Tuesday, June 19, 2007

stupid Weight Watchers tricks

Weight Chart

Actually, I'm not talking about the scale, though as you can see from the graph, it's bouncing all over the place. I was not expecting a good weigh-in with the week I just had.

I'm just grouchy because my usual Weight Watchers leader was not there and our sub was a very nice woman who is a True Believer. I'm not sure how many of the people who read this blog are veteran Weight Watchers like me, but True Believers are chirpy little people who read the "Ten Little Weight Watchers" poem with enthusiasm and passion, and don't realize that if you've been in WW for more than a year, you've probably already heard it seven or eight times before. "Isn't that just the cutest thing?"

I've noticed a change in the program in the last couple of years. Meetings used to be more free-form. There was always a weekly topic, but leaders had a sheet of material on it and seemed to be free to use it however they wanted. Now there is a website with graphics for leaders to print out and paste onto flip charts, and there is much less room for members to talk about obstacles they faced during the week or share information and tips with each other.

I'm sure the point is to keep the meetings on track. I know my very first leader was more interested in telling us all about what was going on in her life and the lives of her kids than talking about program, but I find the cute cartoons on the flip charts reminiscent of kindergarten. I also don't find the kind of fill-in-the-blank participation this format encourages ("Always remember to drink your _______") to be particularly inspiring. Though the script keeps the meeting from being a completely irrelevant monologue by the leader -- "My son's wife said the funniest thing the other day" -- it also makes it harder for the good leaders to shine. Maybe if Weight Watchers started treating their leaders as professionals, and paying them that way, we could expect more consistent quality of instruction. Then they could let the leaders run the meetings themselves instead of reading through a premade curriculum. It's not surprising that they sometimes have a hard time finding good people if leaders' income depends on how many vile 2-POINT Bars they sell.

Today's topic was particularly strange and unhelpful. When I got there, I saw a bottle of water with a "Cure-All" label on it. I figured it was going to be all about the benefits of drinking our water. Not the most inspiring topic, but at least something that would make sense. Instead we got a weird little dissertation on three kinds of "Salt Water" that were the key to success: "Sweat," "Tears," and oddly enough, "The Sea." Each had a cute little smiley face to represent it. I don't think even with a spectacular leader this topic would have worked, but with this particular leader, it really was mystifying. I never did get a clear understanding of why The Sea was in there.

Weight Watchers is a hugely successful business, with almost $400 million of revenues in just the first quarter of this year. They have a team of scientists and other experts and even a magazine of their own. This would seem to give the organization the resources to design programming that is more sophisticated and targeted to an adult intelligence level. Someone in Corporate seems to have the idea that because we're overweight, and mostly women, that we are of subpar intellect and genuinely want cartoons and cute slogans and poems.

In reality, we all know that women who have weight issues are mostly intelligent, funny women with a sarcastic, rebellious streak. We want a down-to-earth leader that knows that no matter how many times you chant, "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change," you still have to eat less food to lose weight, and that it sucks sometimes. We need a leader who can agree with us that it sucks, but gently and firmly tell us we still are going to have to do it anyway. It would be a bonus if she could give us some realistic advice on how to do that.

24 comments:

  1. I hope you sent the link to this post to someone at WW's corporate office.

    I'm a former leader (eons ago); back in the old days we developed our own topics, supporting materials, visual aids, etc. We got ideas from each other at big staff meetings held infrequently, but for the most part it was a group discussion and a mutual aid society.

    I wouldn't last five minutes in a meeting like the one you described.

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  2. Due to my change in my summer schedule, I recently switched meeting places...I was a little apprehensive at first...but now I know when I have to switch back to the first meeting I will be sad. The leader at the second meeting was awesome and just as you described a good leader to be...I heard alot of solutions to frustrating obstacles among the members...I heard the leader say several times that it's not easy...but how about if you try this...it was such a difference from the first meetings I had gone to in a different part of town..she was like a motivational speaker that had a camera on her. Thanks for speaking honestly about this.

