Oh, Mackereally?

All right. If you keep up with the Fatosphere feed — and you do, right? — by now, you’ve seen plenty of outrage about the new Weight Watchers campaign that goes on about how diets are miserable things that don’t work… so you should try Weight Watchers instead.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

I saw one of the taxi-topper ads (“Diets are mean!”) a couple weeks ago and was nauseated by it, but not quite moved to blog. Other people were already handling the topic quite well, and I didn’t think I’d have much to add, for all the sputtering. But last night, I actually watched television in real time for once (damn you, Law & Order franchise, for always and endlessly being there when I feel like sitting in front of the tube!), which meant watching commercials (or at least listening to them while fucking around on the internet). Watching commercials two days before the new year, and the rise of The Resolutionists off their couches.

Did I already say AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!?

The thing is, “Diets don’t work — but Weight Watchers does!” is hardly a new marketing concept for them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Weight Watchers’ success at convincing the world it’s a “lifestyle change,” not a “diet,” is right up there with the Devil’s success at convincing the world he doesn’t exist. (Except, you know, I actually am convinced of the latter.) I’ve been hearing that argument for ages — hell, I made that argument while I was on Weight Watchers — and I’m sure it was around before I was born. I’m sure there were women — and my mother and sister J. were probably two of them — walking around in 1974 talking about how they’d changed their lifestyles to include exercise, eight glasses of water a day, and regular helpings of delicious braaaaains melon mousse.

(Go buy Wendy’s book. Buy it lots.)

In fact, the message is so insidious, I’m half willing to believe there were women walking around in 1874 saying, “You know, Essie, I’ve given up on reducing diets completely, but as soon as someone invents Weight Watchers? I will gladly give them money to help me change my lifestyle. Because that will be way different.”

Here’s a story: In 1992, my sister M. and I walked into a Nutrisystem outlet and decided we wanted to sign up together. We were finally going to lose weight! Forever! But because I was under 18, and M. was more than 100 pounds over her “ideal” weight, they required us both to get a physician’s approval. Fortunately for us, our doctor said, “Nuh-fucking-uh.” (Or words to that effect.) Unfortunately, she followed it up with, “Those programs don’t work. The only one I’ll approve for you is Weight Watchers.”

So the message has been around at least that long, anyway. The only difference now is that they’re being more explicit about it. Really explicit about it.

In fairness (and through gritted teeth), I will acknowledge that as commercial diet programs go, Weight Watchers is probably the least offensive one out there. But that’s kind of like saying I find Chris Matthews less offensive than Bill O’Reilly. It’s technically true, but I still wish they’d both STFU. A lot.

Let’s take a look at how Weight Watchers is, in their own words*, distinct from a “diet.”

Weight Watchers: An integrated approach emphasizing good eating choices, healthy habits, a supportive environment and exercise.

Diets: A focus just on food. Most “diets” tend to ignore exercise and other factors necessary for sustained weight loss.

I’m sorry, what? When was the last time you heard of any weight loss program that focused solely on food and never mentioned that getting off your ass and moving might also be helpful? Probably not since about the seventies — and as we’ve discussed, if we’re going back that far, Weight Watchers is in no freakin’ position to talk. I’m pretty sure the WW marketing team would consider Jenny Craig and others of that ilk “diets,” yet exercise — not to mention the “support” of a counselor and instructions on food choices — are every bit as much a part of those programs.

Also, what are these mysterious “other factors necessary for sustained weight loss” you speak of? When I was on WW, the only real maintenance advice I got was, “Keep doing what we’re telling you to do now for the rest of your natural life. If you get fat again anyway, come back and give us more money. We’re always here for you!” Which, not coincidentally, was essentially the same maintenance plan I got from Jenny Craig (of which, I have confessed before, I am actually a lifetime member because, by the second time I did that program, I realized that regain was practically guaranteed, and I am nothing if not a conservative gambler).

Also, how do you reconcile research that shows dieting changes your metabolism to the extent that permanent weight loss involves “maintaining [oneself] in a permanent state of starvation” (and please note that the few people who achieved long-term weight loss in the study referenced “made staying thin their life’s work, becoming Weight Watchers lecturers, for example”), with a claim that your totally healthy, balanced, non-punishing, non-obsessive non-diet program holds the key to permanent weight loss?

Weight Watchers: A plan that allows you to eat what you like, with an emphasis on nutrition and advice on staying satisfied by choosing the foods you enjoy.

Diets: Rigid rules you must follow to succeed or requirements that eliminate some foods entirely. Often, you must buy special foods from a specific diet company.

Um, yeah. You can eat what you like on Weight Watchers, but if what you like is, say, a cheeseburger and fries, you’re done for the day — and possibly cutting into tomorrow’s nutritional allotment — unless you knock yourself out at the gym, in which case you might earn yourself enough POINTS(tm) to have a non-fat yogurt before bed. As long as “what you like” is fruits, vegetables, broth, and whole grains, you can eat yourself silly. But if that was what you most enjoyed eating in large quantities in the first place, why would you need to spend money on learning to make “healthy lifestyle changes”? Despite their ballyhooed emphasis on exercise, does anyone sign up for Weight Watchers just to get advice on gym-going? And despite the fact that there are plenty of fat vegans out there, and some of them undoubtedly want to lose weight, are they really the target market here?

So sure, you can “eat what you like,” but you have to eat a whole lot less of it and/or work out maniacally to ostensibly counteract it — otherwise you’ve failed to stay “on program.” Which sounds kinda like a diet to me, but wevs. I mean, at least Weight Watchers is still morally superior to those companies that just want to sell their special diet foods!

Weight Watchers: A sensible plan to help you lose weight at a healthy rate plus the knowledge and info you need to help you keep it off for good.

Diets: Promises of rapid weight loss with little effort, but no information on how to keep the weight off for the long haul.

This is my fucking favorite. Weight Watchers, once again, will sell you the secret to keeping the weight off for good. That’s why it’s not a diet!

Well, as someone who was unwittingly giving Weight Watchers money until a few months ago — because I completely forgot I’d signed up for their online program again about a year and a half two years ago** (until they sent me a notice saying that credit card had expired) — I’m here to tell you I never got the magic secret. What I got for my money was access to a diet plan; no more, no less. And — as I said above — virtually the exact same advice on nutrition, exercise, and long-term maintenance I’d gotten from every other diet plan I tried, all of which is available for free on about eleventy billion websites.

The only thing you really get from WW, or any of its competitors, is a specific structure for your efforts. If that’s what you want, go nuts. It’s your money. And it’s certainly true that some people respond well to the WW structure and do lose weight steadily on it. I myself lost 40 lbs. on Weight Watchers pretty easily, as diets go. Found it all again within a few years, but hey, that’s just me and my lazy, non-committed, hopelessly gluttonous ass, right?

Uh huh. Except, do me a favor. Go click on the “Success Stories” section on their website. I won’t link, but go ahead, I’ll wait.

Do you see that asterisk underneath the “after photos”? The one next to the words “RESULTS NOT TYPICAL.”

Yeah.

Weight Watchers, according to their website, is “unique.” It’s different from all those other diet plans — in fact, it’s not one! And one of the main reasons it’s different is that they will give you “the knowledge and info you need to help you keep it off for good.” But for some strange, inexplicable reason, they still have to include the same disclaimer as every other diet program that touts its success with pictures of former fatties. The disclaimer that says, in slightly fewer words, We cannot legally claim that someone who lost weight and kept it off represents the typical consumer of our product, even though the entire purpose of our product is to help people lose weight and keep it off. Or, in still other words, In a majority of cases, our product does not do what it is meant to do.

Oddly enough, they still include that same disclaimer, even though this is not like all those other programs that include it. Even though this is the one that will teach you how to lose weight and keep it off for good! Somehow, despite having discovered the magic secret to permanent weight loss, they are still not willing and/or legally permitted to claim unreservedly that it works for most people.

Weird, huh?

Weight Watchers: A time-tested approach informed by analyzing years of scientific studies.

Diets: “Proof” often based on one scientific study designed to support the diet’s claims.

Okay, first, how “time-tested” can their approach be, when only thirty years ago, their approach was fucking Mackerelly? And when the Weight Watchers program I did in 2003 was a different program from what’s offered now (though what I did was very similar to the current “Flex” plan)? One of the slogans in the new campaign is, “If diets work, why do we need a new one every 5 minutes?” To which I respond, if Weight Watchers works, why does the whole program get revamped every five minutes?

