Good-Bye Weight Watchers

After a year long relationship with Weight Watchers, I have finally ended my account. I joined last April to help a friend lose weight for her wedding in June. Well, I ended up losing 35 lbs, getting lifetime status, and I’m actually (a year later) at 40 lbs total lost.

The program itself was very useful to me. I lost my weight fairly quickly (thought not unhealthy-fast) by following the program to the letter. I ate within my point allotment, I tracked EVERYTHING I ate, I made sure to get all of my activity points. I did everything as suggested by Weight Watchers and it absolutely worked, and it worked really quickly.

Once I had achieved lifetime status I remember having this thought were I said “Well… am I really going to track what I eat FOREVER?” I was sold on the new lifestyle of eating fruits and veggies and working out. And now I had an idea of what an appropriate amount of food for me to be eating was… did I really need to TRACK it all?

So I decided to go on an experiment and see if I could live healthily and not track. And sure enough, 9 months after obtaining lifetime I’m still below goal weight. I’m not gaining. I’m doing just fine. So I stopped weighing in and using the e-tools from Weight Watchers around February of this year. Still, no issue. I do weigh myself every morning and take note of where I am. I still try to compensate those high calorie meals that happen with low calorie for the next one or extra activity points. I’m still living the Weight Watchers diet, I’ve just decided there really isn’t a point to having an account with Weight Watchers because I have to stick to their rules which also means if I slip up I owe them money. I’m not a huge fan of THAT.

So I’ve canceled my Weight Watchers account. But I have also made an agreement with  myself that if I ever get to the point where I’m 5 pounds above my goal weight and I find that I can’t take care of it on my own, I’m going back to Weight Watchers immediately to get my weight back under control.

But, for at least now, this is good-bye Weight Watchers! It was wonderful knowing you!

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Points and Dollars

It has been 9 weeks since I’ve joined Weight Watchers. And officially I’ve lost 15.2 lbs. I will weigh in again today and I’m anticipating that I’ll get my 10% weight keychain today (which I’ll get at 16 pounds).

The thing that I love the most about Weight Watchers is that you actually can eat (just about) whatever you want. You just have to budget for it. So if I absolutely have to (want to) have my 9 point beverage – I can. I just have to give up points for dinner or lunch and instead fill up on tasty, tasty fruits and vegetables. I feel a lot of freedom on Weight Watchers because of the fact that I don’t FEEL like I’m on a diet. I know I’m losing weight, I know I’ve starting eating healthier, I know that I’ve started exercising more, but I don’t feel like I’m dieting.

Last night Mr Woodpecker and I went to week 1 of Financial Peace University. Keep in mind, this is my second time through FPU. It was Mr. Woodpecker’s first. He was pretty apprehensive about going because he came from a family that didn’t talk about money, so the idea of talking about money with complete strangers was frightening to him. After the first meeting he was so excited. We talked about money and savings and our goals for about 2 hours afterwards. It was wonderful.

It was FIVE YEARS ago that I first started my financial journey. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been a wheel stuck in mud the entire time. I start to get somewhere and something backtracks me. Moving. New job. Moving again. Etc. Always an excuse.

I wondered to myself last night: “Why can’t getting rid of debt be more like Weight Watchers?”

In a way they are the same. In Weight Watchers you have points to spend. In life you have money. You only have so much of either and after that you’re out.

But money isn’t as easy. In Weight Watchers I can spend my points each day as a fresh new day. I wake up and there are new points waiting for me! Yesterdays points have nothing to do with today’s or tomorrow’s and I always get a fresh supply. I can eat a cake or a brownie, or whatever I want as long as I can load up on veggies in my other meals.

Money? Well, by the second of the month most of my money has already been sent out for bills. Those don’t change. They’re always there. It isn’t like if this month I want a new TV I can just skimp on the bills to buy the new TV. And the money doesn’t refresh daily, or even weekly. And today’s mistakes? Those definitely effect tomorrow when it comes to your budget. I only get 24 paychecks a year, if I mess up one or two that can have a significant effect on the rest of the year.

Also, I’ve felt at many times while trying to get out of debt that I had to do “gazelle-like intensity” to do it. Which works for some people, a lot of people. But five years later, I find that all “gazelle-like intensity” does for me is leaves me burned out.

