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*** Exploiting Women? Help us create a case against Weight Watchers

weight watchers mags.jpg
One of AnyBody’s goals is to bring a case against Weight Watchers as one example of where the diet industry knowingly exploits the aesthetic ideal of slenderness. It has plenty of evidence that dieting does not help people maintain weight loss.

A recent contributor to; Sue Thomason, wrote a very insightful piece in response to AnyBody's ongoing case against the ethics of Weight Watchers. We thought you should all read it on our front page, and if you have personal experiences of the Weight Watchers program, please help us by leaving a comment.

From Sue Thomason:

The diet industry marketeers know full well that restriction leads the human subconscious survival instinct to activate, which drives people to overeat. The subconscious survival instinct does not know that food is available, it takes messages from the conscious mind that food is restricted, so it sees danger and it FORCES you to eat as much as you can in order to survive the famine.

The diet marketeers know that restriction of food allows you to take control only for short periods of time before this survival instinct kicks in. They perpetuate the message that the only way to lose weight is to follow their restriction regimes, and they set their customers up for failure and those customers, who see no way out, keep on going back to them and giving them more money, fuelled on by their short term success, which they see as evidence that diets work.

The reality is that they don't work and that they CAUSE overeating in the first place. Diet companies, such as Weight Watchers, CREATE overeaters.

With its ever growing profits and it's 98 per cent long-term failure rate, The diet industry is the most successful failed business in the world.

The universally accepted diet information, be it under the label of 'healthy eating' or 'cutting down', is creating the so-called 'obesity epidemic' that is now the second biggest killer next to smoking in the developed world. (And it's not an 'obesity epidemic' it's an overeating epidemic. Obesity is only one symptom in a line of symptoms caused by overeating. To pick it out and place the blame on it makes as much sense as blaming lung cancer caused by smoking on the accompanying cough!)

Without restriction, we have a genuine choice and are not driven by the subconscious need to survive in the face of a famine. Without restriction we do not overeat - because overeating is unpleasant. The only reason that overeating feels pleasant is because when you do it you are relieving yourself of the pain and suffering of restriction (or dieting). The pleasure is an illusion.

The diet industry has done as much harm to our society as the tobacco industry - if not more. I teach overeaters how to stop overeating. All of these women have spent their entire lives being dictated to by the diet industry and the physical harm, the misery, degradation and misplaced self-disgust that they live with is no different to torture. If they were in a marriage that affected them the way the diet industry does, the relationship would be legally regarded as emotionally and physically abusive and the courts would provide them with the protection of a restraining order.

Yes, Weight Watchers should be taken to task in court. They should be forced to reveal the long-term failure statistics of their products and services and made to publish them alongside the temporary success stories that they use to 'push' their drug.

Reader Comments (57)

I think a suit against Weight Watchers is so necessary. But there is one thing I disagreed with in her article,
and that is that obesity is the 2nd biggest killer next
to tobacco. I know she qualified it by saying that it
was an overeating epidemic. I want to further state
the fatness in and of itself is not necessarily unhealthy. There are indeed many fat people who live long and healthy lives. Yo-yo dieting is also a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes, but its effects are not often sorted out with weight in those medical scare studies sponsored by BigPharma!

"If we cared as much about CO2 as BMI, there would still be time!"
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS Sanders, MA
Interesting article. I've become addicted to joining slimming clubs while simultaneously knowing that they don't work. I'm not fuelled by short-term success as I don't even follow the diets. I read Fat is a Feminist issue over twenty years ago and resolved my diet/binge issues but I still can't resist joining slimming clubs and over the years have joined and re-joined Weight Watchers, Rosemary Conley and Slimming World probably about a dozen times each. I tell myself I'm 'monitoring' my weight. I've heard leaders 'confess' to eating mini chocolate eggs for breakfast as though it were a crime, I've seen a leader practically break down in tears because she'd eaten two hot cross buns in the car on their way to the meeting and more worryingly one leader noticeably gained weight rapidly at every meeting before giving up the group entirely.

Slimming clubs are intrinsically addictive, expensive and product-pushing.

June 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNicola
"If we cared as much about CO2 as BMI, there would still be time!"

...what a fabulous comment!

