group things into “meals” so they’re one entry. I’ve never gotten that to work.

The tracking itself goes into overkill. In addition to food and exercise (for Activity Points), there’s a grid for number of glasses of liquid, dairy servings, fruit and veggie servings, vitamins, healthy oils, and activity (again).

This has nothing to do with points, but merely earns checkmarks or smiley faces on your progress reports. If you need affirmation to such a fine degree, go for it. I abandoned the grid after a few weeks. Life’s too short.

The site is the repository for PointsPlus® values for lots of generic and name-brand foods. It’s virtually impossible to calculate P+ yourself. Exercise 4 Weight Loss is an unaffiliated and far superior source of WW points for restaurant food, listed conveniently by restaurant.

Next, I’ll explain PointsPlus®.


Romney Demands More Secrecy from Obama

July 25, 2012

By Cole

In a speech at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention yesterday, Mitt Romney finally admitted, “The time for stonewalling is over.”

Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about his refusal to let voters see exactly how many millions (or billions) in taxes he’s dodged over the years.

He was referring to the Obama administration’s leaks of national security intelligence, and demanded a full investigation (although one is already in progress).

According to Romney, belatedly revealing our military’s brilliance in taking down Osama bin Laden constitutes “contemptible” behavior.

He also called Obama’s treatment of Israel “shabby,” although Israel isn’t complaining.

He also accuses Obama of “betrayal” by undermining our allies.

It’s like watching a Boy Scout try to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

Coincidentally, right now Romney is flitting through a bizarre little junket to Israel, Poland, and Great Britain to boost his foreign policy cred. As if being photographed shaking hands with guys who happened to have an hour free on their schedules to meet a powerless presidential wannabe gives him any.

Romney seems to overlook his own ceaseless betrayal of the citizens of Massachusetts who elected him governor, and now have to listen to him kvetch about the healthcare system he established for them because Obama is doing something similar on a national scale.

As most Republicans know — nothing the black guy does can ever be good enough or right — even if they thought of it first themselves.

From what we’ve seen so far of Mitt, he’s woefully lacking in specific, constructive plans, but hard to beat when it comes to duplicity, evasiveness, and secrecy.

Romney as president would make Richard Nixon look as forthcoming as a Penthouse centerfold.


Washington Goes Limp on Assault Weapons

July 24, 2012

By Cole

Obama and Boehner have agreed not to push for new gun control legislation in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado, massacre “allegedly” carried out by that Bozo-headed whack-job, James Holmes.

How many more innocent people must be mowed down to get Washington’s attention? Our elected officials all seem to share a smug certainty that no AK-47-wielding maniac who’s had enough of their self-serving bullshit will ever confront them.

It would appear that gun lobby contributions mean more to them than the safety and lives of the entire American population.

True to form, conservatives howl, “If you outlaw assault weapons again, you trample our FREEDOM!”

Freedom to do what? Murder in multiples? Anybody who thinks this is a defensible argument needs to be stood up against a wall and shot. Hey, live by the gun, die by the gun.

Other conservatives say the problem is that people don’t own ENOUGH guns.

Dudley Brown, executive director of the gun advocacy group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said, “If I only had 6,000 rounds for my AR-15s [like Holmes did], I’d literally feel naked.” And assessing Holmes’ stash, he said, “Two handguns, a shotgun and a rifle. That’s the average male in Colorado.”

So why wasn’t some “average male” packing heat in that theater and take down Holmes, or at least wound his firing arm? We haven’t heard from one armed moviegoer that night who regrets not wasting that punk and saving lives.

There’s a reason. Amidst chaos, it would take an extraordinary, highly-trained marksman with steely presence of mind to actually shoot the perp, rather than hit the screaming victims running around.

In most situations, I imagine it would be impossible.

As always, a glaring fact conservatives refuse to face is that “freedom” to buy weapons also applies to crazy people. According to them, nuts need more rights, but society doesn’t deserve the right not to arm insane killers.

Obama and Boehner need to grow a pair and reinstate the ban on assault weapons, and let the NRA be damned.

For the guns that are left, screw background checks. Before anybody can buy a gun, there should be a minimum 100 hours of mandatory firearms training, with psychiatric evaluation. And if the person fails to pass both parts with flying colors, no gun.

This would go far in weeding out other delusional limp-dicks, inspired by Cho, Loughner, and Holmes, who think godhood is theirs with the flick of a trigger finger, and put guns in the hands of people who know how to use them — for the right reasons.


UnFoodie Becomes a Weight Watcher

July 23, 2012

By Karen

Part 1 – Why?

Because when I hit 177 lbs. in May, my scale was within spitting distance of 200 — at 5’3”.

Weight Watchers® says my ideal weight is between 113 and 141 lbs. Anything 30+ beyond that is technically obesity.

