The Great and Ugly WW Debate of 2018

I felt that it was really important to explore the recently announced initiative from our friend/ foes at the seemingly omnipotent Weight Watchers. In a nut shell (not a ‘zero food” by the way) WW is giving teenagers as young as 13, the opportunity to attend their meetings/ cult gatherings for the Summer of 2018.

Forgive me- I’m being callous and perhaps I should give some credit to WW for their mission to improve the “healthy habits at a critical life stage” of our teenagers. Teenagers who of course also happen to  be the most vulnerable people in our society at that time.

I have never hidden away from the facts of my illness and the honest truth is that my illness started with a diet. I became persuaded by external stimuli, convincing myself that I needed to diet, to change my body image into a more acceptable female form.

We’ll pause again: Perhaps I’m being naive- not every diet leads to an eating disorder and to suggest this is negligible…

But every eating disorder starts with a diet,  and this is pure fact.

Calorie restriction has impacts on our body that far surpass that of simple weight loss.  It can lead to extreme levels of fatigue, decreased bone density, loss of reproductive faculties and an increased preoccupation with food, calories and body image. Ooooh funny, I seem to recall all of these being associations with Anorexia.

But come on, I’m being unfair, and given that I have no doubt WW won’t exploit their right to reply to me; a mere blogger, I should at least consider the altruistic nature which I’m sure underpins this ground breaking initiative- to save our teenagers from life of being fat and miserable.

Obesity after all, is a problem. It’s an epidemic that is costing us the lives of thousands through related illnesses and disease and of course stretching our already massively over stretched NHS to the point of breaking. We absolutely, need to address this and our Government has to take some responsible steps and actions to make a substantial change.

BUT

Is putting overweight teenagers on a diet based on weighing foods, counting calories and the labelling of foods as free really the right thing to do?

Is a diet based on watching our weight really the way we want to encourage our teenagers to live?

Are we neglecting the greater picture, the picture of wellness, happiness and contentment which is far far more important than a diet?

WW have clearly put a great deal of time, effort and resources into these latest initiatives which is detailed in their press release. It states unequivocally that the focus is on the establishing of “healthy habits”, which we could all do with paying attention to.

By doing this however they also intend to incrementally increase their revenue to circa $2billion by 2020 whilst increasing profit faster than revenue. How? By strengthening their reputation and increasing retention.

Now, call me a cynic but surely to increase retention would suggest that the diet doesn’t work and there for people can’t leave? Or that they get sucked into a life of counting, weighing and monitoring?

And that whilst it may be initially free for teenagers, once they hit 17, the money tree stops growing, the seed is planted and with the aim of increasing retention I have no doubt that there will be a renewed effort to keep them sucked into the WW lifestyle.

Ability to listen to intuition? Lost. The reliance on a programme to tell them what and when to eat? Well and truly established. And the presence of a disordered relationship with food and body image? Probably deeply cemented by this point.

There is so much more to write about, to make comment on. I haven’t even begun to touch on set weight point theory- the theory that diets simply just don’t work or the omission by WW to consider the mental wellbeing of their newest and youngest recruits but I do want to reiterate what I come back to time and time again.

I wouldn’t be in the mess, turmoil and trap that I am now in if i hadn’t started A FUCKING DIET. God this makes me so angry. It took one decision, one stupid stupid moment in my life to get sucked into a life that was dictated, ruled and governed by a manipulative illness.

Calorie counting, weighing myself, recording my food and the demolition of my self worth all bore from a diet.

We have to take responsibility, not by encouraging our young to follow diets, but by giving them the knowledge to lead healthy lifestyles from the word go. Eating intuitively, whatever they want- no that does not mean crisps for breakfast but it means giving them the facts to make the right food and exercise decisions.

no fads

no diets

no counting

no weighing

no good, bad, ugly, dirty, clean or free food

Food is a source of comfort and joy, we are blessed to have an abundance of it, a variety of ingredients and flavours, textures and tastes.

But it doesn’t create us as people, it doesn’t define us.

What defines us is the relationship that we have with ourselves.

By dieting, we are simply not trusting that relationship and that Mrs WeighWatchers is the “healthy habit” that needs developing more than any other.