The Diet Mentality

Disclaimer: This is not a happy post, but rather a bitter one. It’s something I realized, while I was on holiday in the States, that I am still completely brainwashed from following Weight Watchers for so long. I know the program does work for most people, and it even worked for me a long time ago when my circumstances were different. Quitting WW has not been the liberating experience that I thought it would be. It’s sort of like breaking up with someone you’ve had a relationship with for a long time; you know ultimately they are not right for you, but it’s incredibly painful and the thought of living without them really scares you. Ultimately you have to do the right thing and walk away. That doesn’t stop the pain but you generally learn something in the process. If you are following the program and you’ve had success, I am truly happy for you, however, that doesn’t mean I think you are exempt from what I believe.

As you all know, I’ve been on this weight loss thang for a long time now (ok, maybe you don’t know, but now I’m telling you). I have never, ever been on a “diet” per se, because I don’t believe in “diets”, but I have been a Weight Watcher on and off for a very long time (the first time I joined was in 1992). From my experience Weight Watcher members have always claimed that what they were doing was “changing lifestyle” or simply having a different “way of life” that we were not in fact dieting at all. “Dieting” meant a short-term solution to the problem – whether it be calorie-counting, South Beaching, Atkinsing, Low GI, Jenny Craig, you name it, those things are “diets” and therefore NOT sustainable for the long term. I mean who can live the rest of their life without bread or pasta, right?

Dieting meant something negative, it meant restricting yourself, punishing yourself almost, due to the fact that you were whatever version of Fatass that you believed yourself to be. Dieting could mean fasting, or going very low calorie, or even using pills to shed the unwanted lard from your body. Dieting was what you had to do to get into those jeans again, to go to that 20 year reunion, or to get naked in front of a member of the opposite (or hey for some people the same) sex again. Dieting was a means to an end but not, my friends, a “way of life”.

My experience as a Weight Watchers Member made me better than “those people” because this was the way I was going to live for the rest of my life and see how great it works? Totally sustainable! I was totally smug to you “dieters” out there.

So now I’ve quit Weight Watchers. And yet I am totally programmed, as if I am on a diet. How many points in this, what is a serving of that, which one is the better choice, how many pieces of fruit should I eat, ohmygod I had too much rice now I have to exercise for an hour to earn activity points.

Weight Watchers is ACTUALLY part of the diet mentality. Weigh-ins, measurements, food scales, control, loss of control, disappointment, unhappiness, holding back on “real life” until… until … until… I finally get to size X or weight Z.

I am still thinking of this shit every single day. That’s the diet mentality.If it WASN’T the diet mentality, I could have just quit Weight Watchers and moved on with my life, but my reality is totally opposite.

Every single day – did I eat too much? Ohmygod the scale went up again. Jeeze I haven’t moved enough today. I shouldn’t have had that (fill in the blank). I’m never going to be at my goal weight again. I’m so fat. I’m such a failure. I hate my body and it hates me.

You think that because you are “changing lifestyle” that you are NOT part of the diet mentality? You are. Until you truly accept you for who you are RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE you will be a part of it. You are a part of it every time you compare, every time you weigh your food, every time you add up calories, every time you calculate ProPoints (or PointsPlus), every time you restrict yourself, every challenge you join, every new idea (or old idea) you buy into. Weight Watchers is the Diet Mentality as well. I was wrong. I am sorry I was so smug to all of you Non Weight Watchers out there, I am totally programmed and even though I’ve let go of the rope I keep thinking this way.

I am certain many people out there could be offended by what I am saying now. I think many people still believe that Weight Watchers is truly different. You’ve had success, you may even be a lifetime member (well, hey, so am I), you worked hard for where you are at, surely I must still be doing something wrong, clearly I am not working the program properly and now clearly I’m looking for someone or something to blame. But no, I’m not. I have just come to realize that I bought into it. I believed in it. At the end of the day it didn’t work. What am I left with? The reminder of all the stuff I “learned”, all the tricks, all the tips I followed and am thousands of euros poorer because of my belief in a program that at the end of it all really didn’t care whether I stayed or quit.