Me. OBESE? How the hell did I let that happen?

When I was 42, I weighed 113 (size 6-8) and I had a bod made for sin.

But over the past few years, I’ve become a regular at plus-size retailer Catherine’s because “normal” stores carry almost nothing that fits. Once your size has an X in it, your style options are “circus tent” or “sofa.” Catherine’s, who should empathize with their customers’ plight, features clothes with wide horizontal stripes, huge flowers, and garish geometrical patterns in case anybody might be tempted to overlook what a tank you are.

Underneath, I’ve taken to wearing enormous clown panties (size 9) and 46DD bras — big boobs are my Italian curse.

So on May 21, I joined Weight Watchers® online. I’ve done the drill twice before with meetings and it was good while it lasted, but I’m a veteran yo-yo dieter who has repeatedly lost the same pounds, only to regain them and another 10.

Weight Watchers® is basically the Taco Bell of dieting. For years, they’ve milked the sole premise that you must burn more calories than you consume, cloaking it in various schemes so you never have to say you’re counting calories.

This year it’s called PointsPlus® and it’s never been more complicated. But if you can wrap your head around it, it does work.

After 8 weeks, I’m down 13 lbs. I’ve reversed the obesity train back to Overweightville. But my ultimate destination is Slim City.

I’m not sure yet how much I need to lose. I have an absolute horror of becoming one of those stringy-necked, brittle little stick figures with lifeless hair and loads of wrinkles. I’d be content in size 8 again.

I’ve already lost 3.5” in the bust, but would love to shed another 10”. If you bemoan being flat-chested, count your blessings. You can 1) Buy cute blouses you can button and tuck in, 2) Wear belts, 3) Run and do jumping jacks, and 4) Have men look you in the eye because they aren’t transfixed by the basketballs strapped to your chest.

I’ve got a lot more to spill about Weight Watchers®, but this is a start. Stay tuned…


Cat Picks for the Virginia Derby

July 20, 2012

By Adele

RACE DAY UPDATE: The forecast is rainy, which has caused Summer Front to be scratched. That leaves Silver Max to contend with 2 Triple Crown runners, Optimizer and Finnegans Wake. I stand by my initial picks, but move Easy Crossin up to be Max’s biggest threat. And now, my original post…

For the first time, I get to see the 15th annual Virginia Derby, a turf race at Colonial Downs in New Kent. It’s on HRTV Saturday night at about 8:45 p.m. (EDST). Only 9 horses are running in this $600,000 Grade II event.

My pick to win (and the track favorite) is Silver Max in post position 7, ridden by Robbie Albarado. He’s already won 5 turf races this year, most recently on June 13 at Indiana Downs, where he set a new track speed record, and his style is to pop out strong and lead from start to finish.

Max will be challenged in Virginia because the 1 1/4-mile track is 3/16 of a mile longer than he’s ever run before. He’ll also have Summer Front (pp 5), who has won all 4 of his previous turf races, and ridden by Ramon Dominguez, on his tail.

To place, I pick Mr. Handsome (pp 9) with Sheldon Russell, although he’s considered a 20-1 long shot.

My pick to show is Optimizer (pp 1). He tried his best in all 3 Triple Crown races, so his glory day is due. He starts in post position 1 under Horacio Karamanos, the track’s all-time winningest jockey.

I have a wildcard up my sleeve with Easy Crossin (pp 5) under Julien Leparoux, who has never run worse than second in his life.

May all the horses finish safely, and may Silver Max triumph again to keep his winning streak going.

PS: Our own Silly Max is leaping around the office while I write this, doing paw pumps.


Ottavia Bourdain Incites ‘Steakgate’ in Vegas

July 19, 2012

By Karen

But first… Congratulations to Anthony Bourdain and No Reservations on 4 Emmy nominations. I didn’t notice any other Travel Channel blockbusters on the nominees list; they must be eating their hearts out at TC about Tony’s defection to CNN. The categories are:

  • Outstanding Nonfiction Series
  • Outstanding Writing – Cuba
  • Outstanding Cinematography – Mozambique
  • Outstanding Picture Editing – U.S. Desert

Back to Ottavia’s brouhaha… It all started when Grub Street innocently published her “week in the life of” guest blog post. What that woman eats is mind-boggling, but it was her description of a bad steak in an unnamed restaurant in Las Vegas while attending a UFC event with her husband that lit up the ‘Net.

So this guy named John Curtas rebuked Ottavia’s unsophisticated palate in his column at Eating Las Vegas, and Tony leaped to his wife’s defense on Twitter, calling the column “idiotic” and “based on a false premise” (which was where they stayed, which supposedly housed the offending restaurant) — and Tony even stooped to spelling the columnist’s name “Curtass.”

