Stress management (sans pie)

It’s all too much sometimes.

It is. We all know it is. Those days when the phone won’t stop ringing, emails flood in, a hundred and one people are competing for something they needed from you yesterday . . . we’ve all had them — and will again. (And again.)

Though I try to keep myself on a pretty even keel, harried days are unavoidable. We all get stressed. As we’ve dealt with endless paperwork, financial decisions and the logistics of planning our move the last few months, I’ve been struggling to not panic and, you know, move forward with all of my hair.

Coupled with work, family, a traumatic accident in the extended family, trying to maintain friendships but realizing some friendships will naturally ebb and flow . . . along with, you know, day-to-day stuff like paying bills, feeding ourselves and making sure the car has gas? Well, it’s a process.

I’m still figuring things out. So many things. But what I have learned about stress management, thanks in no small part to my weight loss journey?

I can figure it out without pie.

I’ve always been an emotional eater, and it’s natural to want to reward myself with food. Celebrating? Have cake! Had a rough day? More cake! Need a little pick-me-up to get through a big work project? Candy! Bored with TV re-runs? Chips!

These are all behaviors I didn’t realize I had until . . . well, until I started paying attention. And I only started paying attention when I was more than 30 pounds overweight — and I decided to stop living in the neighboring lands of denial and “someday” (“Someday I’ll eat healthier, someday I’ll lose weight . . .”).

So much of my eating was done absentmindedly, and that’s what worried me most. My portions were out of control. I wasn’t even thinking about what I was eating; I was just popping crackers while cooking dinner, or helping myself to a third muffin because it was there.

That was the simplest explanation for so many of my eating habits: because it was there.

Now that I’m sharing digs — and a kitchen — with my husband, also conscious of his eating, it’s easier to control what comes in and out of our home. I’ve mentioned my mantra before — You can’t eat what you don’t have — and find myself going back to basics a bit lately. You can’t eat the good stuff, like fresh fruit and vegetables, if you don’t have the good stuff. Conversely, you can’t while the evening away with a bag of Oreos if you don’t have Oreos to tempt you.

You dig?


Weight loss - May 2014

It’s been almost six months since I hit my goal weight and became a lifetime Weight Watchers member, and I’m proud to have maintained my weight within a pound since January. But what you don’t always consider at the beginning of the journey? The “journey” has no end. It’s cliche because it’s true: good health is not a destination; it’s a way of life. It requires diligence and dedication. I’m not “dieting,” friends — I have a new diet. This is what I eat now. I can’t slip back into old habits after hitting some “magic” number.

And as life has gotten interesting, I’ve had to develop new coping mechanisms.

Before I share my own tips for dealing with stress without sinking into a pile of banana pudding, my previous go-to, I want to stress that I love y’all and would never want to make anyone feel badly about their lives or choices. As my favorite WW Leader would say? You do you, boo.

But if you see some of yourself in my words and are making changes, here are a few of my ways to deal with challenges in a healthier way:


Stress without pie


Talking it out. Despite being an active blogger, columnist and all-around oversharer, I often find myself feeling rather . . . guarded. Private. I’m not one to offload my issues, even to those I love and trust, so when I finally break down and talk about something? It’s big. And usually a relief. If I call my sister instead of helping myself to a crescent roll, I’ve made a step forward.

Pinterest. Really. It chews up time, gives me inspiration (healthy recipes! home decor! pretty places!) and generally keeps my mind busy. If I’m really stressed at work, I use my break to mindlessly scroll through pretty pictures at Panera while sipping coffee until I feel better. And usually? I do.

Baking. This may sound counter-intuitive, but I’m a stress baker. The careful blending of flour and butter and vanilla is nothing short of therapy. I love channeling my nervous or sad energy into the creating rather than dwelling. Baked goods are my love language, but I don’t let them linger too long; Spence and I may enjoy a cupcake or two, but the rest get carted off to our respective offices. Here’s a life maxim you probably know, but just in case: coworkers like free food. So now you’re suddenly popular, friends. Try it: it’s fun.

Reading. No surprise to bookworms, right? Distraction can be key during times of stress. And what’s better at helping one decompress than losing yourself in a good novel? When I keep my hands busy with a book, they’re not rifling through a bag of potato chips.

