Friday, October 22, 2010

In broad daylight

I was thinking about my first time going to a Weight Watchers meeting in January of 2000.  I was incredibly nervous for two key reasons.

  1. The whole process seemed a mystery, and I just didn't know what to expect
  2. It felt weird walking into a place that helped people with real weight problems.  

On the first point, my initial concerns were pretty quickly dispelled.  Frankly, by the next meeting they were gone.  I was totally comfortable, and the people who ran the meeting were unbelievably nice, welcoming, accepting and helpful.

On the second point, it took me a lot longer to get passed those initial anxieties.  Why was I worried?  Was I worried for how I would see myself, or was I worried that I would be seen by someone I knew?  I suspect the answer is both, but the second was probably the bigger issue.  As a guy, you can imagine that it felt particularly strange to me as there really weren't any other dudes to speak of (other than my meeting leader!).  That said, I'm sure lots of people, women and men, feel that way.  The question I have been pondering is this:  why?

The last time I checked, 70% of the US adult population was overweight or obese (1/3 in the case of the latter category).  My weight issue hardly made me unique.  In fact, I was actually doing something about it, which is more than many people could say.  Why wasn't this a point of pride?

The world has changed rapidly over the past 20 years.  When I was a kid, most people weren't heavy.  Worse, heavy people got teased or dismissed.  I am sad to say that this still happens, but that fact that it does seems bizarre.  Most of us are now a product of our environment, one which surrounds us with junk food and bad TV.  Today, most of us are just trying to figure out how to navigate our new world and find a way to live more healthfully and lose weight in the process (order of these two reasons might be switched depending on person).

Back in its early days, Weight Watchers centers were hidden on purpose.  People who were seeking to manage a weight issue wanted privacy.  Back then, this desire made sense because people with weight issues were in the minority.  It's not that way any more.


BIG SIGN (St. Louis)!!!



(Ribbon cutting ceremony with my rock star colleagues in Tampa)


Interior shot...

Recently, Weight Watchers began installing new centers in two test markets:  St. Louis and Tampa.  We purposefully chose highly visible retail locations with great big signs that jump out and say HELLO!  These centers are brightly lit and brightly colored.  To me, they are emblematic of the way we should all start thinking about how we deal with our weight issues:  with pride, with volume, and in the open.  The more people see us doing it, the more they will join us.

Weight Watchers is coming even more into the bright light of day.  It's time for all of us to come into the bright light of day.  It's time for us to recognize that addressing a challenge and seeking personal growth is not a source of embarrassment.  It's a source of pride and a sign of strength and a demonstration of courage.

I big into publicly revealing and sharing my challenges now, so clearly I've drunk the exhibitionist Koolaid.  Why not join me!

Cheers,

dk

32 comments:

  1. This post excited me for two reasons. Reason #1 being that I too am a guy and going to the meetings the first time I tried Weight Watchers 3 years ago was a bit intimidating. Stepping into a meeting as a 21 year old guy in a room of middle aged women felt out of place. My anxieties went away after a few meetings thanks in large part to my leader, but it felt strange to tell other people that I was a Weight Watcher. I'm glad I'm not the only guy who felt that way at first.
    3 years later and 3 years wiser I re-joined Weight Watchers 6 months ago. This time I knew that being a Weight Watcher was not something to be ashamed of, which brings me to reason #2 why this post excited me. I have fully embraced the idea of sharing my challenges openly and I too have drunk the exhibitionist Koolaid. When I re-joined WW 6 months ago I created a group on Facebook to follow my Weight Loss Journey. I have 165 people who follow my group and read my weekly messages about my weight loss and the challenges I encounter. Over the past 6 months I have learned that not only does my public weight loss journey keep me accountable, 6 months with only 2 gains, but I've also discovered that I have inspired others to jump on the bandwagon and recommit to living a healthy lifestyle. That is not something to be embarrassed about. I'm proud of my weight loss efforts. I have a goal of losing 180 lbs, the weight of my twin brother. 24 weeks and 43 lbs lighter I am well on my way to achieving my goal and being thinspiration for others.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So, is this going to role out to all WW Centers across the USA? Or is it limited? It makes alot of sense to me - I always wondered why WW was shoved way in the back of some strip mall and it always looked dark and uninviting - like you had to sneak in and feel bad about it.
    Bright, modern facilities - a welcome - no shame - move forward - pour me a glass of that Kool-Aid too!
    Best-
    Greg

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love being out in the light. I am so proud of my members and proud of myself for being on the path to health and well being. Bring on the billboards and giant neon signs!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I live in Tampa and the new center in South Tampa drew me in and I am so glad I found it while driving by one day. I love the bright, cheery colors in the inside. They add a positive effect to going to the meetings!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Everytime someone approachs me to compliment me on my weigh loss, I simply smile and say "Weight Watchers"! I'm proud to be a part of the only program that really works! I'm glad that the new store fronts will reflect that as well. With all of the advertising for sketchy programs and reality shows about weight loss, we should be loud and proud about Weight Watchers!

