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Weight Watchers Co-Opts Our Language

Last week I was in a taxi here and saw a pretty big advertisement on the top of another taxi. "DIETS DON'T WORK" it read, in black and white. I was really impressed - there it was. Fat acceptance! Message! In public! Big! Wow!

And then in the lower right? Weight Watchers. F'ing Weight Watchers.

Later that day I saw another one - "DI*T". And then another (!) - "LIVE OR DIET." Every one tagged with Weight Watchers, and every one claiming that WW isn't a diet - it's a lifestyle. Whatever. Fuckers.

Sheana was a little less vulgar than I when she posted about it. But infuriating? You bet.

Instead of a lengthy rant about how this is a travesty and points out the failings of our movement thus far, let's just take action instead. Let's make up one-page flyers to combat this misleading and manipulative advertising. Let's distribute them where these ads are located - and, outside of Weight Watchers locations. Let's combat this with the truth.

Here are three PDFs I put together. Print them up, adapt them... knock yourself out.

Diets are mean.
It's a diet.
Live or diet.

Finally, a song about what really matters! | BRB

katydaqueen's picture
December 26th, 2007 | Link | Can't open the pdfs

(but the ads are not a good thing...) Jawdropping!
"Bringing up a family should be an adventure,
not an anxious discipline in which everybody is constantly graded for performance."
~ Milton R. Sapirstein (Paradoxes of Everyday Life)

Sarahbear December 26th, 2007 | Link | Paul, how do I download the

Paul, how do I download the PDFs? I clicked on them, and got a blank page, and also tried right clicking to save them, but got an error message. Can you tell me what I'm doing wrong?

pocomommy December 26th, 2007 | Link | I am having the same problem

I am having the same problem accessing the pdf's as Sarahbear. Please help! I want to paper the town in these messages! Thanks!

paul December 26th, 2007 | Link | PDFs


The PDFs are now there. Sorry about that!

rachelr's picture
December 27th, 2007 | Link | I've seen the new WW ads on

I've seen the new WW ads on TV's touting "Diet's don't work!" Argh, it's so endlessly frustrating and maddening.

I couldn't open the PDFs either, but I think the problem is on my end. I'll check 'em out on the home computer.

AndyJo's picture
December 27th, 2007 | Link | The darned ads

They are ALL OVER the subways here... And the TV... And the taxis...


--Andy Jo--

pocomommy December 27th, 2007 | Link | Yup, I've been seeing these

Yup, I've been seeing these WW commercials on TV: "diets don't work, so by all means, buy our worthless diet product."

The other one I really like these days is the JennyCraig commerical with Valerie Bertinelli, fake "crying" about all the weight she's lost on Jenny so she won't have to make a New Year's Resolution about losing weight anymore. She begs the viewer to "call, call, call Jenny" so we don't have to make this resolution next year either.

Ya know what? I don't have to make that resolution now or ever. Cry over THAT, Jenny and WW, here's one consumer's money you're not getting!

rebelle December 27th, 2007 | Link | I'm so glad to see this

I'm so glad to see this thread! I just began seeing their new commercials and I wanted to vent! I HATE the one (ones?) that say: "Diets don't work ( ...But, you see, Weight Watchers is not a diet!)" More than once this week, I have yelled "bullshit!" at my ever patient TV. Those unmitigated wankers.

Marshfield December 27th, 2007 | Link | That Bertinelli ad really is

That Bertinelli ad really is gag-worthy. And what's with that idiotic waving her hand in front of her face--is that supposed to dry the crocodile tears? Pathetic.

mia_jakarta's picture
December 29th, 2007 | Link | I hope weight watchers never makes its way here!

I am revolted that f**king slimeballs like these companies, and countless others are trying to piggyback the progress fat acceptance movements have made to promote their dumb-ass marketing strategy to counter the backlash against stupid fad diets and weight loss programs! How stupid do they think we are? Over in this part of the world, there are countless magazines that have articles with token fat models to show that we should be confident, no matter what size you are, then on the same page tell us if we're considered even slightly overweight, we're lazy, unhealthy slobs who should start dieting! I hope weight watchers and jenny craig never make their way over here, we already have enough similar companies that charge a small fortune for similar useless crap.
Mia Badib

richie79's picture
December 29th, 2007 | Link | I'm still in the US

I'm still in the US (spending the holidays here with my fiancee) and I must say that whilst I haven't actually come across any of these WW ads in Boston, I can't believe the sheer amount of weight-loss and diet commercials on American TV. It's like a constant assault on one's self acceptance and much, much worse than 'Obesity Season' in the UK. And if I see another trail for the new season of 'Biggest Loser Couples' (cue sobbing fat people, yawn) on NBC I think I'm going to chuck the TV out of the window, with my fiancee's blessing!