The foodie world went into overdrive trying to ascertain the chef, throwing names around that included Tony’s pal, Mario Batali. But finally the culprit revealed himself to be Charlie Palmer. Since Ottavia didn’t send the steak back, Palmer rued being unable to make things right on the spot and apologized.

On the other hand, you have to appreciate Ottavia’s dilemma. Sitting there with the well-recognized Bourdain, she either had to choke down that steak or earn herself the reputation of being Tony’s picky-eater-bitch-wife.

Personally, I think she took the high road. There’s no sin in describing a bad meal, yet much virtue in concealing who prepared it if the intent isn’t to slam the chef.

And there’s nothing more amusing than watching foodies work themselves into a lather over a freaking steak, how it was cooked, and who cooked it. If the words “GET A LIFE!” have any significant context, this is it.

Moving on to the must-see Web TV department…

Eric Ripert has a new web series, On the Table, on the Reserve Channel, and Tony was his first guest. Without a doubt, it’s the most candid, natural, and informative interview I’ve ever seen Bourdain do. Eric knows Tony so well, he provided the perfect atmosphere (they cooked together in a home-like kitchen), asked the right questions to get Tony on new ground, and provides a bit of commentary on his best friend. It’s in 3 parts for about 22 minutes.

As a sidebar, talking to Grub Street with Eric about that show, Tony revealed that Ariane is a big Katie Perry fan and has a crush on Ripert’s son, among other things.

Other news…

If you’re interested in Get Jiro! (which took the No. 1 spot on the NY Times Bestseller List for graphic novels), Tony talked to MTVGeek about it at San Diego Comic-Con recently.

Here’s another Comic-Con interview.

July 30-Aug. 5, Bourdain will be hosting “Mob Week” movies on AMC in prime time.

Treme Season 3 begins September 23 with 10 episodes, and Tony is back, writing the New Orleans restaurant subplot for Janette.

And if owning one copy isn’t enough for you, a new edition of Kitchen Confidential is coming out this fall, with Bourdain’s handwritten margin updates.


Romney’s Worst Enemy: Innate Secrecy

July 16, 2012

By Cole

Virginia is considered a swing state, so Obama and Romney have been slinging serious mud in TV ads.

Obama accuses Romney of 1) outsourcing jobs, 2) lying about his tenure as CEO of Bain Capital, 3) hiding money in the Caymans, Bermuda, and Switzerland.

Romney says Obama is lying, but Romney has yet to present a single reassuring fact. Romney was raised to be secretive, and it’s worked for him so far.

Mormonism (like Scientology) is a religion steeped in mystery. Catholics, Baptists, Jews, even Buddhists will let you walk into their places of worship and observe.

Not so with Mormons. Ann Romney’s own parents were kept out of her “sealing” (wedding) to Mitt because they weren’t Mormon.

Romney refuses to confirm if he wears Mormon temple garments (underwear). But to be considered a worthy Mormon, he must.

I don’t care about Mitt’s undies, but I think they reveal this pattern:

When Romney won’t own up to something, he’s probably doing or has done it.

SEC papers state Romney ran Bain until 2002. Romney says it was 1999, although he was paid and signing official documents for Bain after that. But if Romney wasn’t CEO, who was? Nobody seems to know.

Bain apparently had idiots submit SEC filings full of personnel errors, and the company operated as a beast without a head for 3 years until Romney decided to run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and make a formal break with the firm.

Seriously, would Romney just walk away from the company he built and leave it to founder without leadership?

It sounds like Sarah Palin and Alaska.

When Romney ran Bain, his focus was on profit, not public office. It’s reasonable to assume he didn’t even notice those pesky worker ants he shook out of the failing companies he gobbled up. Those guys never do.

And what did Romney do with his profits? Since we know he paid less than 15% in taxes and refuses to release tax returns before 2010, it’s evident he milked every loophole and dodge to avoid paying his fair share.

I’m not saying Romney’s a criminal. All his actions may be perfectly legal, but they’re morally bankrupt. The last thing the middle class needs is a president lacking the empathy gene.

The biggest secret Romney can’t tell is that he has never given a damn about paying taxes, the deficit, or jobs. He used to care about healthcare, but changed his mind.

Romney’s running for president on ego. He’s probably already made a list of ways to cash in on the title for the rest of his life.


Once Again, Eric Cantor Disgraces Virginia

July 13, 2012

By Karen

Rep. Eric Cantor proudly led this week’s Republican charge — for the freaking 33rd time — to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act. I’m ashamed to say my Virginia taxes pay this rat-bastard’s salary while he and his cronies waste time on the clock making “symbolic” gestures.

I’ve got a “symbolic gesture” for Cantor.

Cantor’s bill passed in the House 244-185 so it can go to the Senate and get stomped to death — again.

