‘I Lost Over 40 Pounds By Treating WeightWatchers Like A Lifestyle, Not A Diet Program’

‘I Lost Over 40 Pounds By Treating WeightWatchers Like A Lifestyle, Not A Diet Program’

Biz Velatini is a 56-year-old recipe tester in Chicago, Ill.

I never really had a weight problem growing up. I was a four-season athlete, which meant that I worked out about three hours a day, all year long.

Because I was exercising so much, I didn’t focus on good nutrition. Instead, my breakfast consisted of a Dr. Pepper and Suzy Q snack cake, and then I’d follow that up with some muffins, all before lunch. I didn’t eat healthy because I didn’t have to—I was 150 pounds when I graduated high school, which was a weight I was happy with.

My freshman year of college, I played field hockey and that kept me in shape. But a year later, my school dropped the field hockey team, and that’s when my relationship with my body started to change.

Turns out, you can’t eat the way I did and stay a certain size if you don’t exercise regularly. So, I started a slow progression of weight gain, putting on about 10 pounds a year.

When I left college, I was 210 pounds.

In my early 20s, I was eating anything and everything.

I worked downtown and there were so many restaurants to enjoy. On a typical day, I’d pick up a huge muffin and a snack on my way to work, and then get an egg sandwich and sugary coffee drink, too. Lunch was usually pizza or pasta, with a side dish of extra dough that I’d dip into cinnamon sugar. At night, I would usually have hot dogs, tacos, and more indulgences, followed by popcorn or ice cream after dinner.

I didn’t realize how much weight I’d put on until I was getting in my car one morning for work and noticed that my stomach touched the wheel. I remember thinking, “Who was in my car?” before the understanding sunk in.

I decided to try WeightWatchers, and the plan worked—for a while.

Right after that realization in the car, my sister and I joined WeightWatchers. I lost 70 pounds in 15 months, which was really exciting for me. But the plan was also hard for me to follow, given that I was really intense about it. Breakfast was usually oatmeal bakes with fruit, and lunches were salads. I switched out the proteins each day to keep it interesting. Dinner was usually a healthier version of what I used to eat—skipping the full fat ground beef I’d been using for tacos in favor of ground turkey breast. Portion sizes were smaller, too.

But when my husband got sick, I wasn’t able to prioritize my own health.

In 2007, my husband developed several serious medical conditions, including colon cancer and congestive heart failure. His needs went before mine. I was stressed and I ate my emotions, and I ended up gaining back about 50 pounds of the weight I had lost.

My husband passed away in 2014. In the aftermath of his death, I would go on and off of WeightWatchers, usually around the first of the year, only to fall off within a few months.

Every January, I would set myself up for failure. I would tell myself that I needed to walk 10,000 steps daily, eat well, and drink a gallon of water each day. As soon as I wasn’t able to keep up with one of those goals, it was all I could focus on and I would quit.

I also set unrealistic goals for myself. My birthday is in March and I would say in January, “By my birthday, I’m going to lose 20 pounds.” If I only lost eight pounds, I would get frustrated and quit WW.

I knew I had to break this cycle to become the best version of myself.

After years of starts and stops along my weight loss journey, I decided to make a sustainable change in 2022. I was 53 at the time, and I knew it would be harder to lose the weight the longer I waited to do something about it. But I wanted to do it right this time.

The first rule I ditched was setting a timeframe for losing weight. I no longer have a goal in mind of how fast I will drop pounds, and that’s made it easier for me to keep going. By my birthday in 2022, I had lost seven pounds. In the past, I would have said it wasn’t working for me, but I kept on going. I knew I was working at a pace that felt manageable for me.

Courtesy of Biz Valenti

Biz Valenti shares her weight loss progress.

I’m down 41 pounds since I started WW again.

While the program has evolved since the first time I tried it more than 20 years, what’s changed the most is my approach. I’ve learned to make WeightWatchers a lifestyle. Before, I would do the program during the week and eat whatever I wanted over the weekend, before pumping the brakes again once Monday rolled around. That just wasn’t an effective strategy for me. Now, I’m consistent with what I eat.

I also realized that the reason I keep going back to WW is that nothing is off limits. I found that if I was doing low carb/paleo or any other “restrictive” diet, my brain would gravitate towards those foods I told myself I couldn’t have. Instead, with WW, I incorporate everything, but in moderation.

I’m a recipe tester and I work with food all day. I also regularly go to a lot of events where there is great food. In the past, I would pile everything on my plate like it was my last meal. I don’t want to deprive myself, so I’ve learned to eat a little—and not a lot—of everything.

I also learned to tap into what I’m craving. If I go to a restaurant that’s known for burgers, I’m going to get a burger and eat a portion of it. Before, I would get a shrimp cocktail because it’s zero points for Weight Watchers, but I wouldn’t feel satisfied.

biz valenti weight loss transformation

Courtesy of Biz Valenti

Biz Valenti enjoying a walk with her dog.

Ultimately, I’ve learned to live life on my terms instead of focusing on what I can’t have.

I started a blog called My Bizzy Kitchen in 2008 and included recipes about what I was making. With time, those recipes caught people’s attention and followers would ask me on Instagram if I had a way to lighten up certain popular foods.

I have so much fun finding healthy ways to tweak my favorite foods and make them better for me, and I love sharing what I’ve learned with other people.

While I’m consistent with eating healthy, I’ve also made sure to create space in my diet so I can live it up when I want to. I will often take a look at my calendar and see which events are coming up where the food will be out of control. Then, I’ll give myself permission to enjoy myself.

I’ve finally learned what works for me and these habits are now second nature. But I didn’t do it all at once. I’ve learned that I can make progress toward my goals—it just takes baby steps.

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