There’s been a lot of Weight Watchers hate on Jezebel recently, which brought into focus some of the common misconceptions about the program that I’ve heard repeatedly. I’ve blogged plenty of times about various elements of being a Weight Watchers, but always with the assumption that my audience “got it” the way the I do. I think it’s time to address some of the largest misnomers about Weight Watchers, based on my experience. Take a look before you dismiss it… or diss it (*coughjezebel*)
1) Weight Watchers is a diet
Nooooo. Weight Watchers is not a diet. Atkins and South Beach are diets. Nutrisystem, despite having “system” in the name, is a diet. Weight Watchers is a program, and a lifestyle, that teaches you healthy habits, helps you with proper daily food intake/activity and coaches you through the realities of food and body issues, and long-term weight loss.
2) Weight Watchers uses a BMI chart and tells you what you need to weigh.
Ok, they used to, but they don’t anymore. When I was 14, in 1998, this is how my “goal weight” was determined. I was told that, at my age and height — 5 foot 9 — I should be between 135 and 145 pounds. It was a scary target, and felt pretty unobtainable. I got down to 160. I’ll tell you, as a sensible adult who has since ballooned way higher than 160, let alone 135 – there is NO WAY IN HELL I ever want to be that thin. 140 on my frame is a size 4/6. Noooooo. Weight Watchers was CRAY-CRAY.
Weight Weighters no longer tells members what their goal should be. You can set your goal anywhere you like. You can use BMI as a guide, and set your goal within that range if you like, but for some people – including me – it makes more sense to set a goal that will put us at a size 8, 10 or 12. Or, your *goal* goal may be too daunting — you can set up a mini-goal. Your first 20 pounds. Or your first 50. You could make your goal inches. Or dress sizes. It’s up to you.
3) You can only work for Weight Watchers if you’re thin
Not exactly. You can only work for Weight Watchers — as either a leader or a receptionist — if you have successfully completed the program, ie: hit your goal/become a Lifetime member.
The idea is pretty simple: it ensures that anyone working on the “public facing” side of the company knows the program inside and out, because they’ve lived it. It provides an authenticity to the proceedings, and you know that the thin person weighing you in, seeing your deepest, darkest moments on the scale has been where you are. And they’ve made it through the journey.
4) Weight Watchers makes you weigh in at meetings, in front of everyone!
Yes, you weigh in at meetings; no it is not in front of everyone. I don’t know where people get this impression — the Little Britain “Fat Fighters” sketch, perhaps? (dust, anybody, no?, dust?) Weigh-ins are private – between only you and the receptionist. No one but the receptionist sees your weight; they don’t say it out loud (unless it’s a loss — they may tell you the good news, ie: “you lost two pounds!”) — it is recorded in your member book and handed to you.
Now you see why you want your receptionist to be a successful Weight Watcher? Would you want Susie Always-Been-Skinny to see your 350 lbs, or your 2 pound gain, etc. etc.? No way. There’s a level of comfort knowing that the person who records your weight knows where you’ve been, and isn’t judging you.
5) Weight Watchers is for my mom — old, overweight, suburbanites
Weight Watchers can be for your mom, but it’s not just for your mom. WW has undergone a branding transition over the years, and honestly I think the plan is more targeted to the Millennial/Gen X set than anything now. Some meetings, especially in the suburbs and that take place during traditional work hours, will be majority older folks with a lot of weight to lose. But meetings in the city very often have younger, relatable members and leaders. It can also work for teenagers — I joined at age 14, with my mother’s written permission. It was a life-saver!
If you’re really gun shy, or can’t connect to your local meeting, consider Weight Watchers online, where age is irrelevant!
6) You have to need to lose a lot of weight to join Weight Watchers.
Definitely not. It’s actually most common for people to need to lose between 20lbs and 40-50lbs. There are people who have a lot to lose — 100lbs or more — and for those individuals, WW is a wonderful program and support system for a long journey. Now, we all know I’ve talked about the “skinny bitches” clogging my meeting before (a term I try not to use anymore). Here’s the thing: if you don’t need to lose weight (medically), Weight Watchers will not let you join — this is to prevent those with eating disorders like anorexia being enabled by meetings and the program. I’m a bit skeptical that my former at work meeting held the same standards. There were incredibly thin, fit people in my meeting with less than 10lbs to lose.
