Rarely do I ever feel the need to say “Trigger warning” but when it comes to weight loss, I think it’s best to just get it out there.
So last week the news broke that Weight Watchers was going to offer free memberships to 13 to 17-year-old teenagers, with a Doctor’s note that clearly states they need to lose weight. The internet has been populated with negative press for Weight Watchers because of this move. As a woman who was overweight at the age of 15, I do not get this at all.
I’m not defending Weight Watchers as a program, I’m not defending dieting at ages 13 to 17, but what I am going to say is that I wish someone had been more engaged in my weight between the ages of 13 and 17 so that when I hit age 25 I wasn’t 275 pounds and struggling with body image and self esteem issues.
Now let me back track. My mother did take me to Weight Watchers when I was young. I can’t quite remember my age, but let’s say I was 15? The program then was different than it is now. Back then you had so many grains, fruit, veg, protein “blocks” you could fill each day, based on your weight and activity level.
Today the program is more focused around eating produce, lean protein and reducing the amount of processed food that is consumed each day. It’s set up on a point system and it is in some ways “gamified” via Website and Phone App.
Back then I had to stand on a scale in front of a room of people, today I can weigh in at home and track it, or I can go to a meeting once a week and have them weigh me in.
But I am digressing. Why did Weight Watchers feel the need to offer free memberships to Teens?
Because Teens are by leaps and bounds becoming more and more morbidly obese, due to fast food, food insecurity or lack of education or care about what they are using to fuel their bodies. But we are now in a society that is all about embracing each individual and body positivity. But where do we draw the line?
If you are in the category of morbidly obese at 16, where will you be at 25, or at 40? Perhaps blood pressure, blood sugar and heart are all doing great, but eventually the weight will take its toll. It will come to collect on your joints, knees, heart and so on. So why are we getting angry when a company with known success wants to lend a hand to help with what is easily an epidemic.
Because we are a society that wants to have what we want, when we want it. We don’t want to tell our children they are fat, overweight or doing something wrong. We feel it will scar them, cause years of therapy, or as most of the internet said last week – cause long lasting eating disorders.
Do I have an eating disorder?
Did it come from going to Weight Watchers at the age of 15?
I was an only child and I came from a household that made you always clean your plate, and not waste a bite. I also came from a household that always had butter, molasses and bread on the table at supper time. My behaviors are learned.
What is my eating disorder? Emotional Eating and Giving in to Cravings. In the last 13 years I have built up some amazing will power. It wasn’t something I had until I learned how to make good food choices.
At the age of 27, I made a choice. I wasn’t going to be 275 lbs anymore. I wanted to be in smaller clothes, I wanted to be able to breathe when I went up and down stairs. I wanted to feel better. I didn’t have a clue where to start. At 27, Weight Watchers gave me the tools I needed to make informed choices about what I was eating. It encouraged me to make good choices and was there to help me when I struggled.
So, if teens aren’t getting it at home and they aren’t getting it in school, they would need an outside food education. Should it be Weight Watchers? It doesn’t have to be. A nutritionist can 100% help them understand and make good choices.
If teens should be living in a body positivity world – which let’s be honest here – they aren’t! They won’t be! Kids will still bully each other, make fun of others for their differences. So, if a teen is living an unhealthy lifestyle YES, they need help, YES, they need intervention.
But how do we draw the line between who needs help and who doesn’t? I’m not a Doctor, or a nutritionist so I can’t answer that. But what I can say is this – perhaps Weight Watchers wouldn’t need to offer up a program like this if Parents and Schools were taking more of a proactive approach to the overall nutrition their children are getting.
So, the issue really shouldn’t be “Weight Watchers is shaming fat Teens”, but it should be “Weight Watchers is the first of many healthy lifestyle programs to step up to the plate to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity”
I didn’t see this mob come after Jamie Oliver when he started his healthy school lunch program, which was designed to combat this same epidemic.
Our society functioned much better when we faced the hard truths and found ways to resolve them versus ignoring them because it hurt someone’s feelings. This might be harsh, but it’s an unfortunate reality today.
I want to leave this on a positive note, and I’m struggling with how. Childhood Obesity is a problem, it won’t get better if we accept it. Period.