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  3. P.S. The Sea thing was supposed to represent something we like to do for relaxation...a reward of sorts for the sweat and the tears..go figure...I didn't see the correlation either.

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  4. I’m not a member but I went to one meeting and I know people whom go. I think WW here has been doing prescript meetings with flip charts for a while now. Then they would rotate it. A lot of people I know drop out of the meetings, because they stop offering something new to them.

    Wonderful post. You should definately send this to WW headquarters.

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  5. WW is tricky, because the success and helpfulness of a meeting does have so much to do with the leader and the participants. When the leader is smart and compassionate and the group is thoughtful and eager to talk, it can be the cheapest therapy in town! When I went, that's what I liked about it.

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  6. I normally do enjoy my meeting, because I have a very good leader. But I definitely think some of WW's programming could be made more sophisticated and less cutesy.

    I'm definitely a meeting-hopper. If I don't like a leader's style, I find a different meeting. I guess as members we get to vote with our feet and support the leaders who work best for us.

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  7. This post totally made me laugh - sounds like something that would have put me to sleep in high school. I've never done organized weight loss, but I had a co-worker that was really pushing a WW@Work program, I wonder if she would have been the leader (and therefore had a financial interest in the humiliating public weigh-in process).

    My weight has been bouncing around within a 2 pound range for months now - I'm about to forget about it since marathon training starts in a few weeks, but it is so frustrating.

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  8. Maybe they will have flannographs for future meetings. I think some structure is not bad (I really can still tell you some things about Meg and Mary my first WW leaders that they CONSTANTLY yapped about) but extreme perkiness should be punishable (maybe by throwing M&Ms at the leader). Platitudes do not help us lose weight. I agree with you--sometimes realistic advice is what we're there for -- or at least to hear what others are doing or going through.

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  9. Oy. I've been on WW on and off for (seriously) over 5 years. My first year on the program I lost 100 pounds, and that was when I religiously went to the meetings. The leader was totally great and didn't seem to follow any real guidelines at all, short of a suggested discussion topic. She also ran little raffles and gave out WW snacks as awards for various things. I experienced a re-gain in the following years and have yet to, in 3 years since my regain, find a meeting that I liked as much as that first one, for EXACTLY all the reasons you list here. They are just so LAME. My buddy and I spend the whole time watching the clock and rolling our eyes at each other. So hear hear, hopefully they get this feedback all the time and will take notice.

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  10. Jen . . . Jen . . . Jen, you hit the nail on the head with this one. My opinion (I could be wrong but it's still my opinion) is that the people who make good leaders are the ones who have truly experienced the impact being over weight can make on one's life. I think there's a difference between wanting to lose 5 or 10 pounds to look good in this year's bikini and wanting to lose weight because you fear the ramifications to your health or are having to make life choices based on whether your weight will interfere. It's like being a bit chunky is one thing but being over weight "in your soul" is a totally different ball park. For me, it's been "in my soul". The chunkies may be able to get by with a poem and a flip chart, but I need the real deal.

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  11. I'm a WW newbie (only been on the program a month), and my meetings aren't like that at all. It's obviously that my leader is given a topic to speak about, but she makes her own visual aids and there's a lot of participation from the members.

    I guess I got lucky!

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  12. oh man. you are so on the money here, especially that last sentence! you should print this off and send it to em!

    weight watchers only seemed to work for me in conjunction with my discovery of blogs - WW for the weighins, then blogs for my fix of intelligence, humour, sarcasm and compassion and... REALITY!

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  13. And what is with that WW magazine? It is food every other page. Would be an encouraging read if it weren't so full of food adds. Tell them that while you are at it.

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  14. I love the Flex plan and have lost 70 pounds over the past year and a half using it, but the meetings I've attended failed to inspire me, the weigh-ins cause so much angst that many people drop out rather than face them, and their recipes and magazine are just plain boring. I related much more to the WW On-line community and their recipes.