Alyssa January 1st, 2008 | Link | A diet by any other name...

To paraphrase Will Shakespeare, a diet by any other name (food plan, lifestye, etc.) is still a diet.

Years ago, WW dropped the word "diet" and substituted "food plan". Apparently that didn't fool folks either. Perhaps their next slogan will be: "It's not a diet; it's a war on obesity. Enlist!"

DeeLeigh's picture
January 1st, 2008 | Link | I saw those ads on the El

I saw those ads on the El when I was in Chicago. I kept wanting to add another, similar (same font, design, color scheme) ad to the lineup saying "Weight Watchers is a Diet."

elasticwaist January 2nd, 2008 | Link | i'm so glad everyone is up

i'm so glad everyone is up in arms about this. we definitely caused a stir when we blogged about it. love your pdf's, paul. brilliant.

Mandark January 2nd, 2008 | Link | On WW

This is a bit off-topic, but I was just reminded of the incident which caused me to quit WW and swear off dieting back when I was a teenager (the only under-30 in the group).

We were discussing how to manage "temptation", and one lady piped up to say that she and the other WW members in her office had calculated the number of points in a fun-size Snickers bar, then got out a ruler and sliced it up into 20 or so pieces so that they could each have a taste without going over their points for the day.

How is that a healthy lifestyle choice, or whatever it is that they are trying to paint themselves as? Barf!

nycfembbw January 3rd, 2008 | Link | If it walks like a

If it walks like a duck...

Let's see...It takes our money with no guarantee of or proof of longterm "lifestyle changes." It tells us our time is best spent counting and depriving ourselves. It's a billion dollar empire. It doesn't help us to accept ourselves the way we are and be proud of our natural body size...

Me thinks it's a diet!

Icecat62's picture
January 3rd, 2008 | Link | WW is a diet...

[pro-diet post deleted. respect the rules. - Paul]

vidyapriya January 3rd, 2008 | Link | You chose to change what you

You chose to change what you eat and how much you eat, but you don't need to starve or deprive yourself to do it.

But everyone (except those very ill or impoverished) chooses what he or she eats and how much of it. I wouldn't call choosing to eat less or eat differently a 'diet' if it doesn't negatively impact a person's nutritional status, or cause hunger or feelings of deprivation or fixation on food/weight. (If you were eating more while expecting than you do now, it was for a very good reason!)

Besides, if the 'baby weight' is coming off this way, it is likely because it would have anyways. You'd have to eat *a lot* to keep your weight much above your natural body weight for an extended period of time. The other possibility is that the weight loss may only be temporary, and that your post-baby weight will be the set-point at which your weight naturally settles.

(For the record, and while I try not to be judgmental of the naturally thin, I can't help feeling a bit sad when I see young children with thin parents -- I loved snuggling into my mom's soft body and napping against my father's round belly.)

It's not about 'flogging' someone for losing weight, but about being realistic about why it's happening, rather than giving the credit to a multi-million-dollar business, and being accepting of the fact that it may not last (and that if it doesn't, that doesn't mean that you and your eating patterns are responsible). The biggest problem with WW, imho, is that they suggest that weight loss is inherently a 'good' and desirable thing, and that it is possible for most/all people.

