Many of my fellow anti-diet preachers are incensed by Weight Watchers’ recent rebrand.
They see it as a cynical ploy to sell weight loss under cover!
In case you haven’t heard, the company has decided to remove the word ‘weight’ from it’s name. Moving forward they want to be known simply as WW.
Their reinvention is as a ‘health and wellness’ company. They claim that it’s ‘not all about the weight’.
And yet confusingly, they’ll still be selling weight loss?!
Those working against diet culture are up in arms because they believe that:
Weight Watchers and other weight loss companies are making their money by preying on the insecurities created by the ‘fat is bad’ rhetoric.
That diet culture and fat phobia are a major contributor to the increased incidence of eating disorders, including binge eating disorder.
That weight loss companies are perpetuating the lie that ‘slim is always healthier’.
That following someone else’s diet rules leads to an inability to tune into our own bodies’ hunger and fullness signals. And that diets also contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food.
That they are giving false hope that ‘thin’ is even achievable in the long term. (There is currently no proven weight loss system that delivers long term sustainable weight loss results. IMO if the $60 billion weight loss industry’s methods worked, surely the prevalence of ‘obesity’ in the world would not have tripled between 1975 and 2016?)
And that all of the above works against wellness, not for it!
FYI I agree with all of the above.
I do however think that Weight Watchers’ rebrand gives us hope for a future free from diet culture…..
The email I received from WW chief exec Mindy Grossman, (no idea why I’m still on their mailing list BTW) explains the change in their mission:
Today, people everywhere truly want to get healthy, yet all the data shows that we are actually getting unhealthier. That’s the wellness paradox that we at WW want to help solve.
It seems to me that what we have here, is a bit of an admission from Ms Grossman. For years WW and all the other diet companies have been peddling weight loss and telling us it will make us healthier.
Yet here we have acknowledgement from WW at least, that this is not the case! In fact it would seem that as the weight loss industry continues to grow, we are becoming unhealthier. There’s the paradox, right there!
Unlike some though, I do NOT think that Weight Watchers is intentionally evil or corrupt.
Some might say that because I worked for them for 13 years, I’m biased. I don’t believe I am.
It’s just that I’ve seen behind the scenes of the company (in the UK anyway) ……and most people who work for them are good people and believe that the company is doing good in the world.
After all we hear daily that being fat is bad and that losing weight is good. The media tells us this, and so do medical professionals.
Weight Watchers has simply been attempting to solve the problem of fatness. And yes, they do make money from their services. But then so do the doctors and nurses who prescribe weight loss (for almost every ailment it seems). So do the journalists who write never ending articles about the best diets, ‘healthiest’ food to eat, who has the ‘best’ body etc.
The truth as I see it is this – that we don’t know what we don’t know.
The folk who work at WW (as well as those who buy their services) still believe that weight loss is both desirable and doable. How could they doubt it when their own doctors are telling them this is the case? I used to think the same! Didn’t we all at some point?
Weight Watchers worked for me once, when nothing else did. And that’s how it became my Holy Grail (even after I began to regain the weight and even after nearly 20 years of trying to get back to ‘goal’, I still wanted to believe that it might work again for me some day. Sound familiar?)
After I left the company to set up my own life coaching practice, I continued to sell weight loss.
At that time, I believed that if I could help my clients to love and respect their bodies, they would be motivated to treat them ‘right’ and would therefore lose weight. I believed (just as WW now do) in a more holistic approach to wellbeing that included weight loss.
It was only as I researched more deeply into my subject that I began to truly understand the futility of pursuing weight loss.
I was shocked by the stats showing how unrealistic long-term weight loss maintenance is for the HUGE majority.
I don’t know why I was so shocked when I myself contribute to the statistic. I had also spent years watching the huge majority of my WW members struggle either to get to goal at all or if they did manage it, struggle to maintain it.
My comprehension of both the psychological and physical damage created in the pursuit of weight loss was a gradual process.
(If you want to make a start in understanding why you should move away from weight loss as a goal read Body Respect)
My own transition from selling weight loss, to becoming a born-again anti-diet preacher happened in stages. You could say I took baby steps to enlightenment!
(But goodness my life and health have changed SO MUCH for the better since I left diet culture behind!)
Whilst I don’t think WW are deliberately evil, I do believe they are very misguided.
I wonder though, could it be that they are on the path to enlightenment too?
Their rebrand seems to suggest so
It’s a shame that right now WW is still contributing to the problem, by continuing to sell weight loss.
They’d be SO much better equipped to REALLY help improve wellness if they took weight loss out of the equation.
Aside from the stats being stacked against permanent weight loss, most long term serial dieters know how distracting the scales can be when we are trying to be consistent in creating healthier habits.
No more ‘fresh starts’ would mean ….no more ‘last suppers’.
No more weigh-ins would mean…… no more post weigh-in binges.
No feelings of dieting failure would mean…… no reason to throw the towel in on healthy behaviours…..ever!
There’s also a LOT of stress involved in not liking your body, and in feeling like a failure. And we all know how bad stress is for our health.
Imagine if we made health our goal instead of weight loss………………..
It seems to me that whilst Weight Watchers’ rebrand may indeed be a cynical ploy to entice new members into their sticky weight loss web (the point of branding is to attract custom after all), at least some progress has been made.
All we Body Positive, Health At Every Size, Intuitive Eating, Body Acceptance preachers should be glad that our anti-diet messages are being heard!
There is indeed a better, kinder, more effective way to wellness.
People are listening.
It’s seems like Weight Watchers is listening!
I predict 5 – 10 years from now WW will evolve in the same way my own work has evolved and they won’t be selling weight loss AT ALL.