And… *snicker* and… *BWAH* and… *wipes away tear*… I’m sorry, did Weight Watchers just slag off other diet programs for basing their claims on studies designed to support them? I need to go lie down.

Weight Watchers: Flexible food plans that can adapt to any lifestyle or unique needs.

Diets: Little consideration for you as an individual, with just one approach to suit everyone’s needs.

That’s right. Weight Watchers doesn’t offer “just one approach.” They’ve got TWO! The “Count our fancy POINTS instead of the calories and fat they represent!” plan, OR the “If you’re already a vegan who doesn’t eat sugar, you’ll never have to count anything again!” plan. SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE.

That’s it. That’s their whole list of ways Weight Watchers is different from “diets.” On the other hand, here are a few things the program involves that bear some small similarity to “diets”:

  • Restricting fat and calories
  • Exercising for the express purpose of being permitted to consume more fat and calories without breaking the rules
  • Focusing on weight loss as the primary goal
  • Weekly weigh-ins
  • Rewards and encouragement for losing weight
  • Zero guarantee that the program will help any given individual lose weight at all, let alone permanently
  • Warnings that people who do lose weight and keep it off are not “typical”of those who use the program
  • Warnings that “only permanent lifestyle changes – such as making healthful food choices and increasing physical activity – promote long-term weight loss.” Promote long-term weight loss, you’ll note. Not guarantee it. Not even cause it. Merely promote it.
  • Blame placed entirely on the individual, not the program (much less the myth of long-term weight loss being possible for most people) — if permanent weight loss does not follow from adherence to the program

But it’s not a diet. No siree!

Yeah, pull the other one.

And you know what? That’s not even the worst part. The claim that Weight Watchers is not a diet isn’t even what got me off my fat, lazy ass to blog about this — like I said, that claim has been around for as long as I can remember. What got me was the tag line on the TV ads: “Diets don’t work — but Weight Watchers does!”

I’m sorry, what is it that diets are supposed to cause again? Weight loss — ideally permanent — right? And to that end, the ads claim, Weight Watchers works!

Just not… typically.

That’s the part that makes my fucking blood boil (which doesn’t burn as many calories as you’d think). They’re claiming they have different results from those awful “diets” they’re nothing like, which… um, where’s the proof of that again? The five-year or longer study? The success story that comes without a “Results not typical” disclaimer?

Yeah.

You know what’s not a diet, what’s a feasible “permanent lifestyle change,” and what actually works, if you go by measures like cholesterol, blood pressure, increased physical activity, improved eating habits, lower rates of depression, and higher self-esteem? Health at Every Size. And it doesn’t cost a thing.

If you want to make a New Year’s resolution to eat better and exercise more, that’s fantastic. More power to you. Hell, I’m making the same resolution, even though I already do okay with those things — I can always do better, and I always feel better the more I do those things. But here’s the part of the latest Weight Watchers ads you should take to heart: Diets don’t work. Diets are mean. Stop dieting. Start living.

Fat acceptance activists have been saying those things for years. So in a way, it’s actually really nice to see those words splashed all over billboards and cabs and TV — just as long as nobody forgets that the people spending gazillions to put them out there right now are the same ones who brought you Mackerelly, who brought you once-a-week liver, who brought you food scales sitting ominously on the counter for years, and who are now bringing you nothing but calorie-counting in sheep’s clothing.

Diets don’t work. You can just stop listening to the ads right there.

*I’m not linking to them, but you can easily find my source for this on their website, the url of which is exactly what you’d expect it to be.

**[I edited this after doing the math and realizing I'd been paying them for over two friggin' years, not 18 months. The rest of this note stands, however.] Just in case anyone was still laboring under the delusion that I’m an old, unwavering hand at this whole body acceptance thing. Hell, I haven’t even fully accepted my body for as long as I kept the weight off after my diets yet. I guess we’ll have to see if I’m still here in 5 years, huh?

108 thoughts on “Oh, Mackereally?

  1. That’s the part that makes my fucking blood boil (which doesn’t burn as many calories as you’d think)

    Hell, if that worked, we horribly angry feminist manhaters would be the thinnest of all! And then, of course, fat would be the cultural ideal.

  2. I don’t really have anything to add to this post, except I joined Weight Watchers when I was twelve, and I’m thirty-nine and still pretty upset that they took on a twelve-year old child, with nothing more than an approval signature from my mother – not even a doctor’s note. I wonder if they are still doing shit like that?

  3. I wonder if they are still doing shit like that?

    In fairness, I doubt it — based only on my experience with Nutrisystem, and my assumption that WW wouldn’t be any less likely to cover their asses in that manner. I think all these companies are a whole lot more wary of lawsuits these days than they once were — hence “Results not typical.”

  4. Results not typical.

    Read: These people are either starving themselves constantly, or they simply have an untreated medical condition that our wonky way of thinking has helped keep under control.

    Hell, I’m through with diets mainly because (and I’m a bit ashamed to say this because it should be because I’m happy with me) I freaking gain weight when I diet. I’ve mucked up my set point so badly by trying to be something I’m not, and I’m over it. If someone wants to say something about all of my 250 lbs then I’ll just sit on ‘em!

  5. Read: These people are either starving themselves constantly, or they simply have an untreated medical condition that our wonky way of thinking has helped keep under control.

    Or, most likely, they just finished the program 3 weeks ago and haven’t started gaining it back yet.

    (I fixed your tags, btw.)

  6. Ugh and ack. This is such an infuriating marketing ploy. I’ve been seeing these WW ads all over NYC and they’re really pissing me off. It’s frightening to see diet companies co-opting body acceptance language.

    Slim Fast has a similar campaign, called “Find Your Slim.” They’re all, “Stick-thin models aren’t our inspiration. You are.” Riiight. Slender Quenchers, anyone?

  7. I gave up on WW about 10 years ago when I joined up for the third? fourth? fifth? time since the age of nine–no doctor’s note required in the 1980s–and followed the f*cking plan assiduously and lost seven pounds in nine months. Which I gained back in their entirety during a single week in Brazil. It was then that I realized that my metabolism was well and truly shot at the ripe old age of 25. And, for the most part, I did not do “crazy” diets. I did WW. Same result.

  8. Hell, if that worked, we horribly angry feminist manhaters would be the thinnest of all! And then, of course, fat would be the cultural ideal.

    That’s exactly what I was thinking.

    Okay, I was thinking more like, I personally would be thin, and fuck, I’d GO on that diet, and fuck FUCK, every mother of a teenager would be super fucking thin because DO YOUR HOMEWORK and then I thought…

    Um…shiny.

  9. And Michael Fumento thinks we are the ones making all the money off desperate fatties, just because Paul Campos has a newspaper column and writes about fat every few months, and once published a book about fat that sold about as well as Fumento’s antifat screed. I only wish a tiny fraction of the “WW resolution” money would make its way into my bank account. (Or Paul Campos’s or Sandy Szwarc’s or yours, for that matter.)

    What I can’t deal with is my dad (now almost 67) being a WW head. He’s an atheist, but he hasn’t forsaken religion; WW is his religion. Mr. “Everything’s A Ripoff And They’re Not Getting My Hard-Earned Money And Time” has totally bought the “lifestyle change” sales pitch, which tells you how good it is. For years he’s lost weight (about 30 pounds) and regained it, lost it and regained it, lost it and regained it. And of course, every regain is his fault, not theirs, not even Mother Nature’s.

    And now doctors are testing him for impaired glucose tolerance. I completely believe this is almost entirely a matter of genetics (I have PCOS and his mom probably had it too) and aging, but isn’t the sales pitch of the diet-fitness industrial complex that they’re supposed to prevent that sort of thing until you’re at least 90?

  10. Or, most likely, they just finished the program 3 weeks ago and haven’t started gaining it back yet.

    (I fixed your tags, btw.)

    I didn’t even think of that one. How odd that 3 weeks is “success”.

    And thanks for the fix.

  11. Oh come on now, I swear I did the tags right this time.

    That’s it, I’m grounding myself from commenting until I can do it properly.

  12. Don’t forget the SELF-LOATHING. It’s the secret ingredient.

    I did WW as a teen. As the ‘sensible’ diet.

    On WW I got as skinny as I ever got (size 14 Australian, about 89kg) and hit a big plataeu. I could not lose even one more kilo no matter how hard I tried and, in hindsight, I had obviously hit my set point and nothing was going to shift any further. I was told that I was clearly cheating and lying about what I ate and wasn’t trying hard enough. Yeah right, I’d lost 25kg by not trying hard enough. So, even though I was eating between 800-1000 cals a day already, I was instructed to go reduce what I was eating (or not eating) even further! The inevitable bust and regain occurred.

