5 things I’ve learned from a year of Weight Watchers

It’s been about a year since I started doing Weight Watchers.

For those who didn’t know: at this time, last year, I was overweight. It wasn’t by much, and people never believe me when I tell them this, but it’s the truth. I was eating poorly, exercising less, and really was just on a downward spiral that was only going to get worse.

When you keep a bag of chocolate chips in your car to absentmindedly snack on at stop lights, you know it’s bad.

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It was time to change.

So, for the last year, I’ve been using the Weight Watchers online tools to control how much I eat. Contrary to popular belief, Weight Watchers isn’t one of those weird “meals delivered to your door! Lose 5 pounds in a week!” sort of diet plan. It allows people to eat whatever they want, but has them keep track of it. Weight Watchers also encourages daily exercise, a healthy diet, and overall lifestyle changes.

Believe it or not, it’s actually worked for me. Over the last year, I’ve changed how I view food and exercise, and have really strived to improve my health. I’ve actually been able to shed a few pounds! Not without a few hiccups, though.

I’ve tried to face and resolve the problems I’ve ran into as best I can. Yet, a year later, it’s hard to not pound my head against a wall. Weight Watchers isn’t a gimmick. It’s a true lifestyle change. You’d think that, in the last year, it would have become easier, but it’s still a learning experience. Here’s some of the challenges I’ve faced:

5 Things I’ve Learned From Doing Weight Watchers

1. Delicious food will always be delicious. Sorry.

People claim that once you stop eating greasy food, or sugary food, or straight-up-artery clogging food, that you’ll eventually stop liking it. Suddenly the McDonald’s burger is too greasy and the Cheesecake Factory is too sweet.

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I think they’re all nuts. Cookies have always been and forever will be delicious, and it’ll always be a challenge for me to eat 1 at a time instead of 20. I guess I’ll just have to accept this, and use my willpower.

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2. Traveling makes staying healthy really, really hard.

Weight Watchers is all good and fun when you’re at home and can stock your own fridge and prepare your own meals. When you’re on the road, though, it’s a whole new ball game.

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Besides, food is an integral part of every culture. I’m not going to go to Vietnam and refuse to try the coconut-flavored ice cream, or decline my long-lost family’s home cooking.

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3. Self-motivation is also hard.

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I decided to do Weight Watchers for myself, and nobody else. As a result, I’m the only one who cares if I screw up.

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I’m the only one who holds myself accountable. In fact, most people don’t even know that I’m doing Weight Watchers. This makes it hard to stay on track.

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I avoid buying junk food, but sometimes, the junk comes to you. Even a year later, I find it difficult to resist.

4. Sometimes, good is never good enough.

Despite all the challenges, I really have lost a bit of weight using Weight Watchers. My family noticed it when I visited home for Lunar New Year’s last month.

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I was glad to hear that my efforts had bore visible fruit. However, the compliments were followed up with comments like these

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There really isn’t any winning this battle. Sometimes, good is never good enough…

5. …especially to me.

The one least satisfied with my progress is me. It’s been a year, yet I’m not even close to my target weight. I miss the times when I could eat without thinking about every bite I take. Sometimes, staying on track is just as difficult as it was on day 1.

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The more I try, the more discouraged I get. I know it’s silly, but how do models get as thin as they do?!

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Every writer and their mother has talked about the pressure to stay thin as a woman, especially for Asian women. I’ve come to realize– though I know people come in all shapes and sizes and can still be healthy– though I know models are always photoshopped and it’s all fantasy, all fake– I still hold myself, as I do for most things, to unrealistic standards.

It’s not as though the last year has been a total failure, though. I know I’ve improved. I’m healthier. Fitter. I’m training for a half-marathon, for goodness’ sakes. The difference is visible.

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I’m no longer waging the battle to be healthy. I’m going to run a half-marathon in May, so I figure that fight is well in my favor. Now I’m grappling with something much harder– the ability to like myself the way I am.

And that, my friends, is way more difficult.

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But, in spite of all this, it’s fine. Don’t give up!

That’s what I tell myself every day when I log into Weight Watchers and obsessively track my food. I’ve stuck with it this far. I have to keep going. Despite my long list of failures and defeats, I’ve had little victories as well. I view food differently now. I no longer compromise my health for school. I still have trouble refusing when someone offers me free cake, but sometimes– once in a while– I’m able to say no.

So… I guess I learned not 5, but 6 things.

6. It’s possible.

Even after a year, changing the way I eat is hard. I’ve fallen on and off the wagon so many times. But little by little, I’ve been getting better at this. Even if I haven’t reached where I want to be, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

Because I have accomplished something. It’s possible.

And knowing that– despite the difficulties– despite my seemingly insatiable appetite and absolute love of sweets–  it is possible for someone like me to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle. That’s what they are, steps. Nothing big. Nothing sweeping. But at least, a year later, I know it’s possible for me to get what I want.

I just have to keep trying, one day at a time.

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In which we sleep in huts in the middle of nowhere, with only the platypuses to keep us company.

While we were planning our trip to Australia, our Danish traveler had an idea.

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After being flat-out rejected, she came back with another idea.

