"There was joy and happiness at the scale today!" Thus began a recent Weight Watchers meeting at the Methodist Church (Tuesday mornings, 11:45 a.m.andndash;12:45 p.m., or afternoons, 5andndash;6 p.m.)

The group dynamic was definitely in play as the leader, Melodee Mitchell, executive director of the Child Care Council, started the meeting.

She, herself, is very dynamic, and she was congratulating approximately 20 members in attendance who had lost weight since the last meeting. Their ages ranged from teenagers to at least one member in her 90s.

The first half-hour of the meeting was devoted to weighing everyone privately.

During the second half-hour, the group was led by Melodee in a planned discussion of approaches to weight loss, plus questions to encourage the members to speak if they want to.

Melodee is a successful example of weight loss on the program. She said she lost 72 pounds in 18 months.

She followed the plan to limit food intake to the number of "points" each member is allotted according to height, weight, age, gender, and activity level.

Each food is given a certain number of points, which includes calories as well as nutritional value, like fiber.Members who stay within their points lose on average 2 pounds a week. You can also add points through exercise. If you walk a mile, you add 2 points.

Meal planning and real food choices are largely left up to the individual. Food portions are included in the point allocations.

It's important to attend the meetings to keep up momentum and share helpful hints with each other. The hint I liked best was to have salad dressing on the side and dip your fork in the dressing before you take a bite of salad.

Another suggestion was to drink wine instead of beer because it has fewer cal ... oops, I almost said calories, I meant points.

It's also important to form better habits. For example, one member said instead of dinner, TV, bed, she always does the dishes before bed.It's much nicer to wake up to a clean kitchen.

Melodee said she spends a lot oftime in the car, so she keeps healthy snacks in her car.

Weight Watchers is a big subject for my small column.There is a lot of information about it on the Internet.

WW was founded by American housewife Jean Nidetch in 1963 after she invited friends over to share her diet plan and tips.WW is still considered one of the best weight loss programs on the market.

The enrollment fee is $20, plus a weekly fee of $14.You can cancel at any time.Or you can get a monthly pass called Etools for $42.95.When you join, you get a listing of food points andthe answers to "frequently asked questions," which are very helpful.If you are interested, you are encouraged to attend a trial meeting for free.

So why do people join Weight Watchers? I think all of them should pat themselves on the back for taking care of themselves, for their own benefit as well as for their families.

Faye, a local teacher who was at the meeting I attended, said she fell on vacation and hurt her knee.She said it was an "aha moment" for her.

She had wanted to lose weight, but hadn't cared enough to do anything about it. Then her doctor told her that every pound lost equals 5 pounds of pressure off her knee.

She likes the fact that you can eat ordinary food, but just control portion sizes.

Sherry said the same thing:real food and portion sizes.She has been a lifetime member since 1995. She travels the world, but continues to attend meetings. She lost 19 pounds in 25 weeks. She no longer has a blood pressure problem.

Her doctor told her, "You know how to work the system." He said other patients just stay on meds forever.

In closing the meeting, Melodee said, "Everyone, I hope to see a little less of you next week!"

Reach Joan Miles at 464-2729 or at