  13. Also, last time I read about the points system, the amount of food it added up to seemed really low (~50 kcal/point).

    I recently read an interesting book called “The Great Starvation Experiment” by Todd Tucker. It’s the story of the experiment Ancel Keys ran during World War II on conscientious objectors. After 9 months on 1500 calories per day (30 WW points!) one of the men actually chopped off three of his fingers. Another one dropped out early on due to psychosis, another one secretly ate garbage the whole time, and the rest of them became interested in food to the exclusion of everything else (including sex).

    And to think that people voluntarily do this to themselves. It’s almost offensive, really. How better to keep the masses down than to convince them to starve themselves into docility and madness?

  14. “Those programs don’t work. The only one I’ll approve for you is Weight Watchers.”

    Four years ago, I went to a new doctor to get a physical. I had just joined a Curves-like gym and had been going three times a week for a few weeks at that point. My doctor actually told me to go to Weight Watchers instead of exercising. I suspect that the medical office had a kick-back system going with WW, because the one she told me to go to was in the same strip mall.

    My #1 resolution this upcoming year: Don’t Diet!

  15. “Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” –Naomi Wolf

    And yes, most people eating within their WW “points allowance” are consuming close to or just below the WHO caloric level for “starvation.”

  16. That whole “don’t have to count points plan” should come with an asterisk.

    You see, you don’t have to count points if you stick to their list of approved foods you can eat. If you deviate from that list — like eating a slice of bread, you have to count the points for that bread.

    That’s what made me finally say fuck it to WW. You are still counting points and I don’t want to spend my life counting points because I wanted some bread.

  17. I only began enjoying your blog recently, and when I saw that WW ad today I thought “Kate would have their heads.” Teehee.

  18. I have a vague, foggy memory of being at WW as a young teenager: I remember taking off my favorite boots for a weigh-in (mortified that I had a hole in my stockings) and I remember women speaking of sourdough bread as if it were Satan himself. My aunt and grandfather (my grandfather! 83 years old, getting ready for shoulder surgery, and starving himself!) are both on WW and they just think it is so great, even though my aunt admits that she has a suspicion that “we’re hardy stock–y’know, famine-resistant.” So, diets would work for us how?

  19. If you’re eating within your WW points allowance, you’re eating barely above 1200 calories a day.

    Let’s assume, you’re eating about 25 points/day (means you’re a medium sized person, prob. shorter)

    25 points times 50 cals/point(estimate) == 1250 calories/day

    And many people are instructed to eat below 25 points in a day.

    Sounds like diet to me. Or, should I say, sounds like false advertisement, and a very misleading ad.

  20. And in particular, of course, the lady masses.

    Which is, of course, the name of the Shapely Prose women’s rugby team.

  21. We have a rugby team?! SWEET! I want in…although come to think of it, I’ve never played rugby before and would probably get my asterisks kicked.

  22. I want to play on the Lady Masses. I know nothing about rugby, though. Is that important? I figure my rack of doom (which has not yet been properly sized) may prove intimidating to the opposing teams.

  23. I suck at organized sports (can’t catch nor throw. running? eh. only if I were CERTAIN something was gonna get me). So can I be a cheerleader instead? I’m good at that!

  24. I would LOVE to play rugby, we would own!

    My mom did weight watchers when I was little, they gave her this giant cup to drink water out of, because water, apparently equals instant weight loss. She still has it, it has to be 15 years old by now and she still carries it around with her and it always has some water in it. (Though they are now getting Jenny Craig delivered to the house. Yum, freeze dried food.)

    I too hate these commercials.

  25. I’ve just always been slightly (ok, more than slightly) creeped out by how obsessive WW people get. There was an entire group of them at work, including a friend, and the biggest thing I noticed was the total lack of personality these people had. They became utterly involved with food!

    I decided I’d rather be fat and even vaguely interesting (and full!) than thin, boring and eerie.

  26. I went on weight watchers because my parents were concerned about my weight. I lost 25 pounds, and then I quit going (defiantly not because I reached my “goal” weight) and I gained 45 pounds. Its only in the last year with eating healthier and not depriving myself that I went back to my starting weight of 270.

    I was always upset by what our group leader said “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” It sounds like nothing is as great as being thin, which I don’t believe.

  27. Oh, Stevie, I hate that phrase too. It always means, in my book, that they just haven’t tasted my cooking yet. And I have a hard time believing that the only people who would know, people who have gone from fat to thin, always by some sort of wasting-away program or devastating surgery, say that because it’s been so long since they had something good to eat. And I’m sure not getting taunted by the rest of the world or harassed by your physician feels pretty good too, compared to how a baby-flavored donut tastes.

    Who are we kidding? There’s nothing better than baby-flavored donuts.

    PS–Amen to the Lady Masses. I (heart) rugby better than any other game.

  28. “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”

    It always creeps the hell out of me when I hear weight-loss advocates or dieticians/counselors talking like pro-ana sites. (Not that the pro-ana movement originated that particular piece of thinspiration, so far as I know, but still.)

  29. lol @ lady masses and our mascot. sign me up. i dont know how to play but i work out and have quite the mean streak and have the feeling i can kick some ass.

    by the way, speaking of slogans and ads, i of course agree with everything u’ve said and would like to add an unrelated, really stupid one: “don’t be fat for one more day” or some such nonsense, for nutrisystem. cuz once u sign up, ur immediately thin. the next day. forever.
    the funny thing is, there is some truth to that in this sense: if ur unapologetically fat, or even at ANY size really, and u refuse to diet – ur vile and immoral. But if u TRY, if u just obsess about it like everyone else, then people sympathize with u immediately.

    whatev…

    as for WW – i’m risking hurting people’s feeling again, in case the people in question read this, but i must say: a friend who is doing WW is always so eerie, staring at my food all the time when i eat near her, obsessing about food almost all the time that we’re together. i have really hilarious details about this, but in fact they are more sad than funny, plus i feel it’d be mean of me to make her fodder for my jokes so i shall resist the urge.
    but one thing i must say is how hard it was for me to shut up when she first told me about her plan to do WW. she told me “i know it works, cuz i have done it before and lost weight”. ya. if it worked so well, why would u need to do it again?
    i mean ur all totally familiar with this – that people say “well if u stayed on it it’d work” but the point is there’s a reason almost nobody stays on it. i have an uneasy tension about that because i certainly don’t say all that to the friend who’s doing it. and with other people, such as my personal trainer, i try to focus on what we DO agree on, like the health benefits of exercise regardless of weight. I did have to notify my trainer that i am not interested in dieting tips or focusing on weight loss. And if something slips from her lips about “caloric burn” or anything, i sweetly remind her that i find that irrelevant and care much more about the strength i am developing and the endorphins that will flood my body.
    so whatever she thinks about these things, she’s cool with me and how i want us to deal with it.

    But i digress, that’s more on the “speaking up” topic.

    By the way, kate, it’s interesting to me that u are fairly new to body acceptance. ur pretty damn good at it! haha.

    I have been pretty much accepting myself and rejecting dieting for years now, tho i still do struggle with it – how can one not – but overall i am happy with myself.

    It started before i knew how exaggerated the health risks of obesity are – tho that definitely egged me on. It started with simple logic: it seems that at whatever size, many people (esp women) are deeply dissatisfied with their bodies. So clearly, there is no specific size that will make me satisfied. The key must lie elsewhere.

    Also, logically, if we really knew how to make fat people thin – everyone would be thin. So I figured, we don’t.

    It actually started by me being more forgiving about how OTHER women looked, and eventually i was able to apply that to myself.
    And I started by acting-as-if – I started wearing clothes that showed my body more, “as if I were attractive”. I acted as if men definitely should be attracted to me. And as if other women had no reason to feel superior (or inferior) about their looks, and that we were all hot in our own ways and that was just fine. And the world responded as if they were responding to an attractive woman who has nothing to apologize for. And then I FELT like one. And still do :)

  30. I decided I’d rather be fat and even vaguely interesting (and full!) than thin, boring and eerie

    Oh so true! I used to be part of WW for a long time with my mother and I still remember how completely and utterly OBSESSED you become with food. What you just ate, how many points it had, how many you have left, when that next 2 point snack comes….on and on. Same with South Beach for me as well more recently!

