UnFoodie Tries Collard Chips – Twice

May 15, 2013

By Karen

“At 20 calories per (1-1/2 cup) serving, these collard chips crush the potato variety on virtually all nutritional fronts.”

Reading that in the Wednesday food section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I was all over this recipe because, at 20 calories with no fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 2 grams each of fiber and protein, that’s a Weight Watchers® zero PointsPlus snack.

(FYI on “veggie chips” in the grocery store: Not so great. When you calculate the points, you’d do just as well to eat Baked! Lay’s® Potato Crisps.)

Making Collard Chips is incredibly easy. All you need is…

  • 1 bunch collard green leaves (10-11 leaves)
  • Cooking spray
  • Sea salt, to taste

What could go wrong, right?

Well, I’m sharing my second attempt because the first one turned out so badly, I figured I must have screwed up. Fool me once…

Backstory: I never heard of collard greens until I moved to the South. Which is not to say I’m a greens snob. My Italian grandmother used to speak lovingly of dandelion greens, although I never actually saw her pick and eat any.

But dandelion greens are sheer lace next to collards, which are large, thick, and tough…


On the elitist foodie pyramid, collards must be the vegetable equivalent of roadkill.

The recipe says to preheat the oven to 375°. Wash the collards (it neglects to tell you to dry them, a CRUCIAL step), then remove the center stem and rip the leaves into “chip-size” pieces. Next, “coat” each piece with cooking spray.

I discovered the hard way that you don’t “coat” the leaves, but toss them with the merest spritz or they go soggy. The first time, I also over-salted. It doesn’t take much.

This time I tried adding some some onion powder for flavor. Big mistake: it burns.


So far, so good.

The recipe says to “mist a baking sheet with cooking spray.” But again, too much spray equals soggy mess. This time, I lined the sheet with foil and no spray. Arrange the collards in a single layer.


Is your mouth watering yet? (Sorry for the blurriness. Still getting the hang of the Nikon.)

Bake for 8-9 minutes “until slightly brown and crisp.” Go put a good movie into the DVD, pour your favorite beverage, and get ready to nosh.


Would you serve these at your next party, let alone put them in your own mouth?

Would you serve these at your next party, let alone put them in your own mouth?

Bottom line: It doesn’t matter if you follow the recipe to the letter or not, the result is the same. If your house burned to the ground and scorched all the trees in your yard, collard chips are like what you’d find in your driveway the next day. Just add salt.

They turn surprisingly thin and delicate so they crumble in your mouth, but they still taste like torched weeds.

I’m still looking for that elusive low-point chip snack food. But I’ve learned one thing…

Any damned idiot can get a recipe published in the paper.

Basking in the Weight-Loss “After” Glow

May 13, 2013

By Karen

Through the decade of my 50s I spent fat, I had squirreled away some favorite “skinny” clothes with the slim hope of “What if…” They included 2 pairs of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans in 12 and 14 petite. But even after I had dropped 40 lbs., I still wasn’t even close to zipping those suckas, even though I was buying new slacks in size 10.

So we now know that Gloria Vanderbilt pulls sizes out of her ass.

I had blocked the jeans out as too depressing, until I was recently purging the closet of more “fat clothes” and found them again.

Today I’m sitting here, down 49 pounds (at 128 — I yo-yo between 128-130), and I’m pleased to announce I’m comfortably wearing the GV size 12.

It’s a freaking miracle.

Last weekend I was in Coldwater Creek buying blouses (yes, I can button blouses without them gapping) and the cashier took my driver’s license to get some info.

My DMV mug shot, taken in 2009, is downright scary. They don’t let you smile, and I look like some redneck matriarch of a family of bank-robbers…


The cashier did a double-take and exclaimed, “There’s no way I would recognize you from this. This is truly your ‘before’ picture!”

Wasn’t that sweet? Because here’s me today, with my rediscovered jawline…


Losing pounds is one thing, but I’ve been taking measurement since I started with Weight Watchers® in May 2012. Let me lay out what it’s meant to my overall mass…


177 lbs.

128 lbs.



















I’m not telling you this to rub your nose in my success, but to let you know that SUCCESS IS POSSIBLE, even after menopause. It’s not easy, but if you make up your mind and stick with it, you can make your driver’s license picture look like a bad memory.

And you CAN get back in to your skinny jeans.

Weight Watching on a Cruise

April 11, 2013

By Karen

Feeling pretty svelte after losing 48 lbs., I went to San Juan last week for a sail through the Southern Caribbean on Royal Caribbean’s lovely Brilliance of the Seas.

