Why Weight Watchers, Why?

Did you all hear that Weight Watchers is offering free six-week memberships to kids as young as 13 starting this summer?

That’s right, the company that asks you to watch your weight is targeting teens. As a nutrition professional, I’m not happy about this news, and as a big fan of Oprah (she owns a huge portion of the company and sits on the board of directors) I’m definitely disappointed. While non-diet dietitians like myself are loud and clear with the stance that offering a free membership to teens is a bad idea, I’ve also witnessed diet-dietitians in full support of Weight Watchers. I get it, you’re trained to understand macros, calories, dietary patterns and recommended intakes. You may or may not have struggled with your own weight and body image, regardless, this is not the right choice for kids. Real talk. Let’s break this down.

Diets don’t work.

95% of all dieters gain back all the weight lost with some gaining additional weight. Let that number sink in, 95%. As of 2016, Weight Watchers alone had around 1.1 million active subscribers. That means that 1,045,000 people on weight watchers will regain ALL the weight they lost. We also know the more times you go on a diet, the greater your risk for being obese. That’s right, simply going on a diet increases your risk for weight gain. Weight Watchers knows this, and they know if they get to teens early they'll have the ability to lock in a customer for life. 

Weight Watchers is still a diet, not a nutrition course.

I’ve heard so many diet-dietitians use the phrase “well this will help kids learn about food", "it'll teach them what their bodies need", "this will help kids who wouldn’t normally have access to a weight loss program”. Did your head just explode? Mine sure did. Weight Watchers is a diet program with one goal, to help you lose weight, not to teach you about nutrition science. Nutrition is taught with health in mind, not weight. Making sure you’re eating enough fiber to reduce your chance of heart disease and cancer is not the same as tracking your food via points. Points systems are designed to lower your food intake NOT optimize your nutrition. Nutrition should be taught from a weight neutral perspective. 

On the dieting scale Weight Watchers is…..nope it’s still a diet.

Hearing statements like “they’re a mild version of a diet”, “they don’t restrict one macro more than another”, and “this teaches them portion control” makes me want to scream loudly in front of a moving subway train. A mild version of a diet, is still a diet. We know diets don’t work, and we know going on a diet is one of the strongest indicators for weight gain. Health is not dictated by size alone so the focus should not only be on size. 

Learning to eat intuitively can be really hard, especially if you’ve spent most of your life battling your body with diets, but there is hope in intuitive eating. You will learn to hear your body signals again. You will learn to use nutrition as a tool and not a weapon. You will wake up praising your body instead of waging a war against it. There is a solution. If your ready for a change but your not sure where to start download my free guide to kicking diets to the curb for good.

Till next time,

Dr. Claudia

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