718 Thompson Lane
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.;
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
When I was 12 years old, my motherstanding in the kitchen with an open container of Light N' Lively cottage cheese in her handpointed her fork at me and delivered this dire warning: "You will be on a diet the rest of your life!"
Truer words were never spoken. Almost since that very moment, I have indeed been on a diet of one kind or anothersome drastic, some dangerous, some just plain silly, some tested and proven by health professionals.
There was the grapefruit diet, the hard-boiled egg diet, the hot dog diet, the Tab and cracker diet, all of which I found in the teenage girl magazines that told us how to eat, dress, make-up, style, talk, walk, think and actwith the lofty goal of attracting teenage boys, who barely had to brush their teeth to attract teenage girls.
When I was a majorette in junior high school, we were assigned an ideal weight at the beginning of the twirling season, one that we were stuck with for the next eight months if we had any hope of squeezing into our skimpy, form-fitting uniforms. Every Friday morning was weigh-in; if we were more than three pounds over our weight, we were not allowed to twirl at the game the next day. That's one surefire way to imprint unhealthy eating habits and body-image anxiety on the impressionable minds of insecure young women. En masse, we starved ourselves Monday though Friday, eating 10 raisins, a pack of Melba toast, and a glass of water for lunch in the cafeteria; once the game was over on Saturday afternoon, we raced to the Charcoal Pit to gorge ourselves on burgers, fries and shakes. Sunday allowed another day of binging. It wasn't surprising that I dabbled in anorexia throughout my high school years.
Speaking of stupid and dangerous, there was also the amphetamine and coffee diet, and the smoking diet:Whenever I got hungry I reached for a cigarette instead of a chip. You can imagine the weight gain that resulted when I quitwhich led to the Slim-Fast/Lean Cuisine Diet.
I had my two children in my 30s, within 17 months of one another; I hadn't lost all my weight from my first baby when I was pregnant with the second. Six months after his birth, I was still toting around about 15 pounds of postpartum pudge.
So I asked a friend who had recently shed more than 20 pounds to share the secret to her success. "Weight Watchers," she whispered.
Ack! Weight Watchers! I shuddered to think. Group meetings. Public weigh-ins. Rigid eating plans. No way. You are not the boss of me!
But as weeks went by and I found that at my age the old fall-backs (skipping the amphetamines and cigarettes) were no longer workingpesky metabolism changesI decided Weight Watchers was worth a look-see.
Bless Rosemarie Kalil's pepped-up little heart; the woman is absolutely irresistible and irrepressible in her support of WW members. Through the more than 45 years she has helmed Weight Watchers of East and Middle Tennessee, she has likely been responsible for millions of pounds of weight loss; I am proud to say that 15 of those were mine.
Way back when I was doing Weight Watchersthanks to Rosemarie, the meetings were actually fun, and the weigh-ins were conducted privatelythe system of eating was based on exchanges. Members were allowed so many exchanges of protein, milk, bread, vegetable, fruit and fat, and a certain number of optional calories per day. Handbooks listed exchange points for just about anything anyone would ever put in their mouth; there were also suggested daily menu plans and recipes, very helpful to beginners.
Some years ago, Weight Watchers updated their program to a point systemyou are allowed so many points a day according to what you weighand members say it is much easier. One thing that has always been a challenge for Weight Watcher membersand dieters in generalis staying on the diet when eating out, particularly considering the stealth fats and enormous portion sizes common to American restaurants.
Who would have thought that Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar would come riding to the rescue of committed dieters? Not me. Applebee's is one of those restaurant chains I neither understand nor frequent. Unless I am dining professionally, if there is a menu composed of dishes I can make myselfand thus carefully monitor ingredients and portion sizesthen I prefer to make it in my own kitchen. I leave the Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Turkish cooking to the professionals, but grilled chicken sandwiches? I can do that.
Obviously, I am in the minority; many people are eating in the 1,600 Applebee's stores in 49 states and nine countries, making it the world's largest casual restaurant concept. And now, Weight Watchers members can join the club, without having to worry about not making their weight for the week. With the introduction of the 10-item Weight Watchers menu, Applebee's does it your way.
The Applebee's WW selectionsoccupying one panel on the incredibly extensive menuinclude two appetizers, six entrées and two desserts, and range in price from $3.99 to $9.99. Each item description features a point value, as well as a calorie, fat and fiber breakdown.
I invited four friendsnone currently overweight but all of whom have been dietersto test the concept with me. Several had never been in an Applebee's before, but we all agreed that the Thompson Lane locationone of eight in or near Davidson Countywas pleasant and comfortable. We were quickly seated at the start of a busy lunch crowd, and drink orders were taken immediately.
We decided to share the Tortilla Chicken Melta whole-wheat quesadilla filled with chipotle roasted chicken, reduced-fat cheeses and veggies topped with a nonfat cilantro ranch dressing and a side of salsaas an appetizer. (At 10 points, that would be 2 points per person.)
We chose the following entrées: Grilled Citrus Chicken Salad (5 points); Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa (7 points); Teriyaki Shrimp Skewers (5 points); Baja Chicken Roll-Up (10 points); and Mesquite Chicken Salad (4 points). Onion soup au gratin (3 points) is the other app available, Sizzling Chicken Skillet (7 points) the other entrée.
The friendly waitress who took our order was visibly curious, and asked, "Is this a Weight Watchers club?" The look on our faces must have translated to: "Do we look fat?" Whoops. "If you are," she continued, "I figured you must be celebrating losing all your weight." Wow. Nice recovery.
The food exceeded our expectations. All of the greens and most of the veggies were notably fresh. Every dish had some tasty top note to make up for the absence of fat, either spicy (chipotle peppers, tomato salsa and, especially, the excellent mango salsa on the tilapia and grilled citrus chicken salad), or fruity (citrus vinaigrette dressing, fresh orange slices, fat strawberries, and grilled, halved lemons on every plate for that low-calorie squirt of flavor serious dieters rely on).
Portion sizeslarge bowls of greens for the salads, and rice pilaf and steamed veggies sided with the fish and shrimpwere certainly enough to fill you up, but left enough stomach space to share a dessert. We liked the creamy scoop of berry lemon cheesecake (5 points) much better than the artificial-tasting chocolate raspberry layer cake (4 points).
By my calculation, my total point consumption for my mealI had the shrimpwas 8 points, well within the 20 daily points allowed one member of our party who had experience with the new system. As in any diet, one has to be conscientious about ordering; personally, I would forego the tortilla chicken melt and Baja chicken roll-up because the 10 points wouldn't be worth it to me. But a 250-pound man allowed more than 20 points a day needn't be as cautious.
When I called the Weight Watchers East and Middle Tennessee headquarters to make sure the Divine Miz Kalil was still in residence, the woman who answered the phone told me the staff regularly orders from Applebee's Weight Watchers menu. Interestingly, the Thompson Lane Applebee's is nearly within spitting distance of the Weight Watchers office, which not only makes it easy for WW members to dine out safely before or after weekly meetings, but might entice a nonmember with some excess baggage to slip down the road and check it out. I'll warn you, though: Once Rosemarie Kalil pulls you in, she won't let you go. And she won't let you down. Try it. The only thing you have to lose are those extra 10or 100pounds that are weighing you down