Today is part 2 in my 4-part Women’s Health & Wellness Series. This week I spoke with Louise Searles, my Weight Watcher Leader, fellow Weight Watcher member, and friend. Louise is an incredibly talented public speaker, Weight Watcher Leader and overall kind person. She has definitely made my re-entry into Weight Watchers a smoother experience. Read our interview below to find out how Louise practices self-care, maintains her weight loss, and inspires others in the process.
1. When did you become a weight watcher member and what drew you to the program?
I joined WW several times in the last 20 years. But my “last – first” time was October 2007. I had my 4th child at age 40 and moved across the US to Georgia all within a two year period. The stress and emotion of the changes left me feeling lonely, sad and depressed. The pantry became my friend. I would stand and stare at the pantry shelves and just snack on the various treats because I didn’t know what else to do. My son was going on 4 years old and playing with him became exhausting. When he wanted to play catch with a ball outside, I would take a chair and sit down to toss the ball, because I would be out of breath throwing the ball and picking it up. I was out of breath carrying him around. Playgrounds were difficult, feeling like the oldest mom around and so limited in my own skin. There are lots of programs out there. I knew Weight Watchers had helped me before and truly I just didn’t know what else to do. I tried several plans on my own – but I knew I needed help. And affordable help at that!
2. What has helped you get to goal weight and maintain your weight loss?
The WW meetings are what helped me get to goal weight. When I first returned I had zero confidence in myself that I could actually lose any significant amount of weight. I thought I’d just be lucky to get to the high end of my weight range and lucky if I could keep it there. After about 5 months, I reached the high end of my weight range and was so surprised that I was actually able to make the food changes, that I was scared to change anything and try to maintain. I thought if I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, maybe I’ll get lucky to keep it off. To my surprise I slowly but steadily kept decreasing a bit each month. It wasn’t a perfect loss every week, but I just didn’t want to stop going to meetings for fear I’d lose the progress I’d made.
The first 9 months, I lost 45lbs. About 5 yrs later, after another difficult year which caused a bit of weight gain, I got back in losing mode and lost a new total of 51 lbs. What helps me to maintain my weight loss is my view of this journey as an adventure! Somewhere along the way, the fear has left me. In it’s place has come a confidence that I can handle set backs. I’ve also learned to be aware of my body and my emotions daily. When am I aware of my emotions and how I react to them, I can quickly recognize the behavior of going to food and talk myself through it. Oh yes – even this weekend I had a “bread event”. It happened in direct response to a very stressful situation. My husband even offered to go get a bottle of wine and I said “No, I want to be OK without that”. Win!! Maintaining for me is about handling my emotions and staying focused and excited about the adventure.
3. What led you to become a Weight Watcher leader?
I never planned to be a Weight Watchers leader! I was the member who sat in the back row and never wanted to talk to anyone. Shortly after reaching my Lifetime goal in 2008, we need a bit of extra income. I looked and looked for something that would fit my schedule as a busy mom. One day while attending a Weight Watchers meeting (yes, as a Lifetime member!), I looked at a poster which had been there all along. “Become a Receptionist!” It was a sign (literally).
When I started working for Weight Watchers, I worked as a Receptionist for a year and half in Georgia and just loved it. I could talk with members, but didn’t have to stand in front of the room. And if you know me…. I love administrative roles! Organizing, bookeeping and setting up as a Receptionist was right up my alley. Once we moved back to San Ramon, Ca, and I felt settled, I decided to step out and apply for a Leader role. I trusted Weight Watchers completely as an employer, I knew they would provide the training and support I needed to step up in a new role. Indeed, Weight Watches employee support is amazing. I am so appreciative of our local management team as well as our corporate partners.
4. What are 3 key tools that keep you on plan?
1) Community – Meetings, WW friends and teammates. I am not alone. I am not the only one who has difficult weeks. We encourage each other and bolster each other up on a regular basis.
2) Program – the food plan along with tools and resources that support the program. It just works! Count your SmartPoints, stay within your Daily and Weekly SmartPoints budget. Trust the program.
3) Setting goals for myself – sometimes monthly goals, sometimes weekly goals just depending on how my emotions are at the time. New challenges help me stay motivated. My current goal is to increase my walking and jogging. I try to jog 2 miles without stopping, then walk 1-2 more miles after that, depending on time available. I’m shooting for 4-5 times a week. I get super excited when MapMyWalk sends me my weekly and monthly results. In September I walked 45.8 miles! (Gotta get that .8 in there)
5. What are the 3 most important things you want your members to take away from your meetings?
1) We’re here for you – no matter what. As a team, and for myself personally, we strive to make sure we have expert knowledge of all facets of our program. Food plan, fitness plan, importance of healthy mindset, and also all our resources including our digital tools. We’ll help with questions and motivation any time a member needs us.
2) One thing to hold on to each week – what is one thing he/she feels they can put into practice as they leave the meeting each week. This might be a strategy, a tip, a food find or a new way to use one of our digital tools like the WW Mobile app or WW Website.
3) A postive mindset – receiving motivation and inspiration from the meeting. Renewed hope or belief that he/she CAN make the changes to help them continue along their healthy journey. Thinking differently leads to feeling differently which leads to doing things differently.
6. What are a few of the most important lessons you’ve learned through weight watchers?
I’ve learned to trust the WW program. It really does work …… when you work the plan. Everything is based on science and the team who developes the program really do know what they’re doing. They also CARE deeply about us as members and are committed to getting it right.
I’ve learned to not quit. That’s huge! Before WW, I would start a weight loss plan at 9am and quit by noon. But WW has taught me to stick with it and keep trying.
I’ve learned that just simply going to a meeting and listening – will help me take one little nugget home to try on my own. It might be a food find, an encouragment to track again for a whole week, or even the encouragment to just walk 15 minute a day. But going to the meeting will always give me hope for the week.
There are so many things I’ve learned. But one last important thing is that I can be different. When I’ve changed behaviors and truly worked on them over and over – they’ve become habits – at which point, these new behaviors become the new normal. I CAN be different – I don’t have to accept myself going back to old, unhealthy choices. I can find that positive mindset – it’s in there!
7. How do you important is self care and how do you practice it in your every day life?
Self care comes in many different versions. It is vital to a long term success on this health journey. Self care can be how I view myself, how I talk to myself, how I talk to others, in addition to how I feed myself and move my body. When I value “me”, then I take care of “me”. Just like taking a medication according to the prescription. Self care is following a prescription for health – mental and physical.
Self Care for me comes in the form of being aware of my mindset. Am I worried, anxious? Then I sit down and think it through. When I feel overwhelmed, I send a up a little prayer! Quieting my soul somehow reveals what is truly important and what I can let go. Then I set a goal of just one of two things to accomplish or sometimes a plan for a low calorie snack will help me feel more in control of food choices.
8. Where can people connect with you online?
Facebook – WWLeader – LouiseS
Email – Louise.Searles@weightwatchers.com
WW members can find me on the WW social media platform – “Connect” by searching for “Louise S”.