I can do intensity for months at a time. But eventually I find myself slowly losing the intensity and then thinking: “Yanno, I should just buy this t-shirt. I love it.” And that leads to the next thing, which leads to the next. And suddenly instead of paying $1000/month on my debt I’m down to just $250/month on my debt which is barely over minimum.

So, while I can’t make my money be just like Weight Watchers where I get points to use HOWEVER I want, I can make it a little more SS4BC friendly. Simply: I need to give myself a little cash each month for “fun”. Money that I can use to buy myself a t-shirt or those cute shoes or to pay for whatever little thing I want. So instead of my wants for things leaving me in a money tail-spin, they’re planned parts of the budget.

This week Mr Woodpecker and I are working on our budgets together. I’m excited for this new journey in life that we’re taking together.

More Exciting News from Blue Cross/Blue Shield

I already posted about how Blue Cross/Blue Shield gives me points for exercising that I can turn in to gift cards for places like Target, Gap, Best Buy, Amazon. I turned in my first $25 gift card for a Target gift card and used that to buy some exciting stuff: A case of Rockstar, laundry detergent, zip lock bags (I know, you can stop your drooling over my sexy purchases). 😉

Today I got an email from Blue Cross/Blue Shield alerting me to some webinars that Blue Cross/Blue Shield does for its members. They are free to Blue Cross/Blue Shield members AND I get 25,000 points for partcipiating in them. Remember that each 1,000 = $1 in gift cards, so attending these babies nets me a beautiful $25 just for spending 1 hour once a week learning about nutrition (maybe I’ll pick up a thing or two to tell my Nutrition students) and/or living a stress free life. I’ve signed up for the Nutri-Wise webinar because I have no classes during that time. I probably need the Stress Resilient Life one more, but it is being offered at the same time I’m teaching Chemistry. Bummer for me!

I can participate in the webinars in my office quite easily, so I’m pretty excited about this. I love learning. I love learning for free. And I love learning and GETTING PAID to learn. Sounds good to me!

My New Body

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that not eating how has been causing me to lose weight. I’ve then combined this with a fairly consistent work out routine the last 3 weeks and the results are mind numbing.

So I’m going to give you some numbers.

Here are my “goal” numbers, which are essentially just my numbers from 2004:

Weight – 132
Right arm – 11″
Left arm – 11″
Bust/chest – 34.5″
Neck – 12.5″
Waist – 30″
Hips – 37″
Right thigh – 22″
Left thigh – 22″

Here are my “beginning” numbers, essentially my heaviest point in the summer of 2009:

Weight – 160
Right arm – 11″
Left arm – 11″
Bust/chest – 37″
Neck – 14″
Waist – 37.5″
Hips – 42.5″
Right thigh – 23″
Left thigh – 23″

And here is where I am today:

Weight – 139
Right arm – 11″
Left arm – 11″
Bust/chest – 34.5″
Neck – 13.5″
Waist – 34″
Hips – 40″
Right thigh – 22″
Left thigh – 22″

So in total I’ve lost 21 lbs, 2.5″ from my chest (bummer), 1/2″ from my neck, 3.5″ from my waist, 2.5″ from my hips, and 2″ total on my thighs. Not too shabby.

Also, my BMI has dropped from 25.1 (where it was in July 2009) to 22.4. Which means I’m now considered a “healthy” weight for my height.

Obviously I still have more work to go. But the combination of not eating out and working out on a consistent basis is making the weight loss thing easier than I ever anticipated. I hope to get sub-135 by summer. My ULTIMATE goal would be a ripped body below 130, but I’m not holding my breath on that one! =)

The Initial Speed Bump

The hardest part for me with this whole financial recovery wasn’t just getting started – it was waiting for results.

From the time I started this blog till when I paid off my first debt was 7 months. Once that first credit card got paid off, I was able to pay off 2 more within 3 months. Now I’m plugging along with only 1 credit card debt left – and I’ve made some significant progress here.

However, those 7 months of nothing changing were so hard. Progress was slow, sometimes stalled, and I wasn’t getting any immediate reward.

That initial speed bump can be the hardest thing to get over in the debt recovery process. It takes a lot of momentum, but once you get there the feeling is FANTASTIC.

This is how I feel right now about weight loss. I told you guys earlier that by not eating out I had lost 14 pounds, I’m down an “official” 16 pounds now. In 4 months. That is around a pound a week. Not too shabby. However, the weight loss has given me so much momentum to be healthier! I’ve been going to the gym 4 times a week and kicking ass while their.