I sympathize with the 'new clothes' concern -- it happened to me too, after I gradually regained all the weight I lost while seriously ill (despite exercising four hours a day and only eating four days a week, for years, in a desperate attempt to sustain the positive attention that my new, illness-produced shape received). But I have much nicer clothes now, and I wear them with the genuine confidence that comes from being happy with myself and pursuing meaningful dreams. I'm amazed by what I can accomplish with all of the physical and mental energy that went into trying to stay a tiny bit thinner.

diane January 4th, 2008 | Link | Icecat62. You've come to

Icecat62. You've come to the wrong place to mention anything positive about anything having to do with dieting and "intentional" weight loss. From my experience, most people in Fat Acceptance consider those who diet to be in denial, delusional, self-hating, hypocritcal, body-loathing-- basically pretty much the same kinds of things that Society say's about fat people---denial, delusional, self-hating, etc... are then said by a lot of those in Fat Acceptance about anyone who diets. With the reason seeming to be that if you lose weight, for whatever reason (on purpose), it reinforces the Societal hate against fat people in its view that every fat person can then lose weight too! So Society's hatred of fat people and their view of fat people are seemingly justified. So looking at it from that perspective, it's easy to understand that point of view by a lot of those in Fat Acceptance in their views against dieting.

Now,nobody can stop you from doing anything you feel is best for yourself. And please don't think you're personally not welcome, just any mention of you dieting or your weightloss (except if it's due to illness and/or you hate that you're losing weight), although if you hate that you're gaining weight--that's not welcome either, but as long as you feel that Society's hatred of fat people is wrong then, from my perspective, you're welcome to be part of Fat Acceptance. Although, knowing that a lot of people here think you hate yourself, are hypocritcal and delusional, may put you off. The namecalling doesn't bother me, but then I see the discrimination of fat people as a civil rights challenge. My own personal size, to me, doesn't enter into it, just like men can be pro-women's "issues" and straight people can be for gay rights, etc.. But again, that's just me. You have to decide what's best for you.

wriggle99 January 4th, 2008 | Link | Not living for fat haters

People don't need excuses for hating fat people, the only thing I think we can be blamed for is going along with the pretense that others have some kind of inborn knowledge about us. I also don't get the idea that because diets are an undoubted abomination and failure, that their never will be or should healthy weight loss, why not? All beings strive for control over their internal and external environment, it's agency. And what about those people struggling at the very top of the weight scale, are they supposed to go to hell because we're all cosy at lower weights? It could also be reversed for those that need to healthily gain as well. There are far wider implications that mere weight loss, it's about us understanding how our nervous system works, it should revolutionise our ability to heal and rebalance ourselves empowering us in ways I can barely imagine.

Scientists don't own reality, if they've failed so far they keep going until they find the right answers, that's their point.

Bayareagal January 4th, 2008 | Link | What's delusional,

What's delusional, self-hating, and self-loathing about me because I'm trying to take some weight off to give my joints a bit of a break? How close-minded. I love being fat, but sometimes your body can be at a weight higher than it's comfortable (and I believe lots of people are made to be fat), and you can have a positive attitude instead of a defeatist one (wahh, I'm just going to regain the weight). I believe in Fat Acceptance wholeheartedly. I'm also on a doctor-promoted "diet" to change my eating/exercise habits for my health. This movement is pretty much doomed to failure if those two things can't be reconciled.

DeeLeigh's picture
January 5th, 2008 | Link | You can try to reconcile

You can try to reconcile size acceptance and dieting in your own life if you want to. We all certainly have the right to choose how to manage our own bodies. But, "no diet talk" is one of the basic rules on this forum, and it always has been. That means that this isn't the right place to talk about dieting. There are a million places to talk about your diet online. This just isn't one of them.

sarahj January 5th, 2008 | Link | Bayareagal, feel free to do

Bayareagal, feel free to do what you want. But don't expect a fat acceptance blog with specific rules to cheer you on, k?

paul January 5th, 2008 | Link | Dear Everyone,

No diet talk means no diet talk.

If this isn't clear, or you want to debate the policy with me feel free to do so over email.

AnnieMcPhee's picture
January 5th, 2008 | Link | This is the first post I

This is the first post I read on this blog, and my first comment. I first saw the WW ad a couple weeks ago, and had the same thought at first - it was a woman (a thin woman) looking at a huge diet book, and wondering how the heck she was supposed to start losing weight during the three days it took her to read 160 pages. I thought "That's an odd question - why do you have to get on a diet TODAY? It's going to take a long time to lose weight, right?" Then the big proclamation - "Diets don't work!" Finally! An admission! I was a little worried, because this might be about bariatric mutilation, or drugs...or maybe, finally, someone realized that diets don't work! Could that be?