    Before I started reading about fat-acceptance, I worshipped the words of weight-loss promises, from advertisers OR anyone else for that matter. Did a co-worker lose weight? How did she (and note always SHE) do it? What is your “SECRET”. Because lord knows it must be a secret that the rest of us schmoos just don’t have…that ONE vital bit of information that will change all us slacker diet-failers into miraculously sucessful “results not typical”s.

    It is a long hard road to leaving behind that fat-hatred but it all starts as WW suggests with “Diets don’t work”…and lets just leave it at that, shall we? ;)

    Oh and for other glorious examples of how WW has completed f**ked with women’s perception of what can be eaten check out The Gallery of Regrettable Food. (I can’t make those nifty pop-up links: http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/). You might laugh but in 20 years what will they be writing about the diet plans out here now?

  31. By the way, kate, it’s interesting to me that u are fairly new to body acceptance. ur pretty damn good at it! haha.

    Thanks. And you know, in some ways, certainly, I’ve been at it for years. I’ve been at it on some level since I read Terry Poulton’s No Fat Chicks in 1997 and immediately stopped going to Jenny Craig… the first time. (I had already lost all the weight I wanted to lose anyway, of course. I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to give it up otherwise back then, but there was SOME symbolic value in quitting when I did.)

    But as I’ve said here time and again, it was a looooong, slow process for me, with lots of backsliding. Reading The Obesity Myth in 2004 was a major, major watershed, but I still wasn’t ready to “come out” as fat until this past year. That WW sign-up 18 months ago was my last serious thought of dieting — and as it happens, I didn’t even use the subscription that time. Downloaded a few recipes and then, as I said, forgot I had it. But that’s how recently I still wanted to diet. (As you and many others have said, I accepted other people’s fat long before I accepted my own.)

    I think it’s important to bring that up every now and again, because a lot of new readers seem to think I’m some kind of body-love expert who’s been like this forever and can’t even remember what it was like to want to lose weight. Not so much.

    And actually, wait, I just did the math. It must have been over two years ago that I signed up for WW, because I remember it being fall, and it was well before I met Al.

  32. I think it’s good that you mention that, kate. And actually for me it was also gradual, and with a lot of backsliding. And I still struggle with it – the best i can do is to simply NOT share or discuss certain things with most people, because i know they will trigger a lot of bad feelings for me.
    Ideally, i will someday be so strong that i will be able to be open about everything with everyone, and won’t feel like certain things are sometimes too sensitive and have to be kept secret from most people.
    That’s why it’s so COOL that you write all of this and are open about it. And as much as I’ve been into accepting myself and against dieting for a relatively long time, i only recently felt like i could try to be more open about that with people who disagree. Which really is a higher level of self acceptance than when i feel to fragile about it to be open about it with everyone.

  33. The sad thing is that it’s not just WW saying “We’re not a diet, and you can tell because we call it a lifestyle.” I worked on a teen-level health book that said a lot of similar things: You need to have a healthy “eating plan” (which looks an awful lot like a diet, what with the restricting calories and the good foods/bad foods concept), but you need to avoid “crash diets” that restrict calories and prioritize some foods above others, and you definitely need to watch out for anorexia, which you can recognize in part by an obsession with counting calories.

    Yeah, I don’t know how the kids were supposed to keep it straight either.

  34. I can’t play rugby either, it was just the toughest-sounding sport I could think of. I don’t see why the Lady Masses can’t also be the name of our hockey, fencing, swimming, lacrosse, table tennis, interpretive dance, and kitten pile teams.

    My deal on WW was that I wouldn’t eat more than ten points before dinner. I was terrified if I didn’t have more than half my points left by dinnertime, because I needed the wiggle room to feel psychologically comfortable. Of course I rarely made my minimum, but hey, I lost a whopping 20 lbs.

    I didn’t even write stuff down, just kept a running tally in my head, all the time.

  35. My mom did weight watchers when I was little, they gave her this giant cup to drink water out of, because water, apparently equals instant weight loss.

    Oh, yes. Weight Watchers and water.

    Now, to appreciate this story, you must know that I am a huge (har) nutrition nerd. Did a decade of Foods & Nutrition Quiz Bowl in my halcyon 4-H days. And I used only the USDA food database (the super ultra detailed one) to plan my menus. (In retrospect, this is probably why I’ve spent about two weeks of my life, aggregate, actually dieting: too much time spent saying, “I’ll start on Monday! This plan still doesn’t give me a full RDA of choline!”)

    So about a year ago, as my last gasp of dieting, I joined Weight Watchers. And I was immediately bothered by the rule that half your fluid intake had to be water — no diet sodas, green tea, Crystal Light, etc. I mean, the main ingredient in all of them is WATER, and even the caffeinated ones wouldn’t have a noticeable diuretic effect (the average person can drink 3 cups of coffee without peeing any extra, and regular caffeine addicts have a much higher tolerance). So that drove me up the wall, and the way everyone toted water bottles everywhere they went only exacerbated it.

    Then at one meeting, when we were sharing tips, a woman exhorted us all to drink our water. “You have to flush out the calories!” she pressed. “If you don’t drink water, how will the calories get removed from your body?” Everyone, including the instructor, complimented her on her excellent point.

    I didn’t go back.

  36. Ha. I tried them for a year. I hated the patronising primary-school lecturing and the lame pop science. “Not a diet”, my arse.

    But in fairness, that “points=starvation level calories” comment is wrong. You are supposed to eat a goodly amount of point-free foods, in addition to your 18-25 points. Almost all salads and vegetables are free. Eating a lot more vegetables and salads is one thing that’s stuck with me from then, and I’m quite happy about that part of it.

  37. (Not that the pro-ana movement originated that particular piece of thinspiration, so far as I know, but still.)

    The first time I saw the ‘Nothing tastes better….’ thing was as a favorite quote of some particularly nasty, male diet guru back in the early 90s, when I still used to pick up new diet books and flick through them in the hope that they held The Answer. (I never liked or totally believed the diet industry even then, but I was married to an already obviously fat-phobic guy and I believed his dislike of my body was my fault.) I seem to recall this author was from New York – he mentioned one of his clients coming up to him in Central Park loaded with big-name designer store bags and giving him a huge kiss because thanks to his ‘motivation’ (he favored extreme shame and humiliation as a weight loss method) she was finally thin enough to shop at those kind of places – but I don’t recall his name. Probably just as well.

    WW in the UK hasn’t adopted the ‘not a diet’ slogans. Yet. I’ll give it a few months. The other, very similar schemes, Slimming World and the like, have been using happy laughing women, bright colors and the words ‘Freedom’ and ‘Yes, You Can’ and similar crap on their ads for ages now. Anything to avoid the fact that a diet means, gosh, hunger and deprivation, I’d never have guessed, would you?

    I’ve known numbers of people who’ve been involved with WW over the years. I don’t know if there’s something about the points system that has this effect beyond plain calorie counting, but the way it can turn ordinarily sane, balanced people into nit-picking food obsessives is scary. Which is why I steer well clear of it; I already have obsessive tendencies, and I don’t want them triggered in that way.

  38. Kraft, too, has changed the verbiage in its South Beach Diet packaging to reflect “South Beach Living.” I think this is the beginning of a new fad diet in itself – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. Cue eye rolling here.

  39. “If you don’t drink water, how will the calories get removed from your body?” Everyone, including the instructor, complimented her on her excellent point.

    Oh my freakin’ god. *boggle*

    Anyone who’s ever lived with me can tell you I drink water like I just got back from the desert. Started that long before my first diet — and it’s not even that I’m thirsty all the time, it’s that it’s a sort of security blanket/oral fixation thing. If I didn’t have a glass of water to sip from all the time, I’d never do anything but smoke and eat.

    When I did JC (never went to meetings on WW), every week, the counselor would be like, “How’d you do with your water?” Me: “Great. Water is no problem for me.” And more than once I heard how “AWESOME” and surprising that was. Which leads me to believe the water recommendations are there primarily as one more way to blame the dieter/convince someone the program works, but she’s fucking up. Hmmm, you stayed on program but gained two pounds this week? WELL, DID YOU GET IN ALL YOUR WATER?

    You are supposed to eat a goodly amount of point-free foods, in addition to your 18-25 points.