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That’s how, several weeks later, we found ourselves driving to what seemed to be The Middle of Nowhere, Australia. This bush camp is located near Finch Hatton Gorge, a rainforested area by the coast of Queensland. After hours of driving past farmhouses, fields, and forest, we finally pulled into the camp.

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The camp owner, an eccentric old man named Wazza, waved his mid-day beer in greeting. He had totally forgotten that he had guests staying that day.

Here's a picture of Wazza taken by some other tourists.

Here’s a picture of Wazza taken by some other tourists. He looks a bit younger here than when we met him.

He led us down a narrow, forested pathway through the rainforest. My friends and I marveled at the place, apparently built entirely by Wazza himself. Interestingly enough, Wazza didn’t always live in the bush. According to him, he actually grew up near Sydney! But I guess that, at some point, he grew disenchanted with the city, preferring a simpler life closer to nature.

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The shower and toilet hut.

While the platypus bushcamp welcomes campers, my friends and I were there for something a little more high-class. Wazza, in addition to his house, a kitchen, and a bathroom with showers, built four small, open-air huts for guests to sleep in.

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The platypus bushcamp isn’t named that for nothing: platypuses really live at the camp. There’s a swimming hole in the camp…

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…where platypuses actually live.

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In fact, the whole area is known for being one of the only places platypuses reside. My friends and I took the chance to drive through Eungella National Park, where we tried to see if we could spot a platypus.

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We also took a quick walk through the forest to see the Araluen Cascades.

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We soon returned to the camp, hoping to avoid driving in the dark. Besides, we needed to cook dinner– there aren’t many restaurants in the middle of a national park, after all.

When we returned, though, we found out that we were no longer the only visitor.

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One of Wazza’s friends, a wildlife photographer, had decided to randomly drop by for the first time in four years. You wouldn’t have known it, though, as Wazza greeted him like family. The two had met when the photographer was taking photos by a stream near the camp. Wazza went down to berate him, thinking the photographer was a rogue fisherman. After clearing up the misunderstanding, the two became friends. The photographer frequently stayed at Wazza’s camp.

Something else is a good way to put it.

Something else is a good way to put it.

The sun began to set, so it was time to make dinner.

The majority of Wazza’s camp does not have electricity. The bathroom is dark, the huts are dark. Only Wazza’s house and the kitchen have lighting. Unfortunately, the kitchen lights were not working while we were there, so we wielded both frying pans and flashlights that night.

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Well, I guess we also had these old oil lanterns as well.

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But by some miracle, we managed to cook our meatballs and boil our spaghetti…

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…and even got to hear some of the photographer’s adventures.

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And then it was off to bed.

The platypus bushcamp is beautiful, without a doubt. There’s nothing quite like being in the middle of that rainforest, knowing that you’re surrounded by miles and miles of the wildest forest. Of course, this means that there’s the wildest of the wildlife as well.

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Despite what the brochures claim, there were creepy-crawlies around as well.

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It was alright, though. Our bedsheets, damp from the rainforest humidity, was protected by a mosquito net. And besides, we had Rocky the grumpy cockatoo…

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…and Wazza’s dog, “Dog”

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…to keep us safe.

The next morning, Wazza saw us off.

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I can’t be Wazza, I guess– once a city girl, always a city girl.

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Though I can appreciate a little nature once in a while.

Koalas eat their own poop and are riddled with chlamydia. Let’s give one a hug!

I only had two goals for our trip to Queensland, Australia. One was to go to the Great Barrier. The second was to hug a koala.

Despite being in Sydney for the last four months, I still had not hugged a koala. I had been able to pet one, sure. But I hadn’t yet been able to hold one in my arms, give it a squeeze, and pretend, for just a second, that it was my own.

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So my friends and I ensured that, during our trip down Queensland, that we would visit somewhere that would let us hold a koala. We found a place called the Billabong Sanctuary, which has this banner across the front of its homepage:

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Consider us sold.

The Billabong Sanctuary isn’t your typical zoo, though. Unlike Wild Life Sydney or Taronga Zoo, where animals are untouchable behind their glass enclosures, the Billabong Sanctuary encourages interaction between its visitors and animals. Which is why, at the front entrance, they sell these bags of seed.

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It seems like visitors of the Billabong Sanctuary have been feeding the animals for years. The ducks knew exactly what to do as soon as we stepped into the park.

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We were immediately swarmed by hordes of wild whistling ducks, all quacking and hooting and fighting each other for food. While it was fun feeding them at first…

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…they continued to follow us and fight each other as we walked around the park.

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Those ducks weren’t the only fans of bird feed, either. Wallabies approached us, hoping to get in on the action.

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Kangaroos joined us too!

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The crazy part is, a lot of the animals that live at the Billabong Sanctuary are wild. The park had humble beginnings: A Sydney schoolteacher, ready for a change in his life, moved to Queensland and spent two years building an artificial lagoon. Locals offered up native animals to add to the park. Today, the Billabong Sanctuary does host rarer animals like wombats and colorful cockatoos– but those ducks? The geese that later flew in to fight with the ducks? The tons of turtles, swimming in the ponds? They’re all native to the area and moved into the park on their own. The Billabong Sanctuary is a pretty ideal place to live, so why not?

