Weight Watchers recently offered free memberships to teens. This ignited a whirlwind of controversy.
The woman in this post started Weight Watchers anywhere from 8-16 years of age!
Some argue our countries growing concern with childhood obesity necessitates such a program.
Those who have lived a life of yo-yo diets and eating disorders have expressed concerns about how Weight Watchers negatively affected their relationship with food.
We reached out to our Bodypositivity.com community with an open mind.
Those for and against Weight Watchers are included in this article.
We hope to offer parents considering such a program for their teen an opportunity to become aware of the experiences of those who tried Weight Watchers so you can make a better informed decision with your teen.
We decided to share a variety of perspectives however, we strongly disagree with letting the number on a scale ever determine your self-worth, especially as a child or teen!
Many will be upset we offer both sides of the argument but we believe in freedom of speech and feel both sides of an argument will only help open a discussion about this important topic.
1 – Katie – Started Weight Watchers at Age 13
I was always a heavy child, but when I was about 10, I began to notice how everyone was so “thin” and I wasn’t.
I wore men’s clothing because I felt like that was all I could fit into (even though I was only a women’s L, I still wore a men’s XL).
My mum had battled with her weight and suggested weight watchers as something we should do together.
We went but I was too young to join. Then at 13 I tried again.
I followed the program for about 3 weeks before I decided it would just be easier to give up food. To say the least, I ended up binging at night, messed up my metabolism, and gained weight.
I felt empowered immediately after starting, but that wore off.
When you’re 13, you want the effects to be shown on the first day, which of course they never do… but I didn’t understand that… so I decided to stop eating altogether.
This turned into a mess.
I became a recluse and was too self conscious to go out because I was fat and I’d “failed” at the program.
It took me until I was 21 to really learn to love myself (which I’m fortunate to have gotten so young in life).
My teen years were full of tears, self harm, and crash diets.
I still look in the mirror and have my bad days, but I breathe and remember that I am human, I am loved, and I love myself. I focus more on what I can do, than how I look.
2 – Kristen – Started Weight Watchers at Age 16
Just after the holidays my junior year, my mom offered to “help” me drop a few pounds so I could feel more confident by prom in April.
At first I was very crushed but agreed because I knew I was unhealthy.
When I first started Weight Watchers, I was nervous and a little embarrassed. I was only 16 and I didn’t know what to tell my friends.
My friends showed a genuine interest in my goals and wanted to learn with me and support me once they knew what I was doing.
The feeling of going to meetings was nerve racking. I mean, they didn’t state your “weigh in” out loud to the group.
Before you could go in for the pep talk and updates, you waited in line with others to weigh in. Your weight was tracked in a little booklet you kept and brought to each meeting.
If you didn’t make any progress, it felt very defeating.
Each week, the meetings could be either amazing or painful, like school or church.
The lesson may or may not relate to you, and if you had a bad weigh in that’s all that was on your mind.
If your weigh in was good, you listened intently, or at least I did.
The day to day stuff was great.
Using my tools and paying attention to my food plan was amazing. I had never looked at those things before. I never even knew what a nutrition label was.
I quickly became aware of what I was putting into my body. Those lessons never really leave you (even if you don’t follow them).
Mine Was a Positive Experience
Looking back, my experience was more positive than negative.
I think it was a very safe (although expensive) way to learn how to balance what I was eating.
With the many options of food, I didn’t feel deprived and no one knew I was even on WW unless I told them.
I’m jealous of all the amazing tools they have now and additional products. I feel like I did things the ancient way.
I was successful in my journey to a healthier me (until I stopped following it). My goal was to lose 10% body weight and I did with a huge boost of energy and confidence.
I wasn’t as skinny or perky as my fellow classmates but I was a way healthier me.
I learned to look at food as nourishment and not a comfort. As I’ve gotten older, I wish I had stayed more true to what I had learned instead of yo yo type weights.
3 – Raffaela – Started Weight Watchers at Age 14
I’ve been overweight my whole life.
I remember being 5 years old and not letting an adult give me a piggy back ride because I was scared I was too heavy for them.
My parents both struggled with their weight, and pushed it onto me and my sister.
7 Years of Weight Watchers
Unfortunately, at 21 years of age I’m still on and off weightwatchers.
My whole life, I was told to “suck in my tummy”, and to stay away from carbs.