I spent years counting, weighing, measuring. Some days were great, some days turned into weeks and months. Success was MINE! Some days sucked. Some days I couldn’t eat enough. Sometimes I just had too much. Some days I cared and some I didn’t. Some days I really believed I could do this forever. But honestly, who can count points forever? It sucks thinking about it, it sucks tracking it, it sucks when you do everything in your fricking power and the mechanical beast tells you that you actually suck and you are even heavier than you were last week. I spent years being pulled in by the charms to ultimately get a slap in my face when I wanted to walk away. “Go ahead. Walk away. We don’t need you anyway” Years of my life in this DIET MENTALITY. I thought it would be easy to just quit. Seems it’s actually going to be more difficult to step away than I had originally thought.



  1. Brooke says:

    i’ve always thought of WW as a glorified calorie counting plan. that you have to pay for. its certainly the same in the mental approach.

    1. Renée says:

      I bought in to it being a “lifestyle change” and I do believe the WW taught me how to know what portion sizes are and when it’s a good idea to STOP. I could have learned that though without paying perhaps.

  2. Amy says:

    WW absolutely promotes a diet mentality. They can claim that’s not true over and over, which they do, but it IS true. So you have Weekly points you can use however you’d like and you can therefore eat cake and it’s therefore not a diet? Bull. I lost a lot of weight years before joining WW following Joy Bauer’s 90/10 Plan, which was basically a calorie counting plan that reserved enough calories at the end of the day for a real treat. A candy bar or whatever, up to 250 calories. And eventually, because I was just following a diet in a book, I got the idea and could eat pretty intuitively without writing down everything I ever ate. WW encourages you to become dependent on their methods, tracking points and so on. I basically got around a diet mentality by following a diet. And I maintained that weight loss for years, until I started working a full time desk job, got married, and had babies.

    And WW is all about playing games. It’s great that they changed everything to make it so fruits are free, this encourages people to eat fruit over 100 calorie packs. But how many people are now eating 4 bananas a day because they don’t cost any points? Is that necessarily healthy? I don’t think so.

    I really really want to get to a place where I can eat intuitively. My only problem is the accountability side of things. I am planning to return to WW after I have this baby but I am getting more and more cynical about it. I think if I return, I may not track points. I actually did pretty well doing that for a couple of crazy months back in the fall. I will go and get the basic cheerleading about eating healthy and exercising, and I will weigh in (because I need that reality check), but I don’t know if I can continue to track everything I eat. I don’t know how many times I have selected a frozen meal over cooking something fresh and healthy, just because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of calculating the points. That’s stupid, and that is the very definition of the diet mentality.

    1. Renée says:

      I get you 100%. But Amy, why return if you feel this way? Surely we can spend less on a book that teaches similar principles?

      1. Amy says:

        It’s just basic accountability for me. How will I make better choices if no one is watching me? But then again, maybe if I just don’t hide my scale like I have when I started gaining weight in the past, that will be enough. Or use my Wii for weigh-ins. I guess I have other options, I just need to be a big girl and be accountable for myself. I’ll keep looking to you for inspiration! Because frankly, I feel like a chump sometimes when it comes to WW.

        1. Renée says:

          what if you used sparkpeople or something else like that for the accountability? Or like you said use your Wii. There are so many different ways and what better time than NOW (or after the baby) to learn accountability. I’m not saying you have to cut the cord between you and WW, but what a great feeling it will be to have total freedom from it and not be totally off the rails :)

  3. Tammy says:

    I think you’ve inspired me to write my post about all the weight loss programs I’ve been a part of-includuding weight watchers. I know people have had true success on it, but people also have success on other diets, but for the most part the success doesn’t last. To me weight watchers made me feel like I could not do it without them and I had to stay on the program counting for the rest of my life, and paying my money! If they really did change lives and the mentality we would be able to be free from it when goal was reached-at least at some point. The fittest and healthiest people I know don’t count anything-they are not obsessed with food-just active and conscious.

    1. Renée says:

      Tammy, yes, yes, yes!! I want to be that person who is just active and conscious. and I feel the same, that I can not live without WW. But that’s a sign of a bad relationship in my humble opinion (because I can not live without my husband or stepkids or cats for that matter, but this dependence feeling on WW is completely different).

  4. liss says:

    Ww is a marketing scheme designed to help people who really need guidance on what to eat when to eat and how much to eat. It does help guide you in the direction of a healthy eating habit and for some people who do not have healthy life style skills it can play a very important part in helping those ppl get on track.

    But other than that it is just a type of cult, sucking you in to spending money on a system that brainwashes people into believing that they can’t live without them.

    It is difficult to see once you have been blinded by the light of ww.

    I tried ww and found I didn’t lose any weight…but why would they want you to lose weight? I maintained perfectly as my bank account lined their pockets in gold…p p

    1. Renée says:

      ugh! liss you are so right!!! and how many pockets have I lined????