Womens - lets think about the bigger picture - family, love, giving, the world, politics, and being wonderful womanly contributors to the world as well as positive role models for our kids.

These diet corporations just serve to keep us occupied, making us paranoid and insecure so we can't contribute nor enjoy life the way we should.

Boycot Weight Watchers - look beyond your weight -and don't let it get in your way of anything!
June 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJanet
I have never heard such rubbish. I gained weight with my two pregnancies, then joined Weight Watchers and lost 2 stone within a year. I'm for ever grateful to them for showing me how to eat sensibly and normal amounts, and for helping me lose my excess weight.
June 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJane Smith
I have never heard a less sensible argument. People get fat because they form bad habits or lack the will power to balance their eating and exercise, and you suggest we blame those who are trying to help just because they charge for their services. Most diets are about retraining people to take notice of what they eat relative to the exercise they take.

This is like blaming the AA for alcoholism or Nicorrete for hoping smokers fail.

Most diets are about retraining people to take notice of what they eat relative to the exercise they take.

I have just lost a stone and a half on the Cambridge diet and am now eating more healthily and exercising far better. I’m feeling great and have broken my bad habits that got me fat - including excessive drinking.

Just think of what state we would all be in if your views ruled and no one helped for fear of being sued.
June 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGDXAHD
I have never been on a diet. But after recently noticing a gradual weight gain caused simply by eating large quantities of high fat, processed foods, i deceided to go on a diet (not weight watchers).

I had put on a relatively small amount of weight, not more than two stone i think at my heaviest.I have lost all the weight and then some but i have recently found myself eating large quantities of 'restricted foods' and having an insatiable 'hunger'.

Pre-diet, i was able to eat until i was full or eat controlled portions in one sitting but now i find i eat twice the amount i could and still feel a desire to eat more.

I never understood the whole concept of over-eating; i believed in control and that over-eaters were simply greedy.

I now realise that being on my restrictive diet could be a key (if not the sole) cause of my over-eating. I only hope i can get this under control before it is too late.
June 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNina
How can any organisation speak on behalf of the female section of the population without actually knowing what they think, I as many others have lost a considerable amount of weight over 7 stone with ww and while doing so increased my social and intellectual aspects of my life. WW does not restrict what you eat but makes you aware that some foods are more healthy than others. All people are born with a brain and it is up to them to think for themselves so let them instead of speaking on their behalf without consulting them first.

WW is a very good orgainsation that has help 1000's of people lead a better and fuller life, I find your suggestions laughable. Of course this is my opinion but would like you to expres it in your report.
June 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercathrerine
I understand that the women who have lost weight (and who haven't gained it back...yet...presumably since 99% do gain it back plus some) feel like Weight Watchers is a good program. However, Weight Watchers, like any other diet, isn't the answer to our eating and weight issues. If we could just get over this picture perfect ideal of how we are supposed to look and accept ourselves for who we are, all of us would be "normal" eaters. Diets make people crazy. And pretty much everyone knows it. Sadly people are becoming so used to the crazy behavior it's starting to be seen as normal eating behavior. Very scary.
June 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStacie
WW doesn't care about your health-- they just want your money. If you lose weight once and keep it off, they'd go out of business. It's in their est interest that you do the lose/gain yo-yo:

June 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I'm on Weight Watchers currently. Today I had one of those, emotional meltdowns where I'm like..why am I doing this, what's the point..ect ect. So I had some cereal and feel better now, I think it was low blood sugar.

I really hate that society is considering Obesity an epidemic, yet at the same time I don't want to end up in the hospital because of something due to it possibly.

Since Weight Watchers I've eating at least half less amount of food than I've eaten previously. I feel better..I don't think it really is about Weight much as it's about realizing all the options you have.

Especially when it comes to vegetarian foods disguised as meat products. Like, tofu-meat stuff. It's really good and it's not as fattening.

I think if you really become obsessed with strictly being on the program all the time with no room for a mistake or slip-up, then there's a problem. If it just helps a little then that's good.

As far as sueing Weight Watchers goes, I feel as if I'm a fence-sitter. I've used Weight Watchers, and feel that it's at least more flexible than other programs that supplement your food for you. Where you HAVE to eat their food, or else. N' it's like a drug dealer and a junkie sort of relationship. On the other hand, I am tired of all this "You must be a size 2" BS, as well.

