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I heard recently that Weight Watchers launched a campaign for teenage weight loss.
6 week memberships available for free to teenagers during summer vacation. Wow. That’s quite a deal, considering Weight Watchers makes around $50/month per member usually. How many teenagers do you know who want to lose weight? Remember when summer vacation was all about transformations? Seems like Weight Watchers is really tapping into a lucrative market here.
BUT! Weight Watchers claims that this campaign is about “healthy living,” not weight loss. Do they seriously think we’re falling for that? The literal definition of “watching your weight” is to be focused on losing weight; to make sure you’re not gaining weight; to shrink oneself to a goal weight.
Nevertheless they tried to get ahead of that point by promoting it as being focused on balance. They must know that they have to prepare for the backlash they’ll get in regards to diet culture geared toward teens. This shit leads to eating disorders. And when is the most opportune time to develop an eating disorder? As a teenager when your brain is still growing and you’re under the most pressure of your life.
Money Over Health
What upsets me most about this is that Weight Watchers cares more about money than the actual health of the next generation, but they’re claiming otherwise.
Weight Watchers knows that these teens will continue their memberships after the 6 week trial is up. They want these kids hooked. They want them thin-obsessed just like us and our parents. Counting calories. Adding up points. Placing moral connotations to FOOD. Broccoli is good. Cookies are bad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say something like “I’ve gotta be good today, I was bad last night,” when talking about overindulging on dinner.
This kind of talk is not harmless either. It creates and builds shame around a process that our bodies naturally need to do – NOURISH ITSELF. This is the kind of thing that led me to secretly shame eat in my car after hitting up a drive thru on more than one occasion. Ya park somewhere remote. Stuff your face. Throw away those wrappers so that nobody can see how bad you’ve been.
I don’t want the next gen of teens living that life – feeling ashamed of wanting to feel nourished. They shouldn’t be learning to place moral value on food and thinness. I can’t stand the thought of them hooked on diet culture or utilizing food as a way to cope with life’s difficulties. My hope is that they grow up with a healthier mindset than that.
Remember, Teenagers Are Children
The other issue is that we are treating these teenagers as adults. We are promoting a potentially dangerous lifestyle of obsessive dieting to teenagers at such a crucial time in their brain development. They’re getting messages from the entire world around what kind of person they should be, what they should look like, and what their worth is accordingly.
Remember – these teenagers are children. If you support this kind of deal with Weight Watchers, or even defend it, you are in support of children dieting. You are supporting teenage eating disorders. You’re supporting teenage mental health struggles that could last a lifetime. You’re supporting the kind of culture that contributes to teenage depression, anxiety, and self harm.
I’m over it. Lets give our kids happy healthy homes and teach them about being a good person instead of how to transform themselves over the summer into a thinner one.
FYI – if you’re concerned about youth mental and physical health balance, check out the Wysa app. It asks questions about how you’re feeling and helps you create a toolkit based on patterns you express concern for. It gives you suggestions for coping with loss, needing more energy, and stress relief. Best part? It isn’t rooted in harmful diet culture.
We desperately need to challenge these systems that target kids. We need to hold them accountable for the damage they have done and intervene before they take it any further.
Let’s send a clear message to Weight Watchers: Stay away from our youth.
My mom made me join Weight Watchers when I was 14 years old. The assumption was that I was eating too much food and not exercising enough. I had been watching my caloric intake and 1800 calorie diet for a 5’4″ 125 lb teen who biked, swam, jogged, roller skated, etc. every single day was really, really low — and that was what I was eating before Weight Watchers. Well, the diet they gave me was much higher in calories and fat than what I was already eating and I ended up gaining 11 lbs in one month following the diet to the letter. Looking back now, I realize that weighing 125 lbs and being 5’4″ did not mean I was fat — it’s just that other 14 year old girls in my family and neighborhood weighed right around 100 lbs at that age. They were a lot less developed than me and they exercised a lot less and were not as muscular as me — but I was considered fat by my family, friends and doctor – even though there wasn’t a lot of fat on my body — it was fuller. That Weight Watchers program triggered a life long battle with my weight, my family, my health and society. Thanks Weight Watchers.
In the bad old days, children as young as 10 were able to join weight watchers.
So maybe it’s a bit better now??