Where to start with this one? You’ve probably heard the news that Weight Watchers is targeting teenagers now with a free membership. Looks like they are on the hunt for more lifelong members. Lifelong being the word, because dieting behaviour tends to lead to a whole host of long-term problems — mental and physical.
For a starting point: Weight watchers doesn’t work. Neither does “Slimming World” or any of the other diet cults. Dieting doesn’t make people thinner. That’s a starting point and frankly it should be strong enough a truth to also be the nail in the dieting coffin. But it isn’t, and I still can’t really work out why. Maybe people are simply so desperate for thinness that they want to believe that dieting works.
Take, for example, this study here, which shows that “Dieting and unhealthy weight-control behaviors tended to be associated with weight gain, suggesting that they are ineffective in addition to being potentially harmful.” If it weren’t so tragic it would be funny, and it is certainly ironic that the quest for thinness leads to weight gain.
We still haven’t got the message through that body fat is not the enemy. We still have a world that believes that healthy means thin. Despite the masses of evidence to the contrary — much of which at this point is clear in people’s own self history and lived experience — people still believe that a fat on a person’s body is unhealthy.
I often wonder how humans are still here. For a species with such high intelligence, we can be really fucking dumb.
Yes for those of you who missed the memo: dieting leads to weight gain.
Thankfully for us, the human body isn’t stupid. If it were, we would have been extinct eons ago. The human body is designed to survive famine, and when a person does on a diet, the body perceives famine and reacts accordingly — that is, often, a reaction that leads to gaining weight and storing more essential bodyfat.
Okay, think of it this way. You have a great job that pays you a ton of money. Then you get fired. If you have any sense at all, when your income lowers you reduce your expenditure — you stop spending money on massages and expensive whisky and, instead, start saving more. Many human bodies (not all) react to perceived famine by storing more fat and lowering metabolism. Some human bodies react to perceived famine by wanting to migrate (mine, and maybe yours too if you have anorexia). Either way, the long term effect of energy deficit (dieting) is not good. Those of us with the anorexia genetics develop the anorexia response, and we all know what a shithole that is. Those with the alternative famine response to store bodyfat tend to put on weight after dieting. Yet, as with so many things, people continue to believe health myths about weight gain and loss.
Which is why Weight Watchers have such a brilliant marketing plan to give kids free memberships. They are going to start fucking with people’s metabolisms nice and early, so that by the time they are in their 20s, their natural set point will have risen. Then, all they have to do is keep selling shame like they are already so very good at, and convince people that fat bodies are undesirable, and they’ve got people hooked on counting points and syns.
Weight gain in teens is normal and optimal
Weight Watchers gets my goat when it targets adults, for sure, but teenagers is a whole other level. Weight gain is normal and optimal in teenagers. It is needed for development. Taken from this paper on teen growth and developement:
Approximately half of adult ideal body weight is gained during adolescence. Peak weight gain follows the linear growth spurt by 3 to 6 months in females and by approximately 3 months in males. Girls will gain approximately 18.3 lb (8.3 kg) per year during peak rates of weight gain, (12.5 years of age on average). Average weight gains during puberty among females are between 15-55 lb (7-25 kg), with a mean gain of 38.5 lb (17.5 kg). Weight gain slows around the time of menarche, but will continue into late adolescence. Adolescent females may gain as much as 14 lb (6.3 kg) during the latter half of adolescence.
While the accretion of body fat mass is a normal, physiologically essential process, adolescent females often view it with negativity. Weight dissatisfaction is widespread among teenage females, leading to an increased risk of health-compromising behaviors such as excessive caloric restriction, frequent dieting, use of diet pills or laxatives, severe body image distortions and eating disorders.
Yes, exactly, weight dissatisfaction is already rife, Weight Watchers, we don’t need your help in spreading further body shame and self-hatred.
Below, you will find a couple excerpts from people in recovery on how Weight Watchers influenced their eating disorder. If you have a story to add, please do so in the comments section of this blog.
I lived on their hideous ready “meals” for years as a teen (“salmon gratin” with the consistency of wallpaper paste and sufficient calorie content to sustain a gnat was a particular favourite). This really kept me stuck as it was an excuse to avoid family meals.
Weight Watchers success is based on shame. Let’s take a moment to reflect on how gross that is. They make money through people’s shame. They
weight watchers was always my start to loosing weight as it controlled how much I ate, I was also able to reassure everyone that “I’m fine” so it kept up my facade longer. It changed my brain and I still struggle to not think in points, as my brain is so programmed to do so. It definitely contributed to my ED only was concealed by “smart eating choices” (lol, my auto fill in switched the word choice to voice coincidence, or sad reality?)
I lived off Weight Watchers measly tomato soup and their 70% less fat cheese for a good couple of years at the beginning of my descent into anorexia.
weight watchers actually was the spark that activated my relapse of my eating disorder out of college. I started counting points innocently enough but the amount was extremely low reflecting back on it. It wasn’t an amount that anyone should be eating, even those wanting to lose weight. The drastic caloric deficit was enough to throw me back into the anorexia that started in college. Before I knew it I was trying to eat fewer and fewer points a day and could not go over that amount. I think the points are super triggering for anyone with ed tendencies and makes is so easy to hide the ed under the guise of a “healthy” eating plan. I know the tag line now is freedom but the whole thing provides anything but that.