If you were on Twitter the last week (for reference 2nd wk of February 2018) you might have seen the hashtag #wakeupweightwatchers. Many of the individuals that work in the eating disorder realm, body positivity/acceptance and HAES™ areas or people who realize that marketing dieting to teenagers is a repulsive idea were trying to put pressure on Weight Watchers ™ to stop their new program. This program offers teens free memberships this summer to start "the development of healthy habits at this critical life stage" or as I would like to reframe it - "the development of an unhealthy relationship with food that will carry on with them in this critical life stage and beyond". To be honest the first time I saw a headline on Twitter about it, I stared at it for a while wondering if my brain was officially so tired it couldn't read words any longer. I mean really....WHO thought this was a good idea?!?!? And then I thought about it. Moneymakers thought it was a good idea. And really, I guess if you take the fact that WW (I am boycotting even writing their name for the rest of this post) has been around for decades and keeps having to change their program to make it "better" (if it really worked long term do you think they would need to keep changing it?) then it makes sense that they want a person signing up at 13 because imagine...the amount of money they will pay over their lifetime in fees (I am guessing there are fees to be treated like you are not good enough as you are). I mean really...why wait until they are in their 20's and 30's...get them now!! This means more money (Well they do have to pay the mighty O and I am guessing that's not cheap).
WW is going after a very vulnerable section of the population. Teens bodies are changing, growing, developing. Often they do not have the best relationship with it during this time. Sometimes they are being raised in houses with grownups that do not have a good relationship with their bodies or food. So lets make this a family event! (side note: I am writing this in a coffee shop and I am sighing and pounding my keys and the people beside me keep looking with concerned looks...I kinda just want to say "DIET CULTURE SUCKS!!"...I will let you know if it comes out..)
To be completely transparent I have never been to a WW meeting or whatever they do online. However it is my understanding- from having clients that have tried this in the past- that there are weigh-in meetings where everyone stands around while you get weighed. Then you have to discuss why your weight is down or up or nothing changed. It is also my understanding the the meeting leaders are people that have been "successful" (what does that even mean?!?!) on this plan and want to "help" (eye roll) others. Let's just think about that for a minute. Let's put a bunch of self conscious teens in a room and weigh them-in front of everyone. This makes me want to take a big scale with big flashing digital numbers and go to a WW board meeting. I would like to have them each stand on the scale that would be in the middle of the boardroom table (my fantasy don't judge..lol) so they have to climb up for everyone to see. Then the number will be recorded in a little book so that they can compare it at the next meeting. I wonder if attendance at these meetings would be good. I wonder if even more chaotic eating behaviours would start the week before the weigh in. I wonder how many of them would protest that their weight is their business and nobody else's.
And then after we get judged on our relation to gravity on earth- we no longer call food its proper names. Let's assign some points to foods so people can work on their math skills??? Why can't an apple be an apple? Or chocolate cake be chocolate cake?? And call it a "healthy habit"?!?!?!?! This is where I can't even more annoyed. This is not a health habit- it is a diet- plan and simple. If you make your food decisions based on an arbitrary point system instead of what you actually want to eat- it is a diet. If you restrict foods, or whole food group to follow a plan- it is a diet. If you have to consult your app to assess whether you are allowed to eat what is on your plate for dinner- IT IS A DIET! Plan and simple. This company is marking to the 13-19 year old age group because they know that diets don't work and that they will now get consumers into the diet cycle sooner and therefore make more money. And they do this by continuing to push diet culture.
What if there were programs that were free and backed by celebrities that helped teens in this age group to trust their bodies. Listen to their hunger and fullness cues. Teach them that food is pleasurable and nourishes our bodies and our souls. What if we had a free campaign that taught teens that their bodies were perfect JUST THE WAY THEY ARE! What if there were millions of dollars poured into advertising to show that a body size does not equate health. I realize that it might not be as sexy as changing but if we were able to raise a generation that didn't buy into the diet culture machine. I truly do not believe in the depths of my soul that a program like this will actually help. It breaks my heart to think of the path that it puts individuals on.
If you have any time to do a quick look at #wakeupweightwatchers on twitter please do. So many great minds have been dropping truth bombs about diets and eating disorders and the effects they have long term. And if you are feel brave and more eloquent with words than I am please consider @ this company to voice your concerns. This issue needs voices. It needs loud amazing voices to get them to reconsider what they are doing.
Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically (and angrily) me