Cleaning. Since crazy times often equal messy houses, I try to stay on top of clutter by choosing one “project” to work on after dinner when I’ve had a long day. Spencer and I will occasionally email about this ahead of time — “Tonight, let’s go through the mail” — and it gives a focus to our evenings. Though I love unwinding with “The Mindy Project” as much as the next gal (and still do), having a cleaning project helps keep me from snacking at night. And then the apartment looks way better, so.

Snacking healthier. If my gut reaction is still to snack when feeling harried (which it is — hard to unlearn), I try to have choices on hand I can feel good about eating. I like the crunch and time-intensive enjoyment of celery with hummus or a ripe apple, but I’m also a huge fan of unsalted almonds, individual cottage cheese cups, grapes, low-fat pudding snacks, Triscuits and string cheese.

Getting your significant other on board. Piggybacking on my previous point, getting your loved ones to understand your stress tactics — like not have a chocolate cake in the house — can help. We have an agreement to divide up sweets and other goodies to take to work before they linger too long on our counters. (See also: stress baking.)

But sometimes cookies do help. And you know what? That’s totally fine. Am I a patron saint of healthy eaters who refrains from dessert like a sour-faced martyr? Absolutely not. I eat what I enjoy, and I enjoy what I eat — while being mindful of my overall goals. Foregoing cake today does not mean foregoing cake forever; it means I’ll choose to enjoy dessert when I’m in a clear frame of mind, not when I’m emotional and wanting to devour something just for the sake of devouring it. I drink something — water, hot tea, diet green tea, coffee — instead.

That sounds super boring, I know. Trust me. And if you told me I’d be “sipping water” instead of slicing pie a few years back, my eyeroll would have knocked you into a previous century. But I have changed, and I’m proud of how I’ve taken control of my eating — and my life.

I can’t tell you the difference it’s made.

I really feel like me. A calmer, happier me.


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In support of the resolutioners

Walking into my local Weight Watchers to weigh in yesterday, I felt a ripple in the Force.

Place was packed.

I’m usually the only soul there, running in on her lunch break with hair askew. The whole process clocks roughly five minutes. A few seconds to shed my shoes and coat; a minute to chat with the kind lady assisting me on the scale; another minute or two to talk about my loss or gain, including tips on tweaking my routines.

Then I’m back in my car, back to the office. Little muss. No fuss.

But now? Well, the New Year’s get-healthy resolutioners have arrived. In droves. Three ladies were signing up for WW as I entered, all bent over paperwork with curious expressions. Another woman was seated with her iPhone, trying to navigate the app, and I felt a pang remembering my own anxiety when my husband and I joined last year. She was asking about the tracker, about how points work. It took all my willpower not to start schooling her.

I can be a know-it-all. It’s one of my least pleasant traits, honestly . . . but at least I have the good sense to be one only in my mind.

And anyway, I’m not a jerk. I was in their shoes not so very long ago. Visiting Spencer’s family last January, we were freshly engaged and eying our future — and after a conversation about health, we had one of several talks about weight. I remember pulling up the Weight Watchers site in his parents’ study, reading over the general information with a knot in my stomach.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I said.

I was scared. Scared of failure.

But I went. And I got serious. Something finally clicked for me, and it’s been a life-changing journey since.

My first step after enrolling in WW last year? Going to the grocery store. I remember plunking bananas on my desk right off the bat, taking advantage of the program’s allowance to eat as many fresh veggies and fruits as you like (zero points!).

They seemed foreign, those bananas. I didn’t usually have fresh anything hanging around. I couldn’t picture eating fruit every day, because . . . well, just because. Because I never had. Because I was used to my poor habits, used to feeling junky, used to the convenience of a granola bar or cookie instead of proper fuel.

But people can change.


Fruit


I’ve overheard folks complaining about all the New Year’s resolutioners clogging up their gyms come January 1, snagging the best machines and crowding out the regulars. Since I hate sweating and am actually rather fond of loafing around, I haven’t stepped foot in a gym in years. But I felt that same unease at Weight Watchers, where my usual five-minute stop turned into a long escapade.

But it’s okay.

We all start somewhere. Maybe World Fitness and Weight Watchers will empty out by March, haunted again by only the diehards, but maybe some of those new guys will become regulars themselves. Though we’re all on personal paths, I’m rather fond of mankind as a whole . . . and I’d like to help, not hinder. Be friendly. Be kind.

Getting anywhere starts with that single step, you know?

