Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

A rare Guest Post by Weight Watchers: is the bad offset by the good?

originally posted this in her LJ, and I asked her to rework it a bit for posting here.

I’ve been doing Weight Watchers Online since November. Overall I’ve had good results. However, since the get-go I’ve had misgivings about having anything to do with the weight loss industry. Though I continue to do well on the program, how I feel about it is an ongoing process of assessment and reassessment.

There are a few reasons I’m ‘meh’ about Weight Watchers, even though the online version isn’t that expensive and I’m getting results. It’s putting money into the Weight Loss Industry(WLI), and I have problems with what that industry is doing to people. I’m considering shifting to another community that doesn’t charge and isn’t affiliated with the WLI. I’m still in the thinking-about-it phase. We’ll see what happens.

My major problem has to do with how the program only kind of pays lip service to healthy eating. Yeah, you’re supposed to eat X many vegetables a day and drink Z glasses of water, and there’s an activity tracker to stress the importance of exercise. There are guidelines, but they don’t touch upon what I think is really important.

Part of my success so far has been learning when to stop eating. I’m a comfort eater, and if I’m not thinking about it, I will gorge myself until I’m sick, when I deign to eat at all. The constant binge/starve has done a number on my body. To put it bluntly, I suck at intuitive eating. Keeping track of when and what I eat has helped me figure out if I’m actually hungry or if I’m bored/distressed/whatever. An important element that isn’t supported by WW is dealing with the boredom/distress/whatever. I’m in therapy. Part of what I address in therapy is the stuff that makes me bored/distressed/whatever, and I’m developing tools to deal with those. Without that support, I’m not sure how I’d do that.

I also want to talk about eating, because another thing the program doesn’t really address is the way the food in our culture has stopped being food. Do you know how I get enough to eat? I cut processed garbage almost completely out of my diet. I say almost, because it’s impossible to cut it out completely. Fresh food, real food, has been the key. WW doesn’t push real food over processed. It just counts the points. I figured out on my own that real food came out to fewer points and more nutrition.

The program is working for me, but it’s working for me because of a whole lot of work I’ve done on my own to make it work. The tracking system is handy, but it’s pretty much the only thing WW is giving me. That and a little widget that lets me figure out how many points something has by entering the calories, fat, and fiber content. I’ve got no interest in the community aspect. I poked my nose in the forums and hurriedly backed right the hell back out again. So I’m wondering if there’s a way I could do this without giving money to the WLI.

I guess what really bugs me about the WLI is the idea that my waistline is a disease that needs cured. There is a whole lot wrong with me that needs cured, but it’s not my waistline. My waistline will settle into whatever it’s going to settle into, and as long as I’m addressing the mental issues, I’m on the path to healing. As long as I address the physical issues (not my waistline, but things like pain management and activity), then I’m on the path to healing. Yes, of course I want to be thinner. Have you seen the society we live in? But I’m learning how to be happy in me, and I think that once I get in better shape (again, not talking about the waistline here) I’ll be one rocking chubby girl.

But I think it’s important to mention that success lies with eating real food and learning to love the you that you are. Neither of those things are stressed in the WLI, and usually it’s quite the opposite. Drink our diet shake and stew in your own shame and self-loathing. Hey, if nothing else, it guarantees repeat customers.

It also doesn’t address the privilege of being able to get fresh food and having the time to prepare it. I live in a place where produce is readily available year round. While it’s often too much of a walk for me, my partner can trot down to the grocery store, and public transport is such that bringing home groceries is imminently doable. We’re privileged to not live in a neighborhood where there are precious few stores and the ones that do have fresh produce charge an arm and a leg for it. We’re not trying to raise kids while holding down several jobs. It’s easy to extol the virtues of real food, but one must realize that having access to it is privilege. Having access to mental health care is privilege, even if the illness that necessitates it isn’t.

I’m not really sure what to do about it, but being aware of it does help put things in perspective. When talking about the so called obesity epidemic and the health of our nation, it’s an important thing to address, because so far all our big clever plans, like fat taxes on junk food, result in screwing people who are already poor and have too few choices. The people who are choosing crappy food when they have other options aren’t going to be hurt by this tax. The single mom working two jobs and living in a neighborhood with no grocery stores but three McDonald’s, on the other hand…

So that’s the problematic side to all this successful weight loss, and why even though I’m very happy with the way things are going, it’s not without the awareness that it takes more than willpower. It takes access to mental health resources. It takes access to nutritious and affordable food. It takes having a weight issue that can be addressed by a change in diet. It takes a mental makeup where tracking food does more good than harm, and that’s as much of a biological crapshoot as the genes that make me chunky while my partner eats thrice what I do and never gains an ounce. It takes a whole lot of stuff the WLI is happy to pretend you don’t need if only you buy their product, and I guess I’m still wrestling with how I feel about that.