Yes, it’s the same ship from which honeymooner George Smith disappeared in the Mediterranean in 2005. His blonde bride, Jennifer, pounded the talk show circuit for a while.

My cabin was 2 decks below theirs, and I didn’t run in to George’s spirit.

I cut ties to Weight Watchers® online before I left, but I still follow PointsPlus® because it won’t take much more to get myself into a size 8.

I wasn’t about to let that ruin my vacay. There’s no shortage of healthy options on a ship. I ate cereal, fruit, yogurt, and salads. OK, one morning I had eggs Benedict.

They bake the breads and pastries fresh every day, with real butter for spreading.

And did I mention there’s liquor?

So I cheated. But no fried chicken or pizza. I haven’t had a decent slice of pizza since early 2012, and feared I’d lose it and binge because it’s always available.

One lunch I splurged on a hamburger and fries. Pasta twice, once Bolognese and once Asian. Two cookies.

Even being fairly careful, most days I’d pretty much blown through my daily points by mid-afternoon — if I were counting.

I watched plenty of morbidly obese passengers loading heaping plates of stuff buried under mayonnaise and gravy. They were my best motivation — particularly when they hung out around the pool later.

At dinner, I ordered mostly grilled fish or pork, with one lobster tail. I had quite a few chocolate desserts, but didn’t always finish.

Probably worse than the eating and drinking was not doing my usual 10,000 steps a day, although you’d think on a 958-ft. ship it would have been easier. But I usually fell far short.

When I got home, I’d gained 2 lbs.

I’d laid in some Lean Cuisine® to ease myself into “normal” eating until I could hit Food Lion. The only fresh produce I had in the house was an onion.

So now it’s 5 days later and one of my ill-gotten pounds is already gone.

I’m hoping the week-long shock of eating more fat and animal protein will propel me further into the 120s and the coveted size 8s. Before the cruise, I was hopelessly plateauing.

But back to my initial question. Yes, you can watch your weight on a cruise, but you don’t have to go overboard about it.

Weight Watchers® Online: Reached the Dead End

March 26, 2013

By Karen

Part 8 — WW Offers Zip for Success

At Christmas, I was within 10 pounds of my Weight Watchers® goal when I hit a horrible plateau. Since then, I’ve averaged about 0.6 lb. a week, losing zilch MANY of those weeks — extremely frustrating.

But yesterday I FINALLY hit 130 lbs. In fact, I saw 129 on the scale for the first time in many years.

In case you’re just joining us, I’ve spent 10 months losing 48 pounds using only WW’s cumbersome, TMI-gathering website. I stuck it out with the site believing I would ultimately achieve “lifetime membership” and get breaks on future fees if I ever needed WW again.

Upon reaching my goal, the site showered me with stars, but the next step, this tiny token — lifetime membership — was conspicuously missing.

They buried it well, but I finally uncovered  this little nugget…

Lifetime membership is only for Meetings members.


My theories on why WW deems online members unworthy…

1. Online membership is cheaper than meetings, so our obesity isn’t profitable enough.

2. WW doesn’t trust us. They need to personally weigh us to believe PointsPlus® actually worked.

3. WW knows their plan rarely works long-term (which is why they have “lifetime” members in the first place).

Well, I intend to beat the odds by staying slim. For the good years I have left, I don’t want to be fat. Besides, replacing my wardrobe has been expensive.

The bottom line: I invested $189.50 in WW online for 10 months and dropped 27% of my total body weight. It has transformed my life and my outlook in amazing and priceless ways.

In the same period, I could have spent this on food from…

Nutrisystem® – $4,125 (or $2,500 on sale)

Jenny Craig – $3,655 ($85/week)

Since those plans don’t teach you how to deal with “real” food, once off their controlled meals, you’re at great risk of regaining.

WW online has been relatively economical, but it would have been even cheaper if I’d realized sooner there’s absolutely no payoff for reaching goal.

WW is the biggest loser here. I’m a walking advertisement that even post-menopausal women can succeed on their plan. And now they’ve lost me forever with a penny-wise, pound-foolish policy.

If you’re considering Weight Watchers Online, go for it! But just stick around until you master tracking and gather all the points information you’ll need (most of it is available free on other sites, anyway).

Then cancel.

The WW site layout is a pain, the content redundant, with too much no-brainer info, you’ll find better recipes elsewhere, and the member message boards really suck.

WW products in the grocery store (ice cream snacks, Smart Ones® frozen meals) contain no magic. You get as much/more taste for the same/fewer points with The Laughing Cow® and Lean Cuisine®.

In case you’re curious, read the benefits for WW lifetime members.

