If you have ever watched a baseball game, you know the weird rituals that batters have as they step up to the plate. You can almost hear the internal dialogue: "Cross yourself, take two steps, tap the bat against your left shoe 3 times, against your right shoe 4 times, adjust your cap, step up to the plate."
In sports, hard work isn't enough to ensure success -- players need a little bit of luck too. Because failure is so public and so embarassing, players develop rituals out of things that seemed to work in past outings. This is why so many of them have lucky items, like socks. And anyone who's ever watched the movie Dumbo knows that if you believe in the lucky feather, it will work for you.
Weight loss is similar. Sure, over time, your hard work will pay off and you will lose as long as you are consistent. But week-to-week, who knows? One week you could have had your own personal Chocolate Festival, and still find that you've lost a couple of pounds. Another week, you track every single point and weigh and measure everything, stay within your range, and gain 5 pounds.
I've seen women in meetings in the middle of December who stripped down to gym shorts and a t-shirt in a cold church basement before stepping on the scale. I have watched people take off belts, watches, and even rings. And I've never thought there was anything silly about it, really.
I don't care how philosophical I try to be, when I step up to that scale, I want to see a loss every week. Preferably a big one, but at least a pound. I am sure that my leader and everyone in the meeting will think I'm pathetic if I have even a small gain. So I have my weigh-in day rituals. I wear the lightest thing I can find, never jeans. I never wear my shoes on the scale. I try to stop eating solid food at least two hours before the weigh-in. I try to avoid salt. If I think I had a bad week, I will have asparagus with dinner the night before (it's a mild diuretic). Sure, none of these things have anything to do with real weight loss. They are just ways to comfort myself when facing the possibility of a public failure. Even though they never say your weight aloud, they will say how much you gained or lost or if you maintained. I'm always sure that everyone in the room is listening and watching.
I am convinced that superstition is the origin of all the urban-legend Weight Watchers plans like Wendie's and CJ's. They probably each started as something that worked one week for someone, and they told a friend, and that friend had a good week (or didn't, but didn't do it quite right), and the plan spread. Usually they have explanations as to why they would work but I am guessing those reasons were dreamed up after the fact. Even scientists can't give us a straight answer on the whole story behind weight losses and gains.
Any of these systems make more sense to me than the superstition that just paying the Weight Watchers dues and weighing in each week will cause weight loss even if you don't do the program -- not that I'm judging anyone, I've been there myself.
If you are brave, there is one ritual that will practically guarantee you have a good week. One of my many WW meetings had a "Public Journal." If you needed to break through a plateau, you could take the journal home and use it. The catch was, you had to be honest and journal everything, and then you had to bring it back for the group to see. I took the journal home once and lost 5 pounds that week. I felt too guilty to lie and I definitely didn't want anyone to see that I had gone over my points, so I was more careful than I had ever been before and I weighed and measured everything.
I think I'll know that I have gotten my head on straight when my own personal journal is no different than the public journal. Until then, I'll be looking for good recipes for asparagus.