And it was...Weight Watchers? What?! Did Weight Watchers turn over a new leaf?? Have they come to their senses? Have they stopped forcing people on to a scale at the beginning of a meeting to humiliate them into following their stupid diet? Have they seriously been enlightened??? It sounded too good to be true. And it was. It was just a big fat lie. Well, no, it was the truth, only they don't believe it, so they're lying. They do think diets work, and they want to sell me their diet. Then somehow I found this through an unrelated search and I. get. it! Thank you! First thing I did was print out the flyers and I'm dying to go pin them up outside Weight Watchers meetings everywhere. That is going to feel so good.

Meowzer January 5th, 2008 | Link | Oh, and also = "no diet

Oh, and also = "no diet talk" =/= "we're going to police you to make sure you're eating enough for us." If you don't tell me about your diet, I officially don't know about it, and I'm not going to reverse-raid anyone's pantry and stick Ding Dongs in it. Don't have time for that. What you feed yourself is your business. Whether I have a safe haven from diet talk is my business. BFB is set up to be a safe haven.

Bayareagal January 5th, 2008 | Link | Sarahj, I DON'T expect to be

Sarahj, I DON'T expect to be cheered on. I also don't expect to be called delusional, self-loathing, self-hating, etc etc, because I have the common sense to listen to my doctor's advice concerning my specific problems instead of a bunch of strangers on the internet, none of whom have gone through medical school. I'm not promoting a diet or even discussing what it entails. I'm discussing the close-mindedness of diane's comment, which I'm sure she cannot back up.

That is all.

paul January 5th, 2008 | Link | Uh

I'm discussing the close-mindedness of diane's comment, which I'm sure she cannot back up.

C'mon, play nice.

Marshfield January 5th, 2008 | Link | I didn't interpret Diane's

I didn't interpret Diane's post that SHE would label people "self-loathing," etc. for doing what they felt was best for them, only that at least some BFB'ers might. My personal SA philosophy is that people should be treated as human beings with full civil rights regardless of size, and that persecution of any individual or group based on physical characteristics, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, or creed is wrong. I'm pro-choice on most issues, including food preferences, and I'm sure I'm not the only one here.

goddess's picture
January 6th, 2008 | Link | There is something positive

There is something positive to glean from the WW ads, though it's buried under the sneaky marketing ploy. I believe the new campaign shows that much of the populace is considering...hold onto your horses...that diet's don't work! WW hopes to lure those who are losing faith in dieting back into spending money with them. WW knows that diets don't work. If THEY haven't figured that out (and how to make lots of money on repeat buyers), then no one has.

But, on to action, which is as positive as we can get. I hope we will each do our part to respond to the new WW campaign. It's a great activist move and can be done with not a heck of a lot of organizing. Thanks, Paul, for getting those PDFs up. I haven't yet tried to open and use them, but I'm about to.

Paul, can you start a thread for us to tell people what we've done with our flyers? It would be mutual support and engender a sense of growing grass roots action for us all.

paul January 6th, 2008 | Link | You got it!
pancakegood January 7th, 2008 | Link | goddess...I am totally with

goddess...I am totally with you.
The only positive thing about WW is that you CAN eat real unprocessed food and spend less money than you would with something like Jenny Craig (I'm guessing). But to say it's not a diet is just silly. You are depriving yourself of food that you want and following a plan. How is that not a diet?! The thing about WW is that diet or not...I just don't know why people do it! I was in in a few years ago and lost weight. I also developed terrible habits that bordered on disordered. I did the "flex" plan and that amounted to me not eating so that I could use my points for dinner. Or exercising like mad so I could go to a party where (gasp) there would surely be food that was high in points. Foods like cheese cubes and whole grain bread. What?! I still can't belive I did that. WW also has a core plan where you eat whole unprocessed food until you are full. Sounds healthy and uncomplicated. There was no one in my meeting on the Core plan and our leader discouraged it. Shocking!

diane January 7th, 2008 | Link | "I'm discussing the

"I'm discussing the close-mindedness of diane's comment, which I'm sure she cannot back up."

Bayareagal, are you perhaps misreading my post and therefore think I myself use those words to decribe people who diet? That could not be further from the truth. I was just stating that diet talk is not welcome on this blog, and I shared what I personally have found to be some people's view in Fat Acceptance of those who diet. That alone should show just how unwelcome diet talk is here. Oh, and by-the-by, when I'm called names, I'm not making them up--so don't be too sure I can't back up what I say.

