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The National Weight Control Registry is giving me SAT flashbacks

I thought I’d penciled in the bubbles on my last test form when I graduated from college, but I found myself hunting for a number two pencil yesterday so I could fill out my 1-year follow-up questionnaire for the National Weight Control Registry. The goal of the registry is “to identify and investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss.” I think their secondary goal is to help subsidize the pencil-makers of America, because I perfected the art of coloring in an oval during the hour I spent hunched over the 23-page survey and the accompanying 8-page food questionnaire.

After a point, I wasn’t sure if I was answering the questions correctly, which is strange since there aren’t any wrong answers. But when I’m asked how often in the past month I’ve felt confident about my ability to handle my personal problems, I’m not really sure what number to mark on the scale of 1 to 5. And when I’m asked a zillion of those types of questions in a row, I don’t know how close to the truth my self-reporting actually is.

Those questions were on the follow-up questionnaire, but there is also a food questionnaire which is the dietary equivalent of making line item deductions on your taxes for every item you’ve eaten this year. There were about a hundred questions asking if I’d eaten specific foods any time in the past year and if so how frequently and how much in a serving? It got confusing. Had I had any hamburger buns in the last year? There might have been one time. And what do I put down for peaches? I eat them a lot when they’re in season, maybe 4 or 5 times a week. But I haven’t had any in the last month or two because they’re not available. Do I average it out? Do I put down the amount I eat at the peak season? As I kept plowing through pages I started hoping I’d run into foods I hadn’t eaten so I could just skip the questions. Unfortunately I eat just about everything, except for Chinese cabbage and tempeh. (What is tempeh, anyway?)

Which is why I put off doing these surveys for a month. After which time they sent me a follow-up packet with a new cover letter which included an underlined sentence saying, “Even if you have gained weight in the past year, we consider you an invaluable member of our registry and are very interested in hearing from you.” No, I haven’t gained weight NWCR, I’m just lazy. All that pencil scribbling burns lots of calories and I needed to carbo-load between pages.

These questionnaires are a pain in the ass to fill out, but I joined up with the NWCR because I think the work they do is important. If they can learn something from my success, than it’s worth an hour of my time and all the graphite I can buy. But whenever you see an article in The Washington Post or USA Today citing statistics from the registry, please think of us self-sacrificing souls who spend our evenings debating how many corn flour tortillas we’ve eaten in the past year. Or at least stop to buy us a pencil.

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Zentient • November 16, 2007 at 9:14 am

You and the other folks in this program are freely providing data that can make a HUGE amount of money for somebody. I hope you’re getting some kind of compensation!


marygrace • November 16, 2007 at 9:48 am

hi! tempeh is a highly nutritious, vegetarian source of protein. it is made from fermented soy.

i think the taste takes a little getting used to, but is pretty good once you become acquainted with it, and also prepare it correctly. that is, before you cook the tempeh or follow any recipe, you should let it sit in simmering water for five or ten minutes to get rid of a strong taste that isn’t very pleasant. think of it as akin to rinsing quinoa before boiling.

tempeh in a barbeque sauce is pretty popular, as is pan fried tempeh. vegetarians also often make a form of bacon with it. if you’re interested in looking for a recipe, as i know you often like to try new foods, you should check out http://www.theppk.com or http://vegweb.org.


JEM • November 16, 2007 at 10:26 am

Since not many people lose weight and keep it off you are providing such an important service. I hope they can learn from you and share the info with the rest of us.


Bobette • November 16, 2007 at 10:48 am

Tempeh was weird at first, but now I love its chewiness and graniness. It’s high in protein and fiber and really savory. Because it’s the whole soybean, it’s more nutritious than something like tofu, and because it’s fermented, it doesn’t cause the same concerns as eating too much tofu does. You do have to season it right. I highly recommend Lightlife’s smoked tempeh “bacon” strips–it’s a good way to see how it can be when flavored right.


MB • November 16, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Thank you for taking the time to complete the NWCR Questionnaire (sorry about the SAT flashbacks). I can’t remember what I ate last week – I don’t know how you can remember what you ate all of last year.

The NWCR needs more success stories. I hate hearing their statistics that only a small percentage of losers actually keep the weight off. I wonder if the statistics are low because the losers get sick of filling out that damn questionnaire or don’t have a supply of number 2 pencils.

Congrats on being a success story. I’m going to join that club soon or die trying.


Princess Dieter • November 16, 2007 at 1:29 pm

I hope to one day be in a position to quality to fill out a pain in the butt NWCR questionnaire! :)

I love THIN FOR LIFE (it’s one of those I reread when motivation hits a full stop), and that info is taken from the NWCR. So, thanks to you and the others who cooperated.

