Weight Watchers – I can’t get behind that.

We are a weight obsessed society. It’s everywhere; from TV to magazines to bloody facebook. Lose 5kg in one week! Dance yourself slim! Eat only cabbage soup and you too can look like me! Negative calorie water, YESS! Celebrities (who seem to be the body ideal for many) have abs just two weeks after giving birth, lest they be seen on the cover of a magazine looking less than svelte. And so there are programs for us regular schlumps so we too can look as good as those celebrities! HOORAY FOR WEIGHT WATCHERS!!

Look, here’s the thing. I just can’t get behind Weight Watchers. I have grown up with the whole thing drilled into me from a very early age (my aunt has been a WW fanatic for nearly all of my life) and knowing my personality, I’m sure this makes me totally biased against the whole program. I get that. And perhaps it’s just the way my aunt did the program, but I cannot see where the value lies, other than making a person feel inadequate about their current size and enhancing their need to fit into one particular beauty ideal. And when I see a company that whose entire business revolves around losing weight, of making people count points towards everything they eat, of receiving extra points if you exercise…. it honestly makes me think of someone with disordered eating. Because those things I just mentioned? They are all signs of an eating disorder.

And yes, I am fully aware of the confidence it can give individuals, but I don’t know if we as a society should be congratulating people merely for losing weight. Doesn’t that just perpetuate the cycle of thinner = better? Beauty should not revolve around weight. Beauty is confidence; beauty is standing up for yourself; beauty is the ability to say you are beautiful and really mean it, regardless of what “society” tells us.

My aunt (bless her heart) gave me a couple of WW points books when I was in my teenage years.  I remember being totally saddened when I had something like 18 points allotted to me for one day, and a slice of cheesecake was 17 points. Given my penchant for cheesecake, you can imagine that I didn’t follow the whole WW ideology for too long. I get that they don’t promote eating only cheesecake in a day, for what it’s worth. But why even give people the option of points if they can’t “spend” them how they see fit?

I know quite a few people who either participate in or agree with the idea of WW, and far be it from me to tell people what to do. I think a lot of people go for the community WW gives them – you get to meet people who share similar stories; you can commiserate with their trials and celebrate with their triumphs. I totally get that – I just wish there were groups available to people that don’t intertwine someone’s value with what they weigh. Focus on healthful eating, focus on exercise, but fuckdammit. Stop focusing on your weight as an indicator of your worth. You are more than a number on a scale.

Have you had a positive WW experience, or know someone who has? Do you think this business (and others like it) are a good, bad or neutral thing? Am I totally off-base with my opinions? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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  • Sonya

    I am so very not a fan of weight watchers. I think learning about nutrition is an awesome thing and that maybe it can help people learn, but I also think that the constant points watching and the “Oh, well, I can't eat that because I ate this, but maybe I can work it off!!” can lead down a dangerous, kilojoule counting path.

    Something I noticed when I visited Sydney over the weekend? The Weight Watchers centre is on the same level as the plus sized section in Myer. Yeah … no, thanks. I don't want my clothes shopping with a side of guilt.

  • vesta44

    My main problem with Weight Watchers is their cynicism. Anyone who markets a diet plan, knowing that 95% of the people who follow it are going to have the diet fail them, is doing it strictly for the money. WW doesn't care about the health of the people to whom they are marketing their diet – all they care about is how many of our dollars they can get out of our pockets and into theirs, and how often can they keep us coming back to give them more of our money. WW is promoting yo-yo dieting, which is worse for one's health than keeping a high, but stable, weight, so I have no use for them, no respect for them, and think they should be banned to the lowest depths of the deepest ocean (without oxygen tanks, natch). When it comes to dieting, I'm not a very nice person, I'm afraid (been there done that and had too many diets fail me too often, and ended up fatter than I would have been if I had never dieted at all).

  • http://corpulent.wordpress.com Frances

    Do I spy a William Shatner/Henry Rollins reference in the title?

  • nitrojane

    you miiiiight. :p

  • nitrojane

    yeah, tbh it made me really angry when WW paired up with Myer. How fucking presumptuous.

