Inspired by Weight Watchers Works. For One
Three Out of a Thousand (and I’m not changing my clever title to match the change to Fatfu’s clever title, although I suppose I could go back to my working title, which was “Fuck you, Weight Watchers”).
I have always said that one of the most important milestones in recovering from the break-up of a long-term relationship is The Rage. It’s hard to end a long-term relationship. It’s hard to admit that all that love in your heart was not enough to make it work. It’s hard to mull over the possibility that you wasted your time and energy, or that while you were busy bailing out a sinking ship with a tea cup, the most awesome sailboat in the world was floating there waiting for you, until the crew ran out of provisions and went back to port because, damn, girl, just let that junk hit bottom and come on aboard! It’s hard not to internalize the failure of a relationship as a failure of some fundamental aspect of your own self. And so because it’s so hard, people at the end of long term relationships often say things like, “Well I still love him/her, and we’ll always be friends.”
Don’t get me wrong. You might be friends again someday, but not until after The Rage. Because, you see, to love this person again, you have to hate her first. And I mean hate. Like, honestly attempt to seriously injure that person and feel sincere sadness when you fail. Like get so mad that you literally spit every time someone mentions his name. Healing requires an intense and extreme hate that burns hotter than a thousand suns, that rages like a forest fire and clears away all the dead emotional underbrush of your past relationship, leaving a layer of nutrient rich ash from which the sprouts of actual friendship with this person may grow.
I am rich in metaphor today, no?
So it also goes with any long-term emotional investment, as with a job, or a volunteer commitment, or a prolific writer of horror novels who was fairly original and entertaining when you were younger but then ran out of ideas yet failed to have the grace to quit publishing the books that you keep reading because you can’t let go of that glimmer of hope that he’ll stop sucking for like, a second. Or a diet. Like Weight Watchers.
I started on Weight Watchers right around my 30th birthday, and finally called it quits this past summer, making it one of the longest voluntary relationships I have ever maintained. And wow, what a doozy that relationship was. I mean, I have romantically dated some real losers – junkies, alcoholics, a guy who told me he was going to sacrifice animals in his backyard to Satan, bass players – but for sheer self esteem destroying emotional manipulation and one-sidedness, Weight Watchers really takes the cake. Like, literally.
We met on line and at first, WW and I were really happy together. It gave me recipes and message boards and inspirational stories and clever tips and slick web graphics and hope. And I gave it a monthly fee, and a considerable amount of my time in the form of dutifully typing everything I ate and all of the exercise I undertook into an on-line diary and constantly calculating points. I even hung out with its friends by participating on the message boards. I talked about WW to anybody who would listen, explained why it wasn’t like all the others, and as proof, offered my body up for public inspection.
We hit our first snag when I made a significant career change. I quit my stupid desk job and, no longer held captive to a computer for eight hours a day, lost the will to enter in my food and exercise details during my off hours. I explained this to WW, but WW was willing to change with me! For an additional registration fee, of course. I was so delighted that WW wasn’t going to dump me when the going got rough, like so many had before, that I happily paid the fee and, losing all the weight loss “milestones” that I had achieved using the on-line program, started over from scratch and met WW face to face. I allowed WW to subject me to a weekly public humiliation ritual called a “weigh in,” and in return I got an edifying weekly lecture from a “Leader” on such interesting topics as “How to cook vegetables without meat” (this was in the US south) and “How to go to a holiday picnic and not eat anything.” I gave WW more money, and it showered me with with presents, like a shiny book full of colorful pictures of food and a clever little notebook, all in a convenient carrying case. We wrote post cards to my future self together. We planned shopping trips using coupons that WW gave me every week. We proudly clipped the 10% keychain to my house keys. I reveled in our nightly ritual during which WW and I would lie in bed together and record, analyze, and judge everything I’d eaten that day, and plan and dream about everything I’d eat the next day.
Once the honeymoon phase was inevitably over, doubts began to creep in. Suddenly, I wasn’t losing 2 pounds a week anymore. I was plateauing. Or gaining! WW patiently explained that it was me who was failing our relationship. I was doing something wrong. I just had to recommit to us and I would be happy. I just had to sublimate my own judgment to that of WW, and it would take care of me. Perhaps I should purchase a magazine, or a cookbook, or a box of turd-like “food bars” to reignite the flame of our initial excitement. I did all of those things and they worked. For awhile.