As for WWs new ad campaign, I think they're using the term "lifestyle change" the way someone with a medical issue such as diabetes, needs to make a "lifestyle change". It's a permanent kind of nutritonal change that they have to do for the rest of their life. I think the PR people at WW are tapping into that mindframe to push forth their latest "method" for reducing. They know that the general population understands that angle, and so they're using it to their advantage. But it's all the same---every single "method" out there--from The Zone, Atkins, Carbohydrate Addicts, LA, Jenny Craig, NutraSystem, Simmons, etc... is all about one thing--- getting people to consume less calories than they burn, and with the exception of Simmons--doing it without exercise. Now the only thing that WW may have changed, besides the language, is they've upped the amount of calories to consume and have given it a shiny new label. A few months back I read a Consumer Report on the "latest diets" and yawn---big surprise, those with the "higher" success rate perscribed 1700 calories a day, but people weren't happy with the "slow" loss. Now I don't know, perhaps WW with their new ads are trying to separate those who go for the unsustainable severe calorie restrictions with those who really want a moderate sustainable way to do things. But then they'd be out of business, so I don't really think it's that. The good news is, that they must eventually run out of words to decribe their methods and will have to return to the scary "d" word.

pancakegood January 7th, 2008 | Link | are right about are right about that. No matter how you dress it's a diet. I hate the words "lifestyle change". But I probably wouldn't feel that way if it was legit. Stop smoking=lifestyle change. Work out in the morning to have more energy=lifestyle change. Depriving yourself of nutrients=yes, it's sure to change your "lifestyle" but it's still a DIET! And a diet is unsustainable and matter what you're calling it this year.

AnnieMcPhee's picture
January 7th, 2008 | Link | That's right, pancake. The

That's right, pancake. The purpose of the diet is weight reduction - so no matter how you slice or promote it, it's a reduction diet. I got sick to death of diets (ironically I wasn't fat when I used them) at least 16 years ago, and I know there are 8 zillion places online or in life where I could discuss them ad nauseum if I wanted. I don't want heh. I am more than glad to find places online where discussion of that most *boring* of topics (because I have no interest in reduction diets whatsoever and anyway, we all know everything there is to know about them and how they "work" or don't work and besides I'm not trying to lose weight) is not allowed. It's like a huge breath of fresh air. Ironically, I found all this just as I was deciding whether or not to give that failing notion yet one more try in my life after all these years. Thankfully, the answer is now a resounding NO. Or a HELL NO! Going to learn more about HAES and since I don't own a scale anyway, I won't know if I lose weight or gain it.

MichMurphy January 11th, 2008 | Link | I am so glad you found us,

I am so glad you found us, and that we found you. The more, the merrier Smiling

MichMurphy January 11th, 2008 | Link | When I was home in the

When I was home in the summer, a friend of mine mentioned she was on Weight Watchers. I didn't want to go into a big fat acceptance rant or anything, geesh, she's my friend and adult and can do what she likes. She already knows my basic stance on body size.

But I did want to talk about it. So I asked her, "Do you like it?"

Her answer: "Well, no; I like to eat food."

That about sums it up for me. Weight Watchers Is A Diet.

rebelle March 26th, 2008 | Link | Newsweek just picked up on

Newsweek just picked up on this. When I saw the thumbnails of the WW ads, and above, a headline that blared: "You're fine as you are!," I honestly thought Newsweek was covering the fat rights movement.

Then I read the article. Newsweek calls the strategy "odd...trying to win over consumers by suggesting that we don't need what they're selling."

Odd? ODD?!? Funny. I'd have called it "deliriously stupid and patently insulting."

Instead, Newseek seems to be of the mind that advertisers have just NOW learned people are "susceptible to flattery." They then compare WW's insidious campaign to Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty.

The concluding statement is OK, though: "The risk (to companies) is that you'll decide you're doing fine, no purchase necessary. And no company wants to make that sale."

Also, though the blurb appeared on a page headed as "Health Matters," it was firmly under a column headed as "(on) Advertising."

I wish, though, they could've pointed out that the fat activism community has been saying diets don't work, are mean, diet is a 4-letter word, etc. for decades and that we feel WW ripped off our slogans to promote body dissatisfaction.

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