A Letter to Weight Watchers About Their Plan to Offer Teens Free Memberships
Dear Weight Watchers,
I was recently on social media, and saw a news report stating that teenagers will be given free Weight Watchers memberships this summer. I immediately thought of the impact your company might have on young people in an already fat-phobic world.
I believe encouraging young people as young as 13 years old to join Weight Watchers sends a message: you’re not good enough as you are, and your size determines your worth. I spent my first semester of college in an eating disorder treatment facility, trying to unlearn 18 years worth of messages society had hit me with, over and over again. I have learned I am much more than numbers. I am more then the number on a scale, the numbers of a test score or my times in a race. I am Hannah, a strong, beautiful woman who is kind, hardworking and determined to make the most out of the life I have.
To make the most out of this life, it needs to be free of food rules and diets. It means eating that extra cookie at 10 p.m. with all your friends, because honestly that’s when the best memories are made. It means not basing portions off of a flawed label, but instead eating as much as you need to feel content and engage in the world. Your way of encouraging restriction, through your “diet,” isn’t going to make people happier, smarter or better, it’s only going to leave them hungry. Hungry for food, but also for life. When restriction and counting is in someone’s life, they aren’t living. You say your program for teenagers is not a diet, but instead a guide for “healthy habits for life.” But the core of your program is still about losing weight. You still define “success” by losing weight.
It’s 2018 and the message your company has sent and is still sending is that the number on the scale is what determines happiness, and that just isn’t true. I hope you will not teach these teenagers to hate their bodies or obsess about food. I hope you will look at the multitude of research that has shown diets don’t work, and that sometimes, these diets lead to eating disorders. Maybe it’s time to look at a new way of viewing weight and happiness and create a program that encourages relationships with food that aren’t based on numbers.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
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