Photo Credit: Courtesy of Weight Watchers
New Mom Jessica Simpson officially debuted her slimmer physique last week on Katie Couric’s new talk show Katie, crediting much of her successful weight loss to Weight Watchers. iVillage spoke with Liz Josefsberg, Simpson’s Weight Watchers group leader, to find out how the star is losing the baby weight, one step at a time.
How long has Jessica been on Weight Watchers?
She’s been on the plan since the beginning of the summer.
Does she attend Weight Watchers meetings once a week?
She does. She is there every week. The meetings are a nice piece of the puzzle, getting the support. People don’t think of Weight Watchers as what it is. They think it’s just about frozen food. The meetings are where you get an education about real food; it’s so sensible and enjoyable, and they are so much fun. Her [Jessica’s] meeting is just like all the other meetings -- a bunch of people navigating different challenges.
She has talked about having support from people close to her on this team. Who else is on her Weight Watchers team and how has this motivated her?
Her team consists of a bunch of people that are close to her: friends, family members, people she has known since her teens, her assistant, her mom, people she works with on her clothing line. She has a lot of support from all angles. When you have everyone around you, people important to you, supporting you and doing the same thing you are doing, it changes your approach to so many things. Now they have fruit on the table [during meetings] instead of chocolate and chips, and they don’t go to crazy restaurants. Instead, they bring their own lunches when they travel.
Jessica just came to New York for some media appearances and we talked about it in our [weekly] meeting -- how she would manage all of the food situations. We all helped her troubleshoot, and she determined she would bring her favorite wrap on the airplane so she didn’t have to deal with temptation. She did a great job with determining how to change her routine in the old places that used to get her into trouble.
What are some of the biggest weight loss challenges Jessica and her team discuss at the meetings and how do they overcome them?
She’s had the same challenges as all of the members. You could walk into Jessica Simpson’s meeting, or a general meeting, and the challenges are always [the same]: Developing healthy habits around food (a challenging experience if you have bad habits), overcoming dining out, feeding your family when you want to make sure you are eating healthy, traveling, late night eating, stress eating, emotional eating, social events. All the things that are challenging for any member are her challenges, too.
What are some of Jessica’s favorite healthy food swaps? Can you tell us how she forgoes the comfort food craving with something healthier? We’ve heard she is a big fan of Mexican food.
We did a lot of swapping when it came to Mexican food! She is now making turkey tacos that she loves, using ground turkey instead of ground beef to cut down on fat. She uses Greek yogurt as sour cream, and corn tortillas instead of hard tortillas -- all of these swaps make a huge difference when it comes to points. We talked about how to order at a Tex-Mex restaurants: instead of ordering a high-calorie, high-fat burrito or Chimichanga, for example, she orders shrimp fajitas, which makes a huge difference in the long run. It’s all about choosing this, not that -- you still get to eat what you want, but [a better choice] makes so much less of an impact.
And, if she really wants something, she can have it. The other night she ordered pizza and was able to eat it [without going off the plan]. She is learning how to eat the right portion and adjust for it. In Weight Watchers you get an extra allowance of points to use for things you love, so after the night she had three pieces of pizza she went on an extra walk and didn’t use extra points for the rest of the week, instead of saying, “Oh no, I messed up,” and throwing in the towel. That is the beauty of Weight Watchers -- there are so many fail-safes. If you do make a mistake, you can right your way in the course of a week. It’s not about being perfect, but learning to course correct instead of giving up.
If you drop one egg from the carton, why would you decide to drop the rest of the carton? At Weight Watchers, we say, if you drop an egg, you clean it up and move on. It’s very positive and forgiving. That’s one of the things Jessica has said about the program that she likes, that it’s not intimidating. You don’t have to be perfect.
Try some of Jessica's other favorite recipes:
Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli
Beef and Bean Chili
Chilled Thai Noodle and Shrimp Salad with Peanut Dressing
Baked Sweet Potato Chips
Frozen Chocolate Mint Dessert
How does Jessica manage to stay on the program while traveling? Does she use the Weight Watchers app to track her points?
She uses the Weight Watchers app to track everything on her iPhone while she travels and every day [even at home]. She also has the Weight Watchers barcode scanner app, so she can scan any barcode of any product [to find out its points value] so it’s easy while on the go. The apps are included in the price of the Weight Watchers membership.
The apps are also great for ordering at restaurants. You can pop open the app, compare lasagna with chicken parmesan and find out which is the better choice. It gives you the power to decide up front before ordering and keeps you from feeling bad about making the wrong choices.
