Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Weight Watchers Saga

If you know me, even casually, you probably know that I am a long time member of Weight Watchers. I used to say, “its like I have been on Weight Watchers since the womb.” Ok, it isn’t that drastic, I was much younger than most when I joined. At the ripe age of 13 I got on the scale for the first time with Weight Watchers, and it has been an interesting decade then on out.

I guess before I get into this I should explain what the Weight Watchers program is like. It is a weight loss program that works off of a point system. You get so many points a day, and if you eat within the range of points you are allotted, you lose weight. I have heard recently the points system has changed, and I have no idea about this new system, as I refuse to go back. That I will get to in a moment.

Weight Watchers helped me lose around 60-70 pounds that first year I was a member. I don’t remember gaining weight the first year I was on program, except once over the summer. Every week I was losing weight, so it could be concluded that the program worked well.

Also when on Weight Watchers you attend weekly meetings. From these meetings I learned a lot about eating, exercise and general healthy living information. Obviously, health promotion is a huge part of my life. I purposed a degree in health promotion and now am a paid health educator. I no longer focus on weight loss, nutrition, or exercise as part of my volunteer/professional life, but living healthy is something I still value and pursue in my own life.

I lost weight with Weight Watchers, it even sparked my interest in the career path I now love. Then what am I complaining about?

While I lost weight on the program, I also gained many negative behaviors and perspective on food, exercise, and myself. I can’t say Weight Watchers “caused” these problems, but the parameters of the program played a part in their development.

Instead of trying to argue that Weight Watchers “caused” negative outcomes, I think it is more productive to see my time with Weight Watchers as an influential factors during my journey towards a healthy/happy life.

A friend once told me, whenever you try something new you will make mistakes. Weight Watchers gave me a lot of different tools to use to manage my health. Sometimes I used them in a healthy productive way, and other times I let these tools be a crutch and a distraction from addressing a real problem at hand.

For example, Weight Watchers taught me to use weight as a way to measure my progress in improving my diet and exercise. The obvious flaw is that I can eat poorly and be inactive and lose weight, and vice versa eat well and exercise regularly but not lose weight. Also, I had emotional baggage when it came to my weight, and I carried this baggage over into weighing myself. I had negative belifes about myself when I was heavier, and weight became a way to feel good about myself. I was losing weight, there for I was worthy of things like love, compassion and respect. There are so many flaws with that way of thinking, I don’t even know where to start! I want to move away from relying on my weight as a measure of my health and or happiness. On the other hand, I still aknowledge that keeping track of my weight is a useful tool to measure to keep myself accountable to my healthy behaviors. Here in lies the internal conflct I face with scales. I have tried many different things, and I guess that is the new tune I am singing. I am trying different ways of using a scale as a tool to improve my health, while not letting impact my self worth or body image. That is a tall order to address, but I am working on it every day.

I feel the same way about tracking my food.

Food journals allow me to be conscious in my food choices and monitor intake essential nutrients. On the other hand, when I journal my food I find myself “eating to the numbers” and focusing on hitting a certain calorie deficit instead of listening to my body. Again, food journals can be a useful tool, but are not the answer inherently.

Weight Watchers taught me many skills that I still use today to improve my health. The program does encourage health and well being over weight loss. All in all, when it comes to Weight Watchers or any other diet, this is my final statement:

If trying to lose weight to be healthy brings on ill health in the process (physical or emotional) the whole effort is a waste in a true journey toward happiness and health life.

Weight Watchers was part of my journey. I hate to say that I will never go back, but I also feel like that chapter of my life is over. I am in a new place when it comes to thinking about food and my body. I am still working out the details, but I am starting to try, which is half the battle.


  1. Hi Ashley! It's Rachel...I found your blog on LinkedIn, and I totally have to comment! I'd like to challenge you to go without the scale for a while and see how it feels. If you step on once a week, try going two weeks or even longer. At one point in my (eating disordered) past I would record my intake and weigh myself upwards of 8 times each day. Today, I have a big glass jar on my dresser that holds the smashed remains of the scale I allowed to tear me apart back then. It's been almost 3 years without my scale and even now, I can feel myself getting excited to go to a doctor's office appointment because I know they'll weigh me and I'll have the chance to either feel elated or crushed. Ridiculous! It's been a long journey for me, but I know I'm headed in the right direction. :)

    PS- Smashing that scale was one of the most awesome feelings in the world. My dad and I took turns hitting it with a sledge hammer in our driveway, then took the big plastic pieces that remained and shot them with rifles. My jar has both scale pieces and bullets inside!

  2. Rachel, what an amazing and empowering story! I love the suggestion and am going to try and take your advise. baby steps for me is key. I am going to try only once a week, and see if I can get to ever two, and then only monthly.

    Do you ever feel as students of public health, many health professionals do not take into account the emotional/psychological effect of weighing and weight as a measure of health? That is something I always thought about through school.

  3. I saw a commercial the other day for "Weight Watchers for Men." How long could I rant about THAT idea?? Wanna find out?