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In order to deepen the understanding between humans and animals, the sanctuary runs talks every day. They’re interactive! That morning, for example, we were introduced to Hope, a baby cassowary that lives at the park.

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Not only were we able to feed her…

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…we were allowed to feed the larger and slightly scarier adult cassowary as well.

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One of the park rangers took a wombat out of his enclosure and gave a a talk about wombats in Australia. She didn’t even flinch when the wombat proceeded to pee on her boot for a minute straight.

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I still couldn’t resist petting this fat fella, though.

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For $99, you can even feed one of the gigantic crocodiles that live at the park. My friends and I decided to skip this, though, content to watch the park rangers do it instead.

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This was crazy!

And then, finally…

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The koalas!

While admission to the park allows you to view and pet the koalas, to hold them costs a little extra. My friends and I had traveled all this way, so we coughed up the extra $16. This included a professional photo and a print, so I suppose the price could be worse.

We were led to the side of one of the lagoons (gotta have that scenic background, after all) where the ranger took our photos one by one. My friends went first, gingerly clutching the koala and smiling for the camera. And then, my turn came!

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The ranger carefully placed the koala in my arms.

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And fixed my unruly hair for the photo.

Then, finally, I got to hold a koala!

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It was the crowning moment of the entire day.

In which I find Nemo.

As I mentioned before, I got my open water diving license following a weekend of trials and tribulations. After so much effort, I had to put my license to good use.

And what better place to use it than the Great Barrier Reef?

Right after finals, my friends and I took a one-way flight out of Sydney. Destination: Cairns, a city built around tourism of the reef. From there, we were going to live on a boat for three days. The plan? Eat, sleep, dive.

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At least, I hoped so. I was actually rather nervous about our trip. I wasn’t exactly the best diver, as I proved when I got my certification. We would also be completing 11 dives in 3 days– which, to someone who’s only done 4 dives ever– is quite a lot.

But I wasn’t going to back out now. I could go diving at the Great Barrier Reef! People dream of doing that. Even before I arrived in Australia, I had sworn to make it to the reef before I had to return to the States. I had worked in a marine bio lab all semester, for cryin’ out loud.

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The day after we arrived in Cairns, my friends and I woke up bright and early to start our journey. Our dive company conveniently picked us up from our hostel and drove us to the boat we’d be living on for the next three days.

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They fed us breakfast…

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Showed us to our cabins…

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…and took off for the reef.

There was no time to waste. We were scheduled to complete four dives that first day, and the reef was still three hours away. As soon as we got to the dive site, then, one of the divemasters gave us a briefing.


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Well, it wasn’t as though I’d be going alone. As a general rule, you always dive with a buddy. My certification allows me to dive without a guide, so technically I didn’t need one.

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My diving buddy was one of my friends, though, and I sure wasn’t going to bail on her. No, it was time to gear up.

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My friend and I entered the water.

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Down we went.

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It was like swimming in an aquarium. Except, the aquarium was a scene out of Finding Nemo.


Or maybe it was a scene from a dream. How could this place be real?


I had been so nervous at the beginning of our trip. But by our third dive that day, I felt totally comfortable in the water.

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Until our fourth dive, that is.

Our fourth dive was a night dive. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you go diving at night. Remember, though, that there are no streetlamps in the middle of the ocean. You dive in pitch darkness with only you, your buddy, and your flashlight.

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Our divemaster tried to reassure us. Apparently, the “freaks and geeks” of the ocean come out at night, creatures like crustaceans and mollusks. I wasn’t convinced, but I wasn’t backing down either. My dive buddy and I descended into the sea.

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Illuminated in the beam of my flashlight was stuff I’d never see during the day. Tiny, transparent shrimp got in my face, fixated on the light. My buddy and I watched a flatworm hover gracefully in the water. I accidentally got a fish killed.

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The circle of life, huh?

After that, there was no stopping any of us. We were even unfazed when my dive buddy got attacked by a fish.

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It was really, really cool. Whatever fear I had of scuba diving before was now gone. If I could scuba dive in total darkness, I could totally survive the rest of this trip!

Well, I more than survived it. Our boat changed locations between dives, so I was constantly amazed by the variety of seascapes.

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Between dives, we would chill on the boat.

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And discuss the creatures we had spotted on our dives.

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It’s true! Real clownfish live in the Great Barrier Reef. My Nikon isn’t built for water, but luckily, my friend has a camera that is. (And has kindly provided me with most of the photos in this post.)


Though underwater photography can be difficult– the lighting isn’t great when you’re 18 meters underwater– my friend still managed to take some amazing photos. Even those don’t do the reef justice, though.


A cuttlefish! It got annoyed by all the divers gathering around it.

A cuttlefish! It got annoyed by all the divers gathering around it.


A giant clam! I ain’t sticking my hand in there.

My friend got mad close to this turtle!

My friend got mad close to this turtle!



Definitely not.

Even without the photos, I don’t think I’ll forget how the Great Barrier looks for a long, long time.