We also have something called ‘cheat sheets’ where you can search the entire database of the foods. If you are at an Italian restaurant, for example, it shows you a bowl of pasta and then you can drag on the exact sauce you want and it shows you the points. Maybe you want the marinara sauce or to add shrimp or beef, etcetera. You can drag and drop all the ingredients to figure out what the best choice would be to order before you get to the restaurant or right at the table.
What have been the biggest changes to Jessica’s eating/drinking habits since she started Weight Watchers?
She now eats so many more fruits and vegetables, drinks tons of water, and of course, exercises. People tend to bite off more than they can chew, especially with exercise. Jessica started out with just 850 steps a day, she could have walked more, but she just wasn’t at the time. Little by little, she built up to 10,000 steps a day, and then 12,000, and now she is up to 14,000 steps a day! She started at just 850 and we didn’t go up to 10,000 in one week. It took several weeks. It’s fun to be able to look back at where you’ve come from. It helps to build confidence; it makes you realize, I can do this. Anyone can walk -- get a pedometer and take the kids out for a walk in a stroller. It makes all the difference. You don’t have to go to the gym and workout really hard for hours at a time.
We heard she likes walking so much she even bought her entire group pedometers. Can you tell us about that moment?
It was like Christmas! She gave her whole group, including me, a pedometer. There is a little bit of healthy competition in Jessica’s group, they text each other all day, back and forth for support. They don’t just talk at the meetings, but all week long. Jessica is definitely the leader. She is always…sending out inspirational messages to the group. She is the one with the positive outlook and a great sense of humor.
We know Jessica is nursing Maxwell so she has to be sure she consumes enough calories to do this successfully. How is she balancing that with being on Weight Watchers and tracking her points?
Weight Watchers has a specific ‘nursing Moms’ program, so we take that into consideration. You get more points every day to make sure you get enough calories, and it varies according to how much you are breastfeeding. People don’t realize they can start losing weight safely while breastfeeding. Weight Watchers has done the research behind it. And, as you drop feedings, your points come down until you get to your target.
Has she had any weight loss plateaus yet and if so, how does she deal with them?
She has been a steady loser -- she has lost weight every single week. She is an outstanding student and follows the program like a dream. She is a great rule follower -- she calls herself the teacher’s pet, and she really is! It’s a dream to work with her. If you really follow the tenants of the program, it really works.
Does Jessica talk about emotional eating in meetings? Does she have any trigger foods and how do you all strategize to deal with those challenges?
She was having more trouble with the hormones of breastfeeding and craving sugar in a way she never had before. So we talk about it. Emotional eating can encompass everything from happiness to stress and anxiety. Eating in the wrong situation, putting food in where it doesn’t need to exist or [getting] the release from stress through food is emotional eating. For Jessica, she discovered that exercise and walking [in particular] make her feel good and relieve stress. If she is having a stressful day, or feels like she is going to eat when it’s not the answer, she goes for a walk instead as a technique to manage emotional eating.
Once Jessica hits her goal, what is the strategy for maintaining her goal weight?
The strategy is maintenance from day one. The only things that will change [for Jessica] once she hits her goal is that she gets to add six points a day to use. The whole idea behind Weight Watchers is that from day one we are teaching you how to navigate food, so once you get to maintenance, there is no change. You get a little more food each day to stop weight loss, but you are going to continue to do the things that got you the success along the way. You’ll continue tracking your food, looking up food, planning, exercising, going to meetings -- we have made them second nature with behavior modification. It’s not a stretch, you know how to have pizza, birthday cake and wine -- you have been eating it all the way through. You learn to have half of a piece of cake, once a week, not every day.
We support [you] through the maintenance phase, and once that is over you become a lifetime member who will attend for free the rest of your life as long as you stay within two pounds -- up or down -- of your weight goal. You can come to meetings every week, weigh in every week, have the support for free for the rest of your life.
Any other words of advice for new moms or anyone else who may want to start losing weight and getting into shape?
We’re heading into such a great time of year -- fall is a great time to reassess your routine, especially for moms who are getting their kids back to school. Summer is the hardest -- vacations, different work hours, the kids are out of school, barbecues, holidays -- lots of things to throw off your healthy routine. Fall is the time where you can re-establish (or begin to establish) new and healthy routines.
My advice would be don’t overwhelm yourself. What if you just reassess your breakfast this week? And next week, work on bringing lunch to work. The week after that, start to exercise. Just layer it on week, after week. And start off with one day of walking, not seven!
No one ever regrets starting slowly and building up. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and the tendency is to start too hard, too strict. But if you start slowly and gradually build momentum, before you know it, it’s all happening.