    Cath, sure, but the problem is, salad with dressing or cheese or croutons means points. Vegetables cooked in oil or butter or steamed but sprinkled with parmesan mean points. I like plain baby carrots and some plain steamed veggies well enough, but frankly, not as much as I like vegetables with a little fat. And WW made me completely paranoid about eating veggies with any added fats, so it took me a long time after I went off it to learn that, as I’ve said before, butter doesn’t actually negate the nutritional value of carrots, for instance.

  40. Oh, and Rachel, I don’t think it’s a new fad at all. As Sandy said yesterday:

    They’re counting on people to not remember that nondieting is a worn diet tactic and nothing new. Just as all diet fads have cycled in and out of fashion, the fad of “no-diet” diets has seen a resurgence over recent years. If it had worked years ago, it wouldn’t be a fad, of course. Sadly, a lot of people become convinced that they’re eating “healthy” or “intuitively” when they’re actually dieting, restricting and restraining their eating

  41. FJ- I did the same thing, trying to only eat 10 or 11 points all day long, so I could have dinner and some wine. I realized I was out of control when my bf made a delicious dinner one night…I freaked out when I found out he had glazed our salmon with almost half a stick of butter. I was seriously mad: “What are you trying to do? SABOTAGE me? Keep me FAT????”

    And going to those effing meetings, after working out obsessively (20 more minutes and I’ll have 2 more activity points!), making sure I never went over my points, and giving up BEER (for me that’s huge), only to find out that I had lost half a pound or sometimes gained a pound. I would leave totally resolved to eat even less, work out more…you know the drill.

  42. “…butter doesn’t actually negate the nutritional value of carrots…”

    Seriously. I love broccoli sauteed with fresh garlic and chopped almonds. Love it. When on WW, I was estimating how many whole almonds I was putting in, and trying to figure out how to keep them from burning while using only 2 sprays of Pam olive oil. “cause, you know, putting actual olive oil in a pan would be total sacrilege.

  43. Seriously. I love broccoli sauteed with fresh garlic and chopped almonds. Love it. When on WW, I was estimating how many whole almonds I was putting in, and trying to figure out how to keep them from burning while using only 2 sprays of Pam olive oil. “cause, you know, putting actual olive oil in a pan would be total sacrilege.

    Okay, first, I am totally gonna sautee some broccoli with fresh garlic and chopped almonds.

    Second, I TOTALLY hear you on the rest of that. Counting the Pam sprays, UGH.

    I’ve written before about how I’m not a great cook, and in retrospect, I think part of that comes from having let dieting dictate my cooking — even when I wasn’t officially on a diet — for so many years. I had a major revelation when I went up to a cottage with some girlfriends, and one of them — a 6-foot-tall, willowy, naturally stick-thin model-type, I might add — made these SUBLIME scrambled eggs. I’m not even a big egg fan — the fact that I was waxing rhapsodic over eggs (and still remember them vividly, years later) was plain weird.

    So I asked her what her secret was. She didn’t know what I was talking about at first ’cause, you know, they’re just scrambled eggs… she made them like everybody makes scrambled eggs. It ain’t rocket science.

    Me: No, seriously, these are the best fucking eggs I have ever tasted. WHAT DID YOU DO?
    Her: Well, I cooked them in like half a stick of butter…

    Ding ding ding! I had never in my life made scrambled eggs with anything but the tiniest pat of butter possible. And I’d never quite put it together that using more butter (or oil or anything but Pam sprays) might just substantially improve a lot of my cooking. You mean, it makes things less dry? It prevents things from burning? It adds flavor? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS MAGICAL BUTTER STUFF BEFORE?

  44. Kate, if you are going to make the broccoli thing: use half olive oil and half butter (so good, I don’t know why!) and right before you take it out, squeeze a little lemon juice over it and grind/shake a little pepper and salt onto it. It is seriously the food of gods and takes about 10 minutes to make. I do the same thing with asparagus, too. I don’t like steamed veggies, I guess…

  45. But in fairness, that “points=starvation level calories” comment is wrong. You are supposed to eat a goodly amount of point-free foods, in addition to your 18-25 points

    But there’s a reason those foods are “free.” They have negligible calories, so you can consume a pound of lettuce a day, but it’s still not going to put you over the semi-starvation caloric level.

  46. I remember women speaking of sourdough bread as if it were Satan himself

    My favorite (non-diet) WW meeting moment of all time was in the 90s, when my Leader went on a bat-shit crazy rant – I mean a foaming, trembling, ‘No more wire hangers’ style crazy rant – about how terrible it was that people would consider drinking 2% instead of skim milk. She was enraged – disgusted, even – by the very notion that someone claiming a wish to be healthy would still guzzle that noxious, instant-obsesity-inducing devil’s brew. She ranted on a bit to a stunned audience, got it all out of her system, smoothed her ‘do back down and re-adjusted her fixed ‘you can do it, girls!’ grin, but it was too late. We had all seen the fat-loathing, ignited by of all things, 2% milk. (Imagine if someone had confessed to drinking chocolate milk! It would have taken riot squads with fire hoses to stop her).

    I know not all WW pundits are this demented, but that was my first little glimpse that perhaps substituting the judgment of strangers of dubious training and background for my own, where my health and body were concerned, might be a risky proposition. That said it still took a decade for the idea to sink in that …maybe… I am fine… just as I am, 2% milk and all!

  47. [i]Eating a lot more vegetables and salads is one thing that’s stuck with me from then, and I’m quite happy about that part of it.[/i]

    I think that’s an important point. I have a ginormous sweet tooth, and the last diet I did was my own version of the low-glycemic-index-south-beachish-no-sugar-whatever-the-hell you-want-to-call-it diet. I lost weight, then gained it back later when I went back to eating as I always had, yadda yadda, but I also got some incredible eye-opening perspective on how sugar affects me physically, mentally and emotionally (read: I felt fucking great when I wasn’t eating it!). I’m really really glad I gained that awareness, even though I eat sweet stuff now whenever I want. Ya know, a box of donuts or two.

  48. Cara- What is it with dairy and WW?

    When I started eating locally (several months after WW), the only kind of yogurt I could find was full fat. I resisted it for a while, but when I finally tried it, I was in LOVE! I had been totally trained to eat only 1% or skim products. But what is the big fucking deal if I have 4 grams of fat in my yogurt?

    A long time ago on this blog somewhere, someone had said that if they were going to eat themselves fat, it would be on fancy cheese. It has really stuck in my mind, apparantly. Bring on the dairy!

  49. Weight Watchers feels like “my” diet in some ways. It’s the one that this year I resolve to sweep out of my head, because I’ve been living the little boxes in the back of my head,and later the points, for longer than I haven’t. It was the first real diet I went on, the only one I attended meetings for, and the one I returned to a zillion times.

    In my whole dieting history, I lose about 20 pounds before I plateau, become unreasonably hungry and food obsessed, and then “fail” the diet. The last time I went to a WW meeting I’d started gaining after two months on the plateau (or perhaps was simply heavier – I go up and down about 5 pounds every day.) As I was weighed the woman clucked at me and shook her head. She said I was sabatoging myself with cough drops.

    I don’t eat cough drops; it was so odd and frustrating and I had no way of saying: “but I’m doing it RIGHT” without sounding defensive. Also, by two months of plateau I was both starving and getting really disparaged. I am surprised I neither burst into tears nor stabbed her with my fingernails.

    But I didn’t really blame her. She’d been maintaining a 55 pound weight loss for a year. She must have been utterly insane.

    I did WW 4 times afterwards. Seriously, the calorie content of zero point foods is so low that the starvation calorie calculation works. I was eating 21? 22? points (1100ish calories?) per day of points. On my veggie stuffingist day only about 200 calories of zero point foods went into me.

    That’s 10 heads of lettuce or 6.5 cups of broccoli. I mean, broccoli is not making a huge caloric difference to anyone, and hardly pulls you out of starvation levels of calories.

  50. A long time ago on this blog somewhere, someone had said that if they were going to eat themselves fat, it would be on fancy cheese.

    I’m pretty sure that was Sweet Machine. But she’d have to elbow me away from the fancy cheese first.

  51. it was so odd and frustrating and I had no way of saying: “but I’m doing it RIGHT” without sounding defensive.

    Oh, DUDE, that is such a huge part of the crazy making! If you gain but claim to have stayed on program, you are clearly a liar. Grrrrrrr.

  52. I went to one WW meeting, paid the first fee, bought the l books and then never went back again. I found the whole thing so depressing and I hated the way they treated you like garbage until you agreed to pay for membership. When I asked them questions about the program, why and how it works, they literally said they couldn’t reveal any info to me until I became a member. The women leading the meeting acted like I had no right to even be there until I wrote my check. The only purpose it served was making me feel worse about myself. And maybe it’s naive… but I just don’t think that’s a great way to get business, “Come to our meetings, you’ll leave hating yourself!” Gross.

