Why I quit Weight Watchers after 12 years as a lifetime member. A Moving, Sad, and Hopeful Interview.


Tell us a bit about your experience with Weight Watchers. I started 12 years ago. It worked and I lost weight. I was very strict following the program, working out, doing everything that I was supposed to be doing, plus I also had the pressure of my approaching wedding - the day I walked the aisle was the lowest weight I’ve ever been. If you stay within 2 pounds of your goal weight and weigh in once a month, you become a lifetime member, and you don’t have to pay the monthly membership fees and you get the free smartphone e-tools, which help you keep track of food and points (it’s all about points), look up restaurants, etc. They keep changing the points, and at one point, somehow, my goal weight went from 145 to 155.


I developed the mindset that eating less was better. It became a monthly challenge, I had to get to my monthly weigh in, but it was becoming harder and harder. I was working out and eating less and less, and the weight was staying. I didn’t understand what was going on. Only very recently did I realized that my body was messed up and that my mind was messed up. I was trying to do research and I realized that I probably need to reset my metabolism. 


I reached out to Weight watchers to see if somebody could help me because it was taking a toll on my everyday mental ability to function: it was stressing me out. Everything was about weight everything was about food. I felt like I was talking to a robot. She didn’t know what I was talking about, she didn’t even know what a metabolic reset was. She told me that I should eat more zero-point foods. When I responded that that’s pretty much all I eat, she told me to eat less of them! When I told her that I am eating between 400-800 calories/day, I just ended the conversation. I contacted Annika the next day.


Were you really motivated to stay a lifetime member? I was. I went back and forth. I actually had the phone number up on my computer, I would close my laptop and then I would open it up again. It was ridiculous. I just couldn’t call to cancel. It wasn’t because I would have to pay if I was over, it was because I was a failure now.  I failed. And that was killing me. 


How long were you eating 400-800 calories/day? I don’t know because I didn’t pay attention to the calories until right before I quit because it’s a points system. I fell into a pattern where I would starve myself a week before I went to weigh in. It was affecting everything. I would never go out with my friends, because if I went out with them it would be social, and they would probably be at a restaurant, drinking and eating and I didn’t want to do that. I had an easy excuse: I’d say, “I can’t go out after work, I can’t go out, I have to go home to the kids.” So I didn’t have that. All this stuff is lost because of food and Weight Watchers.


How much did your weight fluctuate? I could gain 7 pounds in a week – it was crazy. And it’s not like I was bingeing or anything. I always watched what I ate. But if I ate my allotment of points, I would still gain weight.


So even doing exactly what Weight Watchers was telling you to do, you were still gaining weight?  Somehow, I messed up my body over time. I don’t know when it started, I just thought it was me. I thought that this was just my body and this is just what I have to do. My son’s a boy scout, and at the pinewood derby race I was sitting with some friends who were trainers at the gym and they were like, “eat pizza”, and I’m like, “I can’t eat pizza because I’ll gain weight.” I made cabbage soup and that’s what I was eating all weekend. But they convinced me, so I ate the crust of my son’s pizza. That’s all I ate besides cabbage soup (which has nothing in it)! The next day (and yes, I am compulsive about weighing myself), I gained 2 pounds! All I had was a pizza crust!


Is this what you would do the week before weighing in, only eat cabbage soup? Yes, if I didn’t think I could reach my goal. I was eating two hard boiled eggs for lunch every day, and I am happy to say that since quitting Weight Watchers – I haven’t eaten a hard-boiled egg since quitting two weeks ago. I’m never going to eat another hard-boiled egg again – ha! I would have a banana for breakfast and two eggs for lunch and maybe grapes or an apple for a snack in the afternoon, but if I had that snack I wouldn’t eat dinner.