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  15. Beula, I'm with you on the food thing. That's actually one of the problems I had with WW in general-- the focus is SO MUCH on FOOD. I mean, it needs to be about healthy food, changing habits, exercise, and all that, but when the focus is "oh look what you can eat for only 2 points!" it just didn't work for me. I'm trying to get away from obsessing about food, but you people are just making it worse! Yeah, I didn't do so well with WW, but not because of meetings. We had really good leaders, and they absolutely make the difference.

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  16. Oh my gosh, amen to all of this!!! You are SO right.

    When I first joined WW, I thought, Okay, I'm going to have a coach to guide me and help me through this.

    Things are so rushed that the leader doesn't really have time to devote to guiding individuals.

    I would love a time set aside to raise our concerns about a challenge with the leader offering solutions.

    It always seems that the leader asks US what solutions we've come up with, which is helpful, but not when I have a particular concern that I can't really talk about in the meeting.

    I try to talk afterwards, but again, it's just not enough time and people compete to try to talk with her.

    I do love my new location, though and our leader is wonderful. But yes, I think they should overhaul how they do things.....make longer meetings...make leaders available by phone to coach you at your most vulnerable times, etc.

    They certainly make enough money from us to afford to pay for that!

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  17. Not to sound snipey, but most people aren't that bright, and to have a leader say "this is hard and it will suck and it will also work and be worth it" is too much contradictory info to handle. I have ways had a fucked-up sense of humor, so I would sit in those awful meetings and make running commentary in my head ("oh really? I have to exercise and drink water?"). They always felt/feel like they are geared towards really average folks, but the majority of the world is that way, so...I do it now online. I just cannot take meetings that sound like a Denise Austin workout tape and make me irritated.

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  18. Oh, and blogs ARE a lifsaver in the diet world AND the mommy world. They are the new "Mother's little helper."

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  19. You are 100 % right with this blog! I am ready to quit WW because of the boring leader! Going to another meeting is not an option for me as it is an hours drive each way. Leader has also made a couple of nasty comments about members when they are not there. Did not like that at all. I will just keep the 40 a month in my pocket.

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  20. I've been on Weight Watchers a few times now. The first time was years ago when they switched to the points system. In January of last year I started doing the points system at home with the materials I had (no meetings and not online). I figured if I was going to do this I needed to rely on myself and no one else. Since then as of February this year I joined to get the new info and I go to meetings. I must say the meetings are OK. I need more 'heavy topics'.. no pun intended. I'm an emotional eater/overeater and I'm the meetings don't address that topic for me. I'm thinking of perhaps finding a support group somewhere. In 9lbs I'm going to be in the healthy bmi for the first time in my adult life. Love your blog and thanks for posting!

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  21. Anonymous10:37 AM

    I truly do NOT like WW anymore. It worked for me years ago but no more. Things have changed in their diet and it just doesn't t work for me anymore.I was always hungry and irratable this last time. I will not be returning to WW ever again.

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  22. Anonymous7:46 AM

    I live in Georgetown KY. We lost our leader about 5-6 weeks ago. It seems she won't be back for 3 months? Our class has quickly dwindled in numbers. The new leader is very argumentative. Most don't like her. We all keep asking when Nancy will be back. Please let us know because we are thinking about quitting, maybe to rejoin if Nancy returns. Thanks KJK

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  23. OK. That 10 little weight watchers poem was incredibly patronizing. Especially reading between the lines where one slip up = it's over. Do not pass go, do not get back on the bandwagon, stay home and never come back. I can't believe that's considered....motivational.

    Weight loss is hard. We're talking epic level battles of a life time, wrestle your personal demons in a one on one arena to the death kind of hard. I think that deserves a little more than cutesy froo froo for a monthly fee.

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    1. Meetings had really gone downhill from the time I started until the time I quit. It was getting harder and harder to feel like it was worth it. They also changed the plan in a way that made it harder for me to comply. That's why I'm following the Jen Plan now. It's slower, but I hope the results will last longer.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07