  53. WW Flashback (apx 1 year ago): I was going out to lunch with some co-workers of mine who had grown used to deciding where we ate lunch based on where I could eat: 6 other people in bondage to my diet. They were all fat, but so was I at 185 #. One of them suggested that we get pizza. I said, “but I can’t eat pizza: too many points.” She rolled her eyes and said, “you’ll just gain the weight back when you go off this diet.” I defensively spat, “that’s the point of it – you *can’t* go off it: it’s a lifestyle change.” After that, I think I lasted another month before it really sunk in that I could *never* go off this diet to be successful, and that it would only get worse as I lost more weight. When I went down to 24 points a day, I had to choose between wine and food. And that is no way to live.

    I’m still ashamed of that conversation, not because I gained back the 20 # I lost on WW like she predicted, but because I had turned into an evangelical, a fundamentalist. Ideas that you accept on faith rather than evidence? That’s called religion. In that sense WW is a lifestyle change; it turns you into a zombie.

    Just think, if I was still on WW, I could not have broiled the best filet mignon of my filet mignon career last night. I took Julia’s advice (a la Mastering the Art of French Cooking) and rubbed it in herbed butter while it was resting. My boyfriend and I each ate a 6 oz. steak with buttery, creamy mashed potatoes and mushrooms sauteed in unholy amounts of olive oil and spices. We drank two bottles of wine between us. We ate dessert purchased from the Whole Foods Bakery with our midnight champagne….

    On WW, this would have amounted to something like 70 points. There’s no such thing as a “special occasion” on WW. For example, a woman came to meeting once who stood up to tell us that she had resisted her own birthday cake that week. She had taken a sliver and just set it down on a counter somewhere in the course of the party and no one was the wiser. Dude, that is a tactic that anorexics use. And it was applauded by our leader. If WW isn’t a diet, it’s at least an eating disorder.

  54. Kristin, whole milk yogurt is heavenly. if it isn’t whole milk, it tastes like chalk. Greek yogurt is awesome, especially with a little bit of honey. It’s like – better than ice cream.

    …unless, of course, we’re talking vanilla ice cream with pistachios or something. That might be a tough call.

  55. Dude, I didn’t follow your link at first, (I always read through and follow links later…)

    …and I thought that “Mackerelly” was the name of the nutritionist/dietitian/snake oil salesman who came up with the little boxes they used to have us tick. (3 dairy, 5 grains, 3 protein?)

    Hah! Mackerelly. GROSS.

  56. When I asked them questions about the program, why and how it works, they literally said they couldn’t reveal any info to me until I became a member.

    Hmm. Maybe the big secret to long-term weight loss has to do with purging your body Thetans, and I just never got that far.

  57. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS MAGICAL BUTTER STUFF BEFORE?

    I think part of the reason I have a crush on Paula Deen is because she worships at an altar made of butter and never, ever apologizes for it. I know people who hate her, we’re talking full-metal loathing, not because they might be put off by her countrified sweetness or whatever, but because she makes food that contains butter and cream and sugar and cheese and all those “bad” things.

    Let me tell you, the buffet at the Lady and Sons? It’s pure win from the collard greens to the sweet potatoes to the fried chicken to the macaroni and cheese. It’s heaven contained in a steamer table. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hoecakes. (Her brother’s restaurant, Uncle Bubba’s, is damn good too.) Damn, I could go on for days about Savannah.

  58. That phrase “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels” really burns my cookies too. As someone who is currently thin because of a digestive disorder, let me tell you, there are plenty of things that taste BETTER than being thin feels. I would gladly trade all of my lost weight for the ability to eat sweet potato fries again. And I would voluntarily put on 100 pounds by eating baby-flavored donuts if it meant I could have a cup of coffee in the morning without being sick by afternoon. The whole “deprive yourself until you’re thin and then, guess what, you get to keep depriving yourself” philosophy of WW is just demoralizing.

  59. … one more way to blame the dieter/convince someone the program works, but she’s fucking up.

    I think ‘lifestyle change’ may be like this, too.

    Here’s the thing: while the diet industry and medical establishment toss the term ‘lifestyle’ around as if it meant little more than a set of fashion accessories, what it actually refers to is the WAY WE LIVE. That’s no trivial thing, and as everything in our lives is interconnected with everything else, substantially altering it is apt to require profound dislocation.

    I suspect this is one reason why people living the Weight Watchers ‘lifestyle’ seem so peculiar — because on the one hand it requires that they alter or abandon much of their food culture, but it has little if anything to offer in exchange. In cultural terms it seems to me it’s a bit like asking someone to replace all art with surveyor’s tables — and if the only answer you’ve got to offer to a question like ‘what is beauty?’ is a set of statistics, of course you’re going to come off as either a nutjob or a dolt.

    More to the point, I find it impossible to believe that the Powers That Be, so to speak, aren’t fully aware of this — it’s basic stuff, strictly Cultural Anthro 101. But by mischaracterizing it as ‘simple’ (just eat less and exercise more!) they let themselves off the hook for all those almost inevitable failures, and divert attention from the manifold lacks of their programs.

  60. Thinking about the zero calorie high fibre thing this morning it has finally hit me how bullshit diets are. You’d be rightly treated like a mental midget for suggesting that celery and water should make someone in a place of famine feel full and satisfied. Obviously, if I’m constantly hungry and dreaming of food, celery and water can fill my stomach but not my calorie deficit: I was encouraged to interpret this calorie hunger as “mouth” hunger, and a psychological or oral fixation. Some sort of sadness or inability to find myself. Which doesn’t really describe me at all. I generally stop eating under stress or grief.

  61. Yeah, I remember my mom talking about how Weight Watchers wasn’t just a diet but a lifestyle choice at least 15 years ago. (She said it teaches you how to make “healthy choices” which is bullshit because my mom has always made healthy food choices for herself and her family. Her choices just weren’t making her thin).

    I had been totally trained to eat only 1% or skim products.

    I remember when we brought two parent volunteers to Brownie Camp and they were on WW. They brought their own (measured portion of) cereal, but had to eat it dry because we brought 2% milk to camp and they couldn’t have 2% milk. Which, seriously? They couldn’t have it just that one time? My co-leaders and I were so annoyed with them because they didn’t tell us they were bringing their own food, and we had brought some for them… plus they spent the whole weekend talking about their diets. It was so irritating.

    Also, last time I read about the points system, the amount of food it added up to seemed really low (~50 kcal/point).

    Wait, what? So when my grandma was saying she was getting frustrated with WW because she’d been going to bed hungry after consuming all her points, and my mom said: “Well, I don’t see how you can be dissatisfied on 26 points” they were talking about 1300 calories? 100 calories above starvation level and my mom was seriously trying to tell my grandma she shouldn’t be hungry? AAAAAAA!

  62. So when my grandma was saying she was getting frustrated with WW because she’d been going to bed hungry after consuming all her points, and my mom said: “Well, I don’t see how you can be dissatisfied on 26 points” they were talking about 1300 calories?

    Pretty much. The baseline for analyzing any food’s points value is 50 cals = 1 point. For every five grams of fiber, you subtract a point, and for every five grams of fat, you add one. So something with 300 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 4 grams of fiber is 6 points. 300 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber is 7 points. 300 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 6 grams of fiber is 5 points. Etc.

    As far as I know that’s the whole special, patented formula — and yes, it does pretty much boil down to 50 calories a point, when you average it out.

  63. It was Oprah who really popularized “nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” But if you think about it, naturally thin people don’t go around feeling AWESOME, like they’ve accomplished the greatest thing ever and have fulfilled their life’s purpose. Thin only feels that good to formerly fat people who’ve starved themselves to euphoria. And even if you believe that thin feels good, starvation feels pretty fuckin bad.

    For anyone who’s never seen Little Britain (a sketch comedy show from the UK), they hilariously lampoon WW insanity in a series of “Fat Fighters” sketches:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxXGNSx4CBc
    Enjoy!

