Happy Friday eve, friends and welcome back! We are officially over halfway through the week (praise the Lord) and for that, I think we deserve a pat on the back! Today I’m coming to you with something that is very near and dear to my heart. I’m sure many of you have seen the news that Weight Watchers plans to roll out a free program for teens this summer and let me just say, I think that’s downright disgusting (sorry for the blunt delivery, but that’s truly how I feel). With poor body image and low self esteem running rampant in adolescence (and beyond), I think we are doing our children a disservice by allowing them to take part in something like this. As someone who developed an ED at the ripe old age of 12, I feel like I speak from experience when I say that adolescents don’t need any help learning how to count calories and feel inferior to those around them, however I worry this program will do just that.
It’s no surprise that eating disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent in teens and young adults and I can’t help but wonder what kind of message this program is sending? In my eyes it’s saying “hey you’re pretty, but you’d be even prettier if you lost 15 pounds” or “you know, with a little push, you could hit your goal weight and everyone will notice you.” The idea that our children are being fed these lies saddens me more than I could ever express; If I have to lose 15 pounds for someone to notice me then I’m better off without them. I understand that childhood obesity is a public health issue and while some people think that this is a harmless “free” program to help kids monitor what they’re putting in their bodies, I personally think it’s anything but free.
Weekly weigh-ins turn into daily scale struggles. Cutting back on fast food and exercising 2 times a week turns into weighing your lettuce and doing 3-a-days; I know, I’ve been there. It starts off innocent and with the best of intentions but quickly turns into a monster that consumes your every waking thought (again, I’ve been there). You become so unhappy and preoccupied with reaching your “goal weight” that enjoying life is no longer an option; you always want more. If you lose 15 pounds, you’ll push it to 20; it’s a never-ending cycle that steals every ounce of joy from your life. True story, I haven’t willingly stepped on a scale in over 3 years (I’m weighed backwards at DRs offices); I know myself well enough to know that numbers (of any kind) are triggering for me. If it’s lower than the arbitrary number I’ve made up in my head, then I’ll immediately want more, and if it’s higher, you can expect a full blown meltdown; I’m not proud of that fact but it is what it is. Teenagers (or anyone for that matter) shouldn’t be worried about the number on a scale or what size jeans they wear; instead they should be focused on feeling physically AND mentally healthy (and happy) and enjoying the experiences that accompany this stage of life. Moral value should never be attached to food and people should never be shamed for eating a double cheeseburger from McDonalds instead of a homemade salad for dinner. And NO, I’m not saying that I think McDonalds is suitable for everyday consumption (EVERYTHING in moderation) though I’ve done it before (lol), but I also don’t think people should feel “gross” or guilty for wanting a fish filet and fries…it’s just food. Unfortunately for those who are already struggling with poor body image and low self-esteem, programs like these can create the need for secrecy and shame as it pertains to food and calories consumed.
While I fully understand that being overweight carries its own set of consequences, there are better, more effective ways to address these concerns. If you or someone you know is considering introducing this (or anything similar) program to a teen in your life, I urge you to reconsider. There are valuable, less damaging ways to introduce healthy habits (and foods) to your children without labeling them as someone who NEEDS to use a Weight Watchers program to lose weight & be “healthy.” Talk to a healthcare professional (pediatrician/nutritionist), cook homemade meals, get outside and encourage your children to be active, but don’t have them do weekly weigh-ins and count calories; I can assure you it won’t be as beneficial as you’re hoping. With society forcing its hand and setting the parameters on what is deemed beautiful & worthy, I encourage you to lift up your children (and adults) during this critical time of development to ensure that their self-worth isn’t defined by their weight or dress size.
If you’ve made it this far, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this post. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was talking in circles, but I’m hoping by continuing to have healthy, educational conversations, that one day we will live in a world free from numbers, shame and guilt. I hope you all are having a wonderful Thursday, let’s chat soon!