It was 17 years ago that co-founders Dana Sturtevant and Hilary Kinavey met, not really knowing each other or much about the work they wanted to do beyond a deep craving for new language and a far more real and healing conversation about bodies, eating disorders, fatness and food.
We hope that you have heard about Weight Watcher’s (WW) new plan to offer free memberships to teens age 13-17.
We are disturbed and outraged. This is predatory marketing.
This is not about health. “Lifestyle change” rooted in the desire to change the size, shape and weight of the body is still a diet. Virgie Tovar just wrote a great piece on this last week, Eight Clues Your “Lifestyle” Is Actually A Diet. Here are a few of our favorites:
“If it led to a better, happier life but it involved gaining weight you would no longer be interested
You feel shame when you’ve eaten certain things and pride when you’ve eaten other things
When you envision yourself 5 or 10 years into this lifestyle, your body looks radically different”
Don’t fall for it. WW IS A DIET, no matter what they say. Their data is no different than any other diet or weight loss program–the majority of people regain the weight two to five years out. This is a physical and psychological response to dieting – not the fault of the person using the program. Weight Cyclers (Thanks for the reframe Deb Burgard!) depends on their customers blaming themselves instead of their plan. Their “data collection” is too short term to realistically show the true long term effects of participating in the WW program. It is relentlessly manipulative.
They are recruiting lifetime members.
They will make a lot of money off of these kid’s shame.
This is not free.
This is disgusting.
This is unethical.
Dieting reinforces fatphobia. And thinness should not be conflated with health.
Dieting can lead to eating disorders. Eating disorders can be life threatening.
Dieting reinforces body hatred, body shame and an endless “body project” that can be lifelong.
Dieting culture is rooted in social control, capitalism & patriarchy.
Dieting is not benign – it doesn’t matter if it’s been okay for you sometimes or if you are ambivalent about it. Dieting is harmful to our communities overall.
For those of us in the disordered eating treatment community, this Weight Watchers controversy is our opportunity to take a strong stance against the dieting, wellness and lifestyle change rhetoric–for our clients and in our own workplaces.
Do you truly need more evidence to see the relationship between dieting and disordered eating? The evidence and the answers are in your office, but you have to ask the questions. We are not going to rely on sources that don’t include the people we see everyday in our office whose lived experiences never make it into data collection – POC, trans folx, people outside of diagnostic criteria, fat people who are disallowed anorexia diagnosis, and people who have been “weight managed” more than treated for their eating disorder.
Let’s stop the excuses. We work with eating disorder treatment professionals whose lunchrooms are no different than any other office. We are the people with the skills and conviction to dismantle this.
When we don’t acknowledge this we contribute to diet culture. Full stop.
What can you do?
- Take a stand and do your own healing work. The damage is also ours to own.
- Take on difficult conversations in your offices, your gyms, your schools, and in your feed.
- Use this #WakeUpWeightWatchers in your posts to keep attention on WW.
- Talk about dieting in your treatment settings. Create policies about “diet talk” in public spaces devoted to treatment.
- Populate your spaces with images of people of ALL SIZES and openly celebrate larger bodies. We are disturbed by the lack of representational imagery in all treatment settings. Fat people exist in the world. They always have and they always will. Size diversity needs to be celebrated, especially in eating disorder treatment settings.
- Normalize normal eating. Trust people’s lived experiences. Trust their bodies.
- Remind your clients – and each other – that the pursuit of health is about worthiness. Our value does not increase with our health status. And dieting will never be the antidote for either.