Meagan Before and After weight loss

Success Story

These Meagans Make the Holidays Work for Them

A headline on the cover of Oprah magazine’s holiday issue asks an interesting question: “Does This Menu Make Me Look Fat?”. The two-page story dissects an actual menu and offers six tips for ordering a healthy restaurant meal.

The idea is that with a little planning, the decisions – and controlling the temptations that could influence those choices – gets a little easier. The same principle applies to the holidays, which, in addition to friends and family, means food. Lots of food.

“During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, stress and constant temptation!”

“I find the best way to get through anything, whether it be a weight-loss goal or a stressful time, or both, is to have a plan,” said WW Coach Meagan Hardy of Prescott. “For me that usually involves a general plan for that time frame and then break it down by week and then by day. During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, stress and constant temptation!”

Among her tips:

  • “I only treat myself to homemade treats. I can get a store-bought cookie any day but a homemade cookie is extra special. This eliminates some of the temptation.”
  • “Sometimes, it’s better not to start. I have no will power having one bite of something, so when there’s a whole array of food, sometimes I don’t partake in any of it. You really have to know what works for you.”
  • “Keep your regular, or as regular as possible, exercise and eating habits. I try to schedule races or hikes with friends to keep me active and motivated.”
  • Plan for a big indulgence. “Sit down when you eat and savor it. Gabbing something unplanned and delicious because it is sitting on the table is a way to get out of control quickly. One bite leads to another. If you plan it out and really savor it, you tend to feel satisfied and not start the vicious cycle.”
  • “If you are craving something, eat a small piece of it. Otherwise, you will eat everything else and then still probably end up eating the thing you truly wanted.”
  • “Forgive yourself! If you overindulge, start your next meal with something healthy and on track with your goals.

Lifetime member Meagan Johnson of Phoenix, who joined WW at 19 on her parent’s urging and, at 48, remains a staunch advocate, is also a big planning enthusiast. For the holidays, she adapts her year-long strategy to the treat-filled weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

“I’m a big proponent of exercise,” she says. “I exercise quite a bit and when I plan out my week, I always include my exercise schedule. Whether it’s the holidays or not, exercise makes you feel better about yourself and helps you gain a little perspective that can alleviate that holiday tension we put upon ourselves.”

If she knows she’s going to a holiday party, she sets a plan for the days leading up to the event.

“My philosophy, based on what I’ve learned from Weight Watchers over the years, is that I’m not going to worry about what I’m going to eat at a Christmas Party. I want to give that to myself, so I don’t worry. At the party, if I want to try a few things, I’m going to enjoy them and not be counting anything. If I have a plan for the week, knowing I’m going to maybe go off the rails a little bit at the party, I feel good about my decision.”

“The day after the party, she’s back on her plan.”

Her plan starts Monday after she’s determined what days she’ll be eating out and “what I need to have in the refrigerator in my house during the week.” The day of the celebration, she stays on the plan, “eating a light breakfast and lots of vegetables throughout the day so I don’t arrive ravenous,” she says. The day after the party, she’s back on her plan with the full intention of weighing in that week, even though, as a Lifetime member, she’s only required to step on that scale once a month.

“I make it a goal to weigh in once a week,” she explains. “I have to remind myself that on some weeks, when I’m not fully on the plan, even though I don’t want to go in because it could be ugly, I have to go. You have to face your fears so you know it and can deal with it.” A professional speaker and author specializing in generational issues in the workforce, she travels a lot “which is why a plan in general is realistic for me. It’s not realistic for me to eat pre-packaged meals.”

Which brings us back to Oprah’s menu-deciphering tips based on research by the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab:

  • Think about menu design. “Because people typically read menus in a Z pattern, the items along this line are often the ones restaurants think you want. Healthier fare will almost always be where you are least likely to look.”
  • Pay attention to descriptive words. “Items labeled ‘crispy’ have, on average, 130 more calories than those lacking the adjective. Dishes described as ‘marinated’ tended to have 60 fewer calories.”
  • Can’t decide between a bacon burger and a salad? “Think of someone you consider a pillar of health. Then, just before you order, ask yourself “what would [insert name] choose?”
  • Butter vs. olive oil with your bread? “In a study performed at Italian restaurants, diners given olive oil consumed 19 percent more calories of fat per piece of bread than those given butter.”
  • Ask for what you want. “If you want that fish broiled instead of fried, don’t be afraid to put in a special request.”
  • Turn the menu over. Ask the waiter “what are the two or three of the chef’s favorite lighter items for someone who is not that hungry?”