UnFoodie Makes a Hash of Quorn™

January 7, 2013

By Karen

My latest Weight Watchers®-friendly experiment with the non-meat substitute Quorn Grounds was inspired by the blogger Losing 100 Pounds, who posted her recipe for Vegan Hash, accompanied by brilliant photographs that put mine to shame.

WW sends mixed signals about potatoes, calling them a “Power Food,” but saddling them with more points than are usually worth it (4), so I substituted squash (0) for spuds.

Reducing it all to WW-speak, I think Losing 100’s recipe is roughly 6 points per serving without toppings, and mine is 4 points WITH toppings (using 2% cheese and light sour cream, not vegan versions).

Anyway, my recipe for 4 hearty servings is:

1 12 oz. package Quorn Grounds
1 pkg. taco seasoning (or any seasoning you prefer)
2/3 cup water (the seasoning calls for it)

You can use any veggies you like, but here’s what I did:

1 onion, diced
1 yellow squash (or any squash you prefer) cut into chunks
1 zucchini chunked
mushrooms chunked (as many as you like)

Toppings (all optional):

1/4 cup 2% cheese
1/4 cup salsa
1 tbsp. light sour cream

In a big skillet, cook all the veggies in Pam until tender.


Stir in Quorn, taco seasoning, and water. Cover and simmer until heated through.


Plate it, top with cheese (you can melt it in the microwave), then the salsa and sour cream.


It tastes better than this looks. And this recipe leaves me 3 nights of leftovers that become dinner in 5 minutes or less. Can’t beat it!

Weighing in on New Weight Watchers 360 Program

January 4, 2013

By Karen

Weight Watchers® recently augmented their PointsPlus® system with yet another layer called 360°. President Dave Kirchhoff ecstatically proclaimed it the “most innovative change in Weight Watchers’ 50-year history.”

360’s explanatory tag line on the website is…

A program built for human nature so you can expect amazing.

I think they should have named it Weight Watchers for Dummies.

Two new components are called Managing Spaces and Routines.

Managing Spaces is a collection of tips on how to control your eating at home, at work, eating out, traveling, and on special occasions, and how to shop for groceries. The tips include such astounding insights as…

Shopping: Have a list, don’t shop hungry, and skip the bite-size samples.

At Work: Bring safe lunches and snacks from home.

Traveling: Bring bottled water and snacks.

Eating out: Study the menu in advance online, and then order whatever fits your points.

Online members can indicate if they find these gems of wisdom helpful, and thousands have.

Routines are things you should be doing every day, such as getting enough sleep, eating vegetables or fruit with every meal, drinking more water with meals, and eating breakfast every day. There are 16 in all.

You’re supposed to track your chosen routines by clicking “Yes” daily if you follow them, as if the never-ending chore of calculating and recording points on every blessed bite (which I do) and tracking the numbers of servings of liquids, milk products, fruits, veggies, vitamins, and healthy oils you consume (which I abandoned within the first month) aren’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong. Weight Watchers DOES work. I’m living proof of it, having just lost 41 pounds in 6 months — and still going. But I think 360 jumps the shark by selling it as “normal” behavior to spend every waking minute dwelling on your relationship with food.

If you need the obvious pounded incessantly in to your head to control your food intake, you either aren’t motivated enough to do it or you’ve got psychological eating issues so deep-rooted, you need more help than any mere eating plan can provide.

Meanwhile, in spite of the 360 makeover, the WW website continues to be a poorly functioning, maddeningly laid out, and inexplicably organized train-wreck — and I find the mobile app for iPad useless. They must figure we online-only members get what we pay for, since it’s far cheaper than attending meetings.

Thank God they figured out what works for losing weight!

Dropped a Pail of Tidy Cats on Weight Watchers

December 3, 2012

By Karen

Part 7 — Lose Inches, Regain Yourself

I buy 35-lb. pails of Tidy Cats® litter for the Cats Working crew, and it takes every bit of strength to get them from store shelf > shopping cart > car trunk > litterboxes.

After 27 weeks on Weight Watchers®, I have dropped 36 lbs.

And I’m wondering how on earth I, or anybody else, manages to tote around an extra load like that — or more — every day without dropping dead?

From 177 lbs., I’m down to 141 and, according to Weight Watchers, am no longer overweight.

(A recent Gallup survey found 62.8% adult Americans overweight or obese. It’s good to be in the minority.)

I can’t wait to see my doctor’s face (or even better, his skinny nurse who weighs me. She won’t be flinging that 150-lb. weight across the scale with mad abandon anymore.)

