Raising "Harvey:" A Weight Watchers Success Story

Our "before" picture, September 2001, a year before we joined Weight Watchers.
Our "now" picture, January 2005, more than a year after we both reached our Lifetime goal.

In the Spring of 2003, we wrote an article on how we lost an aggregate of 100 pounds in 20 weeks, on the Weight Watchers program. This is the rest of the story, and how "Harvey"-- the now-invisible third person in our lives--came to be:

Larye reached his goal weight (for arbitrary purposes, the first weigh-in with a Body Mass Index, or BMI, of less than 25) at week 28, but continued to lose weight--at a slower pace, of course--as he added Points to his daily food intake. Judy's weight loss slowed a bit as some of the "extra" points leaked over onto her plate, too. Never more than the top end of the range specified by the program, but nevertheless, enough for an effect.

The Weight Watchers program requires the goal-achiever to weigh-in on a weekly basis for six weeks (or six weigh-ins, if there is a lapse in attendance), a sort of final-exam quarter to settle into a lifetime eating program, post-weight-loss. By week 34, he "graduated" at nearly 10 pounds below goal, starting his lifetime monthly weigh-in schedule. At the next monthly weigh-in, he had lost another six pounds, qualifying for another two 5-pound star stickers. Since then, his weight has been fairly stable, dropping only a pound or so in the next few months.

One of the problems of fairly rapid weight loss is: one, the weight comes off pretty much uniformly all over the body, so the overall body shape doesn't change markedly until only the thickest "cushions" remain; and, two, skin doesn't shrink as fast as fat, leaving a lot of wrinkles, which Larye refers to as the "Shar-Pei" look. In the original Weight Watchers program, members were encouraged to eat one meal of chicken, beef, or calves liver once a week, which was supposed to resolve the wrinkle problem. Well, thank goodness the liver rule no longer applies: we do quite well with almost no red meat and organ meats are considered generally harmful, today. Taking Vitamin E capsules on a daily basis seems to help the skin tone, but probably the best body-toning system is plain old walking. So, we've been taking a brisk 3-5 km walk three mornings a week and a more leisurely walking rounds of neighborhood garage sales and the Farmer's Market on Saturdays. This works! Both of us have noted dramatic improvement in skin tone and much flatter tummies. But, at or near goal, we do have to remember to add the activity points, approximately 10% of the daily allowance for 30-40 minutes of walking. An hour of vigorous bicycling nets about seven points, or about 25% increase in points for the day.

As Judy approached her goal (BMI<25), we realized that our 100-pound combined weight loss had expanded to equal the ideal weight of the average adult, about 170 pounds. In 40 weeks, we had managed to make an entire third person disappear, who--being now invisible--we named after the invisible rabbit character in the Henry Fonda movie.

Our weight loss now became, rather than an effort to lose weight--which is a most difficult task, as you lose weight by avoiding overeating--a project to 'raise Harvey," by feeding him up to his ideal weight, and making sure he doesn't wither away by not taking too big a portion for ourselves. Judy was disappointed in not making goal on "schedule" (week 34, for logistical purposes, since the Weight Watcher fee coupons are printed in sheets of 10), but quickly dropped the last few pounds when focussed not on losing but on fattening up Harvey: saying "no" to extra points, to "leave some for Harvey."

So, there we were: in 40 weeks, we managed to lose the equvalent of an entire fully grown person, who we used to carry between us everywhere. Without Harvey tagging along on our outings, our feet, legs, and backs are no longer sore from long walks; our bicycles go much faster, and we even get better gas mileage in our two-seater car.

Other than the freedom of not carrying all the extra weight around, there are other bonuses: Larye's cholesterol levels had climbed to nearly twice normal over the years, and medication barely made a dent in the numbers: Since shedding his half of the burden, he's also lost Harvey's contribution to the numbers: the last blood test showed normal levels, which have maintained through a lower dosage, and he hopes to be off medication altogether by next checkup. Of course, this means the lifetime food plan remains in the same low-fat category as the weight-loss plan. The effect of this is that Larye has migrated to the bottom of the recommended BMI range, where a great deal of physical activity is needed to maintain proper strength and tone. Judy has continued to lose as well, to the middle of the BMI range. Prior to starting the weight-loss program, she had suffered from range-of-motion problems that affected her work as a quilter and required expensive physical therapy to control. As part of her activity program to help reach goal and achieve body tone, she took a yoga course and had no problems, and continues to quilt without pain.

Needless to say, losing a third of one's body mass means acquiring an entire new wardrobe. We've found that, being "average" size now, we have a much better selection of clothing, and nearly everything looks good without those extra yards of fabric blurring the style lines.

So, farewell, Harvey, we wish you a good and healthy life, and no, you can't move back in with us.

Footnote: As of January 1, 2004, fourteen months into our weight control program, Harvey now weighs in at a strapping 190 pounds. It's been a bit of a struggle to maintain weight over the holidays, as we try to integrate our weight-control program into the social schedule of this food-centric season. But, we continue to clean out our closets and are thoroughly enjoying being at a healthy weight, except for having to put on a few more layers of clothing to shield against the cold Montana winter.

Postscript: February, 2005, one year after this article was first posted to the web, we are still maintaining within goal, with "Harvey" fluctuating between 180 and 185. Our lifestyle has gotten a bit less centered around working at being slim and trim, unfortunately, so we haven't kept up our morning walks, but we remain active. Elsewhere in our web is the story of our 100-km bike ride in October, 2004, and we're looking forward to a more active recreation season in 2005.