When I first started to consider using the Weight Watchers’ program, the obvious initial response might have been “So go join up!” But at the time, there weren’t any meeting spots on the campus where I work and I have a busy home life so making time for weekly meetings outside of lunch hours wasn’t going to work. Plus, money. Money, money, money.
I knew they had an online option that was slightly cheaper and didn’t require meeting places or public
shaming weigh-ins, but the second part of my reluctance was that it still seemed like a steep price to join as I began finding more and more online resources that weren’t officially WW-affiliated that could help me figure out the basics and at least get up and running to see if this was something I did want to invest in for real. (I’ve never seen a WW membership offer that didn’t involve paying for 3+ months’ membership or more right out of the gate as a “trial.”)
As time went on and my “private practice” methods on the plan seemed to be working terrifically, something still tugged at me to join. I’d made a few friends in my community who were actual members and made it seem more desirable — though it was funny that it turned out sometimes that I was even better at figuring out points-hacks and tricks than they were, even with all of their gadgets and booklets and meetings. (There’s something to be said for teaching yourself the ins and outs of a complex system from nothing, instead of being spoon-fed it.)
And yet, I never did join. I often saw my WW-affiliated friends sporting new products that weren’t available to the general public, and I was jealous. Sure, you can buy used WW calculators and cookbooks on eBay without any trouble, but there was something to be said for all that fancy swag they were coming back with straight from meetings. (One friend had a cool gadget similar to a FitBit that really intrigued me until I learned that in addition to buying it, she was stuck having to pay an additional monthly fee to have it sync with her online tools profile and actually provide any service. Meanwhile, the WiiFit meter my husband bought me for twenty bucks can clip to my bra just as well and syncs for free to our home system.)
Still, I felt like sort of a fraud telling people I’d lost all this weight by doing Weight Watchers, when I wasn’t at all a “Weight Watcher” in the industry sense.
Mostly, I think it was my social anxiety that stood in the way of this. I am terrible at dealing with social situations that I have to be at, let alone seeing myself actively choosing to become part of an ongoing social circle. And more to the point, I was extremely nervous that upon joining a group (one eventually did spring up near my workplace), I’d be constantly pressured to make expensive purchases at meetings or spend big chunks of their pricey meetings being pitched reasons to pay them even more money for stuff. Talking about weight loss is a huge emotional trigger for most overweight people, and I’m probably not thinking as fiscally conservatively in those moments as I normally would be in my daily life.
So then a few months ago, I read an online account written by a blogger I admire and was already following, who confirmed my suspicions.
On top of this, more and more media was springing up about how terribly Weight Watchers was treating its meeting leaders, who were already lifetime members and supporters of the company. Exploiting people because they care about their work is just a deal-breaker where I’m concerned. (You can read an interesting NY Times piece here dealing with the disparity in corporate leadership and compensating its devoted employees.) No wonder these group leaders (mostly women) are so desperate to sell you tons of overpriced crap at their meetings — it’s the only way they’ll break even for all their unpaid hours behind the scenes.
And did I mention that Weight Watchers’ business model revolves around forcing its workers to bring their own bank of $200 to every meeting — uninsured, unprotected, and not always reimbursed quickly? (As soon as I started reading that article, I just knew it would turn out to be Weight Watchers — and in the comment section the original poster confirmed that it was. And many other former WW leaders chimed in and verified that this was the standard requirement.)
Now just because I didn’t join up didn’t mean I wasn’t supporting the corporation at all — as I’ve mentioned before, I buy Weight Watchers grocery items, I look for the points label on other brands of food, and I am an avid reader of their magazine.
Although I have noticed that over time, even more of their magazine articles these days seem to center around a fix-it-now(!) product you can buy from them rather than getting to the actual emotional and psychological roots of food addiction. I always feel happy when the WW magazine arrives in my mailbox and proceed to thumb right through it, but I usually start to feel weird around the halfway mark because I feel like it’s just a giant ad to buy more products. If they were handing out the subscriptions for free, that might make sense, but they’re not. It’s a magazine, not a catalog. Or at least it used to be.
I don’t really know what the point of this post was, other than to make myself feel better for not being all “official” when it comes to Weight Watchers. Did Weight Watchers change my life for the better? Yup, sure did, even though I didn’t join. If they hadn’t existed, I’d never have been able to lose weight the way I did, even if I never joined. So on the one hand, I feel a weird sense of loyalty to something I never even belonged to. Is that weird? But on the other hand, I feel better as time goes by knowing that I didn’t buy into the whole thing, hook-line-and-sinker, but did it my way instead.
I don’t know what the future holds, other than that today is Halloween, and whether it’s on-plan or not, a Kit Kat (or three) are probably going to accidentally fall into my mouth later and get chewed up and swallowed and enjoyed thoroughly. Completely by accident. (Gulp.)
Happy Halloween, fellow watchers-of-weight (and Weight Watchers alike). The holidays are just around the corner. May you be strong, healthy, happy, and completely satisfied.