03/22/2012 11:43 am ET Updated May 22, 2012

I Join Weight Watchers, Again: Entry 1

My first Weight Watchers leader, back in the late 1980s (I was the only high school student there) was named Candy. She had "before" and "after" pictures.

"Before" WW, she was immense. "After" WW, she was deflated with the round face of a person waiting to be filled.

I thought she looked pretty before, what did I know? She looked at the "before" picture and shook her head, disgusted. Then, she'd turn toward us and beam. We could be thin and happier than ever before, if we followed the WW eating plan. She was!

So, I got very hungry and lost a bunch of weight. I was starving all the time. Stomach growling-hungry and cranky and when I lost weight, everyone was sooooo congratulatory. But I was, did I mention, HUNGRY.  I kept that weight off. Higher metabolism, an awareness of the fat content in cheese... I attributed my victory to both.

I joined WW again after my babies were born. Lost weight, quit WW. Gained weight back.

And last week I re-upped.

In the past five years I've relied on life crises for my thin spells. Those times when food is forgotten, and people tell you how great you look but you can't even think straight? But now, no crisis and a year into a belly that's not budging, I'm back at WW and ready to rid myself of the dangerous health risk resting round my middle.

Dr. Rose pointed out that women of a certain age must lose weight, not for their jeans, but their health. That resonated with me differently than Candy's promise from all those years ago.

At WW last week, I stood at the scales, surrounded by other women. While we waited to be weighed in, we shed sweaters, socks, coats, jewelry, wedding rings and hats. I looked down at the flickering number and winced. I was there for my health (and a bit for my vanity). In the past, vanity led the way and health was a footnote. But I've matured, thanks to Dr. Rose.

The meeting leader was an older woman. In 1970 she lost 90 pounds and she has kept herself slim ever since. She had rounded shoulders on such a frail frame, she looked as though she might fold.

Posters decorated the room with Weight Watcher's success stories printed beneath one curvy, smiling person after another. They looked happy and they didn't look hungry. That day, our meeting leader told us, we would be learning about portion control. No mention of the elephant (so to speak) in the room: We are food addicts! We are not people who merely need to learn portion control.

She told a room full of addicts that if they looked at the palm of their hand, they'd have a three-ounce serving of salmon. Food addicts and three ounces of salmon? That's not what we overdo. I didn't say anything, but we were not a roomful of women overeating protein... There was no talk of the scone or the milkshake or the beer or the wine and how those tasty delights derail  the weight watcher's mission.

Our leader told us we could eat all the power foods we wanted: vegetables and fruits. The addicts in the room did not seem as happy about that as, I'm guessing here, a room full of vegans or organic farmers would. But, we made notes and were told where, in the grocery stores, we could find green and red and orange things we could eat with abandon.

Weight Watchers has changed. They have sprinkled in a bit of self-awareness. For instance, what are you thinking when you reach for cookies instead of celery? And they have made power foods free. As in, not part of the caloric count for the day. How a banana was deemed a power food without causing a caloric blow to one's food diary was debated heavily.  Also, as a group, we spent a good deal of time trying to classify chocolate as a "power food."

My new leader did not have a "before" and "after" picture like Candy once had. She did have a smoker's cough and her nails were painted the color of a can of TAB. Her cabled sweater was a size too big and draped over her pressed gray slacks. I liked her.

"What about cookies?" asked a woman in the back of the room, wearing sunglasses and red lipstick. "How many of those can we eat?"

While I tried to decide whether sunglasses-lipstick woman was in the witness protection program, the meeting leader told us that the beauty of the Weight Watchers program was living normally. But to do so, portion control was a must.

"Okay. So I can have the whole box divided over two days?" Sunglasses wanted to know.

Then our group of round-hipped women, with generous laughs, loose pants, long shirts and big breasts, cracked up. The meeting leader rolled her eyes.

Addicts? Whatcha gonna do with 'em?

For more by Miriam Novogrodsky, click here.

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