Being on it makes me feel more self conscious about the food I eat, and makes me feel worse about my body, because I’m thinking about every single thing that goes in my mouth.
I feel horrible about myself if I eat something kinky.
The Effects of My Family
I’m still on WW, and sometimes I track my food and sometimes I don’t.
I do want to get healthy, and I would like to lose weight too. I’m learning to love my body just the way it is, but I have some serious body issues that have been ingrained in me since I was a toddler.
I’m Italian, and being skinny is highly valued. I’ll have my Italian grandma congratulating me when I lose weight, and being silent when I don’t.
When I go to Italy, I have my family telling me I would be beautiful if I lost 5 pounds (and they aren’t trying to be malicious, to them-they’re showing that they care).
My parents are also very body conscious in a negative way, and I always hear them talking about food, which is so harmful to my mental health.
I’m still signed up with WW, because I don’t know how to get fit, I don’t know how to become healthy.
I am CONSTANTLY having conversations with my parents that I don’t want to feel negatively about food, I don’t want it to control my life, I don’t want to be shamed for eating a hot dog or a cookie.
All Shapes and Sizes
I moved away to University and met women that were all shapes and sizes, and I have never been more comfortable in my body.
I ate whatever I wanted, and I was happy.
Now, I’m still overweight and I’ve been struggling with my body image lately, and I really want to be fit and healthy, but I don’t know how to get there.
I want to be healthy for my mental health and take care of my body, but I don’t want the negative thoughts about my body to come back.
I’m 21 now, so I’ve been struggling with weight watchers for a very long time.
It’s a little painful talking about it now. I want to be healthy, but I also want to be happy.
What makes me happy now? Laughing with my family.
I love my family so much, even though they are the main reason that I face these struggles.
My Mom is overweight and not happy about her body, and I’m trying to slowly show her that she can love herself just the way she is.
4 – Hayley – Started Weight Watchers at Age 8
Growing up, my mum and Nan were constantly rolling through every fad diet and it was only matter of time before I was recruited to the weight loss mission.
I was around 8 when I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting.
My mum had to lie about my age, which wasn’t difficult because “fat girls look older than they are”, and I wasn’t exactly carrying around an ID Card.
Mum was coming from a good place.
I was definitely overweight for my age and this was all she knew.
I remember being handed my “points” booklet and looking around the room.
I told my mum that the women there didn’t look very big. She advised me that they were the “smart ones”, catching it before it got out of hand.
I filed that tip away.
I remember hearing from the slimmers of the week and I remember being given handy little tips to save on points.
For example, spread the vegemite/marmite on the toast BEFORE the butter. That way the butter won’t melt into the toast causing you to add more.
I remember feeling miserable.
I remember loathing that this is what it would take to be thin.
I didn’t want a life of butter monitoring!
Like everyone who joins Weight Watchers or follows any calorie based plan, I learnt how to cheat the system.
If I saved points during the week, I would have way more points to binge on the weekend.
I could have a chocolate bar as long as I didn’t eat dinner. And on and on and on.
No body taught me about nourishing my body with whole foods.
No one said that I would do better eating nutritious meals than saving up for ice cream. No one encouraged me to find a way to move my body that brought me joy.
I can’t remember if I lost weight. If I did, I can promise you that it didn’t last.
It has taken me almost another 20 years to figure out how to look after my body. How to recognise hunger signals and how to enjoy high calorie food without feeling like I should starve myself the next day.
I am fit and healthy now, no thanks to Weight Watchers.
I am sure I would have gotten to this point sooner if I hadn’t been indoctrinated into diet culture at such a young age.
5 – Stephanie – Started Weight Watchers at Age 16
I decided on my own I wanted to lose weight for my prom.
I was happy with my decision from the beginning.
I felt safe enough to share my feelings about my weight in a rooom full of people like me. I also learned NOT to hate food or myself.
My Relationship With Food
To this day, whenever my weight fluctuates, I still have a healthy relationship with food.
No matter how much my weight fluctuates I always know food isn’t my enemy. It is what it is….food. If I decide to change that, they’re there to help.
I’ve always enjoyed food and I always will. WW is the one place where I’m not made to feel bad for that. It’s not a shaming environment. It’s encouraging and tackles different perspectives of dealing with your weight.
Feelings, decisions, actions, etc. It’s lots of things to lots of people and every story is different.
My experience has always been good. It taught me how to eat well without depriving or hating myself because of something I ate.