The Princess


Rah • November 16, 2007 at 2:21 pm

You’re performing a valuable service, however noxious the chore, so thank you. That said, I suggest you share your comments with the NWCR–maybe they will improve the questions for next time. I once saw a course evaluation that had choices of strongly disagree-disagree-neutral-agree-strongly agree. And the statements were like “This professor is an excellent instructor.” So what does it mean if you strongly agree someone is an excellent teacher, rather than “merely” agree? And even if you strongly disagree they are excellent, you might feel they are a perfectly good instructor, just not excellent. Wouldn’t it be better to have the choices be lousy, pretty bad, so-so, good, super? So maybe NWCR needs to take a survey methods course. But hey that’s just me, the nerd…


barbara • November 16, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Tempeh is delicious. I buy either the plain or 5-grain kind in one of those slender “bricks” in the refrigerator section, then cut it in strips about an inch wide, spray with oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook it on the Foreman grill until it’s kind of semi-crispy/brown on the outside. Sometimes I sprinkle soy sauce on it, sometimes I mix it with steamed veggies, sometimes I just eat it without anything else. I like it a lot. As somebody else said, it has a grainy, nutty flavor and I like the chewy-ish texture. I think you might like it! Lick the tempeh section!


tanya • November 17, 2007 at 6:33 am

I think it’s great that you’re doing it and like you said, if the data can provide help or some clues to better understanding, then it’s worth it. Make sure to send them some feedback too on how they can improve the questionnaire (make less questions and prevent pencil blisters :0)


SuzyBear • November 17, 2007 at 7:52 am

I was one of their “success” stories about 6 years ago. I was nearly 300 pounds, lost 45, kept off at least 30 of them for 2 years and qualified. I’ve now regained another 15, all while still on the food plan that brought me that great success, and am still morbidly obese.

Take any of these statistics sites with a huge grain of salt, people.


Meredith • November 17, 2007 at 9:58 am

Pasta Q,

You have to be a Level 9 vegan to eat Tempeh. If you’re not certified, it’s probably just as well that you don’t know what it is :-)


kim • November 17, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Tempeh is wonderful, and I love meat. I buy the bricks and cut it up like tofu and put it in stirfry. They also sell patties, like veggie burgers and they make the most delicious “burgers.” I think it is way better than tofu but unless you live in Colorado it is harder to find.


bazu • November 17, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Tempeh is the Indonesian food of the gods- seriously it is that good! It is pure protein, a whole food, low in fat and carbs, and endlessly versatile. I have a few recipes for it on my blog, but my all-time favorite is this tempeh sausage recipe- I always put it on my pizza:


You can find it in your supermarket or healthfood store. It’s usually super cheap (I pay $1.89 for a brick), and refrigerated or frozen.


pozorvlak • November 17, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Tempeh is great stuff (and I eat meat). Cut it up and marinade in soy sauce and ginger, shallow fry it, or just eat it straight from the bag. Mmmmm. It’s also quite fun to make – you buy a load of soybeans and send off for some tempeh spores, hull most of the beans, boil them for about half an hour, add a dash of vinegar and the tempeh spores, then spread the lot out in a Ziploc bag, poke some holes in it, and leave it somewhere warm for a couple of days. Googling should turn up some more details and some suppliers.


Juanita • November 17, 2007 at 5:40 pm

I hate, hate, hate filling out surveys.


lovelines • November 18, 2007 at 7:10 am

Tempeh and Chinese cabbage are both actually pretty good. I would definitely recommend you add them to your list of new foods. As a Chinese sometimes-vegetarian, I’ve tried both. While nothing spectacular, at least if you’ve tried them you can say you’ve had everyone on that list when it comes around again next year. :)


Sally Parrott Ashbrook • November 18, 2007 at 9:30 am

Yeah, I tried to get my husband to do the weight loss registry (he lost 60 pounds several years ago and has kept it off), but when the forms came in, he flipped through them, and then they just sat on our table for a while. I think all the Scantron forms were a little overwhelming to him. I totally intend to do it once I’ve been at my goal for a while, though! I think it’s exciting.

Anyway, I can no longer eat tempeh due to my soy allergy, but it is really good cooked with a little soy sauce (or teriyaki sauce, or whatever) and tossed with vegetables in a stir-fry.

With the veggies and fruits you have been trying out this year, is there any new dish you’re going to add to your holiday table that uses one of them?


round • November 19, 2007 at 2:14 pm

I feel very reassured that I’m not the only one who NWCR had to send a follow-up survey to! I did regain some in the past year which I why I put off answering, but the second sending pushed me to answer as well. It also helped push me back into healthy living … I’m not quite at dieting again yet, but I’m no longer gaining, which is good.


Cal • November 19, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Oddly I bought and cooked tempeh tonight for the first time. Didn’t really like it – odd for me not to like a food. Having read the comments above I’ll persevere with it.


Zentient • May 3, 2008 at 8:29 am


Here’s an article about the registry’s findings, great reality check!


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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