The Despatches special on Weight Watchers broadcast next Monday on Channel 4 is way overdue. The programme is part of the growing backlash against the dieting industry and will be turning its attention to dieting giant Weight Watchers and looking at how they make their money. It’s time we took a long, critical look at how it is possible for corporations like Weight Watchers to make huge profits from selling what is essentially a faulty product. Numerous studies have shown that dieting does not work for long term, sustainable weight loss. Watch Sophie explain the phenomenon is this short video on one of our workshops many years ago.
So if dieting in general and, in this particular case, Weight Watchers doesn’t work, how come (as of Wednesday 23rd January at 1pm) the Channel 4 website has 40 comments every single one of which is a Weight Watchers success story?
Well, if we take a closer look at the glowing testimonials, it turns out that quite a few of them are from Weight Watchers Leaders, so those come as no surprise. The others seem to be genuine – happy customers who have lost weight and kept it off. Many of them talk about the great support network that Weight Watchers offer their members and most of them have been going to weekly meetings for years and years…and years… and years.
But hey, if Weight Watchers has worked for these people that’s great. I’m delighted for them and relieved – because it would be truly horrific if it hadn’t worked for anyone at all!
But wait. I have been working with women who are desperate to lose weight and who struggle with food for over a decade now. And I have seen thousands of women take part in our workshops and courses after years of failed dieting and nearly every single one has been to Weight Watchers, most of them several times over. They’ve been to the meetings, counted their points, followed the rules and any weight they have lost has eventually come back on, plus more. All these women have come out at the other end fatter, convinced that there is something wrong with them for not being able to stick to to the diet and for not being a ‘success story’.
When I read the comments on the Dispatches web pages I think of all these women and wonder how they feel when they read them too? Do they feel like failures? Are you a Weight Watchers success story or are you one of the millions for whom it didn’t work? If you are, rest assured, you are not alone. You are one of the 86% for whom dieting is not the solution but the cause of years of misery and deprivation.
My guess is that Weight Watchers have a pretty hefty PR machine in place and that it got to work pretty pronto as soon as news of the programme came out and the page was open for comments. I’m not doubting the testimonials are genuine but I know for a fact they do do not represent every woman’s experience of going on the Weight Watchers diet. I’m also convinced that after reading the deluge of glowing praise in WW’s favour, it would take a very confident person to post a negative comment on the Dispatches page.
I’d like to restore some balance and offer those who don’t have that confidence a space to talk about what it is like for them. What it’s like to diet month after month, year after year and get absolutely nowhere. I’d like to open up this space so that we can Lighten the Load and talk about the shame, the loss of self confidence, the diet backlash binging, the secret eating and the desperation that come from dieting.
So please, if you are NOT one of the women who can share a happy ending weight loss story, come and share here. You will be heard without judgement. No one will suggest that it was your fault and that you should have just shown a bit of resolve and got on with it. No one will tell you that you need to buckle down and make ‘healthy lifestyle changes’ – because if you really wanted to, you would wouldn’t you? By sharing your story here, you will be allowing other women to come forward and share their dieting “failure” stories.
You will be helping to normalise what is happening to millions of women around the world at Weight Watchers meetings, day in, day out.
The comments on the Dispatches web page are not the norm, they are the exception and it is important that as many ‘failed’ dieters, desperate to lose weight hear that too.