This week on the All Fired Up! Podcast I had an absolutely inspiring chat with anti-diet dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield, about the #WakeUpWeightWatchers campaign. This was ignited by the world’s biggest weight loss company announcing plans to give teenagers free memberships. According to the press releases, WW wants to teach teens ‘healthy habits for life.’
The thing is, dieting is anything BUT a healthy habit. Dieting is the number ONE risk factor for developing an eating disorder. This is because dieting takes us out of our bodies and into ‘diet rule prison,’ where everything we eat and drink is surveilled, monitored, and policed in the name of weight loss. Dieting really, seriously mucks up our relationship with food and our bodies.
Weight Watchers have been steadily positioning themselves to increase their profit margin ever since Oprah bought a 10% stake in the company.This latest plan is nothing more than a strategy to bring in repeat business at a younger age. The average Weight Watchers customer signs up not once but 4 times, and it’s obvious that they are hoping to increase the number of lifetime re-enrollments.
Weight Watchers increasingly claim that they are NOT a diet. This is serious gaslighting because their entire product is based on reducing calorie intake to obtain weight loss. The claims that they are about ‘health’ and ‘lifestyle’ is just a complete pile of shit.
They say they are not a diet when the truth is they are THE diet. They are the diet that literally everyone has been on. They are diet Ground Zero. Just about every client I have seen has had at least one Weight Watchers experience. Many attended their first meetings with their mothers, as young teens. And far from developing ‘lifelong healthy habits,’ they developed disordered eating, poor body image, weight cycling, and very low self-esteem. I think of Weight Watchers as a ‘foundational’ diet which features in the life history of – well – everyone.
I saw this very powerful Facebook post from Deb Burgard, Californian psychologist and eating disorders expert:
Dieting is a multigenerational issue for most of us. We learn body dissatisfaction from the people around us – our mothers, aunts, siblings, and friends. Weight Watchers are responsible for creating a legacy of body hatred and policing which they need to be held accountable for.
The #WakeUpWeightWatchers campaign (check it out on Twitter) has been so enlightening. Social media has been flooded with people sharing their Weight Watchers stories. And these are not the typical ‘before and after’ testimonials that we’re used to seeing. For the first time, we are hearing stories of pain, shame, weight regain, all because of Weight Watchers. We NEED to hear these experiences, so that we can see that we are not alone. To absorb the concept that instead of something being ‘wrong’ with our bodies, maybe there is something terribly wrong with body policing and dieting.
To date, Weight Watchers have ignored the #WakeUpWeightWatchers campaign, utterly disregarding the lived experience of the vast majority of their customer base.
It’s like their voices don’t matter. Nothing will get in the way of their mission to keep profiting from human misery and weight cycling. But I am truly hopeful that the stories of so many people will break the legacy of intergenerational diet misery.