The Weight Watchers Experiment

I joined Weight Watchers last night. In my last post, which I just put up, I said that I was tired of dieting, and that I was just going to cut back on sugar and bread, carbs essentially. In the meantime I started trying to write writing a novel and one of the main characters is a life long dieter. I was trying to write dialogue for her weight watchers meeting and I realized I couldn’t. I didn’t remember what the meetings were like or what people talked about, the kinds of words and phrases they used, basically the atmosphere. I also couldn’t remember what it really felt like to be on this diet.

I hadn’t been to a Weight Watchers meeting in maybe 7 years. (I signed up online a few years ago, but that lasted for a month at the most. Well I paid for a month. The dieting part lasted days.) I’d decided not to diet (which to me was Weight Watchers; I hadn’t read Good Calories Bad Calories yet) because I always gained the weight back after a few years. I decided that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result was indeed insanity, and I needed to not be insane, at least on some level.

However. I need to write dialogue. I need to describe how this woman feels on this diet. How she’s been doing this for 20 years and she’s just in her early 30s. She doesn’t even know how not to think about it. What it’s like for her to go through her day doing this. The best way to do that is to go on the diet, go to the meetings, participate in the world actively as this constantly dieting woman (I probably shouldn’t write about a murderer). So last night I joined.

At first I felt a little dishonest. I felt like I was using them. And I am. I’m essentially easedropping on people who very earnestly lead and attend these meetings. They have remarkable stories about weight loss and weight gain, but more remarkable they have stories about themselves that are revealed in their struggles with weight.

I thought I would be able to maintain an objective distance, but I couldn’t. If you’ve been to a Weight Watchers meeting you know there’s a lot of applause. Maybe you know. I didn’t. I’d completely forgotten about that.  The meeting started with a little applause, the leader waking us up. I thought “oh dear”. I wanted to be jaded. I wanted to see these people as deluded about weight loss (“you do know that most of you aren’t going to ever get to goal and only 2% of you who do will keep the weight off”).  But by the end, when a woman reported that she’d lost 74 pounds and was about to finish up a running series that would total 88 miles over the past few months, my applause was spontaneous and genuine. The phrase “I never thought I would ever be able to ___”  fill in the blank is just inspiring no matter what your own goals are.

I also noticed that I’m really competitive. While I was sitting there, listening, watching, observing, I kept thinking “I have to do this. When I get on the scale I want to see results! I can lose more than anyone else! This totally makes sense, it will totally work,” I kept thinking. It’s like something clicked and I really really believed this was the way and I had to do it better than anyone else. I had to be successful at this.

The leaders parting words were “Dance as if nobody is watching. Eat as if everyone is.”  I almost gasped when I heard those words. Really? Eat as if everyone is watching me, judging me?  So I’m doing this so I don’t look bad to other people? I take other people’s judgments of me seriously and I let that influence choices in my life?  When I eat, I’m supposed to feel shame if I’m not eating so-called “healthy” food or if I’m eating “too much”? There are so many sad things about statement. The spell was broken.

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January 21, 2010. Tags: . Uncategorized, Weight Watchers Experiment.

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