    ReplyDelete
  6. TO the tune of 'I'm coming out'...'I'm slimming down..and I want the world to know!'

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just hit my 4 year anniversary with WW. It has been through many changes since I started. But I go to a franchise so it is a little different. What stinks is our rooms probably will never look as nice as those. I am kind of nervous with WW changing the program because I want to know if it worked for other people.

    ReplyDelete
  8. wow, David you always seem to hit on the relevant points! I've always said that going to a WW meeting is similiar to an AA meeting, or other support group. The first step in the door is the hardest, yet makes us realize that we are all human.

    I went to WW initially with my husband and have since brought our 22 year old son there also. He really only needed to lose 10-15 pounds (leftover from the unhealthy college diet) but I wanted him to see that weight is an issue that needs to be dealt with in a healthy and supportive way.

    Bring on that neon sign! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Incredible job David! Perfect evolution of your company--bringing it out, front and center! I have a feeling your test markets will exceed your expectations.

    My best always,
    Sean

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am a member in Kitty Hawk NC. There is an incredible lady Sharon who runs the meetings. My daughter joined last Oct. (09), and I joined in March of this year. she has lost 83lbs and I have lost 82lbs. The program works. My initial struggle was that there were very few men in the program, as I call, it the meetings are an estrogen rich environment.Guys come in but don't seem to come back, the entire WW culture appears geared to Women, not a bad thing just an observation. What can we do to change that?

    ReplyDelete
  11. First joined WW in the early 80's and even became a Lecturer as they called them in the day. Leader today which is a better term. WW has come a very long way. I am proud to be a Weight Watcher.
    Dottie
    Vero Beach, Florida

    ReplyDelete
  12. Haha. It's kind of like a friend of mine who is in law enforcement told me about being in Alcoholics Anonymous. He feels like he needs to hide it. Many of his colleagues are problem drinkers and that is okay, part of the culture. It's recovering from alcoholism that carries a stigma. Wow.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have lost 111 lbs on WW. People who I haven't seen in a long time are astonished when they see me. I am so proud to be a WW lifetime member - I tell eveyone about it. WW is the best way to lose weight, whether you are male or female! Although my husband never became a member, he lost 85 lbs by doing this along with me at home! Ginny, Manchester Center, VT

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great article, I enjoyed reading it! I am very excited and happy you are finally making the WW Centers as bright and cheerful as some of the awesome WW Leaders you have on you team! I am Kim from Wantagh, NY and I always look forward to my Wednesday meetings. Linda (5:30pm meeting) is like sunshine on a cloudy day, she is engaging, hilarious and truly motivational! I am very glad you are bringing more attention to a very serious national crisis and only wish we all could do much more collectively as a group to combat the very serious issue of obesity in the US. I personally have no qualms telling everyone that I am on the WW program, actually I am quite proud of myself, and try to pass on (on a daily basis) some of the great tips and motivational tools Linda has provided to me and her extremely loyal group!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great article, here is my experience as a man on WW- http://pastordavidkerr.blogspot.com/2010/09/what-i-learned-from-weight-watchers.html

    ReplyDelete
  16. I LOVE the new Weight Watchers center in St. Louis! I returned to meetings after a pregnancy and was pleasantly surprised by the new location! I always thought the old center dreary. The new center has an air of positivity as soon as you walk in!

    ReplyDelete
  17. That first meeting was kinda intimidating. And being the only male made it wise.

    At first I did not tell anyone (other than family) what I was doing as much from fear of failure to embarrassment at being fat.

    But 2.5 years and 115 pounds later most everyone that knows me knows I lost my weight on Weight Watchers. And I am glad to tell them about it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've lost 165 lbs thanks to WW and exercise. Being a guy I use the online version which works great. I love my gym and use a personal trainer but the lacking part of the gym is the nutrition part have you thought about partnering with a gym like anytime fitness to have meetings it could be a win for both companies and get more guys on board.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am a WW member,again, for the third time. I have said this will be the last time I join WW becasue I am not falling off the wagon or leaving again. I will become lifetime, and I will inspire others. To me WW is like AA. I have a love/love relationship with food, and WW help me keep that relationship under control. I go to meetings in McKinney, TX, where Bernice M.is my leader. She has been a lifetime member since the 80's! I love my Bernice voice as I call it, she is with me in my head every week after I go to a meeting. I just wanted to say WW is awesome, it works, and I am sticking to it this time!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am a lifetime WW member since 2003, my total loss was 53lbs, although I gained 10bls back in the 7yrs since, I was under goal when I became life time so, I'm still at goal even today. WW gave me the tools to maitain my weight and a healthy lifestyle. I even lead my stepmother, my dad, mother and niece to WW and they are now members and have all lost weight and are at goal. The biggest thing I tell anyone on program is JOURNAL and measure. The next thing is forgive yourself, we are not perfect beings. Just because you have a moment of weakness does not mean you are a failure. Stick with it.