  • Amanda

    I did weight watcher for a long time. Loooong time. On and off from ages 16-24. Of course I was pretty much the exact same size when I stopped as I was when I started, so much for “diets don't work. Weight watchers does!” All I got for my trouble was a lot of issues with food (I still weigh my pasta portions to this day, even though I no longer care about calories – it's just an automatic action) and a disturbing encyclopedic knowledge of points values. The talk on their message boards is the same talk you hear from any other dieter – “sugar-free jello and lite cool whip is a great 0-point snack! Make low-point cake using diet soda and boxed mix! Use low-carb tortillas and you can have more tacos!” It creeped me out a little bit back then, but now I just find it downright sad. It creates such an unhealthy relationship with food.

  • http://rockcurvatude.blogspot.com Curvatude

    well you know from our tweets how i feel about weight watchers.

    i have never used it but i have absolutely no problem with them because i see them as a tool that people who want to lose weight for whatever their reason is can use.

    now if they were selling pills i would have an issue with them because i have an issue with drugs being divvied out like jelly beans in general.

    but a plan that gives people who feel that perhaps they dont have another way to monitor their consumption and need guidelines is alright with me.

    i dont equate wanting to lose weight with as your wrote with “intertwin{ing} someone's value with what they weigh”.

    weight and any feelings or issues a person has about their own body image is such a personal thing that i would never presume that i can tell them how they should feel about it, handle it or whatever.

    i think we would be better off as humans if we stop feeling that we can judge other peoples choices, especially when they have absolutely nothing to do with us.

    no one can tell me anything about what i can and can not do…they would get the blessing out of their lives if they tried, so i would never dream of doing the same to anyone else.

  • nitrojane

    I guess I'm thinking of it more from the company's perspective instead of each individual's choice.

    You're right that we shouldn't judge other people's choices, and I don't mean to judge the individual here. I mean to judge the system under which the individual has made their choices. We shouldn't judge a person if they want to be thinner because that's as bad as judging me because i'm fat…. but I think it's important to look at why greater society puts a higher value on thinness than they do on health. And it's almost a chicken or the egg scenario – did companies like weight watchers start up because society is obsessed with weight loss, or did society become obsessed because of companies like weight watchers? I don't know. I wish there was an easy solution to this, but there isn't.

    I guess I just want people to know that they can be happy and healthy without looking a particular way, whether that's fat, thin, or anything inbetween. I don't mean to lecture, though. :-/

  • nitrojane

    and btw, thanks for inspiring the post – it's really made me think!

  • Linda

    I'm o.k. with it. I lost the weight I wanted to, and have kept it off 3 years (so I've been going free that long. Yeah, freeloading :D ). It's a tool, and it has served it purpose with me, but to reach mental and physical health goals, you need more than that. But it did what I wanted it to, so I have no complaints.

  • Lampdevil

    Oh, Weight Watchers… I have to step up and admit that a current member. Yeah. Um. Awkward thing to say, 'round these parts. I went to a meeting with some friends as a sort of “OKAY FINE I can't gripe about something I haven't experienced” and then… well… the whole thing seemed reasonable, once I tried it on.

    I've said it before elsewhere: At its core, the ideas presented by the WW literature can be used in a healthy, balanced fashion. I'm consious of both portion sizes and my actual appetite, I eat a diverse variety of interesting foods, and I HAVE that fuggin' cheesecake if I want it. (They give 35 bonus points a week! Hell yeah I'm having some cheesecake. It's not like I can afford to eat the stuff every day of the week anyway.) …they gave you 18 points a day? Egad, that's low. I know that I'll likely stop the whole thing waaaaaay before my points dip that far,

    Buuuut the whole thing is an enormous cash grab. They don't just get you in for your meeting fees, they want you to buy expensive “low-points” foods and exercise kits and trackers and tickers and counters and scales and dishes and crap. And yes, the high failure rate makes the whole thing skeevy. Not to mention, no matter how reasonable the official published line is, all it takes is one bad meeting leader or too many bad suggestions from other sources to turn it all into a crash diet or something profoundly disordered. I may do this with the approach of “Slow progress? Whatever. I feel good and I like myself plenty” but for every one of me there are… five? Ten? Fifty? Entirely too many folk who hang their moods on what the scale shows, and who brag about eliminating all “white foods” from their diet.