Seeing weight come off is the same to me as paying off that first debt was, seeing the results just motivates me to do even more. Success breeds success, and I’m so excited.

The only bummer part is that most of my pants are getting too big on me… I hate pant shopping. And even worse, I just bought two pairs!

Rockstar into Wine

So, the rules I set out for myself two weeks ago were pretty simple:

1) No elevators
2) No soda, No energy drinks

Pretty simple straight off the bat, right? Well, I’ve been a ROCKSTAR (get it, huh?) at not drinking sodas or energy drinks. In fact… I’ve barely missed it. No headaches, no cravings (I KNEW I wasn’t addicted, despite everyone else’s assumptions that I was). Elevators? A thing of the past. Two weeks in and these tasks have been EASY.

However… it isn’t like I’m only drinking water. I’ve noticed that my intake of beer and wine has DRASTICALLY gone up. In fact, as I’m writing this I’m downing some left over Chardonnay from my date with Mr. Cousin last night. (Sidenote: he seems to be a frugal guy, which I really like!)

I could be wrong… but I doubt that exchanging soda for wine is a fair exchange. However, I’ve ridden my bike three times since getting it fixed on Friday, so I’m feeling decently good about how my “healthy lifestyle” is shaping up. (OMG, I am the queen of bad puns today)

Here is my “official” weigh in from last week (07/29/09). You can see that I’m down to 154.6 lbs. One pound in one week, not too shabby!

And my “official” weigh in from today (08/06/09). Woot! 151.6 lbs. Total lost: 4 pounds!

Here’s a fun little graph illustrating my progress:

I’m trying to weigh myself every Wednesday morning, to just keep it consistent, but sometimes it ends up being Thursday afternoon (like today) or Tuesday morning (like last week). However, my goal is to have “Weigh-In Wednesdays” from now on.

To see where I started from, you can read this post. Two weeks in and four pounds lighter. Now it gets harder – water weight is outta the way – time to start burning some fat!

Updated Status Bars

I got paid today, so I updated my bars for my Emergency Fund, Vacation Savings, and Credit Card debt.

I was really excited to see that my vacation fund it nearly at 50% funded! I still haven’t included my Tutor.com pay and have 2 more months of saving to go. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it up to fully funded before I leave. I am also really excited to see that my emergency fund has finally reached the $500 mark. For some reason this number makes me FEEL really secure. Like if a minor emergency were to occur, things would BE OKAY.

The part that isn’t too exciting is my credit card debt. I’ve only paid down 20% of my goal, in almost 50% of the year. Which means that my likelihood of making it to $12,000 by the end of the year is pretty slim. That doesn’t mean that I’m giving up hope. For sure not! When I get back from Europe I’ll be able to put the $200/month that I’ve been saving for my vacation straight onto the credit card. That will get me to paying $500/month for 5 months. That will get my balance down another $2,500, excluding service fees, which should get me close to $13,000… so hopefully I’ll be able to scrounge up an extra $1,000 at some point in those 5 months with tutoring or hopefully some teaching at the community college in the fall (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!).

I still need to update my student loan bar, weight loss (bah!), and other debt.

As for spending money, I have $642 available to me in May. Which looks like the following:

Jack daycare: $230
Pet food: $90 ($60 for dog, $30 for cats)
SS4BC food: $300
Gas: $60
—————–
Total: $680

So, as you can see, I’m already in the negative without even going OVER budget, which is a really, really sad place to be. Also, Cpt. Baseball’s roommate is getting married this month. So we’ll have to split the cost of a hotel and board the dogs for a night and get them a present. All of which should cost me about $100 total. Where is this money going to come from?

I HAVE NO IDEA!!!

Small Steps for Big Change – Health Issue

So initially this blog wasn’t intended to be just about personal finance. It was started with the idea that I would blog about ALL areas on my life that needed work. As it happened, the area that I found the easiest to control and to write about was/is personal finance. I am a scientist, so I find the numbers and the cut and dry methods satisfying.

The other issue that this blog was intended to address is health and weight loss. This isn’t as cut and dry. I can’t say that “4 hours of running per week will result in 1 lb of weight loss” like I may be able to correlate when it comes to money.

However, just because I can’t CONTROL how the weight comes off my body, that doesn’t mean that I should ignore it or that I shouldn’t STRIVE for perfection.