So I’m trying to be patient. I’ll allot more time. I’m notoriously aggravated when it comes to waiting, honestly, but I focused on chatting with the ladies in line ahead of me. I shared favorite snack tips, asked about their goals. I tried to project encouragement — something we all could use a bigger serving of each day.

That and fresh fruit, of course.


The last 2 pounds

As of Wednesday, I’m officially 2.2 pounds from my goal weight.

Though I’ve barely budged in months, I’ve tried not to get discouraged . . . because everyone said this would happen.

weight lossAfter going like gangbusters for months, completely revamping my diet and getting serious about every. little. morsel. passing through my lips, I took off more than 30 pounds in nine months. My progress was crazy. I felt so different, so much better . . . and just really, really proud.

Because I took off so much so quickly, I figured I’d be at my goal weight by now. I took it for granted. It’s been a little frustrating to see the scale barely move, but I’ve actually lost 3.5 pounds since writing this post near my birthday.

I’m so close to being “done” . . . but I really know I’m just beginning.

When I started Weight Watchers (affiliate link) in January, the hardest part was accepting the changes I was making weren’t temporary — the goal is, of course, to get healthy for a lifetime. I was emotional in those early days, whittling down my portions to something the program would deem appropriate, thinking I simply could not survive on anything less than a bowl of pasta a day.

I’m serious.

I could, of course. And I have. I won’t say I don’t have my bad days — my crave everything, bring me lots of chocolate and don’t ask questions days — but they are few and far between. The best part of Weight Watchers has been gaining the knowledge that you can eat whatever you like . . . you just have to hold yourself accountable.

WW has taught me how to do that. Not to deprive myself or starve myself, send myself on endless guilt trips or get hooked on some kind of diet food . . . but to really live my life, and well. I still eat cupcakes; I just count them into my daily Points allowance. I’m so indoctrinated on Points values and high-protein foods and eating well that I really don’t even think about what I’m doing anymore — I just do it. I’m on WW autopilot, and that’s a beautiful thing.

But I haven’t gotten here alone. From the beginning, my fiance — newly-minted at the time! — has been endlessly comforting and supportive of my changes. I didn’t realize I’d slipped into a dark place until I saw the splinter of light my new lifestyle afforded me — and though I would stress Spencer certainly never pushed me into making changes, he has always encouraged me. Because he wants me to be happy.

In fact, Spence and I joined WW together — and have stuck with it together. Though never overweight, he was interested in adopting healthier eating habits and, of course, keeping all the bad stuff out of arm’s reach for me. We learned the ins and outs of eating well together, limiting our portions and getting endlessly creative at mealtimes, and I’m so thankful for his love and dedication to helping me be more.

That’s why he’s going to make an excellent husband . . . in less than four weeks!

All this is to say, if you’re thinking about making a change — with your weight, diet, exercise routines, whatever — well, the “buddy system” is far from baloney. Having someone really in the trenches with me, guiding me and offering advice made a world of difference.

And if you don’t have that buddy to make the first change or visit to Weight Watchers with you, have no fear — because you’ll make new friends in meetings. I guarantee it. Though it’s been months since I met up with our Wednesday night crew (shame on me!), we met so many awesome people of all ages and walks of life by sitting ourselves down with a leader once a week for inspiration and encouragement. I miss that group.

I joined Weight Watchers for Spencer, wanting to know we’d have as many healthy years together as I could grant us. Wanting to be happy — and not self-conscious — during our engagement. But I’ve stayed with it for me.

One of my biggest fears is the idea of being felled prematurely by an illness or disease I might have been able to prevent if I’d only lived a little cleaner, so I drink my water, eat my vegetables, indulge in the occasional treat and really savor it — and I don’t worry so much anymore. Losing weight has freed up so much of my mental space and given me so much energy . . . though both have been consumed by wedding planning of late.

But no matter.

Even if the last 2 pounds linger, if they refuse and refuse to budge . . . well, I’ve come so far that I could never go back.

I’m in the home stretch, and it will continue to be a beautiful ride.


Almost to goal: weight loss update

Weight loss


Well, it’s August 1 — a brand-new month! — and my weight loss end is nigh, friends. Really this time. With your kind support and encouragement in June, I decided to push myself past my original goal to lose 25 pounds and aim to get back in the “healthy” BMI range for my height.