Thank you, ! If any of you would like to be a guest poster here, drop me an email at sirriamnis at gmail dot com, or leave a comment on one of the posts. Thanks for reading!

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12 comments on “A rare Guest Post by Weight Watchers: is the bad offset by the good?

  1. cupcake_goth
    April 13, 2010

    Thank you very much for this post. Because you covered a LOT of my issues with WW. I was one of the (lucky?) people who was successful on WW – I lost 30lbs. But I also felt uncomfortable with giving money to the weight loss industry, and I was really unhappy with the fact that a lot of WW’s recipes and “solutions” involved heavily-processed foods.
    I left WW about two years ago. For the most part, I’ve maintained my weight. I’ve gained some back in the past few months, but I know why, and I’m working on it without giving money to WW again.

    Like

  2. ayeshadream
    April 13, 2010

    I use sparkpeople and I love it! It’s got all the tracking and help, but it’s free and incredibly easy to use!!

    Like

    • evaria
      April 13, 2010

      Yep, I use sparkpeople as well and they’ve been pretty great. I like that the community forums have a number of different groups so you can get support from people who have similar goals to you.

      Like

    • annetangent
      April 14, 2010

      I love it too. The fact that it’s free, all the actual health info and disease info and articles, the groups for people based on their goals and that you don’t even have to have a target weight.

      Like

    • karjack
      April 14, 2010

      I’m checking out a few suggestions from friends, and so far sparkpeople looks pretty awesome.

      Like

      • hunnythistle
        April 15, 2010

        Yep, I use SparkPeople too. There is still a fair amount of the negative stuff you mentioned floating around there, but it’s a big site with lots of positive energy. I’m on the “Eat Whole Foods” team, as well as part of a little role playing team, “Corinthium”, that advances my character for doing real world exercise. I’ve done more exercise, and more consistently,than I have ever done before that wasn’t part of a job.
        It’s free, and there are a lot of teams and articles addressing motivation, emotional eating, actually eating healthily, etc.

        Like

      • alumiere
        April 17, 2010

        Me too. I don’t use it as much these days, as my diet has changed (again) due to health issues and updating my food limitations every 2-3 months is a P.I.T.A. as they seem to change with every doctors visit (less than 20g total carbs/day atm). It’s not that Spark people doesn’t allow me to set those goals or track for them, I just get tired of resetting everything so often.

        Like

  3. morinon
    April 13, 2010

    TBH, the only useful thing in WW (my brother and mother were both on it at one point) is the point counter. And that’s just math. Use the math, stop giving them money.

    Like

    • polimicks
      April 13, 2010

      I’ve known several people who have done similar, gone on for a month, then took what they wanted from it and left the rest.

      Like

  4. textualdeviance
    April 13, 2010

    I’ve long been looking for some sort of fitness/weight loss support that isn’t a) Focused on shaming me for being fat in the first place b) Sending out messages that the reason I should lose weight is to be attractive to shallow straight boys and c) Insisting that I’ve failed in my endeavor if I don’t at least get into single-digit sizes.
    I do like the HAES approach, but some of it is lacking specific weight loss support, which I do need. I have no problem if I eventually settle into a weight that’s much higher than what my culture insists is acceptable for me, but I do know that, purely from a physics standpoint, if nothing else, I need to take some off from where I am now.
    I’ve been at least chubby my whole life, and have been on every diet plan known to man, starting when I was 8. Also have some eating disorder history and a couple of chronic illnesses that complicate matters. So it’s not as simple for me as just the basic calories in/calories out, and therefore I know I need help. It’s just irritating to me that every place I’ve looked for it comes with so much horrible judgement and boatloads of sexism.

    Like

  5. living400lbs
    April 14, 2010

    , because you specifically said the main thing you’re getting from WW is structure, and that you would rather not give the weight loss industry money: You may want to check out the Fat Nutritionist site, in particular this piece on “getting good at eating” and “eating competence”.
    http://www.ellynsatter.com/ may also be helpful.
    If this isn’t helpful, feel free to ignore 😉

    Like

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This entry was posted on April 13, 2010 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .

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