  64. I just have to tell you that just before Christmas I went out with some friends to North Yorkshire, and we fetched up in a fish and chip shop, because none of the pubs were doing food, and we were starving. We ended up squashed into the tiniest booth ever – two of my friends are skinny and were fine, but the other one was squashed too, and she’s about a (UK) 16. I was really squashed into the space, but my first thought was NOT ‘Oh, I should be so much smaller’, which it would have been before, but rather ‘fuck, they should make these booths bigger!’. That’s because of you awesome lot, all you FA bloggers. I’m really grateful – that thought sustained me over Christmas.

  65. > Fat Fighters

    Absolute spot-on perfect genius rendition of, well, every “leader” I ever had.

    Come to think of it, WTF is up with the term ‘leader’, anyway? And what does that make the people going to meetings? ‘followers’ – see also, disciples.

    Which is interesting, since a lot of WW leader freakout touchpoints above (full fat dairy! / sourdough! / your own birthday cake! / cough-fucking-drops! / etc) sounds eerily reminiscent of the chapter about Taboo in a World Religions class I took recently. We decide something is bad (eating fish on Friday / sucking down those cough drops / Being! Fat!) and we scapegoat the transgressors so that they bear the collective shame of our whole society for a HOST of vague anxieties.. punishing through shame until and unless they become clean by performing a ritual of Redemtion (hop on that scale, ladies! Go for the burn!)

    Oh, I’m probably talking out my arse here, but it’s interesting to me how taboo, transgressions, scapegoats and punishment / redemption – all of those things that are part and parcel of religion / myth – seem to play awfully strong in the WW system when it claims to be based on der Science.

  66. Flush out the calories?

    Flush out the freakin’ calories?

    And everyone including the leader said this was why you had to drink all that water?

    How many glasses of water must I drink to make up for my head exploding??

  67. Forgot to add:

    The real reason dieters (and almost everyone else) get handed the “64 ounces of water whether you want it or not” thing like it was from Moses himself was because of the old Stillman Water Diet from the 1960s, which was a forerunner to Atkins. Protein and water, that was all you could have. The reason Stillman had you drink all that water was because ketogenic diets like that generated tons of uric acid which needed to be flushed out of your system before it ate both of your kidneys with the Fava beans and nice Chianti you weren’t actually allowed to touch.

    But somewhere along the way this also got conflated with the “water as appetite suppressant” theory (which KH just blew all to hell for us here, thanks, K!), the idea being that if you drink enough water you’ll keep your stomach full, or if you always have to run off to pee you don’t have time to eat, or something like that. And so it stuck like a nicotine patch to a newsbox in Tempe, never to be fully scraped off. Except by us.

  68. I don’t see why the Lady Masses can’t also be the name of our hockey, fencing, swimming, lacrosse, table tennis, interpretive dance, and kitten pile teams.

    Somebody formed a kitten pile team and never told me? Damn it, I thought you guys were my friends.

  69. Cara, you are right on about the whole taboo thing.
    And I seriously think we need a post where we all state all of the things that taste better than thin feels.
    I had a weird experience a few days ago noticing, curled up on the couch after fleeing a crowded bed (husband, child, dog) and felt some new fatness on my stomach — and it didn’t really feel bad. It felt soft, and comfortable, and also disquieting since I’m not really attempting to grow larger at this point, but I thought, well, I might as well enjoy it, since I don’t know how long it will be around.
    So that didn’t feel so bad.
    Not a whole hell of a lot feels better than good food tastes.
    It’s just so weird to compare across the senses — I guess that’s why it’s called “disordered.” As if the feeling of being thin trumps all other earthly sensations. Giving thinness a godly quality.
    And then, why are the cherubim fat?
    I think fat feels pretty good.
    Thin, when you’re not destined to be so, tastes like crap.

  70. Another little WW anecdote. Towards the end of my stay with them, the super annoying kindergarten-teacher leader left. and was replaced with a lovely sensible woman. OK, so she was a food tragic obsessive, but other than that she was great. I ran into her last year, and she’d quit WW, because the workload was so high. Her group was much larger than any other, but they refused to allow her a paid assistant to get the weigh-ins done in less than an hour, and complete the paperwork in as much time as they considered they were paying her for. 40 people? 10 people? Same pay. Their corporate pratices are extremely money-grubbing. They’re out for every cent they can wring out of you, and also their staff.

  71. as I’ve said before, butter doesn’t actually negate the nutritional value of carrots, for instance.

    Butter even improves it, since beta-carotene is fat soluble.

  72. You are supposed to eat a goodly amount of point-free foods, in addition to your 18-25 points

    Dust. Anybody? No? Dust. It’s actually very low in fat. You can have as much dust as you like.

  73. Dust. Anybody? No? Dust. It’s actually very low in fat. You can have as much dust as you like.

    Right, and don’t triple wash your spinach either, because you can also go crazy on spinach grit, which is very filling.

    (Note to self: Must make sauteed broccoli with almonds and butter, mmmm.)

  74. i still get spam from WW, always in my inbox with something that makes me feel bad.

    you know, the funny thing that started me on this was at a Christmas party i told a zoolander joke about being really really good looking, and the chick i was talking to just stared at me with hate, and i thought ‘wtf?? that’s a funny joke’.. and it took me a bit of thinking, but i realized that i MUST BE really really good looking for that joke to be offensive haha.. I may only be good looking in that ‘you have such a pretty face’ kind of way, but still.. if i can make another woman feel competitive .. hey, maybe it’s time for some fat acceptance baby yeah…

  75. Cheesecake Factory banana cream cheesecake tastes way better than thin feels. So does my homemade mac n’ cheese. :)

  76. the only good things that have come out of dieting for me:

    from locarbing: cream and butter are the BOMB. they give food a level and layers of flavor and texture that just don’t have comparisons. cream of tomato soup made with cream, not water or skim is just a whole nother beast, even if just made out of a can. it becomes a tantalizing nectar that frankly: MUCH better than thin feels.

    my only food related resolutions are: cook more because i like it, and i really like eating, and i want to eat wonderful food more often. well, i guess ‘eat breakfast’ is kinda related, but it’s more because i get distracted and skip it, and then am unhappy at 10.

  77. Meowser? This: “And so it stuck like a nicotine patch to a newsbox in Tempe, never to be fully scraped off.” is the statement that made me need to go get alcohol and q-tips to clean my screen and keys. There are untold depths to that statement. :)

  78. and yes, it does pretty much boil down to 50 calories a point, when you average it out.

    Holy fucking shit. And I wasn’t meeting my minimum of 22. (Or 21 by the end there. I always wondered why you had to eat less the more weight you lost, because I didn’t understand at the time that restricting is like a drug — you need to do more and more for the same effectiveness.)

  79. “You can eat what you like on Weight Watchers, but if what you like is, say, a cheeseburger and fries, you’re done for the day . . . ”
    Ezzzackly. That part of their pitch always made me snicker: “Eat all your favorite foods!” Really? ALL of them? Because I love, love, LOVE food, and lots of different kinds. Even if I just ate a little bit of ALL my favorites – well, let’s just say I don’t have enough Points in the WEEK, ok?

    Also, the bit about 50 cals/point was EXACTLY the reason I finally quit WW. I kept going over my points (I’d gotten down to 20 points), and I couldn’t figure it out. I finally went back through my food journal (because there’s nothing that makes you feel like a TREMENDOUS, FAT PIG who doesn’t deserve to eat another BITE quite like those damn journals), and really looked at what I was eating.

    Most of my days looked kind of like this:
    1/3 cup oatmeal with raisins (breakfast)
    apple (snack)
    1 6-piece sushi roll (lunch)
    apple (snack)
    1/2 can soup (dinner)
    wine, cheese, toast (because I was SO FUCKING HUNGRY I COULDN’T STOP EATING)

    So I started plugging the pre-binge foods into a calorie counter and figured out that the reason I was so hungry at the end of the day was that I was only eating about 1000 calories, before the evening “gnaw-my-own-arm-off” binge. I quit WW THAT DAY.

    After I’d quit, I was cleaning out some old WW materials, and looking at a few of those food journals, and I realized something else. See, I have a history of eating disorders, and I had thought WW would be a HEALTHY way to drop some weight – without making me crazy. Ahem. But going through those journals, I realized that I was eating very, very closely to the way I was eating as an anorexic. (I won’t go into details, since I don’t know what people’s food histories are here, but suffice it to say that some of the stuff I was doing – again – was bat-shit crazy.) And the part that really scared the hell out of me was that I HADN’T REALIZED IT AT THE TIME I WAS DOING WW.

    So, yeah. WW is a “lifestyle change” – if by “lifestyle” you mean, “a diet that you will have to stick to for REST OF YOUR LIFE.”