The sofa covers and circus tents comprising my wardrobe have begun migrating from my closet. In clothing stores, I beat a wide path around the “Women’s Dept.” (i.e., fat clothes) with the same aversion rabid ex-smokers have perfected toward anybody who lights up.

(Catherine’s Plus Sizes, delete me from your mailing list. You’ll never see me again!)

Before I get too carried away, 141 is still more than I ever weighed before I even began all previous diets, so I’ve still got a ways to go.

When I hit 100 lbs. at age 20, I felt fat even though I wore size 5. I’ll never be that thin again, but it just goes to show how all the sick messages we’re hammered with will distort our body image.

Now that I’ve seen myself truly fat, I’ve gained perspective, and don’t aspire to become a stringy old stick figure.

I’ve lost nearly 9 inches each from my bust and waist, and 6 inches from my hips. For the first time in my 50s, I look in the mirror with hope and pleasure (instead of dread and loathing) because my former non-fat self is peeking back.

The past 6 months counting points have been no picnic, but it worked. Wearing something attractive trumps the fleeting satisfaction of cramming decadent and fattening food into my face.

I have added one square of Lindt chocolate a day to the menu and I don’t count the points. I actually think it’s helping. In just the week since Thanksgiving (when I ate out twice and really went off the rails, although not at all with “bad” stuff), I’ve lost 2.8 lbs.

You just have to tackle it one day at a time and never give up.

Downsizing with Weight Watchers

September 24, 2012

By Karen

Part 6 – Getting Back Into “Normal” Clothes, Sort Of

So two weeks ago and 23 lbs. thinner, I walked into Macy’s feeling pretty cocky, wearing a pair of size 12 shorts I’d stashed away (pre-WW, I was wearing 18s).

I tried on a pair of size 14 slacks and couldn’t pull them up past mid-thigh. WTF??!! Got into some 16s, but almost fainted when I buttoned them.

A couple of XL tops fit OK but, on principle, I refuse to buy any more X sizes.

So I walked out of this HUGE sale empty-handed, feeling blimpy and demoralized.

But I think Macy’s sizes are all screwed up because 1) Lots of the stock is cheap quality, and 2) It’s made in Third-World countries where people aren’t super-sized like Americans.

Speaking of which, if about 66% of adults are overweight or obese, WHY do department stores cater mostly to the thin 34%? They don’t even carry much for regular women who would wear 10-14s. It seems like retail suicide, but it never changes.

Mainstream stores treat being large like such a shameful condition,  they often don’t even name the plus-size department. You have to hunt until you find a rack of X-sizes. If it has a name, it’s something like “Woman.” I think I’ve even seen a condescending “Missy” department somewhere.

WiseBread wrote more thoroughly on this.

But I digress…

Now it’s been 17 weeks and I’m down 24 lbs. I think I’m about halfway there. This weekend I bought 3 tops at Stein Mart that were Large and I was thrilled. My pile of discarded ridiculous-looking fat clothes is growing. A girlfriend tells me I look like I’m wearing my mother’s clothes — because they’re hanging on me. (For the record, my mother is tiny.)

I’m still unable to find any slacks because if they don’t have wide floppy legs and bag mightily in the ass and thighs, I can’t zip them. How the HELL do designers think we are shaped down there?

By WW measures, I’m only 12 lbs. overweight now, so I shouldn’t be having all these fit issues.

I’ve made my peace with WW so I no longer feel as screwed as at first — but preparing meals is still too labor-intensive.

On the other hand, the extra effort is worth it now that rejoining the 34% non-overweight minority is definitely on my radar.

And their clothes are so much cuter.

Weight Watchers® Update

August 20, 2012

By Karen

Part 5 – Strange Path to the 10% Sweet Spot

After 12 weeks with Weight Watchers® online, I’ve lost a tad over 10% of my starting weight, or roughly 19 lbs. They say this is supposed to yield an untold wealth of health benefits.

It does feel good. But I still don’t feel slim and nobody’s saying, “There’s something different about you. Have you done something to your hair?”

A 2.1-lb. drop last week, the most I’ve lost since the earliest stages, resulted from some weird eating.

First, my salty/crunchy craving made me demolish 3 bags of pork rinds at 16 points each (remember, I get 26 points/day).

Why pork rinds? Because I vaguely remembered they were a good thing on the Atkins Diet.

I also snacked on turkey pepperoni instead of yucky raw carrots or celery because 16 slices (of pepperoni) are only 2 points.

And I cut back on fruit.

Basically, I pushed back on the WW vegetarian agenda and increased fat and protein à la Ottavia Bourdain. (Maybe my next craving will be to beat up somebody!)