As of Wednesday, I’ve shed 28.6 pounds since January and am just 5 pounds from my goal weight with Weight Watchers. After seven months of completely revamping my diet and eating habits, I’m thick in the middle of wondering “what’s next.” As I edge closer to going on maintenance, meaning I’ll be eating more to sustain my weight rather than actively keeping losing, I’m nervous — but excited, too. Because I did it! Well, almost. But I’m going to do it!

How am I feeling? Well, I’m feeling awesome. I had no concept of how heavy I felt until I became . . . lighter. Running errands last week, Spencer detoured to the fitness section of Walmart and handed me a 30-lb. weight. I could barely hold it, marveling that I could possibly have had all of that on my frame. For the first time in my 5-foot-two-inch life, I actually feel petite.


Almost 30 pounds


On a whim Wednesday, I ran into a department store for new pants. Little I own fits these days. I realized all the jeans I have are size 12 or 14, and I’m now . . . an 8. EIGHT. I wasn’t an 8 when I was walking six miles a day in college. I wasn’t an 8 when graduating from high school. I have never, ever worn a single-digit size, and I’m going to be honest: I’m REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT.

All-caps kind of excited about it.

But it’s not about the size. Truly. I feel healthy, energetic, bold, confident. I feel better now, at 28, than I did at 22 (or even 18). Tons of fresh fruits and vegetables have become a way of life. I’m less careful about what I’m eating than how much I’m eating, though I’ve cut back or cut out some foods from my diet (like bread and pasta. Sigh). While I’ve always enjoyed seafood, fish are my new BFFs.

Desserts have been hard, but I can honestly tell you I’ve rarely felt deprived. All things in moderation, right? I still enjoy the occasional sweet, but I’m in control of foods and desserts . . . not controlled by them. Sounds simple, maybe, but I’ve gone from a woman with no self-control to someone who takes her health very seriously. I religiously keep track of what I’m eating (and how much), and I hold myself accountable. I’ve never missed a week of weighing in with Weight Watchers, and I don’t intend to.

What’s the greatest thing I’ve gained through loss? Freedom. I spent years worrying about my weight — gaining and feeling uncomfortable, having bridesmaid’s dresses let out, feeling awkward in unflattering photos (or refusing to be in them at all). After taking the first step to change that, I immediately felt relief — and have been released from so much anxiety and self-consciousness by making a commitment to myself. You hear these platitudes — you know, you’re worth it! — but believe me when I say . . . you are.

I was. I am.

Here’s to the last 5 pounds.


Party food: navigating the table without guilt


You know, I love a good party. Like most folks, an opportunity to socialize and eat and give presents and generally enjoying the camaraderie of hey, we’re all here and enjoying the sunshine! is enough to get me out of the house. Though I have my socially-awkward moments, I really do enjoy a good get-together. So pass the spinach dip!

(Is it low-fat?)

Since going on my healthy-eating crusade, I’ve worked hard to identify the “danger zones” that propel me into overeating, snacking . . . or generally wolfing down food that simply ain’t so good for me.

Unsurprisingly, I kept coming back to parties — those hotbeds of deliciousness.

When we’re out with friends, we are often focus on chatting. Meals play a large part in the get-togethers we enjoy with others, yes, but food isn’t always the main focus. I usually find myself mindlessly biting into cream-cheese-stuffed celery, or downing pita chips and hummus like we’re approaching some kind of a hummus drought. I’m talking and laughing, probably taking photos.

What I’m not doing? Paying attention to what I’m consuming.

Personally, I’ve started following a few “rules” to get through these functions without overindulging. (Minus the cake, because: cake.) Now more than 16 lbs. down, I’m working to not slip back into old habits. With wedding showers, weddings, birthdays and more on the horizon, it’s important I keep it together.

So what I’m sharing is absolutely nothing new and, of course, I am no expert. But here are my party tips:


How to eat and have fun at a party
without that savory side of guilt


Be last in line. Whether it’s a work potluck or bridal shower, I make sure I’m one of the last people to get food. Because I’m always worried about holding people up, getting in line first means I’m more likely to make quick decisions and pile my plate with whatever is in reach. I just want to keep things moving. If I wait until the end, I don’t feel pressured to make a plate quickly — and I can focus on loading up on healthier items and tracking my portions. Plus, if other guests have already taken all of a particular dish? Well, less to tempt me. (And there are always vegetables left.)

Don’t hover. Everyone knows the best way to keep from eating a whole bag of potato chips is not to have the whole bag handy. It’s easy for me to hover around the snack table — c’mon, it’s the best place to be! — but I’m usually talking there, mindlessly dipping carrots into ranch dressing . . . and I’m not paying attention to how much I’m eating. Make a small plate with your favorites and walk away.