    Taken purely on its own merits. WW isn't THAT bad. But it can't really be taken on its own merits. It exists as part of a larger fat-shaming and fat-loathing culture. For whatever good it has done me, I can see first-hand that it's done harm to others.

  • http://twitter.com/kristincraiglai Kristin Craig Lai

    I did WW several years ago and had great “success” with it as far as losing a bunch of weight (All of which I gained back of course). As far as weight loss programs go I thought it was a great program that gave me more freedom of choice and support than other groups that make you buy their food or shakes or restrict an entire food group. That being said, just like any other diet it creates and cultivates a constant preoccupation with what you're putting in your mouth. I had struggled with compulsive eating before but after I did WW it was way worse. The issue isn't Weight Watchers specifically, the issue is that all diets aimed at weight loss and restriction and food monitoring make you feel deprived, motivate you based on self-loathing and insecurity, and make you less and less attuned to what your body really needs. The more you diet and count calories the less you know how to recognize when you are and aren't hungry. You don't stop eating because you're no longer hungry, you stop eating because you've only alloted 8 points to this meal. There are no commercial programs on the scale of WW or Jenny Craig that are about real health at any size but there are books that really support that journey. I find that now that I focus on nutritional value and enjoying my food fully rather than fat and calories guilt hardly enters the equation. Plus I don't think there are too many people dieting that have any idea what their “healthy weight” is and the result is that all those weight loss goals are based on something arbitrary like fitting into a pair of jeans or bridesmaids dress or something which clearly has nothing to do with health. We would all be healthier and happier if we could just learn to listen to our bodies, enjoy good food, move, and chill the fuck out.

  • http://twitter.com/kristincraiglai Kristin Craig Lai

    That was the other problem I found with it (in retrospect). All the 'great ideas' for maximizing your points lead to eating a lot of highly processed foods and chemical sweeteners etc. This definitely does not promote healthier eating and it's got all sorts of environmental and ethical issues to boot.

  • http://suzannawinter.com/flog/ Suzy

    Fatfu wrote a great take-down of WW a couple years ago: http://fatfu.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/weight-wa

  • http://twitter.com/icedteaandlemon nancy

    i've been on WW a few times in my life. the last time i went on it, they started me out with 3 thousand calories when I was used to eating around 500 per day, so I gained a lot of weight on it, and it totally brought back the bulimia in me, because eating THAT much makes you want to purge. I'm NOT a fan of WW, or any other diet company.

  • solipsikat

    just yesterday i went in to the doctors office. i no longer weigh myself. period. i do not know what i weigh. i have complete sepparation of self worth and reality from a number on a scale. I self moderate from clothing size alone and that is enough for me. I do this for a variety of issues to long to post here.

    anyway… i was the first patient that morning and the nurses came in with the attendants setting up shop for the day and they are clucking about the weight they lost or not or the wagon of dieting they fell off as they were weighed that morning. While I was reading the national geographic i brought in coolly walking past the regular “lose belly fat fast be beautiful and thin forever” magazines… I was really moved by a deep and overwhelming pity for these women who are still stuck in this endlessly engrossing cycle of body shame and self loathing. I was reading my article on the bower birds this month and they were moaning about their rolls….. are they any more happier than I? more successful? healthier? I mean….really… on a day to day basis?

    so anyway… i get called back and one of the nurses asks to take my height and weight. i tell her i dont weigh myself. she looked absolutely befuddled by this reaction. she just could not wrap her mind around the idea that I choose not to know my weight… what for her is a ritualistic part of her self identity has absolutely no basis or any foundation in the structure of my own. Then she asked me, ok then can you tell me what it is? “honestly, I could not even tell you ballpark what I think it is… really I have no idea I have not weighed myself in 5 years.” Of course I have an “idea” within 15 pounds but again… that arbituary number even though it would mean nothing… would actually relieve her! Though it means nothing! The psychological deconstruction of this moment could be pages. I reinforced my reality of the separation of self from weight as a number by refusing to give her one.