That said, don’t think Weight Watchers can’t help you take off that pesky 10-20lbs. It can. If you have this amount to lose, the online program can be particularly effective — for a small chunk of change, you can be use the program tools for a few months and figure out how to drop that weight.
7) I can lose a ton of weight fast on Weight Watchers
You could, but you probably won’t. You also shouldn’t. Again, Weight Watchers is not a diet. It is a program and a lifestyle plan. You have daily points to eat, plus a weekly allowance, and the numbers are calculated to effect a healthy, gradual weight loss. It is common and recommended you lose 1-2 pounds a week. If you’re looking for a crash diet, WW is not for you. But if you’re willing to give it a proper go and lose weight the right way, WW is a good idea.
8 ) You have to attend meetings. I don’t have time for that.
You don’t *have* to attend meetings. As I’ve said before – to be truly successful, you really need to attend. But there’s no one at Weight Watcher’s twisting your arm, forcing you to sit and attend meetings. You do have to go to a WW center to weigh in, but you can just stay for a few minutes for that and leave if you want. Plus, WW has an online only program for those for whom going to a center just isn’t practical. You can read all the program material and use WW’s awesome eTools, for a lower price than “regular” members. That format would never work as well for me, but if you’re strapped for time or freaked out by “AA for fat people” (lol), you don’t have to go.
Weight Watchers has a whole, new ad campaign just for young people doing WW online, like this one:
9) Weight Watchers is expensive. I can’t afford it.
You have to prioritize what you’re willing to spend money on, obviously, but WW is not cost prohibitively expensive. The best deal, the Monthly Pass, is $40 a month and gets you everything — meetings, online and eTools. You can have it either auto-debited or charged to your credit card each month. You can pay ala-carte each week, at meeting centers — ie: only pay when you attend. This one will end up costing you more than just subscribing. If you really need to scrimp, you can always consider the online program — since you don’t go to meetings, you’re only paying for eTools and website access. This option is only about $20 a month. Eating out one less night a week or not grabbing your morning Starbucks every day will cover WW (and help you lose weight!).
10) I don’t want to talk about being fat. Meetings are too embarrassing.
Weight Watchers meetings aren’t school. Or like Little Britain. Your leader will never “call on you” and ask you to talk about anything you don’t want to. Participating is completely voluntary! I find that sharing is helpful, but there are definitely “wall flowers” at every meeting who just absorb information. It’s totally ok.
And no one is judging you at a Weight Watchers meeting. Most people are there for the same reason: obsessive, abnormal food behaviors, bad relationships with food and body issues. And, of course, healthy, long-term weight loss. You can lurk for as long as you like, and speak up when you’re ready (or not at all). I find that sharing is really cathartic. Plus they give out GOLD STARS!
11) Weight Watchers is going to try and sell me their crap.
Yes, Weight Watchers is a business, but there are no “required” meals or merchandise. Every center sells Weight Watchers products — PointsPlus calculators, scales, measuring spoons, pedometers, magazines, books, meal guides and snacks. You are not required or expected to buy any of them. I will say, however, some of their products are worth it.
Two tips – wait for free samples (they do them for crackers and snack bars periodically) and wait for SALES. My absolute favorite, the mini snack bars are way over price — $7.50 a box! That’s insane. But when they’re on sale, you get two boxes for $10. These mini bars are tasty, filling, great dessert supplements and my LIFESAVER at work. I always keep 2-3 boxes of mini bars in my desk for emergencies. I also recommend the Eating Out Companion if you eat out a lot. I haven’t needed it for years, but if your reality involves chain restaurants and fast food, get it — better to go in knowledgeable than blind! When the cookbooks go on sale, they’re also a steal.
12) I’m going to feel deprived on Weight Watchers, and not be able to live my life.
Again: Weight Watchers is not a diet. The program is designed to let you live your life while getting healthy and losing weight. You can eat ANYTHING you want on Weight Watchers. Now, that doesn’t mean you should. But if you want to or need to, you can. Just count your points, and keep with the other tenets of the program – fruits and veggies, protein, fiber, fitness. A piece of cheesecake won’t kill you. Neither will a wedding or a night out with the girls. That said, you can’t do anything you like, all the time, and expect the program to work. But Weight Watchers can give you guidance for navigating your life and coming out the other end sane, and fitter.
Those are the big ones I can think of. If there’s anything else you’ve heard about Weight Watchers or have questions about, please comment!