Could Oprah Eventually Doom Weight Watchers?

February 16, 2016

By Karen

In 2012, I followed Weight Watchers® PointsPlus® system and lost about 50 lbs. Four years later, my scale fluctuates 6-8 lb., but I remain slim enough to wear all my skinny-sized clothes. To this day, I still count points and weigh weekly. Maintaining isn’t easy.

Last year, at Weight Watchers’ invitation, Oprah Winfrey agreed to lose poundage — again — in a grand way. For a $43 million investment, she got a seat on the board and became WW’s spokeswoman.

Now WW stock jumps every time Oprah opens her mouth, whether to insert food or not, and she offsets her weight losses with bank account gains.

In her latest ad, Oprah claims to eat bread “every day.” She’s lost 26 lbs. since August 2015, or about  1-2 lb. a week, eating bread. What bothers me is that she’s shown only from the neck up.

Check out this photo of her on CNBC. Unfortunately, it’s undated, so we don’t know which diet deserves credit, but Oprah certainly looks like she’s lost more than 26 lbs.

Oprah is following a new WW plan called Beyond the Scale, which “focuses on you, not just a number on the scale.”

It’s all about SmartPoints™ and FitPoints™. PointsPlus folks are screwed because our overpriced WW calculators and P+ cookbooks are now obsolete.

WW’s website offers nothing but empty tag lines unless you join, but independent bloggers with access explain the difference in plans. Instead of counting fat, carbs, fiber, and protein on PointsPlus, it’s all about calories, saturated fat, sugars, and protein on SmartPoints.

Bottom line, PointsPlus are rough on fat and carbs. SmartPoints slam you on sugar and saturated fat.

P+ works for me so I won’t switch, and I wish Oprah well. But we all know her dieting history.

Weight Watchers is throwing some big dice and obviously hedging their bets by saying SmartPoints isn’t “all about the scale.”

After Oprah loses the weight, makes the talk show rounds to show off her svelteness and sends the stock on one last big spike, will she become another yo-yo case, like most former members?

I’ve been there myself, joining WW twice before, only to regain all the weight and more. They welcome yo-yos back to their meetings like old friends.

Oprah has never before made the lifelong commitment that’s required for WW. Can she do it now? Or in a year or so, will we see her rebloated on an Enquirer front page, trying to elude the paparazzi (you know, like Kirstie Alley)? If we do, that flushing sound you hear will be the Weight Watchers brand going down the toilet, no matter how they try to spin the points next time.

UnFoodie Stuffs Portobello Mushrooms

June 5, 2013

By Karen

I’ve reached my goal with Weight Watchers®, but I’m still experimenting with low-points meals so I can maintain my new svelte look. Mushrooms have zero PointsPlus®.

So I bought a couple of big portabellas and improvised using what I had on hand, after checking out some recipes online. These turned out good enough to share, but I’ll change some things next time.

Marinade (optional step)

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoon of olive oil

First, I marinated the mushrooms for an hour before cooking, but you don’t have to. If you use balsamic vinegar, line your cooking pan with foil, or the bitchin’ mess of burned vinegar you’ll be scraping later will destroy your manicure.

You cook all the components separately, then assemble near the end. This prep is all easy and doesn’t take more than 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°, then put in the mushrooms to pre-cook, gills side down, for about 10 minutes, or until you start smelling them. While that’s going on, you make the filling. Here is one of the mushrooms ready for the oven…


Recipes said to chop up the stems for the filling and throw away the gills, but I left the gills in because it seemed wasteful and I don’t mind eating them.

Dice and sauté in cooking spray any veggies for your filling, whatever you’d like. I used:

  • The mushroom stems
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Spinach
  • Pinch of garlic powder (because I didn’t have fresh garlic)


(I don’t know why my pics are still coming out blurry. They always look fine on the camera screen. Grrrr….)

I felt like I needed some herb to spice it up, but wasn’t sure what to use, so my filling was kind of bland.

Once the veggies are soft, remove from the heat and add bread crumbs and cheese. I used:

  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup 2% shredded sharp cheddar

Take the mushrooms out of the oven, turn them gills-side up, and fill.


Put back in the oven about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese melts.



That’s the other change I’d make. I’d use full-fat cheese for a richer result. My cheese didn’t melt very well, and the crumbs didn’t brown. So I’d finish the shrooms under the broiler instead of baking longer.

But overall, was a tasty dish, and each mushroom was only 3 PointsPlus. I’ll definitely make it again.

If anybody’s got suggestions for seasonings or other improvements, I’m all ears.

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.

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® “Almost-After” Pics

February 18, 2013

By Karen

In case you’re new here, I’ve been on the Weight Watchers PointsPlus plan since May 28, 2012 – 38 weeks. I’ve lost 45 lbs. and a few readers have asked for “after” pics, so here they are.

I’d still like to lose 5 more pounds and make it an even 50 (from 177 to 127), but that could take a while. I just came off an incredibly frustrating month-long plateau where pound 134 kept bouncing off and on and I couldn’t get past it, no matter how “good” I was.

But this week I finally broke through that wall and hit 132, so I’m feeling re-energized.

Without further ado, I’ll model for you some clothes I bought and wore just last summer. Seeing myself with them now, I can’t wrap my head around how big I’d let myself get…

As God is my witness, I'll NEVER be mistaken for a shower curtain again!

As God is my witness, I’ll NEVER be mistaken for a shower curtain again!

Before losing 11” in the bust (and still having plenty), I was beginning to worry about buttoning this shirt.

Before losing 11” in the bust (don’t worry, I still have plenty — I’m Italian!), I was beginning to worry about buttoning this shirt.

I thought these shorts looked like clown clothes when I bought them — but they FIT!

I thought these shorts looked like clown clothes when I bought them — but they FIT!

I’m mortified that I actually walked around a cruise ship last spring in those clothes.

I call this my “Jared from Subway” shot.

I call this my “Jared from Subway” shot.

Overall, I’ve lost about 34 inches. I’ve gone from size 18 and 2x to size 10-12 and medium/large (sizing is totally inconsistent).

As my sister says, "Valerie Bertinelli, eat your heart out."

As my sister says, “Valerie Bertinelli, eat your heart out.”

I don’t care what the foodies say. I’ve been on both sides of the fence now, and there’s no food delicious enough to EVER make being overweight (and the lack of attractive clothes and the way you ironically become invisible to people) worth 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!

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.

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®.

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…

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