Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bits and Morsels watches its weight

View from the table at Suicide Bridge.

With warmer weather around the corner (I hope), now more than ever is the time to get in shape. One way to get a head start is to check out a Weight Watchers meeting. Weight Watchers International was started in the 1960s and has been growing in popularity ever since. I have friends of all ages who go to the meetings and swear by the program.

It’s a sensible approach; and if you stick with it you will get lasting results. Recently I had a lite lunch at Tabla with David Kirchhoff, President and CEO of Weight Watchers. I’m a huge fan of David’s blog,, and so that is how this lunch meeting came about. His passion is contagious; he has inspired thousands to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. He knows how difficult in can be to stay on track and get the desired results, as he has been a member since 2000.

How long have you been at Weight Watchers?

About ten years. I have been CEO for over 3 years.

Are you happy? Do you love your job?

Here is the story of me and Weight Watchers. In 1998 I was working for Pepsico. Most of my time was working in the corporate group with Tropicana orange juice. Part of my job was that I would travel. I would be living on airplanes and in hotels. I really wasn’t exercising on a meaningful or a regular basis. I was kind of a typical man in his 30s, which is at one point in my life I had a recollection of being thin. It wasn’t like all of a sudden I had a weight issue. It was more like 4 or so pounds each year.

David Kirchoff showing us the iPhone Weight Watchers app.
Sometimes I would have a good year and I would lose weight, but I was not really conscious or aware of it. I kind of ballooned and because I’m tall I could disguise it, but not really. Then I had a physical and my doctor said my blood pressure and cholesterol were way to high, and that I should think about going on Lipitor or a statin.

I couldn’t believe I was 33 years old and I had gotten to this place. I literally was exercising sporadically and eating what I wanted. I did what I consider “stupid man eating.” I would order Kung Pow Chicken and I would think there is chicken in it so it must be healthy. Or I would eat lots of granola not considering the fact that it’s one of the most caloric breakfast foods. A lot of people don’t know that about granola. I was just eating a lot and not paying attention.

So I had an opportunity to join Weight Watchers in 2000. They wanted to start an internet business as a stand-alone company. I was part of the team that was recruited to get Weight Watchers going on the internet. To me it was an interesting business opportunity and topic area. I thought that as a perk I would lose some weight and deal with the thing that had been nagging me. So I started going to Weight Watchers meetings. I kind of viewed it as a focus group, but then I became a member. I still remember the first time I was in a meeting and I heard a woman talk about how she lost 100lbs and I almost fell of my chair. I remember thinking that if I had 100 pounds to lose I would throw in the in the towel and go the other way. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Now here were these people who had lost it. I was blown away by this woman who had stayed committed and lost it over a year by just sticking with the program. This was the point when I realized Weight Watchers wasn’t a typical company and what they were doing was pretty special. And important.

It obviously works — having been around for over 40 years.

From Weight Watchers I got an education. I learned about making better food choices and portion sizes. I thought I knew things but I was wrong so many times. I’m still wrong sometimes when I think something is healthy in a restaurant and then I realize it’s not. It could be a fish entrée that’s 22 points. Dining out is tough. The problem is that chefs want to make things taste good so they cook with a lot of butter and oil. You think you are getting something with x amount of calories but it’s really much more because of all the sauces and oil.

Where you the only man in the meeting?

There were a few. Actually, my first leader was a guy. I tell people all the time especially as one of the creators of Weight Watchers online, which I am extremely proud of. I could not have lost my weight if I wasn’t being weighed in and going to meetings each week. Different people are wired in different ways and I needed that accountability. Now they are always super nice, but it is hard to be weighed by another person watching them write your weight down. The biggest reason I believe in Weight Watchers is for what it did for me. Having reflected on how it worked on me and seeing it work personally for so many other people, I see the same story over and over. It’s all about accountability, support, healthy habits, behavior and lifestyle. It’s the right way for people to change.