    The discomfiture was priceless.

    How can I explain to a one such as her the psychological damage done to me by a life of merciless childhood teasing, of daily societal reminders that I was not wanted, damaged, soiled, gluttonous, disgusting? How can I explain to her the enormous internal battle I had to face against almost everyone including women like her who support these “ideals” to pick up the shreds the small voice within whispering that these shouting voices were not true and that I was beautiful, curvy and desirable? The scars are considerable, one of them being… I cannot see my weight as a number. Not. ever. again.

  • http://talesofawellfedgraphicdesigner.wordpress.com/ crookedfinger

    I spent about 4 months trying to make WW work, but it never did. Basing caloric needs on weight isn't a very good way to do it, in my opinion, as not all bodies work the same. I had to eat more than I normally did to fulfill the points requirements set for me, which obviously didn't make me lose weight.

    Not to mention counting out points for things completely sucked the joy out of eating. No thank you!

  • cultist

    I'm a current member, too, and I completely agree with how much of a “cash grab” the outfit is…but I'm still going. I teach high school and I laughingly call WW “my cult” when the subject of why I'm losing weight comes up with my students—because it has all the earmarks of one—but I feel like it's helping me do something I want to do and that I'm pretty aware of the manipulations inherent in the sales talk at the end of each week's presentation and the overpriced convenience food they try to shill. My only pause is that I know that there are people who are spending A LOT of money for the pre-packaged foods, the exercise stuff, the books, the measuring spoons (bulky and awkward compared to the set I got at the dollar store).

  • Tracey

    I see WW the same way I see religion. It can be an awesome tool in order to help some people lead their life down the path of their choice. For other it can become an insanely destructive tool but it depends on the person and is not necessarily the fault of the program itself.

  • Leeorling

    Kilojoule/point counting in and of itself is not dangerous. Explain to me exactly what is dangerous about knowing your total energy consumption in a day? That's right, nothing. That's just like saying it is dangerous knowing how much petrol is in your car. Knowledge is power, not a psychological danger.

    I get the fat acceptance thing. I get where you're coming from and agree that one's body, fat or thin, is nobody else's business. What I don't get is the associated anti-weightloss thing. I agree with a lot of what I've read on this site.


    Some people are comfortable with being fat. Others are NOT. Who are you to say that it is not ok to be uncomfortable with your body, and to take the steps to change it? If I am not happy with the size of my arse, it is not for you to tell me that the unhappiness is unhealthy and I should just love it. No. My feelings about my arse are my business and if I want to change it, it is not for you to denounce from over there in your glass house.

    For the majority of people who seek to lose weight because they WANT to, it is NOT as simple as just waking up and deciding to live a 'healthy life'. For people who have battled with overeating for many years, the knowledge of how their body works, how to lose weight and how to balance caloric needs with activity (or lack thereof) is not innate. It has been lost through habit. The Weight Watchers program exists to assist its' subscribers with learning how food and their bodies work.

    For all but a small percentage of us with various metabolic disorders, body fat has a direct correlation with energy intake and expenditure. The weight watchers program educates its subscribers about this correlation.

    Weight Watchers doesn't exist to shame the entire population into losing weight, as much as fat acceptance people like to take its existence as a personal attack. Anorexia nervosa and other forms of eating disorders are deeply psychological disorders – it is ridiculous and offensive to suggest that every person who joins the program is at risk of psychological damage.

  • nitrojane

    Hi Leeorling,

    For the record, I am not anti-weightloss. I agree with you that it's a personal decision and nobody should be able to change that. And if someone wants to to lose weight for their health or comfort, more power to them! I do believe, however, that society influences individuals (who are most times unknowingly being influenced) in body-shaming tactics for profit. It is a fact that the weight loss industry preys on people's insecurities because it's a profitable business model. It's a multi-billion dollar a year industry, but this isn't related specifically to weight either. Next time you watch TV take a look at the ads – there is usually (what society considers at the time) an attractive person using the product. Marketing companies use these models/actors to show people “if you use our product, you can be just like this model!” and it bloody works! It's basic marketing strategy preys on the fragility of human emotions.


