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deprogramming “reaching goal”

I was livid. Scrolling one of the social media sites, I came across an article that told me something that made my head nearly explode, even though I should have known this all along. Weight Watchers (WW) is designed so that you fail. That's how they make money.

I was an overweight kid who started by sneaking M&Ms by dragging a chair twice my size (I was 5) to climb on the countertop to reach them in an upper cabinet. Why I felt the need to do that is a story for another day, but once it started, I was compelled to control what I was eating my-damn-self. Three measly Oreos are dessert? Sez who.

Not surprising, then, that my food intake was watched like a hawk by my mom. I dressed in whatever would fit (even if it meant wearing men's clothing, or shopping at a maternity store for shorts one summer in high school. Thanks, mom.). I was sent to Weight Watchers Camp in Lackawaxen, PA, the summer after grade 11. I was the one who begged to go. It was...bleak. The only bright spots were plastic garbage bags full of carrot sticks that felt like forbidden treasure, brought to us by a counsellor who could see we were starving. I think I lost 19 pounds that summer, and came back to grade 12 as a suddenly visible human. Based on my progress photos ->, you can see I stuck with WW till the next year at least. I went from what is now called mid-sized to what could be called "normal". Nothing else changed. I was still a lost and lonely teen.

I gained those pounds back and more in time, and over my lifetime to date have lost 100 lbs twice. Once on WW, and once on Optifast (the liquid diet of the 1990s, doctor supervised and absolutely insane). Every time I would lose weight, I would follow the WW plan that supposedly included healthy nutrition and portion sizes. And here's where WW fucked so heartily with my head that I was doomed to fail. The endgame in the WW mindset is to reach goal. Everything is about getting to a goal weight and your progress only counts because you're getting closer to goal. Get to goal or you don't get the shiny bling memento from WW to add to your keychain. Stay at goal and you can attend the meetings for free.

Sprinkle my undiagnosed ADHD (both flavours) over this mess and you have someone who gets fixated on reaching the target while simultaneously losing sight of what they've achieved so far. "I'm thinner, but it doesn't matter till I'm at goal."

Getting older has, blessedly, provided me with some wisdom. This time, on Ozempic, I'm eating what I want to eat. The drug makes me want to eat much, much less. Even when I feel the need to snack, it doesn't take much to satisfy me. I no longer keep chocolate, candy and salty snacks in the house; if I want something, I have to go out to get it (and only one portion). I didn't weigh myself (something WW has you do every week), instead going to my doctor's office and letting them weigh me once a month with my back to the scale. Until I hit about 20 lbs down, I had no idea what I weighed, and once I found out, it stung less than it might have if I wasn't already on a road to feeling better.

Because that's what this is about this time: not being smaller to be prettier, but being smaller so I can continue, at age 61, to walk my dog, have adventures, travel. Last summer, I could barely do a 15-minute walk without my knee swelling up and rendering me lame for the rest of the day. Now, 43 lbs down, I can walk as long as I have energy, which is slowly increasing.

Feeling prettier has come as well, and I can't help but revel in it. A few months ago, I pulled out every piece of clothing I owned and did a major cull. Instead of keeping pieces that are now much too big for me just in case, they've been donated to the thrift store. I've been refitted for bras at my current size, and maybe I'll have to do that again as my loss continues. I've bought some new things, and thrifted quite a bit of smaller stuff. I'm putting together outfits that I feel cute in without having to worry so much if the outfit is "flattering", a word I have come to loathe. Because I feel cute and I look cute. Now. Mostly, I am happy with how I feel (and look) now. When someone compliments me on how I look, I don't immediately follow it up with, "and I'm still losing," as if what I've already done doesn't count and won't, till I get to some arbitrary goal. It fucking well does. But my reflex is to want to say exactly that. WW programmed me hard to ignore anything but reaching goal, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life deprogramming that out of me.

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Merri Fromm
Merri Fromm
May 16, 2023

OK, can I give you another viewpoint about Weight Watchers? Please stop reading if unwanted. But this guy you quote is a jerk, delighting in profiting from natural human behavior. What everyone who works for Weight Watchers, including me, knows: WW gives you tools for a healthy way of eating and living. We (I've lost 50 pounds myself) know that if you "do the WW plan" you will lose and maintain a healthy weight. What we also know is that if you return to your previous eating behavior, you will gain weight. Changing your behavior is really hard so its true that many people quit and rejoin over and over. It's gross for that guy to brag about it. Hugs…

Replying to

I understand that this is a sensitive subject, and agree that some people do have success on WW (and I know you have and kudos to you!). The article I linked to is not the only one on the subject (but was the easiest to find when I was writing this blog post). I will keep digging till I find a source that provides the information I had initially heard, which was from someone who worked deep inside the company and talked about the actual structuring of the program itself. BTW, my mom worked for WW at a very high level in the operations department for years.


For anyone reading my comment, the lovely and wonderful Amy is my niece, and I love her dearly. Now, to Amy: I love what you wrote. The obsession with weight has been handed down from one generation to the next in our family. My mother did to me what yours did to you, only the "goal" was the opposite. I was "too skinny," so she wanted me to gain weight. I think my parents were embarrassed by me and feared that people would think they didn't feed me. So, they hauled me off to a very nasty doctor in New York--Dr. Kugelmass-- whose first words to me (age 9 at the time) were: "Get undressed and tell me nothing." Anyway,…

Replying to

I’m sorry that this resonated with you but I guess I’m not surprised. It may be a few more generations until parents learn to accept bodies as they come. or it may never happen and just be up to us to fix ourselves years later.

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