Now, let me get this clear right now: I do NOT have a perfect body

Nor have I ever. Nor, honestly, will I ever.

I view this blog as a permanent work in progress. Just as there are always more financial goals that can be obtained once I get out of debt, so there will always be more physical goals to obtain.

Okay… background time…

In 1998 I started college at the ripe young age of 18 (only 3 days after turning 18 for that matter). I weighed, at most, 100lbs at the time. Oh yah, I should mention that I am 5’6″. So I was ridiculously underweight. I ran cross country in high school, so I was fairly active. I didn’t sit at all. I was always going places, to the theatre where I volunteered 5 days a week, involved in my local church 3 days a week, Bible quizzing (regional champion, booya!), lots of friends. I didn’t stay in one place long, so I didn’t have a whole lot of fat on my bones.

Anyway, in 1998 I started college, because of long hours studying I managed to get myself to a healthy weight by my junior year of 125 lbs. For 5’6″, this is a good, healthy, size. I believe I was a size 4-6 at this point. My senior year I got a pretty permanent bf (we stayed together for almost 5 years).

In 2002 I started graduate school. The transition to graduate school was pretty stressful, and at the time I was also living with my brother who had terminal cancer. So I eat a lot of food on the run, and it typically wasn’t healthy. My first year of graduate school I didn’t exercise, I just tried to get everything done in time to go to sleep and wake up the next day and do in again. I gained another 10 lbs this year, and was a size 6/7 (depending on the brand).

After my brother passed away in 2004 I got really physically active. I was in the gym every day. Spinning, lifting weights, running up to 6 miles a day. I was OVER active. I didn’t, surprisingly, loose any weight. But since I was 135 and 5’6″ – this was a PERFECTLY acceptable and flattering weight. I did however LOOK fucking sexy as hell. I had nice definition in my legs, arms, abs. Any fat that I did lose was replaced by muscle. And I looked and felt great.

Then… 2007 came… This is the year I wrote my thesis.

If you have ever written a thesis before you know how stressful it can be. Add on top of this that I was trying to find a job, doing my first lecture class, and still trying to do experiments on top of this. I got 4 hours of sleep a night for a period of 4 months. I was non-stop 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. In the process I gained 25 lbs. I was a lucky one, my labmate who graduated 6 months before me gained about 40, my labmate here in the midwest gained almost 50. Combine high stress with little time, and when you write a thesis you’re either going to gain a WHOLE LOT or LOOSE a WHOLE LOT. I happened to gain.

So when I arrived in the Midwest in January of 2008, I weighed 160 lbs, and was wearing a size 10.

I started running every week day for the period of 5 months, and eventually lost 10 pounds and could fit into my size 8 clothes.

Then I stared dating Cpt. Baseball, the weather got hot, I stopped running, I gained weight.

Today was the first day that I got back on the scale. I was so afraid that it would be above 160.

157.5

Not bad… but certainly not good.

So there is my story – but the rest remains to be seen:
*What will I do about it?
*What are my goals?

To answer the first question: I’m going to start running/going to the gym 5x a week. Another perk of working at a university and being considered faculty, is that they offer free rec classes every noon for faculty members only. I went to one today. It was a weight training class. It was good to get back into the working out – but definitely not hard enough to make a difference in the long run. After the class I ran for 1/2 mile. Not long, but SOMETHING. I was active for an hour today, and I’m PROUD of that.

What are my goals?
*I’d like to weigh 150 lbs by the time I leave for my vacation with my grandma. That is 8 lbs in 8 weeks – a completely doable goal! Especially since the first 5 are typically just water weight anyway. 😉
*My ultimate goal is to get back to 135 lbs OR a size 6. I’m not sure is either could be obtained by the end of the year, but I’d sure LOVE for that to happen. I want to stay realistic, but since I can’t just add up pounds like I can dollars, I’m not sure WHAT is a realistic goal.

According to this weight loss calculator if I simply have a deficit of calories in my diet of 200 per day, I’ll get to my goal weight in 13 months. Which seems fair and safe.

But then I was thinking about this 200 calorie deficit. Is that from what I’m eating now? Or from the 2000 calorie diet that I SHOULD be eating? And… if I don’t change my eating at all and just change my activity so that I BURN 200 more calories a day – would I still get the same result?

I have no idea… looks like it is time for some research. =)