So I guess if you're learning to eat healthier reasonably no matter how you get there, it's all good. There is something positive that has come out of this obesity scare, more companies have been forced to market healthier foods. Seeing as people now are concerned about stuff like processed meats, and general the type of stuff that years ago, people would say only a hippie would care about. So at least there's that.
June 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVioletYoshi
Posted by VioletYoshi on the 28/6/06 in 'Take Action':

I was thinking more about this, after I posted towards the article this thread is based on. I think it's extremely hard in this society not to diet.

I mean, I used to never care about diet. Now, it's the doctors saying BMI this and BMI that, and throwing twisted terms around like "morbidly obese"

It's wrong! I'm really very angry about all of this, I have been since it started. Why won't people just leave us alone. If we have health problems we have health problems, not due to size, but because people cannot live a life of perfect health. It's just impossible.

I'm tired of dieting and then getting depressed, (I do take a anti-depressant, by the way, so don't worry) by being exhausted all the time from the self-starvation. Then I'm depressed because I think I'm a fat (insert negative term here) so it never ends.

Even my psychatrist has suggested diets, ok.. I mean not to the point of stating the BMI as a rule, but you know like well you might feel healthier. I feel healthy for awhile, and then I feel like crap.

Enough, I'm not going to do it anymore. Well ok I say that now, but then I change my mind later. It's like..whoever thought of this obesity crises crap should seriously be hit on the head with a falling anvil. Maybe then we'd all feel a bit better. Or at least be able to have gotten some angst out.
June 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVioletYoshi
I think that the women who think suing is an absurd idea are the very reason the suit should go forward! Dieting causes PHYSIOLOGICAL changes in our bodies that make them better at producing fat. That is why rats who have been on diets make over 20x more fat than control rats fed the exact amount of food. Whenever I run across someone who has temporarily lost weight, I refuse to give positive reinforcement. I am considered horrible for not doing so, but I will no longer participate in the denial. Just as I would not participate in a teen's denial having sex only once can't get you pregnant. It is time to ditch weight obsession once and for all.

p.s. If anyone is worried about all those health scares, go over to www.bigfatblog under the forums and then fat, happy, healthy old people. We compliled a list of fat people who lived long lives, especially those who lived in oldern times before risky weight lose practices could kill them.
July 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS Sanders, MA
Weight Watchers is a HORRIFIC organization that goes out of its way to create UNTOLD MISERY on all those that it insists it is trying to help.

I went to WW aged 14 for help, advice, and more than anything INFOMATION. I ended up bigger, and heavier than I was the day I joined! The worse thing was that I made 3 more attempts over the following 13/14 years. It was only fairly recently that I realized the full vile nature of this organization.

IT IS A HORRENDOUS SCAM! Its just water you lose, and muscle. This causes hunger. LOTS OF IT...and eventually you give in to this.

I would be grateful for an update on any lawsuit being brought against WW. It is well overdue.

July 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJ
i am a fat man, but i am healthy, i see ww and other diet companies as cults of the body image, and brainwash people into beleiving thin is best, your somehow morally dificient if your fat.

my fiance destroyed her metabolism, due to diets, before she met me, i showed her to be more accepting in who she was, and she is happier and more in charge of her own destiny now than she ever was. but thats the point, happiness and self knowledge. ww doesnt care about you, all it cares about is the over £30 billion worldwide they and their ilk makes. thats all that matters, they want you to be fat, once you start in their guilt trip as one commentor said, you have lost your own self resprect, and self dignity..

fat can be healthy, fat can be fit. i walk about 6 miles a week, i work 16 hours a day, but i am fat, does my job suffer coz i am fat, no, does my life suffer yes.. only indirectly, people making comments about me, not knowing me, one size does not fit all in the diet world. i am different to you, and you are different to me, we should celebrate it, fat and thin, tall and short, rather than demonising one group over another, do we say tall people are somehow less, or short people, they do with fat people and call us lazy.
July 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermercurior
I completely support the need for a case against weight watchers, and would be pleased to help in any which way I could.

