My sister called me out the other day. As only a sister can.
In a blog, I said I had failed at ALL kinds of diets. I listed Weight Watchers (WW) as a failure.
My relationship with WW is actually a much more complicated and nuanced story than simple success or failure.
WW was an important part of my recent weight loss journey. I was with the program for over 2 years (2011-2013). Never missed a meeting in all that time. They taught and fostered habits I wouldn’t have learned any other way.
My sister was right to call me out on not giving them proper credit.
I was trying to make the point that I had tried and failed at a ton of programs because I wasn’t MENTALLY ready to commit and succeed. My history with WW had been fraught with failure. It remains the most failed diet program of all time for me. I attempted WW at least 14 times that I can remember. It was the very first diet I ever did with my mom when I was 12-13.
Why was I successful this time around??!
I was mentally READY.
WW worked well for me this time around for 2+ years and 100+ pounds BECAUSE I was really, truly ready to work at it.
Have whiplash yet? 🙂
So then, what prompted me to list WW as a failure?
I reached a point, a year ago, where WW was no longer working for the life I was trying to build. It was not a decision I made lightly or easily. It was like breaking-up with a long-time friend…
After a lengthy discussion with Jim, my WW leader, he said; “The need for you to transition to something else simply shows your growth and life changes. It is not a flaw in the WW program.”
He is right.
Here is what Jim and I talked about…
My needs were becoming drastically different. I was active and falling in love with endurance sports. Being focused on calorie restriction WHILE trying to run longer distances was driving me crazy. I made the decision that my focus for 2014 was going to be training hard to run long distances, eating to fuel what I wanted to do and learning to not worry about what I weighed.
I had become obsessed with the numbers on the scale. Anxiety over the weekly weigh-ins. Stepping on my home scale 2-3 times a day to make sure I wasn’t gaining DURING THE DAY. I would not eat or drink the day of a weigh-in if I felt I was in jeopardy of gaining for the week. Even on days when I was running or working out.
At this point in the story folks usually become alarmed…
This was NOT EVEN REMOTELY HEALTHY behavior. It was stupid, unsafe, unhealthy, mental BS. And WW would NEVER, EVER condone that type of behavior if they were aware of it.
I felt trapped in a ‘competition’ against a scale.
It had to end.
Lastly, I encountered a philosophical difference with WW. The part of my brain that wanted to have a relationship with food that was intentional and thoughtful had been fighting against a ‘free for all’ mentality. Let me explain…
Weight Watchers is trying to help people eat healthier foods while restricting calories so they can lose weight. They have a category of ‘free‘ foods (essentially lower-carb fruits/veggies) that you can eat until you are satisfied and you don’t have to count the calories.
How many of us who seek out weight loss programs (especially those of us who are repeat customers…) are truly capable of discerning ‘full to satisfaction‘? Or are capable of eating in moderation?!?? If we were capable of ANY of that we WOULD NOT NEED the program. Just saying…
Here’s how my messed-up brain works…
So, I have eating/food issues, I habitually and willingly overeat and you are telling me FOOD IS FREE?!! Awesome! Even if it’s food I don’t like — I like it now. It’s free! I can eat ALL I WANT! I have permission to over-eat, because it’s FREE! And I WILL find a way to overeat, I have spent a life time doing it. I’m DAMN good at it.
As it turns out all foods have caloric and nutritional values. Nothing is really free.
I have finally accepted and embraced this not-at-all-sexy-cool-or-fun truth.
I now count calories. ALL the calories.
My sister was right. WW deserves due credit for giving me tools, structure, support and help. To an outsider it looked like I had nothing but success with the program. Then I left, quietly. Most of the WW folks have no clue what my history was, what my reasons were.
WW gave me some great tools, helped me establish some critical and needed habits.
And I do need to thank WW for those fundamental gifts.
(For the record… My sister is still speaking to me. 🙂 )