I have been off the figurative grid the last few weeks to reboot. And, on a whim when I momentarily had wifi, I scrolled through Instagram only to see the horrifying news:
Weight Watchers, the diet company that has already stolen so much time, money, and self-compassion from us, is giving away memberships to teens this summer.
Why is Weight Watchers choosing to give away memberships??
To teach body dissatisfaction?
To suck more innocent children into the hell of an eating disorder?
To help teens start a life of self blame for weight cycling?
To help promote weight gain?
Diets to Eating Disorders
Too many people have told me their life long and life threatening eating disorder started as a teen walking into Weight Watchers. Often they walked in with their mothers. Or, after the recommendation from their doctor.
As fellow dietitian Laura Thomas says, “Not everyone who goes on a diet gets an eating disorder yet everyone with an eating disorder has gone on a diet.”
We know eating disorders have a genetic link and going on a diet is all it takes to start the ball rolling for an eating disorder to be born. Think of someone with alcoholism in their family, taking their first drink and that starts an abusive relationship with alcohol.
Teaching diets to those with the genetic disposition for an eating disorder sets them up to experience the mental illness with the highest mortality rate.
You may be saying….But, Julie, we need to worry about teens with diabetes and eating disorders are rare.
12 in 100,000 children have Type 2 Diabetes (Writings Group et al., “Incidence of Diabetes”) yet 2900 in 100,000 children experience an eating disorder*. Statistically, we need to worry more about eating disorders than increased adiposity.
You may be saying….But, we need to do something about the obesity epidemic. At least Weight Watchers is doing something.
Diets like Weight Watchers are doing something: making us sicker and they don’t work.
Show me the data from any diet study (including any Weight Watchers research) that keeps weight off long term (that’s at least 2 years) for most people. THERE AREN’T ANY. Somehow diet companies sell a product, make 60 billion dollars a year, the product fails for most people, and the failure is PART of the PLAN. The diet companies KNOW their products don’t work and have convinced us we the people are at fault.
You know what data we do have? That diets don’t work for most people. As Deb Burgard says, “We need to call the diet industry the weight cycling industry.” Weight cycling raises cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, insulin, blood sugar. The more we diet, or weight cycle, the more we weigh.
Diets predict weight gain and eating disorders.
So why in all H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks can Weight Watchers sell a product to our young precious children? How is this safe? Or legal? Or ethical? Or moral?
Why are we ok with this?
I love what my colleague Rebecca Scritchfield has to say about this Weight Watchers announcement in a recent Washington Post article.
How can we stop this harm?
Consider signing this Change.org plea to stop this Weight Watchers campaign.
Do you have children that you worry about their eating or weight?
Listen to this recent Love Food Podcast episode I did with my colleague Anna Lutz. She gives amazing insight.
Are you a fat teen?
Hello. I want you to know I see you. I don’t want you to change. You are acceptable as you are right now. You deserve to feel at home in your own skin and not torture yourself with a diet. Weight Watchers is a diet that doesn’t work for most people. Did you know you can trust your body to promote health? You have hunger, fullness, and satiety that let you know what your body needs. Don’t believe any diet sheet or think following points should dictate your worth. You are worthy already. That’s the point.
You don’t need them.
But, we need you.
Getting sucked into Weight Watchers or any other diet will only distract you from all that you bring to this world.
Please don’t try to shrink yourself. Take up space. All that you want and need. I want to hear you and see you.
We need you not the points.
Here’s the footnote in case you dig that research stuff:
*K.R. Merikangas et al. “Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in US Adolescents: Results from the National Comborbitity Survey Replication-Adolescent Supplement.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 49, no. 10 (2010): 980-9.