    Fuckers.

  80. This whole semantics thing that WW is pulling reminds me of when my mom put me on an “eating program” when I was in middle school. She strictly informed me not to call it a diet, but if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck and walks like a duck…
    Unfortunately, that took place at the beginning of a summer of intense fat hatred from my grandmother (while I was staying with her, she got angry with me because I’d rather stay inside reading instead of running around outside.)

  81. I heard of an experiment where they took some mice that had been bred to be obese and starved them to death (concentration camp?) The mice did stay thin but on dissection, it was found that the thin, starved mice had 5 times the amount of fat on their bodies as the mice that had been fed. Their metabolisms had simply fed off their muscle tissue and organs and stored it as fat. That’s what starvation level diets can do to you, among other things.

    I believe if you aren’t getting enough essential fats and proteins to support your metabolism, whatever your calorie intake or exercise level, whether you are gaining, losing or weight stable, your body will still be trying to store more fat.

    So many people will do so many unhealthy things to get to a ‘healthy weight.’ Even when they do keep it off they are less healthy than before they lost weight. Irony?

  82. First, I apologize for this way-too-long comment. I have even more I wanted to add, but have decided that if I really want to talk that much, I need to start my own blog. Which I may resort to doing.

    But in fairness, that “points=starvation level calories” comment is wrong. You are supposed to eat a goodly amount of point-free foods, in addition to your 18-25 points
    But there’s a reason those foods are “free.” They have negligible calories, so you can consume a pound of lettuce a day, but it’s still not going to put you over the semi-starvation caloric level.

    And, at least last I was aware (which, admittedly, is probably at least 3 years ago), they tell you that if you eat more than a serving or two of many of the veggies in one sitting/meal, you *are* supposed to count some points for them/they do add up. They didn’t used to tell you that, but at some point they started, because people were “abusing” (my word) the free veggie thing, and eating mega amounts of them, or something, and not loosing weight (probably yet another excuse for why it’s not working… “You’re doing everything right? You’re in your points? You drank your water? You got your exercise? Well how many free veggies did you eat? Did you have too many carrots?”)

    I grew up on WW, too – it’s the only diet plan I’ve really used actually. I think I was 15 or so when I first joined with my mom. That would have been around 1991. I believe that, at that time, if you were under 14 you had to have a doctor’s permission. (And likely a parent’s permission if under 18).

    I generally hated the meetings. The first round, I think we connected with our leader and some of the other regulars, so that was ok, but the information given was seldom helpful. It either was “common sense” that I already knew, or information that didn’t seem to apply to me. As I got older, it seemed to be people who had big issues with food/very disordered eating, if not eating disorders. And while I understand that’s relevant for many people, it didn’t fit my habits/style/whatever. After awhile, I’d go to weigh-in and leave before the meeting. As a side note: Whoever mentioned taking their shoes off at meetings, they wouldn’t let us do that – we were allowed to take “anything” off *except* our shoes. So technically we could weigh in nearly naked, so long as we had shoes on. Apparently whether or not you can leave your shoes on depends on what region you’re in. Or at least it did 6 or so years ago, last time my Mom went to meetings.

    Regarding water: At least I think my weight watcher leaders were honest about it. It was to keep you filled up and make you feel less hungry, besides which, drinking lots of water is generally a good thing.

    Regarding skim dairy products: I grew up with 2% milk as what was typically in our house. I didn’t like the taste of whole. We went to skim when dieting, of course, and as an adult, 1% typically was my choice. Again, I didn’t like – couldn’t stand, even, whole milk, and even 2% seemed too waxy to me. Well, then I started reading studies that said (in short) that full fat dairy products give you the most benefit. Also, I started reading about raw milk (which is a contentious issue – I only mention it, because you typically only find raw milk in whole milk form) which I tried and liked (regular store bought milk doesn’t taste right to me any more, especially if it is lower fat)… and I’ve found I LOVE brown cow yogurt, the full fat version with cream on the top … YUUUUUUMMM. So I’m totally a recent convert to full fat dairy. Although I could never stand low fat cheeses. Full fat or nothing!

    And Kate: I have been signed up for WW online since March 1, 2004. I liked it much better than the meetings: The “tools” without the meetings I lost about 50lbs (about halfway to goal) in about 4 or 5 months after I first joined, then maintained and then slowly gained it all back. I didn’t want to unsubscribe because I intended to restart at *some* point and I wanted it there and ready to go when I was ready. I started (about a week or less each time) 2 or 3 times since then, but basically it’s been sitting there unused, charging me 15 dollars, or whatever it is, every month. So that would be, oh, 3 1/4 years of it being unused. If I had all that money, it would have paid for the flat screen TV I bought a month ago. Which I’ll get far more pleasure out of. As of today, I have cancelled my subscription. It’s been sadly hard for me to let go of, even as I have been embracing Fat Acceptance in many ways. Despite the fact that I haven’t used it in years.

  83. pianoamy, big fat word on Brown Cow Yogurt. The cream on top is awesome!

    (And congrats for quitting WW. Remember to reread Kate’s “Fantasy of Being Thin” post!)

  84. Those WW ads piss me off beyond words. I see the giant posters on the train every day and I just want to scrawl “BUT WW IS A DIET” all over them with a sharpie.

    My MIL has been going to WW now for about 5 months, and she’s lost a decent amount of weight without getting thin. We’re at her house frequently, so I know how she is eating and well, it seems relatively normal. She has made a lot of recipes for us from the WW cookbook that are really tasty and filling and not like, curried jello mushrooms with a side of self hatred, but decent normal food that I would cook just because it’s freaking tasty. She also eats normal portions of fresh fruit, salad, whatever, and pretty much eats and drinks like a non-dieter, but I really worry about what will happen when she starts to plateau on WW. I mean, the dietary changes she’s made have caused a weight loss, but I’m just scared that when the loss stops she’ll go into 1000 calorie crazypants disordered eating land and I would hate for that to happen because she’s just so wonderful as she is. I worry about what they’re telling her at the meetings and weigh ins.

    Her brother died about 6 months ago, and he was pretty young so I know that prompted the change in eating. I just don’t want her to go over the edge, and I have absolutely no way to bring up the topic.

  85. Ok, I just got my mail, and what did I find? “Make the New Year’s Resolution to Not Go On a Diet”. A love letter from WW that will give me Free Registration!

    And a bunch of stuff that even includes help and advice for the first 24 hours! Perhaps that includes stuff like throwing out any milk products with fat in them…

  86. I think Weight Watchers saw how well the “steal the opposition’s message and try to pretend we’re on their side long enough to get them to buy from us” thing was working for Dove. That’s my theory. “It’s not really a diet” sounds an awful lot like “don’t buy from the evil beauty industry, buy from Dove, which is totally not a part of the evil beauty industry even though we sell the same shit they do”.

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  88. I’m always torn about WW because it’s the only diet my friends (and I) have tried that has some common sense to it. I always figured Dr.’s recommended it because you can still eat lots of whole foods and veggies, fruits, etc. and you don’t have to buy lots of processed meals. But then I realized…um, I can eat lots of whole foods on my own. Yeah. I can eat anything I want, and I don’t have to give someone my money and sit through scary meetings! Word. It is a good point about how WW teaches to to eat fruits and veggies. But really, I knew those were good for me before I ever started going to meetings. That apparently wasn’t enough for me. I needed to “be accountable” which ended up meaning that more than just myself told me weekly that I needed to lose weight before I could “start living”! It’s just not healthy to put yourself in that kind of enviroment.
    What is a baby doughnut? I would like one!

  89. Pingback: Healthier Outcomes Blog » Blog Archive » Um, Excuse Me, Weight Watchers?…. You ARE a Diet!

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  91. I’ve been reading for a while, and tonight I’ve been going back and link-surfing through my favorite posts. This is on the list SOLELY because the “melon mousse” makes me cackle every fucking time.

    One of my co-workers is on WW, and we’ve had many heated discussions about how it IS actually a diet, and how unhealthy it is. She insists that she’s learning life-lessons about portion control and nutrition. I maintain that “points” are not an accurate way of measuring anything. Unless you’re a Girl Scout. She’s lost a ton of weight, but I have yet to see this “nutrition” knowledge manifest itself anywhere- she pops herself a bag of butter-free popcorn every day for lunch. Ugh.

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  93. Just read this today, and:

    “The Lady Masses’ mascot will be a vial of boiling blood.”

    Bwah ha ha ha ha! Thanks.

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