Why I Left Weight Watchers

{ Friday, June 13, 2008 }

It wasn't because I'd stopped losing weight.

That's what I told people, because it was an easy reason to understand. Why pay $12 a week to weigh in and hear the same sessions you've already heard two years in a row if you're not losing any weight?

My weight and my eating and exercise habits appeared to have stabilized (down past, then back up) at 180 pounds - well over the goal weight I'd set with the program. And come to find out, I was OK with that.

I loved having a stable and predictable body for the first time in my adult life. The yoyo cycle was done. And it was hard to bring myself to tell people that one of the reasons I left Weight Watchers was because I was no longer unhappy with the body I was in.

I was, however, unhappy every Friday night and every Saturday morning. Would my dinner have too much salt in it? That would affect my weigh in. Was there anything I could do to peel another few ounces off my weight in the morning? Were my weigh-in clothes clean? Because heavier clothes would show up on the scale.

Yes. That's right. I left Weight Watchers because of crazy brain.

I didn't like who I was on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. I didn't like who I was when I was thinking about food. And as with previous diets, I had started to game the system -- had started trying to figure out how I could have more food for fewer points. I was thinking about food all the time.

Take a person who is thinking about food all the time and who has ready access to any kind of food she wants. Add a strong sense of shame for the impulse to eat. What do you get? Hello, crazy brain! Welcome back, secretive compulsive eating behavior!

Now. I'll also say that I learned a lot during my first year in that program. For instance, though I now disagree with the WW peer pressure to eliminate as much fat as possible from one's diet, I value what I learned about fiber, food sources of vitamins, drinking enough water, and trying a much wider variety of grains and vegetables. (Yeah, I knew that stuff before, in my head. I didn't know the benefits, know them in my body, until I put them into practice.)

I appreciate the encouragement I got to become more active at whatever level of skill I was and to try new forms of movement.

I like what I learned about tracking, which I had always viewed as a punishment. Leave aside food tracking -- the tracking habit, which I had always resisted, is helping me measure progress in running and in writing. I learned that a tracking journal isn't a measuring stick of personal worth. It's just a tool for understanding my actual behavior patterns.

Before I started this program, I was living unaware of both the quality and quantity of food that I put into my body.

Unawareness is an unhappy state. Ignorance is only bliss until you actually walk off the cliff.

And that's why, when I saw myself twisting my behavior to stay inside a points goal -- for instance, choosing tasteless, chemically processed food because it had fewer calories, or nagging my husband to measure every drop of oil he cooked with -- I knew it was time to leave.

Besides having crazy brain, I was giving up the awareness of the quality and quantity of food that best served my body.

Ironically, having been taught this by Weight Watchers, I wasn't willing to let Weight Watchers take it away.

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