    If weight watchers solely existed to help people with their health, then I would have no problem with it. But health and weight are not always intertwined, and the program lumps ALL fat people in the same category without taking personal circumstances into account. Yes, some fat people live unhealthily (like me), but so do some thin people. I have fat friends who are the healthiest people I know. This shouldn't be a weight issue, this should be a health issue, and it's does no good to confuse the two. In the end it's all about personal choice. I like the way I live, but I would never force anyone else to live this way. This is about doing what will make you the happiest. I do think it's important, however, to recognise the body-shaming tactics that many companies (not just WW) employ, because once you can recognise it you can rebel against it and actually make your own decisions.

    And lastly, I don't believe every person who joins the weight watchers program is at risk of psychological damage. I do recognise, however, that obsessive calorie counting is one of the warning signs of an eating disorder. I think it is potentially harmful for those who are already genetically and psychologically predisposed to an eating disorder. But again, this is just my opinion, which I am entitled to (as are you in yours). I apologise if I have offended you in this.

  • Linda

    FWIW, WW started out as an offshoot of a New York City Health Department program to help people lose weight. It got bought up by Heinz (? spelling) Corp. many years ago, and that's how it branched into products, etc. The basic idea behind its diet is sound. As a product, it's o.k. for me, because if you keep your weight off, you can keep using the “product” (meetings) for as long as you like for free, and don't have to buy the other stuff, like food, scales, etc. I've been freeloading for the past 3 years. Nothing is as fun as gaming the system.

  • http://ccake.tumblr.com ccake

    Several years ago my dad had knee surgery and was having a lot of complications post surgery. He's a big guy and that amount of weight on his knees was preventing the knee from healing properly. They decided they needed to do more surgery but he would need to lose some weight for it to be successful. So he and my mothers decided to try weight watchers. However they are both the cheapskates I know and love, so got a run down on the pattern of the program from a friend who was involved and photocopied all her paperwork. The counting points system led to a shift in the portioning in their diets. They have always been careful to eat the right things but evaluating it with the weight watchers guides kinda changed things a bit. They never really ate less, just changed the amounts of the various things they ate and he lost a significant amount of weight, was able to have the surgery and has remained at that weight since. He still isn't a skinny guy by any means but in this case, it worked for them. Of course they didn't go through a lot of the cult like process that actually signing up to the club requires but inside that overblown money making system there are some good, helpful ideas. I think it's just that, as a business, they have had to push beyond those.

  • Fiveorsixgirls

    i am a fat advocate, AND i am on WW. i started at 380 and had gotten to the point where i could not walk, or stand. i am losing weight because i want to be active again, how ever many pounds that takes me. i think you definately be fat and be active and healthy. and i support that! it just is not that way for me. i have no energy, stamina, or strength. i am starting to gain it back, oh so little at a time. i refuse to spend my life in a wheelchair. for me, they don’t push the stuff that much. the scale definately does help. but the prepackaged foods are expensive, so we just don’t buy them. no problem. i loved myself at 380, i love myself now, and i will continue to love myself to whatever weight i end up at. that’s my 2 centavos=)

  • Fiveorsixgirls

    they don’t promote yo-yo dieting. they support you even when you have weeks that you gain, because they want to do just that, support you when you make an effort. i have done great on ww and know tons of people who have too.

  • Fiveorsixgirls

    they don't promote yo-yo dieting. they support you even when you have weeks that you gain, because they want to do just that, support you when you make an effort. i have done great on ww and know tons of people who have too.

  • http://www.losingstomachfat.com Losing Stomach Fat

    Weight watchers is just a business, anyone can easily find out what foods to eat and avoid these days, its not rocket science.

  • http://www.tummytuckguide.com/ Tummy tuck

    Sounds interesting but as we know that almost people wants svelte looks. So they joined such weight watcher program/club. I never go for any weight watcher program.

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