How were you feeling physically? I didn’t realize it until I started eating. I have more energy. I have two kids, who are 8 and 4, and I’m a middle-school teacher. I would fall asleep while putting my 4-year-old down. I haven’t done that since I started eating. My friend says that now I don’t look tired, and that I look better. I didn’t realize how much food is connected to absolutely everything. I didn’t have a lot of patience. I got a lot of headaches, and I always thought it was because I wasn’t drinking enough water, but it was because I wasn’t eating.


How were you, emotionally? I was just frustrated, maybe, frustrated and angry, those are the emotions. And then once I realized that I was stuck, then I was just sad and felt stuck. Were you angry at yourself or at the world around you? I don’t think I was mad at myself because I didn’t know what to do. I knew I had to find help and take care of myself. I was angry that they couldn’t help me when I asked for help. They should have actual doctors and nutritionists there, not people with a script. 


I’m sure that you’ve heard that they are planning on offering this for free to teens, what would you like to say to a teen: Go to a nutritionist and not Weight Watchers - it’s just a money-making scheme. It didn’t work for me, it messed me up. And it makes me upset that it could happen to a bunch of kids, because I could be one of those kids. My pediatrician, when I was young, always wanted me to lose weight. I was always on a diet. If this was around when I was that age I would have been sucked in earlier.


There’s been a lot of discussion about the relationship between these diets and eating disorders. Do you think you may have an eating disorderI think I probably do. When I started researching eating disorders – there’s bulimia and anorexia – and I’m not one of those, but there’s that other one, OSFED. It was hard to realize that I probably do have an eating disorder. I was very emotional after realizing that because what I was doing was not normal. I didn’t realize how much food was controlling every aspect of my life until I quit and started eating again. It wasn’t that long ago, and I still have a lot of work to do to undo what’s happened to me these last 12 years. I’m looking at this as starting over and trying to undo the past.


What did your friends and family say? Everyone always told me that I wasn’t eating enough. What I ate was healthy, just not enough. Nobody new. I wasn’t throwing up or anything, I wasn’t not eating anything. It’s not like anybody was letting me get away with anything. Nobody realized anything, just like I didn’t realize anything. And I was going to weight watchers! If I had a problem I would talk to them and ask for help, which I did. My mom always told me, “ask them for help,” and I did. I always just thought it was me.


Can you say a bit about your relationship with food? How often do you think about it? It’s very different now. And it’s only been about a month since I quit. I don’t think about it as much. I bring food to work that I actually like to eat! I eat breakfast. I have snacks. I love baking and cooking, but I didn’t cook when I was on Weight Watchers because I didn’t want to eat the food. After my first appointment with Annika, I went to a website, and I found a bunch of different recipes, and I had a different focus (I was looking for calories and protein) but this website also puts down Weight Watchers points. One particular meal that I’ve made every week since has 10 weight watchers points! I would never have considered eating that - it’s like all I would have eaten in a day, if that! According to my new guidelines it’s perfect, in fact, it’s a bit less than I should be eating for dinner. I am excited to look for and find new recipes and going to the grocery store a shopping for them. It is a completely new experience. I’m slowly changing my relationship with food.


Is there anything else you would like to add? Last week we had a long weekend with the kids. My son and I both had Friday off and he wanted to visit this historical house that he’d learned about in school, so we went and we’re in this old house and there’s stuff out. Normally I would have been on edge like, “DON’T TOUCH THAT! GET OVER HERE! STAY AWAY FROM THAT!”. But I was totally calm – it was a lot lot different.


After we left the historical house, the older one asked if we could go to a diner. Normally, I would have said, NO! Because, first of all, I wasn’t going to eat, I don’t eat out. If we went anywhere, it would be somewhere like Panera’s, where I wouldn’t have to eat and we could get their food and leave. He wanted to go to the diner, and I was like, “[long pause] alright, we can”. I took them to the diner. And we were there for so long. With the waitress [long pause] and I think that was my first time taking them out by myself. And they were fine, and I was fine. They were probably calm, because I was calm and not worried about everything. And I actually ate. I ate out at the diner! And I’m OK [laugh]. I survived. That’s so little, but to me it’s like, huge.


