Yes, you heard me right. I'm talking about that Jenny Craig. The Jenny Craig of Valerie Bertinelli fame, of Jason Alexander fame, of Sara Rue fame (and yes, I knew who she was before she joined the program), of Kirstie Alley...well...infamy. Jenny Craig, the most effective weight loss company in the U.S., at least according to the ads Weight Watchers sued them over. Jenny Craig, my employer for the last three years.
I never wrote about Jenny Craig here (or JC, as we call it), other than to note that I worked as a weight loss consultant. I know many of my readers knew where I worked, but for a number of reasons, I felt it was better to keep JC and The Daily Dietribe separate. Foremost was the fact that this is a gluten-free blog, and I haven't had a bite of JC food since I stopped eating gluten. Second was the fact that I promote eating fresh, whole foods, and JC is based on eating packaged, frozen meals. Not that I don't eat frozen meals for convenience on occasion, but an eating plan where breakfast, lunch, and dinner come out of the freezer is not one that I wanted to follow myself. Truth be told, working at Jenny Craig was always somewhat of a conflict of interest for me. I loved the work I did with my clients, but hoped that they would see the program as I did: as a stepping stone for learning correct portion sizes, how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet, and of course losing those extra pounds. If I could help them to lose weight, I felt good. If I could help them to eventually transition off the packaged food, start eating their own homecooked meals, and keep the weight off, I felt I had succeeded.
Now that I've left Jenny Craig and am getting ready to start school again in the fall (for my MS in nutrition at Bastyr), I often think back on my years at Jenny Craig as my own stepping stone. It might not have been the career I ultimately wanted, but it taught me many of the tools I'll need in my career. It also taught me more about weight loss, weight maintenance, and the emotions involved than I think I could ever learn in school. Here's what I learned at Jenny Craig that I'll take with me when I'm doing my own nutritional counseling:
- You have to be ready to change, and you have to be willing to do the work. You can pay for a trainer, therapist, weight loss consultant, etc. but you're the only one who can do the actual work. It's sort of like being back in school. If you show up for classes, but don't do the homework, you're not likely to get anywhere. But if you do a little every day, you'll find it much easier to get where you're going.
- Quick weight loss schemes don't work. They never have. They never will. You'll only end up gaining the weight back, plus some.
- The best way to lose weight is to find a healthy way of eating that you can stick with longterm. Think about it this way. Whatever you do to lose weight, you're going to need to keep doing to keep it off. So it better be something that feels right to you.
- You may not feel like you're doing much when you're walking, but the more you walk, the more weight you'll lose. So if you don't have the energy to go for a run, don't think a walk isn't worth the time. It's just as valuable. And besides, it gets you away from the TV and the kitchen!
- Variety is key to exercise. Don't let your body get used to what you're doing. Try switching it up between yoga, running, walking, dancing... You can read my post on exercise here for more ideas.
- All of those tips on what to do when you want to eat but know you aren't hungry? They work! But only if you do them. Taking a walk helps; so does calling a friend; so does brushing your teeth. I keep my list of things to do when I want to binge on my fridge. And every time I use it, it works. But sometimes I pretend it's not there and ignore it. Make your own list and put it somewhere that you can't ignore it!
- Portion control is key...except with vegetables. Eat as many non-starchy veggies as you want. That's pretty much all of them except potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and peas. You'll never gain weight from eating too much broccoli. Here are some tips on how to liven up your veggies.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. It will start your day off right and keep you from having sugar lows later in the day. Here are some healthy, gluten-free breakfast ideas.
- Finally, don't let yourself get too hungry. When are you most likely to overeat? When it's been too long since your last meal. Everyone has a different amount of time they can go without eat before they go overboard at their next meal. For me, the limit is about three hours. Keep track for a couple of days and you might notice that every time you overeat, it's because you went X amount of time without a meal/snack.