My Weight Watchers Experience
They’ve been doing a good job of reminding us that a number on the scale shouldn’t be your ONLY goal. Your “why” is very important.
We’re creatures of habit. Unfortunately, the habit is to set unrealistic goals for the wrong reasons, then beat ourselves up if we don’t meet those goals.
People berate themselves for the simple act of eating a cookie, that’s not a healthy habit.
Habits can be changed so if that’s what you want to do, they’ll help you.
One area I’m hoping they improve in is ethnic recipes, and they could still use a little tweaking in some of the measurements concerning serving sizes. Don’t just say “1 serving”, provide a specific amount as a gauge.
6 – Erika – Started Weight Watchers at Age 11
I think I started to put on weight around age five.
I was 11, in sixth grade, when my Mom took me to my first WW meeting. I was excited.
This was going to be it.
This was going to make me look like everyone else. This was going to make the boys like me.
Weight Loss Drawbacks
I remember my first weigh in to see my progress.
I was wearing acid washed overall shorts. I lost 11 lbs! 11 lbs in one week! I was elated.
During the meeting I was given my 10 lb ribbon. The other women couldn’t believe I lost 11 lbs in a week!
I actually felt bad that I lost 11 lbs.
I lost weight…I gained it back. Typical cycle…Happy I lost, ashamed if I gained.
Weight Watchers and Teens
Here I am over 30 years later and guess what, I’m still on WW.
I have to say, I love their beyond the scale program. We celebrate so much more than numbers on a scale. It’s clicking for me now and really about my health.
I truly have mixed feelings about WW offering free sessions to teens. There’s a big physiological aspect to weight gain and lost as a teen.
And honestly the parents or guardians need to be involved in helping these children live healthier lives, physically and mentally.
I have a son, who is five. He doesn’t really think about what he eats.
I do my best to set a good example for him. To buy healthy food.
More importantly. I instill in him that his worth and the worth of others in not found in their appearance but in their character.
Growing up the fat girl, what I needed was someone to teach me my worth is not measured by a number on a scale. That the size of my hips should not keep me out of dance class, that I deserved to eat lunch in the cafe and not starve myself all day and binge when I got home.
These young people need more than a weekly weigh in with grown adults. They need a safe place to be empowered, to share and to learn how to live their best life.
7 – Michelle – Started Weight Watchers at Age 12
I was a chubby child and as I was about to start middle school my father brought home a packet from Weight Watchers.
It was the summer I was 12 years old.
I was maybe 25 poundsover weight.
My mother and father often times would withdraw their love from me if I didn’t please them.
I saw this as a opportunity and took the challenge of loosing weight to earn their attention and love.
Losing Weight Became a Drug
I was able to loose weight and more. The name calling from my family stopped and they started recognizing me for my accomplishments.
My parents told me how proud they were of me and would parade me around town.
My dad owned an advertising agency so he started using me in some of his ads.
Kids at school and the boys and girls were more receptive to me at school.
I kept loosing weight because it was almost like a drug or high.
Or Pavlo’s dog or my parents dog getting rewarded for listening and doing their tricks.
Life Changed for the Worse
My pediatrician, asked my mom when I was about 15 years old, if she put me on a diet?
She said no my beautiful daughter did this all on her own.
He told her I was too thin. Her response was no one is ever too thin.
My grandmother, my mother’s mom, would tell my mom every time we would go visit, she “should” put me on a diet.
I was just fulfilling a legacy of women who had eating disorders and appreciation and love was only deserving to someone who is thin.
This was a beautiful woman ideal mentality on this side of the family.
I spent most of my adolescence trying to please my family.
I started college and realized there was a whole other world outside my parents.
I went wild and started drinking and doing drugs. I did like any freshman and gained the freshman 15. I discovered you could eat what you wanted and puke it up.
No Diets For Your Kids
One morning my daughter was watching me as I changed clothes about 10 times and was self hating and saying I needed to loose weight.
I caught myself saying these things to myself and hating on the person I saw in the mirror and then I saw my 4 year old girl mimicking me in the mirror.
I watched her for a moment and realized I was reliving my story.
Fortunately this was 6 years ago and now my daughters is almost 11 years old and I love the woman she is becoming.
Parents please don’t put your child on a diet. It will leaving a lasting impression on your daughter or son. Love them unconditionally. This is what everyone deserves!