Fruit


If you want it, bring it. If you’re worried about a lack of healthy options at a get-together, offer to bring a fruit and vegetable tray and/or low-fat dip. You could even go a step further by stowing a small piece of candy in your bag for when you want something sweet, but don’t want to nosh on a cupcake. If you can’t eat what you don’t have, then make sure you have it.

Don’t go hungry. Just as we’re told to never grocery shop hungry, don’t go to a party with a screamin’-empty stomach. Have a small meal or healthy snack to tide you over. Eat a banana or apple. You’ll be less likely to go crazy at the party table, and maybe you’ll even save room for dessert. And speaking of which . . .

Eat that cake, but watch your portions. Y’all know I’m going to eat cake, and it’s not realistic to swear off all sweets. So though I do have dessert, I make sure I’m not being served the thickest slice in the lot. I used to be really timid with others, afraid of offending someone by not taking what they’d offered, but now I just politely explain that I’m eating healthy and I’d like something smaller, or I’m just going to skip it altogether. Everyone understand and has been awesome.

Though I may eventually reach for the taco dip, I feel more in control — and empowered — when I think about my long-term goals and actual hunger cues. Do I really want those chips, or am I just feeling left out? Am I hungry or just looking for something to do? Answering these questions isn’t always easy, but I force myself. I force myself to be honest.

But eh, yes — I totally want some taco dip.


Scale and non-scale victories

Blackberries and yogurt


I had my 12-week weigh-in this week — and I’m officially down 14.4 lbs. Aside from the blinking number on that scale, this loss has translated into . . .

• Losing almost two dress sizes, resulting in the acquisition of all-new pants;
• Wearing my skinny jeans with startling regularity (and buying another pair);
• Buying jeans in a size I haven’t worn since my sophomore year in college;
• Lookin’ awesome in the maid of honor dress I ordered for my sister’s wedding;
• And generally feeling great.

Continuing with my weight loss goals has been both harder and easier than I expected. I’m still gung-ho on Weight Watchers, utilizing all the tips and tools they offer — and I’m definitely in a rhythm. I don’t have to think about Points values and “good” foods and portion control . . . I just know it. And do it. Though I still reach for desserts at office parties and family gatherings, I’ve learned the necessarily skills to simply dial it back. To take control of my eating — something I didn’t realize was so out of control until I got a reality check.

Though I don’t have any full-body shots to share (and am not sure I’d be brave enough even if I did!), I think you can start to see the weight loss in my face. And I’m smiling pretty often these days!


December 2012

April - us


Also, that red coat is super loose now — and it barely zipped back then. Progress!

That’s how I’m really measuring the journey . . . by the difference in my clothes. I feel like I can “shop” in my own closet now, digging out pieces I haven’t been able to wear for years (or ever), and it feels so encouraging to realize that for every new item I must buy (like those aforementioned jeans), an older item can be re-entered into the rotation.

And as for my habits? The biggest changes have been . . .

Eating breakfast. Where once I scarfed down a granola bar and sipped a Diet Coke as my morning “meal,” I now take the time to eat low-fat Greek yogurt (I love the 100 calorie Yoplait varieties) with my own added blackberries, strawberries or banana slices, and often drink hot tea in the morning. On the weekends, I eat low-sugar oatmeal and fruit. I also eat a mid-morning snack — like low-fat mozzarella or cottage cheese — to tide me over until lunchtime, which brings me to . . .

Eating lunch at my desk. If you asked me what my single biggest hang-up regarding joining a weight loss program would be back in January, I’d have unequivocally shouted “HAVING TO EAT AT MY DESK.” Before January, I went out to lunch every. single. day. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Friends teased me about my constant runs to Panera, Noodles & Co. and Einstein Bros. Bagels, places that have probably shuttered in my absence. I supported the local lunch economy single-handledly, y’all.

But now? I make myself a healthy sandwich (bagel thin, lean turkey, fat-free mustard, low-fat Swiss cheese), eat Progresso Light soups or pop open healthy leftovers from last night’s dinner. If I go out to eat, it’s typically on a Friday — and it’s a real treat. I wait until someone is free to go with me, then make it a combination social outing/lunch treat. And yes, my wallet and check book — and wedding budget — are thanking me.

