Earlier this year, Weight Watchers ambitiously shared they are hoping to grow their revenue by more than $2 billion by the end of 2020. With their financial goals set high, they also set out to ‘help’ more people find their version of healthy living by announcing that they would be offering teens between the ages of 13-17 free memberships.
Not only was their faux attempt at bettering our world truly an undercover ploy to bait 14 year olds into hopefully becoming lifetime paying members sickening on its own, something about this news struck a deep cord within me.
As someone who has fought in eating disorder recovery throughout the past few years to find a life of freedom outside of our toxic diet culture, I read about this free membership and was instantaneously brought back to a doctors appointment where a pediatrician had the brilliant idea to suggest Weight Watchers to my mother as a good option for a girl ‘like me’ - a little girl a few pounds off the normal growth chart.
As a perfectly healthy, confident 9 year old I was a bit shattered by this and assured myself that this problem would be fixed. Later on, I would learn I was devastatingly mislead as there was no problem to begin with.
Although I did not step foot into a Weight Watchers meeting (thankfully) - the damage was done. My already body-conscious self quickly became body-obsessed. With that one careless comment, I had unknowingly buckled myself into the diet rollercoaster seated alongside the other 45 million Americans that diet every year searching for the perfect ‘fix.’
I tried many diets after that experience but shockingly, none of them worked. By the time I was 17, dieting slowly spiraled into an eating disorder. I was undeniably trapped in a cycle of restriction and purging but still found myself questioning why I couldn’t simply control my weight, be carefree with food AND be happy. It wasn’t until I sought treatment for my eating disorder that I realized you cannot easily have all three of those things. Why?
There is no diet that actually allows you to control your weight 100% since 95% of diets fail. Not to mention that our weight is not something to be ‘controlled.’ And lastly, weight does not even equate health.
You cannot use the word diet and the phrase ‘carefree with food’ in the same sentence (I’m looking at you Weight Watchers - your ‘freestyle’ plan is BS)
Happiness has absolutely nothing to do with weight, body size or food
I know dieting was not the sole cause for my eating disorder. But it did play a large role in creating the perfect storm for me to develop one. Sadly, I know that I am not alone in this. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and that 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders.
I originally suggested the #WakeUpWeightWatchers Twitter Takeover to the team at BALANCE in February to not only speak up on behalf of my younger self, but the millions of young girls and boys Weight Watchers was targeting. Within hours of our Twitter Takeover, we were the #4 trending hashtag Worldwide and our campaign was mentioned by dozens of media outlets including the New York Post and New York Times.
Most importantly, Weight Watchers postponed the launch of their free program this past Summer due to both backlash and issues with FDA regulations. We do have concerns that they will continue with this plan eventually. However, we are ready to take action! Just as Weight Watchers believes they will be offering a valuable free resource to teens and their families, BALANCE is doing the same.
We are inviting members of our community like yourself to provide information and resources that will be compiled in the form of a free E-book for both parents and teens entitled A Mind and Body Wellness Guide for Teens and Parents. Content will address a range of subjects including self-esteem, body acceptance, developing a balanced relationship with food, coping with emotions, communication skills, and much more.
Finding and providing a life of freedom outside of diet culture should not be a privilege. By creating this resource, we will be making valuable information available to all. This downloadable guidebook will help young people and their families build healthier relationships with food and their bodies, a promise that Weight Watchers sells but cannot provide.
Need reasons to contribute? Here are 3:
Use your voice for change: We all have a voice that is powerful and can implement change. But, when we come together for the same mission - we amplify our effort greatly. Weight Watchers heard us loud and clear due to the thousands of people who showed up to express their thoughts, concerns and share their personal stories with us. This E-book allows us to make another bold statement together.
Change the impact diet culture will have on future generations: Diet culture is around us each and everyday. Our children and future generations are not immune to this toxic rhetoric. By providing resources for both teens and parents to find true healthy living beyond weekly weigh-ins and Weight Watchers points, we are able to disrupt the impact diet culture has on impressionable children.
Spread awareness and prevent eating disorders: Beyond helping people find recovery, a main goal for the team at BALANCE is educating our community at large on eating disorders. Along with this, prevention is key. Eating disorders are developed for a multitude of reasons, but when dieting and unhealthy attitudes to ones food and body are addressed or are taken out of the equation; the likelihood of disordered behaviors being developed around food decreases significantly.
Ready to join us?
You can find more information on the project and what kind of content we are looking for by downloading the file here.
Deadline: We will be closing submissions on Friday, December 7th 2018 (NOTE: This has been updated from the original deadline of August 24th)
Goal date for BALANCE to publish final E-book: January 1st, 2019 in time to combat the New Year diet craze!
If you plan to join us or have questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep track of those participating!
This post was written by BALANCE eating disorder treatment centers’s Communications Coordinator Emily Costa.