Are you doing Weight Watchers or have you done it in the past? I’m going to share with you how Weight Watchers led me to develop an eating disorder and why I think this program and all diet programs shouldn’t exist.
I’m back with ANOTHER important, yet controversial post.
Today, I want to talk about one of North America’s most popular weight loss programs, Weight Watchers, and how it led me down the path of developing an eating disorder.
What is Weight Watchers
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Weight Watchers. Even America’s most beloved ex-talk show host, Oprah, can be seen promoting Weight Watchers on television.
But if you don’t know what Weight Watchers is, here is what they say right on their website:
Weight Watchers isn’t so much a diet as a lifestyle-change program. It can help you learn how to eat healthier and get more physical activity, so you lose the weight for good. You’ll track your food choices and exercise, chart progress, and find recipes and workouts.
Most people are drawn to the program due to it’s “sensible” and “effortless” approach to weight loss. You can eat any foods you like, they say. You can lose weight effortlessly, they say. The program works, they say. Even if it doesn’t work the first time, you can keep coming back again, and again, and again…
The main distinction between other programs and Weight Watchers is that all foods are assigned points. Some foods have zero points, and some foods have 10 or more points. Based on your weight, you are assigned a points limit that you can have for the day.
For example, when I first joined Weight Watchers, I was allowed 26 points per day. That meant I could eat any combination of foods in a day as long as I didn’t go over my 26 point allotment. So technically, I could eat 3 pieces of pizza for the day and reach my point limit. Or, I could eat an unlimited amount of certain fruits and vegetables for the day and be under my points allotment. As long as I didn’t go over my points, I was doing okay.
As I lost weight, my points allotment got lower and lower.
I would attend weekly Weight Watchers meetings, where other Weight Watchers members got together to discuss the program, “support” each other with our struggles, or reward those who had success that week.
Each week at these meetings, I was required to step on the scale. Then a nice Weight Watchers member would record my weight and either tell me I were doing great (if I lost weight) or that I should just stick with it and maybe better things will happen next week (if I didn’t lose weight.)
And guess what? The program did work…for a time.
Most people who join Weight Watchers DO lose weight, at first.
But then what happens?
We all know what happens.
The weight starts to come back on.
Why My Eating Disorder Started With Weight Watchers
Weight Watchers was my very first attempt at a serious diet. I had just given birth to my second son and I gained a lot of weight during that pregnancy (which is totally normal BTW!) So I decided to sign my life away to become a Weight Watchers member.
And let me tell you, I was a good Weight Watchers member. Wait, let me rephrase that, I was the PERFECT Weight Watchers member.
I attended every weekly meeting. I counted my points like a math major. I weighed myself daily (sometimes twice or three times a day.) I did EVERYTHING they asked me to do. I even bought their Weight Watchers brand of bars, shakes, cookies and frozen meals!
After a few weeks, I started losing weight. I kept counting points, bringing my little booklet out to restaurants so I would know what I could eat. I kept stepping on the scale and was being celebrated at meetings for losing weight each week. I was ecstatic. I had this! Those baby weight pounds had nothing on me.
I got used to the hunger pains. I started to feel powerful when I could resist them. I started to eat less and less points, thinking that the less points I ate, the better.
After a while, I decided I didn’t need Weight Watchers anymore. I had those points down pat and could now look at a food and just know how many points it had. So I decided to venture into other diets.
Diet after diet after diet, I just kept going. There was NO limit to how much weight I could lose.
Eventually, I reached my lowest weight I’ve ever been as an adult. But of course, that wasn’t enough. I knew I could lose more. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see my bones protruding or a starving women looking back at me. I was getting compliments left and right about how good I looked. I started wearing sizes I’ve never worn before. And so the cycle continued. There was no stopping me.
My body started rebelling.
Each time I stepped on the scale, I was gaining weight. “How could this be?” I asked myself. I’m eating less and less and exercising more and more. I should be losing weight.