• Watching the sweets. This has been tough, but I’ve managed to enjoy small, simple portions of desserts rather than the big ol’ honking slice of something I’d preferred to have before. In the past week I have chowed down on my mom’s birthday cake, a friend’s Smith Island Cake and chocolate chip cookies, though, so really: it’s all about moderation. I’m still eating what I like — I’m just eating less of what I like.

In another three months, I plan to be on the same healthy track I am now . . . and if I lose another dress size, I will officially be the thinnest I’ve ever, ever been in my adult life.

That’s not my focus, though — my focus is all those “non-scale victories,” as our Weight Watchers leader will proclaim. It’s the happiness. The pride. The energy. And the conversation topics! Who would have ever thought I’d have something to contribute to chats about healthy eating?

I’m loving it.


Ten pounds — meeting my first weight loss goal

Bananas


The week I joined Weight Watchers, I was feeling pretty low. Despite getting engaged less than a month earlier and still feeling the jolt of excitement about that, I was overwhelmed — emotionally, physically, financially. Combined with getting in a minor car accident the night before, signing up for a weight loss program just felt like another source of guilt and frustration. Especially since I wasn’t sure I could succeed.

It was mid-January: gray and listless, cold and drab. I was out of sorts and anxious. After talking about wanting to lose weight for more than a year (and dealing with a health scare in December), my fiance suggested we join Weight Watchers together. Feeling as bad as I did, I agreed. Spencer met me at our local spot on a Wednesday night, arranging for us to sign up and do this together, and his presence calmed me . . . but I wasn’t convinced.

Because food is awesome.

Snacks and meals are more than sustenance: for so long, they were also comfort. Nothing makes me crankier than walking around feeling hungry, and nothing sets me up for a meltdown like being denied a good meal. “Good meals” for me were filled with my favorites: pastas and breads; cakes and candies; vegetables simmered in balsamic vinegar. Spencer loves to cook, and I love to chow down. A match made in heaven!

Here’s the thing: my story isn’t unique. Like many of us, I was physically active in college out of sheer necessity; going to school on a huge campus, I could easily walk five miles a day just getting from classes back to my car. Despite never being “skinny,” I could eat what I wanted because I was out and about so much. My weight wasn’t a huge issue.

Then came graduation. Leaving College Park for a desk job meant I was now sitting eight hours a day, and exercise and I have never been buddies. The constant advice to “find an activity you love!” has just never worked for me . . . because seriously? Don’t like running, don’t like dancing, don’t like the elliptical. My stint at the gym was a failure — and the fees piling on my credit card for unused passes another source of guilt. Though I initially liked Zumba and attended regularly for months, making the meetings became a strain on my schedule. But honestly, I just didn’t want it enough. Because I didn’t change my thinking or my eating, I saw no results.

As they always say: If you want it, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Well, I ran out of excuses. Less than a year from my wedding day, I was by far the heaviest I’d ever been. Despite being overjoyed at the idea of our marriage, I had triggers igniting stress in so many facets of my life . . . and I still do, of course. I just feel better equipped to handle them.

Because I took control.

I’m far from a health guru, and I can only speak to my own experience. I don’t work for Weight Watchers and am not an expert on the program, either, but here’s the thing: in less than two months, I’ve already lost 10 pounds. I’m back in pants I haven’t been able to wear in years. I no longer dread clothes shopping, and I loved seeing myself in my future wedding dress (that’s another post!). In celebration of meeting the first of my goals, losing 5 percent of my weight, I bought my first pair of “skinny jeans” — and am actually okay with wearing them in public. To work, even. And it isn’t the scariest thing I’ve ever done.


Skinny pants


The path still stretches out before me. At 5’2″, I’m still 25 pounds from the “high” end of my suggested weight — and am still considered obese. But 10 pounds? That would have been crazy to pre-January me. But seeing myself in photos from Christmas and getting a glimpse of myself now, I can already see a tremendous change . . . and I just feel better.

Happier.

More confident.

More in control.

And proud.

Does Weight Watchers mean giving up your favorite foods? Well, yes and no. Not giving them up, but changing your portion sizes. And the frequency with which you eat them. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the program, but the jist of it? Keep track of everything you consume and keep it under a certain limit each day. Do this — really, honestly do it — and you will lose weight.