July 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Titmuss
I'm so confused about all of this and don't know which way to turn - I've been to see Paul McKenna who advocates never to diet for the very reasons expressed and yet I'm strangely attracted to going back AGAIN to ww to have another go - it's something about feeling in control I think
July 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiona
I'm late in the game responding, but I only found your website today. Weight Watchers is not "to blame" for what eventually developed into an eating disorder for me....that was something that always existed within me. But Weight Watchers provided me with the initial tools to do it, and the WW message boards continued to encourage me along my journey deep into the heart of anorexia. Everytime I posted a question about maybe easing up on my "diet" of starvation and exercise, provided my stats, I was told not to give up, that I was "too close to goal". When I posted that my friends and family were concerned about my obsessive dieting and exercise, I was encouraged further that they were "just jealous" or just not "used to my new svelte size and shape."

While it may not be deliberate, they are still responsible for their product. And in the last year and half I have learned that I am but one of a dozen that I know of who found that WW was their gateway to a disorder, be it anorexia, EDNOS, or binge eating disorder.
November 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulia
I have actually written in protest about the use of average weight models of various color on the Weight Watchers United States website to advertise what a typical "Before" looks like.

This is also racism and trying to spread the neurotic weight obsession beyond the original Weight Watchers target market of middle-class white folks.
November 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTina
I cannot believe the ridiculousness of the argument to bring a lawsuit against weight watchers. for one thing, it is not a diet, but advocates lifestyle change (and no, I don't work for them). eveyone has a brain in their head and eyes with which they can see everything they are putting in their mouth. it all comes down to balancing food consumed with exercise performed. ww fills a need for ppl that are overweight, helping them distinguish better food choices and introducing the idea of exercise. i would like to know how the pro-lawsuit ppl would like overweight and obese ppl to lose weight, if not by a lifestyle change involving better diet (as advocated by ww)? stimulant diet pills? surgery? lipo? purging?
another point, i would like to know how many of the ppl that are pro-lawsuit and so vehemently protested against ww for causing ppl to gain weight, actually joined themselves and are frustrated by the fact they may have let themselves down?
btw, ww doesn't need to make money by having the same ppl lose and gain weight over and over, there are plenty more overweight ppl in the world that don't have the first clue about healthy eating to take their place.
however, having said all this, i do believe most of the other 'diet' companies are behaving irresponsibly, esp the ones that genuinely do limit food intake. my pet hate are the companies that make you buy their food instead of teaching you how to make your own healithy food (as ww does), if that's not asking you to put the weight back on plus more at the end of the course, i don't know what is.
November 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle, Australia
Why does everyone here seem to feel that the obesity epidemic is some kind of conspiricy??

It is, it truly is an epidemic. Have you been to walmart lately? I see tons of obese people buying crap food with their fat little kids waddling behind them. Do you really think MEDICALLY TRAINED PROFESIONALS are pushing you to look like a french supermodel because they are under the influence of "the media!!!!"?

BEING UNHEALTHILY FAT IS NOT A GOOD THING. IT should not be "celebrated".

While I agree that 99% of diets are fundamentaly bad, Weight Watchers isn't a diet (as stated by Tina) it is a lifestyle change. The goal is to teach you how to recignize normal-sized portions and healthy foods and combine them with exersise.

If people go in there and fail at the program, it's not Weight Watchers fault... it's yours.
Own up to it.

I am not a size 2 by any means, but I am at a healthy weight according to my doctor. Which is exactly where everyone should strive to be. Healthy.

I lost about 60lbs last year, and while I didn't use WW, I devised my own (FREE) plan based on the system.

I call it the "Get of your Fat Behind and Walk" program.
It was simple. I had a salad and skim milk everyday for lunch instead of pizza and chocolate milk. Switched to fruit juice instead of regular soda. Got a treadmill, walked a mile every night. No restriction, I still ate chocolate. Just not EVERY DAY.

IT worked. Because I took responsibility for my actions and stopped blaming everyone else for my fatness. I feel great now. And I look great too. I even have muscles!

Weight obsession is a BAD thing, we can all agree. But moderate weight control (like the kind WW teaches) is a nessisary thing to have... if you want to live a healthy life.
November 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdriana

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