This interview was recorded on Monday, Feb. 26th at 7p.m., the interviewee wishes to remain anonymous.

Congratulations Elaina!

We want to congratulate our nutritionist, Elaina, on just getting her CEDRD, which is the highest possible credentialing for Eating Disorder Treatment! This is no small feat: it takes considerable training, hours of experience and coursework, as well as rigorous exams. Very very few RDs have this credential. Well done!


Here is a paragraph, culled from IAEDP’s website, about the credentialing:


Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) is a credential maintained by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP). This certification aims to establish expertise in the field by requiring dietitians with the CEDRD credential to meet rigorous educational and skill requirements, accumulate a minimum number of hours of qualifying work experience and commit to stay current with all new developments in the field of eating disorders. Completion of this credential provides the certified RD with the skills to address all issues related to food and nutrition, physiology and behavior change associated with eating disorders. A CEDRD is uniquely qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy across the full spectrum of disordered eating and at all levels of eating disorder care.

If you want to learn more about the certification, you can find info here: http://www.iaedp.com/certification-overview/


an interview with our founder, Annika Kahm and her colleague Carolyn Hodges Chaffee

Gürze just published an interview with Annika Kahm (our founder) and Carolyn Hodges Chaffee. The interview was motivated by the publication of their book, Measuring Health From The Inside. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

What are some of the complications that affect the brain’s neurotransmitters as a result of compulsive exercise?

Exercise does affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise in moderation or making sure the body is adequately fueled for the level of activity can have a very positive effect on the neurotransmitter levels. However, when exercise becomes compulsive and the body is not adequately nourished it can have a negative effect on the body.

Exercising at a high level and restricting the intake for prolonged periods of time causes an increase in cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol for extended periods can lead to cellular death.

There is also a feedback mechanism that occurs with compulsive exercise that increases the risk of addiction. When an individual exercises, the brain gets a burst of dopamine in the reward/pleasure center of the brain. For those individuals, the more they exercise the more they feel compelled to exercise.   As those individuals continue to exercise it becomes compulsive, unable to take a day off, having it interfere with their daily living, and doing exercise that for them doesn’t count.

From an eating disorder perspective, what are the different ways individuals develop malnutrition or become nutritionally depleted?

Malnutrition can occur in many different ways; when the body is underfed for an extended period of time (anorexia, orthorexia), when it operates at a calorie deficit because of a high level of energy expenditure (compulsive exercise), or when the body is unable to absorb nutrients (bulimia).  The body is designed to tolerate brief periods of malnutrition, but how well depends on the body’s nutritional status and how much body fat the body is able to mobilize to endure the starvation.

When an individual restricts their intake, there are mechanisms that occur in the body that lead to a decrease in hunger.  The metabolic rate will gradually decrease, causing fewer hunger cues.  As weight is lost, the gut will eventually develop gastroparesis which slows the emptying of the gut.  This results in bloating and discomfort when eating which makes it more comfortable to not eat (restrict) or get rid of what was eaten (purge).  Regardless of the behavior, the body will eventually become malnourished.


When working with clients who are diagnosed with eating disorders, what do you find are the merits of using Metabolic Testing (MT) and Body Composition Analysis (BCA)?

It’s invaluable, especially since many clients don’t think they have an eating disorder unless they are seriously underweight or actively purging.  If they have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, but are in denial, the MT and BCA give empirical evidence to the malnutrition it has caused for their body.  A low metabolic rate (hypometabolic), using excessive protein stores to meet their caloric needs (catabolic), low phase angle (indicative of poor cell integrity), and body fat well below normal ranges for age, sex, and height are all examples of information gained by the testing.

Today’s diagnostic criteria miss some seriously disordered patients because blood work is usually within normal limits, even in very sick individuals.  Scale weight is not an indicator of an individual’s fat, lean or health.  This is why we fail this patient population.  A patient can be normal weight or overweight and still have an eating disorder and weight restoration is only part of recovery.