I’m not forgoing cupcakes forever and ever. I am definitely still eating out. Heck, I’m not even exercising . . . at all. (Though I do plan on changing that soon, and I know it’s nothing to brag about!) What I’ve done? Realigned my thinking and kept serious track of everything I eat.

For an OCD list-maker like me, tracking my food and drink has been much simpler than expected. I actually love the science of adding points and tracking, and religiously update my personal tracker after each and every meal or snack. And here’s what else I’ve learned:

You can’t eat what you don’t have. This works both ways, y’all: I can’t eat the bad stuff if I don’t have the bad stuff, and I can’t eat the good stuff if I haven’t stocked up on it. I need healthy snacks on hand 24/7, and my favorites include the 100-calorie packs of almonds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. And in that vein . . .

Keep it accessible. Look, I’m kind of lazy (see: hates to exercise). If a snack requires me to cut, peel or dice at work, where I spend most of my time, I won’t bother. Sitting at my desk means I have limited resources as far as cutlery is concerned, so I make sure to prepare my fruit in individual portions before I leave for the day. I wash and rinse grapes, for example, putting them in cute little bags, and then I grab them from our mini-fridge at work and get to snacking. Much better than rooting around in my coworkers’ candy bowl when the 3 p.m. munchies hit.

Watch your portions. Pre-Weight Watchers me didn’t necessarily eat terribly, but she ate too much of everything. Honestly track your portions and remember that eating several small meals rather than two or three giant ones can do wonders for boosting your metabolism — and keep you from crashing. I’ve shifted from eating a big lunch and bigger dinner to a small lunch (low-calorie soup and a low-fat cheese stick) with several healthy snacks before dinner. I rarely go more than an hour or two without eating something, and I make sure to eat a small snack after dinner, too.

Don’t walk around hungry. As soon as a twinge of hunger hits, I reach for an apple or the like. Allowing myself to get too hungry means I’m in danger of crash-eating later in the evening, overindulging in dinner or snacking like a maniac. This ties in with my first point, too: you can’t eat it if you don’t have it. So keep it around.

Breakfast really does matter. Old me would either skip breakfast completely or eat a measly granola bar, then walk around hungry for hours before going for a huge lunch (which would just sit in my stomach until dinner). New me doesn’t let herself get to the point of “starving,” and makes sure to eat something healthy and protein-rich — like low-fat Greek yogurt and bananas — each morning. Though I’m far from a breakfast person and don’t like to eat big meals in the morning, this has made a huge difference. It really does matter.

The buddy system works. Let others know about your journey. Starting on this get-healthy journey with my fiance has made a huge difference — and just having the support of another person is so crucial. I’m also very lucky that my friend and officemate is also on Weight Watchers, so we swap tips all week long! Another friend has just joined the program, too, and we met for a “Weight Watchers-friendly” lunch earlier this week. Letting others know about your goals really will make a difference.

Have a plan. When I know I’m going out for a meal, I pull up their menu ahead of time to figure out the best options for me. This eliminates awkwardness when out with others (I hate having to be on my phone at the table, perusing the Weight Watchers app), and keeps me from making impulsive decisions. When I know I’m cooking, I calculate various ingredients and actively work on “lightening” the recipe.

It’s okay to be tempted. Before embarking on this change, I would still eat dessert — but feel terribly guilty about it. Here’s where I go all Weight Watchers very-unofficial spokeswoman on y’all, but that’s the great thing about this particular program: it doesn’t require you to follow a diet. No food is “banned.” I simply keep track of what I’ve eaten that day, budget in the cupcake or candy, and go about my business. Guilt: eliminated. As long as I’ve stayed within my daily points allowance (or even if I haven’t), it ain’t a big deal.

And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far . . . I can do it. I am strong enough. Just because I can’t have a cupcake today doesn’t mean I can’t — or won’t — tomorrow. I’m not eating weird things; I’m not unfulfilled and chowing down on diet food. I’m still sharing meals with my loved ones, still enjoying cool meals out with friends, still doing all the normal things I’ve always done . . . I’m just making smarter choices while doing it.

And physical success aside, it feels good to have found an aspect of my life where I can make positive changes and see real results. Not having “need to start losing weight!” in my headspace has opened me up to new opportunities, and I haven’t dreaded seeing doctors for routine appointments. I’ve proven to myself that I can lose weight, and that feels amazing. Regardless of whether I drop another 2 lbs. or 20, I’m just seriously proud of myself for altering something I once considered set in stone.

And that’s what I’ve been up to.