Spiced popcorn
Citrus and heart of palm salad.
Salmon ceviche.
Rice flakes halibut.
Who's your biggest competition?

Our biggest competition are people trying to do it on their own. Weight is a challenging issue. To make an obvious point: it’s a personal and emotional issue. I mean, it was for me too. Guys tend to hide it better, but men who are overweight don’t feel great about it either. It’s tough because people feel like it’s my fault that I’m heavy ... and if I were stronger or more disciplined I would not have a weight issue. People tend to be too hard on themselves and unreasonable. As a result of that they feel like they should be able to do it on their own.

It turns into this thing where you start being healthy on Monday and quit by Thursday. The way I characterize dealing with a weight issue is by adapting a healthier lifestyle. It’s not about dieting or being skinny. The trick to establishing a healthier life is by picking up healthy habits, which become like second nature. If you stick with it and don’t think of it as a diet you absolutely can do it. Once you start exercising you will start to crave exercise and things will start to happen. I just passed my year mark of being a lifetime member of Weight Watchers ... and I don’t feel deprived.

Are you a live-to-eat or eat-to-live kind of guy?

I love to eat and have good food. I like trying new restaurants and new cuisines. That said, part of my trick is I eat the same breakfast every day. To me it’s just easier. I don’t have to think about it and I know what’s in it. I don’t need to have my gourmet experience at 7 am. I usually am running around during the days and so I try to get the same thing for lunch, usually something from The Pump. I’m careful but not afraid to mix it up at dinner because I’m consistent during the day.

What food is a treat for you?

If I’m out at a restaurant at night I will get dessert but if I get it I will share it. I love ice cream and it’s hard to resist. I will indulge once in a while but usually I’m careful. That said I still graze at night after dinner. I’m trying to stop that because I’m not really hungry. I love nuts and cheese.

How did your blog come about?

A few reasons. The process about thinking about healthy living and healthy choices for guys who haven’t always been healthy. There may be a hesitance for men to talk about it. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to share my own experience in hopes that other men will connect with it and do the same thing. I also find the topic of weight and health to be fascinating. Interestingly enough, blogging has given me an opportunity to dive deep and really explore it.

How is Weight Watchers doing?

We are doing ok. One of the reasons we do well in good times and bad is that the people who know us keep going, because they know it works. Compared to other weight management programs we are reasonable. With Weight Watchers you are buying real food in a grocery store, not special food. Unlimited access to everything from meetings to website access to the iphone app works out to $9.22 a week.

Do you ever think about doing a program where you provide the food?

We shy away from that because if we give you the food what do you learn? At the end of two months you may have lost the weight but then you go back to your normal food. You can go to the grocery store and get Weight Watchers Smart Ones. If you don’t have time to cook, the grocery store has all your answers.

As CEO of a company what advice do you have for someone who wants have a career like yours?

It can’t be overstated how important it is to do something that you believe in and something that matters to you.

For more information about Weight Watchers go to
The view from our table at Suicide Bridge Restaurant in Maryland.
Happy Passover and Easter! I’m writing to you from Cambridge, Maryland where I am getting some R&R. One of the local favorites here is The Suicide Bridge Restaurant, which serves local fish and seafood all accompanied by a beautiful waterfront view along the Choptank River. The name is an unlikely one, but the food is delicious and the restaurant, charming. Rockfish is their specialty. If you don’t like fish, they serve a version of Duck Chesapeake which everyone raves about. I will let the photos do the talking, but if you find yourself in the area, you know where to go for dinner.

Suicide Bridge Restaurant
304 Suicide Bridge Rd
Hurlock, Maryland

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

Suicide Bridge, outside and in.
Mashed sweet potatoes.
Pickled beets.
I love a good baked potato.
Flounder sandwich.
Fresh local Rockfish with lemon butter sauce on the side.
Duck Chesapeake with pears.
Fresh local oysters to take home.

Comments? Contact Jordana here
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