Also, we do BCA at every visit, giving them feedback of how the body responds to their food intake. We let the patient know if they are eating enough to allow for not only daily needs, but also for repair and healing of their malnourished body.  This way they are actively involved in the recovery process.

One of the goals during hospitalization is to weight restore the patient.  Without the MT and BCA it is very difficult to determine, as well as convince the patient that is weight restored, that they are still malnourished and may need to gain more weight.  If an individual is not fully nutritionally recovered, it increases the likelihood and risk of relapse.  When the individual sees their actual test results, it is easier for them to follow treatment recommendations.

The full interview can be found here.

Evidence That Our Method Works: One of Our Patients

Maria, a 17-year-old girl, was five feet tall and weighed 95 pounds. She was on the varsity crew team and practiced two hours every day for nationals. She had her first period when she was 14, and over the past three years she had had a total of 10 periods. She was eating 1400 calories a day and wanted to weigh 90 pounds. She weighed herself at least twice a day. If the scale was up one day, she made sure it was down the following day. Two years earlier, she had a stress fracture, but no bone density test had been done. Metabolic Testing showed she was severely hypometabolic, burning only 386 calories a day and therefore using her own lean tissue (organs, muscle, and bone) for fuel. Other medical tests revealed that she was anemic, deficient in vitamin D, and had osteoporosis (bone loss). 

Initially, she reluctantly agreed to eat 2,000 calories a day. She was asked to stop exercising to correct the Relative Energy Deficit in Sports. After two months she got her period, and after four months of eating close to 2,200 calories a day, she reached 100 pounds. This frightened her. Her Metabolic Test and Body Composition Analysis showed major improvements, but her metabolism was still not corrected. She felt that she should be rewarded, and so her parents allowed and encouraged her to start exercising again. Three weeks later she was re-tested and her metabolic rate had plummeted from 1,000 calories to 437 calories a day. She had lost lean mass and her fat weight had increased. She had returned to being very hypometabolic and catabolic. It's as if her body was saying, "Don’t mess with me...I'll show you, you are hurting yourself!"

Maria and her parents were wrong in thinking that just because she had reached 100 pounds and had gotten her period that she was recovered. It took another three months, eating 2,500 calories per day, for her body to recover and to have a normal metabolic rate with a healthy amount of lean mass. She ended up weighing just over 100 pounds. Her percentage of body fat was lower than her first visit. She admitted that she had been in denial and would have continued being in denial if it wasn't for the Metabolic Testing and the Body Composition Analysis. 


The Data that Dieting Doesn't Work

The Data that Dieting Doesn't Work

Does dieting work? Well, it depends on how success is measured. And what the medical and diet industry mean by success is not what ordinary people mean. Let me explain.[1]


In the 1940s, success was measured by getting people to a “normal” BMI (an unscientific height/weight ratio),[2] but diets didn’t help most people get there. So in the 1950s they simply changed the measure of success to losing 40lbs, but 95% of people couldn’t do that.[3] As a result, in the next decades, they simply lowered the bar again to 20lbs.[4] But 20lbs is quite different for someone who is 150lbs than someone who is 300lbs, so in the 1970s, they changed it, yet again, to 10% of one’s starting weight. But since 80% failed at this,[5] in 1995, the Institute of Medicine lowered it to 5%.[6] This is obviously nonsense.


The Pitfalls Of The Usual Approach

The optimal weight for each person differs depending on sex, age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and other variables. Because of today’s diet, fashion and media industry, as well as doctor’s recommendations (based on old fashioned height/weight charts created by insurance companies in the 40s and 50s), most people’s ideal weight goals are set too low. Too many people would like to have bodies like Gisele and Tom Brady and believe that with enough grit and willpower such transformation is possible. It is not. However, even those with far more modest goals routinely fail, as is shown by the well-known statistic that more than 95% of dieters gain their weight back.