I was 12 when I went on Weight Watchers for the first time. I remember it was December right before the Middle School Holiday dance, and I was so excited to find a dress. I was in that tween stage of being too big for children’s clothing, and not yet proportioned to most women’s clothing, but I went to a local women’s boutique ever hopeful my middle school dreams would be fulfilled and I’d walk out looking like the star of a Disney Channel original movie.
However, things didn’t exactly go as planned. Instead, I remember trying on a beautiful Alice + Olivia dress only to find out that my stomach and ribcage were too wide for a women’s size eight, and that the boutique in question didn’t sell anything in the double digits. I remember my mother’s words “The zipper won’t go any further”. She stepped out of the fitting room, and I silently cried, making sure the long and lanky sales woman couldn’t hear me.
My mother and I walked back to the car, and with Christmas carols playing on the radio I ask her why I’m fat. She says I’m not fat, but if I want to change things I can go to Weight Watchers with her. The next week my pediatrician signed a note of approval, and that Saturday I was sitting in a folding chair listening to middle aged men and women talk about lean protein, whole grains, and this new thing called “points”.
If you look at the statistics, 95% of diets fail. Jeni Craig, Nutrisysyem, and in my case Weight Watchers failed me, as I not only gained all the weight back and then some, I more importantly furthered a toxic relationship with food and my body. I’ve discussed this a little bit, but through much of middle school and high school I engaged in patterns of discorded eating, that eventually snowballed into a full blown eating disorder in college. I remember weighing my baby carrots and chicken breasts in my dorm room, terrified I would go over my daily calorie allotment and gain back the 40+ pounds I had lost through restriction and over exercising.
I’m lucky enough to be seeing a therapist and nutritionist who have helped me mend my relationship with food and my body, and I’m no longer in a place where I internally calculate the nutritional facts of a dinner role every time I reach into the bread basket.
While Weight Watchers was not the sole cause of my low self-esteem and harmful eating patterns, it sure as hell didn’t help. When I received a literal gold star for losing my first ten pounds, I learned that success and praise were linked to weight loss. By tracking every bite, nibble, and crumb I learned that hunger was only valid if it fit within a daily allotment of 26 points. Weight Watchers didn’t teach me how to live a healthy lifestyle, it taught me that “the first bite tastes as good as the last” and that success lies in my bodies mass in relation to gravity.
Now, some people will fight me on this article, saying that child obesity is plaguing our nation, and that Kurbo is here to help. However, what Kurbo isn’t telling its customers is that people don’t fail diets, diets fail people. You see, the body can’t tell the difference between a diet and famine. This ends up causing cycles of binging and restricting, as anyone who has done a diet knows that when you don’t allow yourself to eat something, you can become almost out of control when you’re around it, and you end up eating mass quantities of it. This is not a failure or a moment of weakness on your part. It is your body’s mental and physical response to deprivation, as if you haven’t been able to have something that you really want for long periods of time, you stock pile as much of it in one sitting as you possibly can, as you don’t know when it will become available again. This then causes feelings of guilt, shame and remorse that cause the cycle to repeat itself over and over and over again.
Diet culture, especially when marketed towards children, is not solving a weight problem, but rather, its most likely creating one. When kids have access to and are even encouraged to start tracking what they eat in a system that moralizes food and links success, health, and well-being to those in smaller bodies, we are creating more problems than we are solving.
While most posts later this month and into September will focus on dating, this is an issue near and dear to my heart, and I knew I had to share. For anyone dealing with disordered eating or an eating disorder know that there are resources available that I have linked here.