3 Weddings and a…Weight Watchers Class

Brooke Saltzer learned that dieting’s a piece of cake.

Name: Brooke Saltzer, 25

Residence:Washington,DC

Height: 5′

Weight: 120

Pounds lost: 64

Moment when I knew I was a success: When my Weight Watchers meeting leader made me the example. When I joined, I was in awe of a 30-pound loss. Now I’m the girl who lost almost 65 pounds. (And that’s without giving up ice cream!)

Until almost 2 years ago, I was the chubby girl with the good personality. I loved people and food. Pizza, pasta, chocolate–you name it, and I ate it (all of it) with pleasure. I wasn’t exactly thrilled at being overweight. There are only so many times a girl can hear “You have such a pretty face.”

But I had tons of girlfriends, and guys still asked me out, so it’s not as if I stayed home on Saturday nights with Ben & Jerry. Monitoring portions and exercising required too much effort. Becoming content with my size seemed simpler.

Back when I was in senior high school, I weighed 164 pounds, and on my 5-foot frame, that was a lot. That February, my parents decided to try the Atkins Diet. With senior prom coming up, I thought, Why not give it a go?

Losing weight as a family made dieting less daunting: Mom cooked; I ate. In 5 months, I lost 26 pounds. But that summer, I stayed on a farm inItalyand the backsliding began. (As if I were going to pass up homemade pasta!)

I came home and started college atGeorgeWashingtonUniversity. Many late-night pizza runs and lots of burgers and fries later, and I’d gained back the 26 pounds plus some. Shortly after I graduated from college in May 2001, I weighed in at 184.

A Picture’s Worth 64 Pounds

My weight didn’t seriously trouble me, though, until about a year and a half later, when I was flipping through pictures of my friend’s Christmas party. When I’d checked myself out in the mirror the night of the party, I thought I looked great in my pink sleeveless top, but the photos proved otherwise. I didn’t look hot; I looked heavy. A quick check of my closet revealed an endless array of not-so-cute black T-shirts. To top it all off, I was asked to be in three weddings all scheduled for the end of 2003.

That was the clincher–I was not going to be the chubby bridesmaid! One of the brides-to-be had recently lost 15 pounds with Weight Watchers, and she said I would enjoy the group. I love a gathering–in second grade my teacher said, “Brooke would do much better if she didn’t socialize so much.” The friendly atmosphere seemed like a perfect fit.

New Year, New Me

With the new year, I mustered the courage to attend my first meeting. It was a wake-up call. The counselors pointed out that I still lived like a college kid–eating ramen noodles, fast food, pizza. I knew these foods weren’t healthy, but after I graduated and started working full-time for a PR agency inWashington,DC, I fell prey to convenience: Starbucks gingerbread latte and pumpkin bread for breakfast and deli sandwiches for lunch, not to mention omnipresent chocolate cake at the office.

As a kid, family dinner was usually chicken fingers and mashed potatoes. Though my mom always tried to get my brother and me to eat salad, we weren’t exactly a nutrition-conscious bunch. We certainly never checked nutrition labels. Weight Watchers’ points-based plan simplified things: I learned that I could trade my latte and pumpkin bread (15 points) for a regular coffee with two pumps of gingerbread-flavored syrup, a cup of fat-free yogurt, 1/2 cup of high-fiber Kashi cereal, and a banana (7 points). My new breakfast is not only lower in points (fat and calories) but also more filling.

Every Tuesday night, I headed downtown to befriend other young professional women seeking to lose weight. At each meeting, we broached a new topic–like how to combat office junk food or how to pick out the low-calorie entrées at restaurants. We’d also e-mail and swap advice: Order your favorite creamy dressing on the side and then dip your fork in it before taking a bite of salad. In those first 5 months, I lost 30 pounds. I did it by writing it down. When I went out, I jotted my meal on a scrap of paper and threw it in my purse. Otherwise, a package of cookies might slip by unnoticed.

Finding a Balance

Five months later, I’d reached my goal weight of 120 pounds, and now that I’m maintaining, I keep track in my head. If I have pizza one night, I’ll balance it with wholesome meals the next day. It’s impossible to avoid all the temptations, so I don’t. When I vacationed inJamaica, I walked the beach and swam to make up for the poolside pina coladas. I’m proud to say that I only gained 2 pounds on the trip–an easy fix once I got back home.

As for the weddings, let’s just say I was not the chubby bridesmaid. By wedding season, I was a size 4. When the seamstress had first measured me, I’d been a 14. Walking down those aisles, I’m sure I turned a few heads. (It’s not like I want to be a bridesmaid forever!) And now, when people tell me I have a pretty face, I believe them.

Source: Prevention