Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | February 19, 2013

Points . . . Plus!

bad cookieEvery year on Presidents’ Day, they give out a free cookie at the Subway chain of restaurants. And every year I decline the cookie, even though I get a funny look from the cashier.  I can almost hear her thoughts: “What?  You are turning down something free?  And not just anything.  But one of our yummy cookies?  What’s with you, man?”

So this year, I thought I’d go ahead and graciously accept the cookie.  Now for those who know me, I have been on the Weight Watchers program for over four years.  The program assigns certain points values to foods, and the participant is allowed a certain number of points each day.  So I took the cookie, and I ate it—and it was SO good!  I figured it was one of those little indulgences.  I would work it into my daily points (or as Weight Watchers now calls them, PointsPlus) allowance.  I was thinking this one cookie might be 3 points or—worst case—4 points. I can handle that.  I’d go ahead and splurge a bit.

After thoroughly enjoying my little extravagance, I went online through my Weight Watchers e-tools, and looked up the cookie’s points value.  To backtrack a bit: One thing that is taught early on in Weight Watchers is that you should always figure out the points value of a food before you eat it.  Ideally, you should figure your entire meal before you take the first bite.  I was once religious about doing this.  I would make up my dinner tray with a good idea of the points on the tray, but then calculate everything and enter it into my tracker before taking a single bite.  Most of the time, I would have to reheat the food after this process.  But as human nature would have it, the rigid structures we build around ourselves tend to become more elastic as times goes on.  And so this time, I ate first and calculated later.  Imagine my surprise when this Subway cookie logged in at a full 6 points!  I had to check this twice.  It couldn’t be.  Maybe 6 was the value for two cookies.  Nope.  I’d been had—by me!  It was a cold, hard, cruel 6 points indeed!

Now to backtrack again: Those who know me, also know that I am Dutch, very Dutch.  I will pick a penny out of a gutter every time I see one.  I won’t buy anything until I’ve done a dollar-versus-value assessment, a bang-for-the-buck judgment, if you will.  I am the same way with my Weight Watchers points.  I need to see the value, the tradeoff of quantity and nutrition for the points spent.  If the value isn’t there, I simply don’t eat it.  I allow myself daily treats, but usually with foods that have low points values, and at least some nutritional value, that can be worked into the daily allotment without too much trouble.  But 6 points for a cookie?  No way!  The value versus the points hit is a horrible tradeoff.  And every one of those points was completely devoid of any nutritional value.

So there are a few lessons driven home from this experience, lessons that I learned long ago, but lessons that lose their punch until an experience such as this brings them to the forefront once again:

  1. No matter how much you think you have mastered the system, it is very easy to get tripped up now and then.  Having said that, though, I know from experience that it is much easier to pick yourself right back on and continue on your way than it is to lie on the ground and get stiff and out of shape and then try to get back up and walk.  More simply: when you mess up, put it behind you and continue on your way.
  1. It is also easy to forget the lessons learned, lessons that you thought you knew very well, such as figuring the points before you eat the food.  You have to stay on guard always to be successful.  The “slippery slope” analogy is a good one here.  Remember this: You are only one bite away from your next bite . . . and your next bite . . . and your next bite.
  1. It is easy to become complacent.  It is much less easy to stay intent and focused.  I have now done the Weight Watchers program long enough that I can see how, over time, little indiscretions with food can quickly turn into a complete disintegration of the program and the good, healthy habits developed early on in the program.  I have seen this happen with others who, having lost a lot of weight and thinking that they were in control, quit Weight Watchers and gradually regained all of the weight they lost, and then some.  And I have seen these tendencies in myself, so much so that I’ve gained 5 or 6 pounds from my lowest point a couple of years ago.  And where I once could have taken 5 or 6 pounds off in a month, I now go month after month treading water, gaining a pound one week and losing it the next.  The watchword: vigilance.  You must be ever vigilant to be successful.

And so we have the saga of the Subway cookie.  I think that I am actually glad that I accepted the free cookie and ate it, every good bite of it.  But not because it was a really good, satisfying treat; rather, because it brought me back to the lessons that need to be learned, learned well, retained, and practiced daily.


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