weight watchers points plus

Beware the wolf in salad’s clothing – Analysis of Applebee’s Entre Salads

Last week I wrote a post about my encounter with a 35 Point Salad at a restaurant. The offending salad was the Grilled Oriental Chicken Salad at Applebee’s. That experience got me to thinking. How often are we fooled when we are out in a restaurant and order up a salad? How often are we allowing ourselves to be tricked into believing that we are making a healthy choice?

As a result of this experience I decided to start a series on my blog about restaurants, and how we can make healthy and informed choices when we are out. I am not intending to do an exhaustive analysis of every menu item, but I will hit on some highlights. For each restaurant I research I will focus first on the entree salads they offer, then give my thoughts on which are the best choices. I will also highlight other things on the menu that might sound like they are less healthy, but in actuality might be better alternatives.

Because of my recent experience, I am starting with Applebee’s. Today I went to the Applebee’s website and looked up the nutrition information for their entree salads. Here is what I found:

applebees saladsFor my analysis I looked at the calories, fat, carbs, fiber, protein, sodium and sugar. I then calculated the Weight Watchers Points Plus for each dish. The colors are my evaluation of how good or bad the choices are.

I looked at the sodium levels and compared them to what the Mayo Clinic recommends. According to the Mayo Clinic, an adult over 51 should not have more than 1,500mg of sodium in an entire day (for adults under 51 the number is 2,300mg). Those that are red represent more sodium than the recommended amount for my entire day. Those in yellow are dangerously close.

For sugar I looked at the World Health Organization that for an adult with a normal BMI (which mine is not), the limit should be about 25mg per day. Those that are red exceed that amount, those that are yellow are dangerously close.

The two salads that had the lowest Weight Watchers Points Plus are the Grilled Chicken Ceasar without dressing at 9 points, followed by the Thai Shrimp Salad from their Have it All menu, which came in at 10 points. However, when sugar and sodium are taken into account, the Thai Shrimp Salad fails miserably.

For a salad entree at Applebee’s, my best bet would have been the Grilled Chicken Ceasar without dressing.

I wanted to know what other healthy choices were on their menu, so here is a look a the information for their full Have it All menu

applebees have it all menu

As it turns out, all of the choices on this menu are high in sodium. No real surprise there, because they are lower fat and lower sugar, they make up the taste with salt. What is interesting is that the best choice on this menu, and likely on their entire menu, was The Pepper-Crusted Sirloin & Whole Grains. At 9 Weight Watchers Points it was the best choice I could have made. Oh, that’s right, it WAS THE CHOICE I MADE! But, they were out of it.

Just for fun, I looked up a dessert. Here is the line for the Triple Chocolate Meltdown

Applebees dessertFrom a calories, fat, sodium and Weight Watchers points perspective, I’d have been better off with the dessert.

So, what does this all mean? I think first it means that we have to be ever vigilant about what we eat. Just because something sounds healthy doesn’t mean that it is. We are naturally inclined to think in terms of salads being the best choice, but they are not always.

The other thing I learned is to trust my instincts. My first instinct was to order the Pepper-Crusted Sirloin & Whole Grains. When it wasn’t available, my best option would have been to get up and dine elsewhere, but the person I was with might not have gone for that idea. My next best option would have been the third thing I learned.

I have the Weight Watchers app on my phone, and I should have looked up my food before I ordered. I am always better off when I am prepared and have done my homework.

What do you think of this analysis? Is it helpful? I am thinking of doing one analysis like this each week for major chain restaurants. I am not looking to replace the “Eat this not That!” concept. Rather I am looking to give my thoughts on things as I go.

Weigh-in day – Week 45

Brrr… It’s a mighty cold Friday as the first work week of 2015 comes to a close. This morning I really didn’t want to go to the gym, I wanted to get back under the warm covers and avoid the new fallen snow outside. The wind was howling just a bit. When the alarm went off I went and checked my phone. Current temperature was 17 degrees F. That actually was 17 degrees warmer than yesterday! Woo hooo!

I got up, dressed, and worked out.Then I came home for a weigh-in. When I got on the scale it said I weighed 241.4 pounds. That is a 1.4 pound drp from last week, and puts me at a total of 103.6 pounds lost, or 30.0% of my original body weight! I am pleased.

As I said, I did do my 6k this morning. Here is what the last 10 days look like on my Daytona 500km challenge.

daytonaI need to average 5.0km per day for the rest of the challenge to reach 500. There are only 44 days left until the green flag at the Daytona 500! Awesome! (The 45th day is the actual race day).

I am feeling good today. I had a good week at the gym, and although I didn’t track every single bite of food, I managed to stay within my goals. For this week I plan to continue the momentum at the gym, and increase my level of food tracking. Also, I am concerned that I didn’t hit my hydration goals every day, so I will be tracking that more closely as well.