    ReplyDelete
  21. LOVE the idea of the bright inviting centers! Weight Watchers is the only program that has worked for me, and I love it. I advertise it every day when people make positive comments and remind my doctor how great a program it is. We are both pleased as punch that my blood sugar levels are well controlled through my following WW! Carry on the good work! Deb

    ReplyDelete
  22. Weight is one of the last challenges in the world to come out of the dark. So many people think, "Just don't eat that!" Or, have some self discipline! While we do have to do those things, for some of us, it's harder done than said. I like the big signage, and the bright cheery looking space. I'm glad that you've drunk the WW Koolaid, hope it's Sugar Free!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I felt the same way the first time I joined WW almost three years ago. But I stuck with it and continued. Just over a month into it I was shocked to run into one of my co-workers there...maybe even a little embarrassed. However, I continued to stick with it and I'm happy to say I reached lifetime and have maintained it for 2 1/2 years! Now whenever anyone asks how I lost the weight I proudly tell them WW...no embarrassment at all. For me, the hardest part was taking that first step through those doors. This is the quote I have in my signature on the WW boards:

    "The secret of success is having the courage to begin in the first place."

    I love the new WW center at Mid Rivers in St. Louis. Thank you WW for helping me change my life!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I think it is great that Weight Watchers offers two different ways to participate. I, being a more private person, do not see the benefit in congregating at a common location to discuss one's eating habits. I find it discouraging to be among multiple people discussing their weight loss woes. Everything I need to be successful is offered online and I can participate from the privacy of my home. Thank you for offering TWO OPTIONS!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I am crying from all the wonderful comments and this great blog!I love when men come to the meetings and have the courage to share and participate! I love this new idea of welcoming members and not hiding in the closet anymore! Isn't that how we got in trouble in the 1st place? Weight Watchers is now becoming one of the solutions to the rapidly growing problem of obesity and all the diseases that come with it! I am a loud and proud Weight Watcher, now for almost 6 years this time, with 128lb loss as a result of lifestyle changes! Thank you Weight Watchers!!!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I would love it if men came to our meetings! It would be fantastic. However I think the problem is that we live in rural Montana where the tough marlbro man image is still king. Paunchy old cowboys just "Worked and played to hard when they were younger" and paunchy young ones "Arent working hard enough".
    I'm going back to WW tonight for the first time since july. I fell off the wagon when I got a new desk job in another town, I was away from my other coworkers who supported me and I was in a relationship that was not healthy. I also moved away from home so I wasnt cooking for my mother and I every night. Now I'm out of the relationship and cooking again. Still sitting at a desk but hopefully not for long. I've lost 75lbs so far and have almost that much to go. I know I can do it now, I've found my center again. I deserve it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I was embarrassed to go a meeting the first time because it is enough to admit that I have a weight problem. I knew I had to lose weight, and wasn't happy with myself. Plus, I was unsure of this and didn't think it would work for me. I was overwhelmed with information at the first meeting with the points, healthy food guidelines, filling foods, etc. I even told the leader "I don't know if I can do this." Well, fast forward to over 14 months later and I am still going and down 53 pounds! I love our leader, Alan; he inspires and motivates us plus he has a great sense of humor. He is really awesome! I have decided when I reach goal, I am committed to going to WW forever. My biggest fear is going backwards to my old bad habits and not fitting in my smaller clothes--that would be a nightmare, and that is why I have to keep going to the meetings and stay on plan. I know myself and lots of people out there appreciate your honesty in your blog, it is great!

    ReplyDelete
  28. this was a great post, I went back for the 3rd time in 7 years love the changes I am life time 2 times This time will be the last,
    I love sharing and the nice ww workers you meet there,

    ReplyDelete
  29. The Dubs I go to (if I'm still going. I still haven't figured out if I'm going back) is smack dab between a Mexican restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. They smell divine. I always want to skip weighing in and head straight for one (or both) of them.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I like your post and everything you share with us is current and very informative.

    ReplyDelete