But my body had other plans.
First of all, my hormones were a disaster. My progesterone tanked. I had less energy, worse moodiness, bloating, PMS that lasted for weeks and sometimes months at a time (I’m still struggling with this today as a result of my years of dieting.)
I became obsessed with food, only eating “healthy” foods that contained NO sugar. I kept counting calories and macros, eventually giving up carbs altogether, thinking that carbs were my problem. I gave up food after food after food to try and “solve” my weight gain problem.
I eventually developed orthorexia, a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful. I avoided sugar, most refined oils, anything processed, carbs, some protein, gluten, soy, dairy, nightshades, lectins…until, there were very little foods left.
Eventually, I hit rock bottom. I was no longer celebrating my kid’s birthdays because I couldn’t eat pizza or cake. I avoided restaurants like the plague because they didn’t use “healthy” oils to cook their food in. I avoided social situations because I couldn’t control what foods were being served. I would rather starve all day than eat anything that wasn’t made by me at home.
My kids would ask me why I wasn’t eating with them. My mom would no longer ask me to go out to lunch with her. My husband would no longer ask me on a dinner date. I became so secluded, afraid to leave my own house for fear of not being able to eat anything.
That’s when I knew I had to change.
The Problem With Weight Watchers
I’m here to tell you that there is nothing sensible or effortless or freedom-like about Weight Watchers at all!
It led me down a very dangerous path, a path that led me to hate myself and eventually develop such an unhealthy relationship with food and my body.
That’s when I realized that Weight Watchers and every other diet program out there is just there to make money. And I have to admit, it’s a pretty brilliant marketing plan. When you fail, just pay us and you can try the program again…and again…and again, until you succeed.
But guess what? You will NEVER succeed on this program (or any diet program.)
Because diet plans set you up for failure.
How many diets have you done? How many diets have you succeeded at?
Even if you’re like me and you lose weight for 10 years, you will ALWAYS reach a point where the weight starts coming back on. Our bodies are so much smarter than we are.
When we start losing weight, our body compensates by slowing down our metabolism. This is our body’s natural response to not being fed enough. This in turn leads our body to start craving carb-heavy and sugar-heavy foods in order to get some quick energy. So we binge and feast and stuff our faces with this food. But our metabolic rate is already low, so we start putting on weight. This then leads us to start the diet process all over again.
I’m not blaming Weight Watchers for teaching me how to restrict calories and then binge like a madwoman.
I’m not blaming Weight Watchers for teaching me to become obsessed with counting food “points” and calories.
I’m not blaming Weight Watchers for instilling in me that my weight has everything to do with my health.
I’m not blaming Weight Watchers for making me afraid to eat certain foods.
I’m not blaming Weight Watchers for making me lose touch with my body.
I’m not blaming Weight Watchers for destroying my body image.
It was ultimately my fault for the choices I made with the information I was given. For giving in to my human nature and finding the cheats in the system. For choosing the foods with the least amount of calories. For basing my worth on my weight. I trusted the guidance I was receiving from this “reliable” source.
I was unhappy and naive, just the kind of person that the diet industry preys on.
It took me over 10 years to realize this. That I was just another victim of the diet industry. I didn’t know any better at the time.
Unfortunately, I had to develop an eating disorder in order to realize this. But you know what? I wouldn’t change how it all went down. Because now, I have the opportunity to help other women (and sometimes men) recognize that diet culture is NOT the way to health. That you are NOT to blame. That you are NOT a failure.
I hope that this post resonates with some of you. That I can help you realize there is so much more to life than counting points or calories or macros. You CAN be healthy without these things.
If you want to know more about my story and my road to recovery, consider getting my FREE Guide to Food Freedom:
Thanks for reading.
If you can relate or have someone in your life that you think might, please share this story, or leave a comment below. I would love to know how Weight Watchers or other diets have affected your relationship with food and your body.