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Why weight?

We've all seen the before and after pictures associated with weight loss and the Jenny Craig and Slimfast commercials. Still, many people can't lose weight. But some local residents have found the weight loss solution that works for them: Weight Watchers.

"[There's] a picture taken three years ago at the Snoqualmie Chamber of Commerce Gala," said Elaine Webber, a leader with Weight Watchers. In the picture, Webber was overweight. "I didn't have an appropriate dress that fit."

Not able to bring herself to check out the contents of her closet and make sure her dresses still fit, Webber waited until the last minute to search for an outfit and had to "punt," she said. That was the turning point for her.

"I joined Weight Watchers in March after trying some 'diets'," she said. "Weight Watchers doesn't pretend that they're a diet, they're very up front."

Joining Weight Watchers means agreeing to a change in your lifestyle, said Webber. She managed to lose 40 pounds on the program. But that was her second time on the program.

Webber originally joined Weight Watchers in 1974. She managed to lose weight, achieve her goal and stayed that way for 27 years. During those years she only gained about 10 pounds, but wasn't concerned. She excused herself because she was getting older, she said. Then when she turned 50, she hit menopause and gained 30 pounds in nine months. She switched to elastic waistbands.

"I thought, 'I'm 50, so I can do elastic waistbands now,'" said Webber. "You can get away with it when people are not taking pictures."

Then she went to her doctor. He confronted her with the weight gain and called her on the medical impact. That, combined with the Gala incident, sent her racing back to Weight Watchers. She joined again in March of 2004 and lost 40 pounds in seven months. Monday, Sept. 25, was her two-year "finiversary," or the date that she achieved her final weight.

"It's about getting healthy and living healthy, not just about losing weight," said Webber. "It's not about deprivation or starving. It's about eating enough to be satisfied." And it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change. "Honestly, it is forever."

There are two different paths in the program. The first is the "Flex" program that allows people to eat all kinds of food, but they have to be in control of their portions and follow a points scale. On the points scale calories, fat grams and fiber grams are converted to points, and each person gets an allowance of points per day.

The second program is the "Core" program that allows people to eat only unprocessed, or not significantly processed, foods. There is no point system, instead people must decide for themselves to limit their portions and eat only until they're satisfied, not full.

Both programs have four stress points as part of their education. First is behavior modification, or teaching people to think and feel differently about their bodies and their health, said Webber. The program also teaches people to set goal weights and achieve those objectives. To do this, they have to keep track of everything they eat during the day in a journal, including points for the "Flex" program. Second is celebrating weight loss, down to every 5-pound loss. Third is exercise.

"Most overweight people don't like the word exercise," said Webber. So instead of promoting exercise in general, Weight Watchers puts significance on walking, encouraging members to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. Those members who do more exercise earn more points in the "Flex" program.

Last is eating healthy.

For those who don't like, or can't attend, meetings, Weight Watchers also offers an online program called E-Tools. Members set it up as a home page where they can keep a journal of their food for the day or the numbers of steps they have taken, and the program will convert it to points. Recently, E-Tools has been offered to members for free in exchange for allowing Weight Watchers to make an electronic debit for memberships fees each month.

The whole program is so popular that its members were forced to move from their location in the Weyerhaeuser room of the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, which only accommodates 30 people, to the North Bend Community Church, which accommodates up to 100 people.

Julie Morrill is currently in the Weight Watchers program. She joined in February after being motivated by her cousin and sister-in-law who had started the previous month.

"I am really enjoying it," Morrill said. "The classes are great, they teach a lot of skills and give you just a lot of knowledge."

Morrill, like the other women in her family, had been heavy her whole life, she said. She'd checked out other diets, but knew if she was going to diet, it had to be something she could do for life.

"I was tired of how I felt about myself, tired of how I felt physically," said Morrill. "I was tired of aching all the time, not being able to go out and do things because your weight's an issue, stamina's an issue, energy's an issue."

Her sister-in-law told her about the program and the different plans, about not having to eliminate anything from her diet or take supplements. So she went to a meeting, joined the "Flex" program and started seeing results right away. She has learned how to eat healthy, balanced meals and has lost more than 26 pounds.

"It feels wonderful," Morrill said. "I've never gone down, I've always gone up. This is the first time I've ever lost weight." She doesn't feel deprived on the program, either. "I don't have to eliminate anything from my diet."

Her husband and kids are noticing and liking the difference. She's been able to do more activities with her family and her attitude has improved.

"I'm learning that I'm worth it, I'm worth taking care of myself," Morrill said. "I'm worth doing the exercises because I have value. Before, I never took care of myself because I didn't like who I was anyway."

Cindy Voss joined the program in 2001.

"I was tired of the way that I looked," Voss said.

Voss lost close to 50 pounds during the six months she was in the program, and has held it almost constantly since. She did gain some weight in January, but went back on the program and wrote down everything she ate, following the point plan until she got back to her goal weight.

"When you hit your goal weight, you end up with a key chain that has a key on it, and a star, so it's kind of one of those physical reminders, too, of what you've accomplished," said Voss. "It's a great program as long as you're willing. It's a change of lifestyle, not a diet. This is the way that I eat now."

Now she keeps track of her meals and points in her mind and goes back once a month to weigh in, part of the lifetime program that helps members stay at their goal weights with encouragement from other members.

Weight Watchers meets at the North Bend Community Church on Third and Ballarat in North Bend every Monday at 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

For more information about Weight Watchers, go to www.weightwatchers.com or call Elaine Webber at (425) 396-7089.

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