Soon I moved to another state and went back to school. I just didn’t have time for WW, and although I missed the results, I never missed the incessant contemplation of food or the weighing and measuring or the encouragement to just buy from WW this one more thing or add this one service to bring the magic back. And so me and WW, we went on a break. But as with most long term relationships, the break didn’t last and we soon got back together.
This time, though, it felt different. I got the same results, but I still wasn’t happy. Sitting through the weekly gatherings with WW’s friends felt more like a half-hour long commercial for something I’d already purchased than a support system. I became resentful. I saw WW for what it was – a needy, greedy soul sucker. WW didn’t really care about me. It didn’t love me for who I was; it only loved me as long as I made it look good. I kept trying to make it work, because after all that money and time, I couldn’t admit that the whole relationship was an abusive, self-esteem destroying sham. If we didn’t have a future together, what had I been doing for the past four years?
One day during a weekly meeting, as we all exchanged the same old stupid diet tips (never leave the house without an apple, so if you get tempted to eat something else, you can cram the apple in your mouth to block the offending high point food from entering) a woman raised her hand. The Leader acknowledged her and she stood up and said something revolutionary that, in all of my years of interacting with WW’s other partners in real life and on line I had never heard anybody say:
“This really sucks.”
She explained that she had just had a baby and was trying to lose pregnancy weight. She was a size ten, maybe, a young hipster looking woman with an adorable haircut and fabulous style. She couldn’t understand how it was possible to live on the amount of food that WW permitted. She didn’t understand how anybody could possibly be this hungry all the time and operate effectively in the world. This, she said, waving her arms over the whole group, just doesn’t make any sense. My jaw dropped. Even at this point, when I knew I was nearing the end of my patience with WW and all of its unreasonable demands, I felt the overwhelming urge to defend WW, to condemn this woman. Or course I didn’t have to, because the Leader and everybody else jumped in to do it for me, questioning her habits, her dedication, her commitment, as if all it took to lose weight on WW was to wish really hard that it be so. Believe and achieve. And if you bite it, write it.
It was a needle for my balloon, the heart to heart talk from a good girlfriend about what an asshole my partner truly was, the surveillance tape proving that he was, indeed, cheating on me.
I knew it was over then. But I still cared for WW. We were still friends. I continued to use the 10% key chain and talked about how maybe we’d see each other casually once I got my head together. I kept measuring, reading labels, and mentally adding up my points out of curiosity to see when I was supposed stop eating (usually around 1 pm), even if I disregarded it.
But the rage? That was a long time coming. I had internalized so much self-loathing, had let WW and its leaders and its mindless proselytizers (of which I was one of the most fervent) convince me that if WW were treating me poorly, it’s because I deserved it. I had no right to anger. And in classic form, I turned all that fury inwards, resulting in all sorts of issues that are too personal for this space.
Until there came a solution: fat acceptance, and this radical notion that I could like my body the way it was, that it was no moral failing to fall outside the narrow definition of beauty, that this definition of beauty was a bullshit societal construct anyway, that health and size need not be inextricably linked. It was like the key to my Pandora’s box of white hot fury.
Now, when I read posts like this one by Fatfu I am warmed by the fires of my righteous rage. Shit, I probably burn more calories with straight up anti-WW anger than I did trying to earn my four activity points a day. When I see those idiotic “Diets are Mean” bullshit ads on the train, I feel the same way that I would feel if I saw that the abusive alcoholic ex classified himself as a “light social drinker” on his Match.com profile or that the Satanist had used his MySpace blog to compose long paragraphs about his passionate commitment to animal rights. I want to run to WW’s next victim and let her know, “It’s not what it seems!” Of course I am totally forgetting that when people questioned WW to me, I dismissed them as bitter. I was different. I was good. I was special. WW would love me as much as I loved it. I was one in a thousand.
I guess everybody has to learn for herself, but if I can’t be a good example, perhaps I can serve as a terrible warning.
Diets are mean. And I am pissed off.