  5. Ace says:

    I think that part of life is climbing the mountain, then looking back. I feel you have reached a part of your life I can relate to. I lost a lot of weight under WW and an exercise program. Now my doctor tells me that I have two bulging discs and that my “diet” is not providing the calories I need to keep my joints healthy. He recommended a similar program as your sports doc. Combine all this with vast life changes and I’m left looking back and asking how I got here.

    The thing I think you will be (or should be) thinking about is that life keeps going. The question I ask myself everyday is: where do “I” want to go with my body, career, family, and FOOD! I know it seems hard to do right now but today the sun is shining, the temperature is warming and I am stronger from all of my experiences.

    “This too shall pass.” This is true for good and bad times.

    1. Renée says:

      Thanks Ace :) what a great response :)

  6. I WISH I could say I have all of this worked out for myself, I truly do. But…I don’t and I probably never will. My goal is to move past all of this and just live everyday and love every day. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get there but I am opening myself up to the possibilities. I know my husband doesn’t count calories or worry about his exercise etc, etc, ad nauseum. He’s thin. When he puts on 15 pounds and gets a gut he still doesn’t weigh himself, he just cuts certain foods out until he’s back down to his “normal” weight. That’s what I want.

    I think maybe this is why Jewlia Goulia removed herself from the web. Maybe she was sick of the obsession?

    Having said all that–so you know that I’m one of the messed up ones too, THAT’S why I could never do WW for more than a few weeks. I could be wrong, but to me, it’s a club for obsessing to the nth degree about food. I would shoot myself if I had to measure, weight, and count up points because it would buy into the part of me that WANTS to obsess and control.

    Yes, I do enter my calories into a little app, but at this point I really don’t need to and I sometimes wonder why I don’t trust myself enough yet to stop. I’m looking at the whole process. WW is, I think, the most diet-y diet ever. They teach great things but they seem to make your whole life about diet. It’s like being in a twisted church. Even after you leave it, for a decade, it haunts you. It’s no wonder that you’re angry. It makes total sense. And it helps to SAY that you’re angry.

    1. Tara says:

      JewliaGoulia left for a number of reasons..

      1. Renée says:

        of course we can not know what happened to Julia and we shouldn’t assume.

    2. Renée says:

      wow, what a great way to sum it up. like being in a twisted church!!

  7. Tara says:

    I never understood the romantism toward WW. I never wanted to eat out of boxes or buy premeasured prepackaged foods. I liked atkins because at least I was still in control of my choices. I know WW allows you to pick your food with points and what not but it felt so restricted. I feel the same way about the shakeology mentality I see going around.

    I get it though. Even though I wasn’t buying into a program I was still living the diet mentality. Measuring, tracking and counting took its toll. Its just as hard for me to give that up now that I am trying to trust myself to eat intuitively.

    Fucking diets!

    1. Renée says:

      fucking diets indeed Tara.

      not to defend, but wanted you to know that here in Europe, or at least in the Netherlands, we don’t have premeasured/ prepackaged foods for the most part. I was totally in control of everything I ate/ eat and I have to say I eat really well. While following I probably chose Non-Fat items more than with fat, but I have changed that a wee bit over the years simply because I don’t see a real harm in a low-fat yoghurt over a non-fat one. Besides, we need fuel for our bodies but we also need oil. You wouldn’t run your car without it would you?

      So I never participated in WW and bought in to all the products available simply because it’s very limited anyway. And I like to eat real food, not fake stuff, so I just calculated points and tried as many different combinations as possible. In the end it’s doesn’t work for me now because I’m either too active for the program (hungry ALL the time) or too over tired (too much cortisol/ hungry / feel like hungover).

  8. Gabi says:

    Hi Renee,

    I love the honesty and the candid way you wrote this post. I’ve never been on WW but I really understand how you feel about it from this post. I suppose I don’t have a right to knock WW because I’ve never used their system but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that their system promotes co-dependence, they take the dieter’s money in exchange for thinking for them and that’s no way to live or eat.

    I think you did the right thing to quit and start making lifestyle changes on your own. Lifestyle changes are not about obssessing but about thinking and acting intuitively about setting your own goals and honouring yourself by sticking with them.

    I’m rooting for you! :)

    1. Renée says:

      Thanks Gabi. and you are so right, especially about being “co-dependent” !!

Comments are closed.