How did you do with the first week of 2015?

My week 44 weigh-in, and thoughts going forward

This morning I pulled the scale out of its hiding place. When I made the decision two weeks ago that today would be my next weigh-in, my wife and I stashed it away. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I stepped on it. My assumption was that I’d be up since the last time, with all the Holiday treats I’ve consumed. I was worried about how much it would be up. I stepped on, closed my eyes and waited. When I was ready I opened them and….the scale was blank. I’d waited too long and it shut off. So, I stepped off, let it reset, then stepped on again.

The scale measured me at 242.8. That is up 5.2 pounds since my last weigh in. My total loss is now 102.2 pounds or 29.6% of my body weight.

Back on November 22, I posted my Five Point Plan for surviving the Holidays. At the conclusion of that post I said I would lose weight between that date and January 1. Well, my weigh-in was January 2, and I actually gained 0.8 pounds. All things considered, that isn’t bad. I essentially maintained during that time. For the month of December I was up a bit more, but that was offset by a loss just after that initial post.

I am a little disappointed today, I will be honest. I had a great time over the Holidays, and I have zero regrets about the food and drink I consumed. So, don’t misread disappointment from me as regret. I am, though, disappointed that for the season I was essentially level. I would have liked to have lost some in that time.

So, now it is back to work. I have 47.8 pounds to lose to reach my goal weight of 195. There is still work to be done, and today it restarts.

Looking ahead

On New Years Day, my wife and I had some friends and our oldest daughter over to have dinner and visit. One of the ladies who was here asked me a question which I want to address here, since my answer wasn’t well thought out at the time. She asked “What are you going to do differently to lose your remaining weight.” I honestly don’t remember exactly what I said, but I have been thinking about it since. The implication was that I wouldn’t be able to do the same things to lose the last 48 pounds that I did to lose the first 100 pounds. She asked me if I thought it would be harder to lose that additional weight.

As I said, I have thought about it hard since that time. And, I have an answer. What will I do differently to lose the remaining weight ?…… NOTHING!

Let me walk you through my thinking on this. If I had woken up this morning at the weight I am, and had not lost 100+ pounds in 2014, I would still likely want to lose weight. I am obese by all measures. I have belly fat, and because of my weight I would be at risks for health issues like diabetes, heart disease and the like. So, in this scenario, I wake up at 242.8, or about 50 pounds over weight. What would be a good plan of attack to lose that weight?

The simple answer is in this formula:

weight formula 2If I woke up this morning, wanting to lose weight, I would have to use this formula. I would have to commit myself to burning more calories than I consume. That formula didn’t change since March 1, or ever in the history of weight loss. My experience tells me that if I work the eating side of the equation, I will get better results than if I work the burn side, so I would look to limit how much food I eat. I’d look for a way to sustainably reduce my food intake, that is balanced and healthy. I would want something that would adapt as I lost weight. Ideally there would be some tools for tracking my food, and letting me know if I was on track or not. In short, I’d join Weight Watchers!

But wait, that’s what I’ve been doing since March 1. So, the answer to her question of what I plan to do differently, is NOTHING! I plan to continue to track my points in the Weight Watchers app on my phone. I also plan to continue to work out 5 to 7 hours a week, but even if that drops a bit, I will lose weight by sticking to the points plan.

As I said in a previous post on Just some thoughts I have…, the formula for weight loss is simple, but not easy. It is simple because all I have to do is burn more calories than I consume, but it is not easy. And that leads me to the answer to her follow up question. She also asked me if it would be hardER to lose the additional weight (my emphasis on the “er”). Again, the answer is NO. It won’t be harder. The reason it won’t be harder to lose the additional 48 pounds is that losing the first 102 was REALLY HARD! It took me 38 weeks to lose 102 pounds. I had to work hard to make that happen. I had to track and measure my food, increase my activity, and commit to the program. I had to make sure I didn’t cheat or make excuses along the way. I had to hold myself publicly accountable and ‘fess up when I hit snags in the road. I had to be willing to bare myself for all to see so I could make a lifestyle change that would be sustainable and lasting. Losing 102 pounds was FREAKING HARD TO DO.

As I am sitting here thinking about it, the answer to the follow up question of whether it will be harder to lose the remaining weight isn’t just no. The answer is, “No. If anything it will be easier.” I am not saying it will be easy, what I am saying is that for me, I have already laid the tracks. I’ve already taught myself how to eat properly, how to measure and track my foods, and how to live with being a little hungry now and again. I have already taught myself how to stay hydrated. I have learned that the gym isn’t a scary place, and that going there won’t end in tears. I know that the more I work the better I feel. I have already conquered all of those things, and let me tell you, that was hard to do.