Cantor keeps babbling about “patient-centered care,” yet never explains HOW he’d get there because he knows there’s only one way left — and he can’t say it.

But I’d like to see one politician from either party stand up and admit, “The ACA isn’t really about healthcare. It’s mostly about insurance.”

Anybody who’s ever wrestled their insurer over coverage knows —having insurance in no way ensures getting healthcare. And it virtually guarantees you will NOT get “affordable” healthcare.

Republicans, with their pathological refusal to face facts, keep calling the ACA a “government takeover.” Yet people won’t be fighting the government over medical bills. They’ll be fighting WellPoint, Aetna, Humana, Cigna, Unitedhealth…

With the ACA, Obama either screwed us royally, or he sees it long term as the best hope to ultimately achieve single-payer — Medicare for all.

Insurers will be giddy with power once they have 30 million new customers to screw and kill, and they’ll be cooking the books like mad to skirt the “85% must go toward healthcare” provision to keep profits growing.

Unfortunately, it’s us little guys who will be driven into bankruptcy and/or die while insurers squeeze every last nickel from the system in ways that would make the Mafia blush.

Finally, insurers will ruin enough lives so Americans of all parties will scream with one voice to end the corruption, forcing Congress to DO something for a change.

And the solution will be Medicare for all because it’s the only option left. And it WORKS in every industrialized society where people aren’t as stupid as we are, resulting in longer life spans and reduced infant mortality for less cost.

Republicans go about healthcare reform like a bunch of pathetic Civil War re-enactors, thinking if they keep refighting the same old battle, they’ll change the winner. They insist the U.S. has “the best healthcare system in the world” like the myopic souls who believed “one Southern gentleman can lick 10 Yankees.”

Representatives of both parties must first wean themselves from insurers whose billions in profits don’t go to healthcare — but help to buy off politicians. (Check out Cantor’s record on that.)

As long as Washington is on the take (while enjoying dandy healthcare benefits at our expense), we’ll never see meaningful reform.


‘Fancy Feast Mornings’ Gets Mixed Paws

July 11, 2012

By Max

Never has a cat awakened, taken a good stretch, and thought, Boy, I could really go for some eggs! Yet Purina has unleashed another “gourmet,” premium-priced eggy cat food called Fancy Feast® Mornings™.

Maybe you’ve seen this ad featuring that spoiled white Persian…

Looks like they dumped 2 cans into that ramekin, and this stuff can retail for 98 cents a can. I know because Karen scored us 2 free cans with a coupon worth $1.99.

Cats Working has now completed a scientific taste test, conducted on 2 mornings several days apart (to ensure uncompromised palates). We sampled “Soufflé with White Meat Chicken, Garden Veggies and Egg” and “Medley with Wild Salmon, Garden Veggies and Egg in sauce” (emphasis Purina’s).

Right before the Soufflé, Karen was running around the house carrying our bowls, looking for the camera, which tipped off Adele that something was afoot, so she got a head-start on the kitchen counter.

Adele couldn’t wait to dig in, and I think she considered stealing mine and Cole’s before she even tasted it!

Adele’s an old-school “Clean-Plate Kitty” who always believes Karen’s crap about “starving kittens in China,” and wolfed her bowl. Cole, who can be finicky, also liked it pretty well, as you can see…

(L-R) Adele’s, Cole’s, and my bowl after the taste test.

I licked some, but those orange things were a turn-off.

As for ingredients, this so-called “chicken” flavor includes liver, turkey, and unspecified meat byproducts, as well as tomatoes, spinach, carrots, soy, and assorted chemicals. I’m not saying it’s bad for cats, but it’s hardly what we crave.

Next, we tried the Medley. It wasn’t a good sign when Karen almost gagged after popping the can. It looks just like puke…

Either puke or the results of a sinus infection. I’m not sure.

Once again, Adele was Clean Plate Kitty, but this time Cole wasn’t impressed, and neither was I. (Adele, under the bed later, polished off what both of us left. What a pig.)

(L-R) Adele’s, Cole’s, and my bowl. Notice we guys licked off the mucous and left the mystery meat and “colorful bits.”

Medley’s “wild salmon” includes chicken, liver, those iffy meat byproducts, tomatoes, spinach, and carrots.

Both varieties use suspicious “egg product” — not real egg — but Soufflé also lists egg whites.

Sure, some cats will wolf this stuff down like Adele did. And if they also sup on pricey Fancy Feast® Elegant Medleys, they can instantly send their owners’ cat food tab through the roof.

I can tell Fancy Feast in 2 words where they blew it with this one…

NO BACON

Bacon is my FAVORITE snack food. If Fancy Feast made “Soufflé with (Real) Eggs and Bacon,” I’d go on a hunger strike to make Karen buy it.


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