This morning I tried on my bathing suit and decided I wouldn’t die if I were seen in it, although I wouldn’t be proud, either. I still have Mr. Peanut’s torso — if he had enormous boobs.

The other day I treated myself to a dressy little top on sale in size large that fits like a sausage casing now, but I hope to wear at the holidays.

I’m walking or pedaling 10,000 steps or more every single day.

I don’t miss potatoes or sweets. Starch-wise, I’m having nothing but whole-grain bread and pasta, except for a Thomas’ thin bagel 3x a week with lox and light cream cheese.

But I miss do beef and pork a LOT.

I’ve considered quitting WW’s annoying site and continuing alone, but online tracking is keeping me honest, and I do appreciate the weekly canned encouragement, since the cats couldn’t care less what I look like.

My next weight-loss goal is another 5%.

At my next doctor’s visit, I want to see the nurse’s face when, for the first time in ages, she realizes she doesn’t have to fling that 150-lb. weight on the scale to get my number.

UnFoodie Copes with Weight Watching

August 6, 2012

By Karen

Part 4 – PointsPlus® vs. Reality

Jennifer Hudson says you can believe in Weight Watchers® Because it Works™, but Jennifer isn’t looking fabulous these days because it’s easy.

With WW, the first hurdle is to lose your interest in food. If you want stay within points and drop pounds, you can’t indulge in more than an infrequent bite or two of anything that’s worth eating.

(Note: WW PointsPlus® values in parentheses.)

I no longer cook in oil (4 per tbsp.) or use real butter (3 per tbsp.). Cooking spray (0) is my new best friend. Screw the ozone layer.

This brings me to my biggest gripe with WW. To play the points game and eat enough to stay alive, you’re compelled to embrace the chemically-engineered low-cal, no-fat, sugar-free foods that caused this obesity epidemic in the first place. Or go vegan.

And fake food is typically more expensive than the real thing.

In 10 weeks I’ve lost 15 lbs., but I’ve given up some of life’s little joys…

  • OREO® cookies (5 – 3 cookies)
  • Nutella® and peanut butter (5 – 2 tbsp.)
  • McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with cheese (14)
  • Fried calamari (11 – ½ cup)

Almost every meal includes stuff I don’t really like, such as cantaloupe, grapes, carrots, lettuce by the head, and truckloads of zucchini.

I’m almost always hungry. Sure, I could binge on bananas, but what’s the point? I’d be hungry again an hour later.

WW wants you to eat plenty of nuts, but it’s a Catch-22. Twenty-three almonds are 5 points.

When I’m not destroying the kitchen preparing meals (every bland meal-for-one seems to involve at least 30 minutes of intensive chopping and a sinkful of dishes and pans) I do 10,000+ steps a day, either pedaling my stationary bike, walking around, or stepping in place in front of the TV while I watch it.

Yes, I know it’s all good for me, but most days I feel like I could bite the heads off geeks.

I bought a WW cookbook thinking I’d find some different, flavorful dishes. Wrong. The P+ on anything worth fixing make it not worth eating.

Frozen meals aren’t a viable option, either. Weight Watchers® Smart Ones® frozen meals aren’t particularly low-point — and the portions are measly. Ironically, the few beef dishes seem to have lowest points (4-6) because they contain an ounce of meat in a criminally-empty tray. Most of the meals are white-pasta-based, although WW preaches whole grains.

Desperate for crunch, I tried Seapoint Farms Dry-Roasted Edamame with Wasabi (3 – ¼ cup). Light and dry, like I imagine eating bugs would be, and too many points for what you get. And the wasabi scorched my sinuses like I French kissed a blowtorch.

Some evenings I make popcorn from scratch. One-quarter cup of dry corn (3) in 1 tsp. of olive or canola oil (1) is only 4 points, and I’ve got the perfect bowl that makes me feel like I’m eating a lot.

For protein, it’s mostly baked fish and chicken (1 per oz.) and a lot of faux Boca® Burgers (3) and Morningstar Farms® Chipotle & Black Bean ¼ lb. Burgers (5).

I never eat potatoes (4) or rice (5 per cup, white) unless they’re in a frozen meal.

Only someone who’s nursing an eating disorder can eat this way indefinitely. The fact is that most of the American diet is fattening, unhealthy — and DELICIOUS. Anyone who prefers WW is a pervert.

But I intend to stick with this chronic deprivation until I lose the weight.

My first payback finally came just this past weekend when some size 18W pants I had bought in May wouldn’t stay up.

As disgusting as my meals have become, becoming too small for “fat pants” makes it all worthwhile.

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