Now I just have to stick to the plan. Will there be times I want to stray? Yes, just as there were in the last 44 weeks.

A better question to ask, and one that I have pondered is “How long will it take to lose the remaining weight? Won’t the pounds come off more slowly?” And the answer there is YES, the rate of weight loss will slow now because I have lost so much already. But, again, I go back to the premise I had above. If I was just starting out today, I would set my expectation to be that I will lose 1 to 2 pounds a week if I follow the plan. And….that’s what my expectation was when I started.

Before my Holiday splurge, my average for the previous 10 weeks was 1.86 pounds lost per week. With the Holidays, my last 10 week average is .92 pounds lost per week. Hey, that’s 1-2 pounds lost over about a 12 week period. I’ll take that!

In my next post I am going to talk about some thoughts I have about this blog, and things I want to do with it in 2015. For now I will close with this thought. Going forward on my Journey to better health, I plan to do exactly what I have been doing all along. I am not going to be pulled down by negative thoughts that it might not work, nor am I going to seek any quick fixes. I am in this for my lifetime. If it takes some time, I’m OK with that. What’s important is that I live, act and eat differently today than I did on February 28, 2014, and I will do for for a long time to come.

Week 36 Weigh-in and a new, fun progress picture

Today is weigh-in day! Let’s get to the hard numbers first. For the week I lost 3.8 pounds. I now weigh 247.6, or 97.4 pounds less than on March 1. That represents a 28.2% decrease in my weight.

This past week I stayed within my Weight Watchers Points Plus every day, and I worked out three times. I was a little concerned because I had a couple of days off work, and had lower daily activity, but I successfully managed that as well. I am feeling quite good this morning.


The picture above was taken last week while at a friend’s house carving pumpkins. The two lovely ladies in this picture weigh a combined 95 pounds or so. They represent all the weight I have shed since March 1. I will tell you that hoisting them up and holding them for the picture was no easy task. Hard to imagine that I used to carry that weight around with me 24 hours a day.

If you are a fan of challenges, keep tabs on this blog over the next few days. I am going to be announcing my next challenge. This one will be the most ambitious yet!

Yesterday was hard

At my company, thanks to a contract negotiated by the union, we get Federal Election days as a company Holiday. I am not a member of the union, but the offices are also closed. So, biannually I get the second Tuesday of November off. Whenever this comes up on the calendar, I automatically book the day before as a vacation day. It gives me a nice, long weekend in early November to work on some pre-holiday projects around the house. My wife’s company doesn’t get election day off, and she gets fewer vacation days in general than I do, so I spend these two days home alone. Yesterday was particularly difficult for me in terms of my journey.

In past years I would have risen with my wife, seen her off to work, and then headed out for a super tasty, fast food breakfast. It was a special day, so I’d probably have opted for something like the steak, egg and cheese on a bagel at McDonald’s. Then I would have come home and worked on my projects for the morning. At lunch time I would probably have headed out to Wendy’s for a more “healthy” alternative. Probably something like a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, and whatever they call their grilled chicken wrap. Later, when my wife got home, I’d have a full dinner.

I don’t even want to calculate what the Weight Watchers Points Plus would be for that kind of an extravaganza, but I think I am safe when I say that it would likely approach double what my allowed points are today. Did I mention that in between all those meals I’d have probably had some tasty, salty snacks?

Since March 1, I have been re-teaching myself about eating. I am actively working to break my old eating habits. I now try to only consume foods that have points at meal times, and have zero point snacks between meals. I do allow myself a few points in the evening for some Skinny Pop popcorn, but generally speaking, if it isn’t meal time I try not to consume points.

Yesterday was hard. All day long I kept thinking about making a trip out for food. I had to run an errand that took me past one of my favorite diners, and thought about stopping for lunch. After all, a salad or a gyro at a diner is better than Wendy’s, right?

I am happy to say that I didn’t succumb to the temptation. I had my own breakfast at home (2 scrambled eggs with some mushroom and two thin slices of ham, accompanied by a single piece of toast), and I avoided the diner. For lunch I had a half of a ham sandwich with some cheese. But all day long I wanted more. The fruit that I normally have as a snack weren’t satisfying me. It was a struggle.

Ultimately I won out in the struggle. I stayed on points for the day, and went to bed feeling good about my choices.

I guess the point of this post is that as far as I have come, it is still not automatic for me. My old patterns, my old habits are still there, lurking just below the surface. I made good choices yesterday, and I plan to make good ones today, but the temptation is always still present.

How are you doing with re-teaching yourself about eating? What mechanisms do you have in place to help keep yourself on track?