I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting in 1995. I lost about 20 pounds, then quit (and gained it back). I joined again around 2000, and lost the 20 pounds again, then quit (and gained it back.) I joined again in 2003, and over the next 3 years I lost 107 pounds and became a Lifetime member. I maintained for a year, then quit following and gained some (not all) back. Over the past two years, I’ve maintained an account at their website and have attended meetings irregularly. I started going back to weekly meetings 4 weeks ago.
And, I’ve decided it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It’s changed. They’re constantly tweeking the program, so that when I think I finally understand how it works, something new is added or changed. But, what’s really been bothering me is the focus on what I call “corporate”. When I got serious in 2003, I loved going to meetings. It felt like a group of friends who got together to bitch about how hard it is to lose weight and to give advice. My favorite part of every meeting was the first few minutes when people would bring in their “food finds”–things they found at the grocery or at restaurants or recipes that were low-point, filling, and good. Since these were all local folks, it was pertinent because I knew I’d be able to find what they were talking about at the Kroger or Marsh down the street.
The local Weight Watchers used to be a franchise, part of Weight Watcher Indianapolis. But, around the time that I quit going to meetings in 2007, they were taken over by “Corporate”, Weight Watchers, Inc. The inside of the center was remodeled so that the room no longer felt like a meeting room but more like a store. Corporate came out with all sorts of new products, and the focus of the meetings changed from being supportive (in my humble opinion) to hawking their own products. You now have to walk past rows and rows of products full of empty calories and trans fats just to weigh in.
The meeting leaders were told they had to follow a specific format for the meetings, so the informal feel and the impromptu sharing ceased to exist. And, the thing that bothered me the most was people were no longer allowed to talk about their food finds or share recipes unless they were specifically Weight Watcher brand items.
I was pretty active with the Weight Watcher online message boards throughout that time, and they changed as well. They imposed rules like you couldn’t post links to any external pages. And, you were not allowed to give out the amount of points an item (even if it is your own recipe) was because it was copyright infringement or something. I also saw lots of folks complaining that they were told they had to remove some things from their personal websites. Whenever I had a problem or question and tried emailing them, I always received a generic response with a copy & paste text that in no way answered my question. So, the informal feel and the impromptu sharing was nixed there as well. Weight Watchers Corporate started to feel more like Big Brother. Oh, and their server was absolutely horrible. I frequently had to reload a page 3 times or more just to get it to load…from several different computers and browsers and operating systems.
I wanted to give it another chance, since I had been so successful on it. So, I’ve gone to 3 meetings in the past month. And, I have been severely unimpressed. It still comes off as a marketing ploy rather than a group of people who really care about you and your health.
Now, I know that they are a business and we live in a capitalistic society and every business has a right to make money. But, I prefer to patronize business that cares about more than the bottom line, and I just haven’t seen anything from Weight Watchers recently that shows me they are like that.
So, I am not going to any more meetings. And, I cancelled my subscription to their online website tools today. It was a little hard to do. For 6 years, I’ve identified myself as a Weight Watcher. But, I’m just not feeling it anymore. It’s time for me to move on and find something else.
Goodbye, Weight Watchers. I hope we can still be friends.