If Oprah is doing it, then so am I. About every three years, I give Weight Watchers a try. It’s usually at the point where the one pair of jeans that don’t constrict my abdominal region have absolutely no more stretch left in them. I last a few weeks until I’m at a party and find myself with a tequila in my hand and some pigs-in-blankets traveling down my throat. This then kicks off a high speed train ride back to gluttony. I always seem to have a first-class ticket. Shit. Yet I still hang on to the hope that WW (as it’s now called) will reel me back in somehow. That’s why I tend to show up at meetings even after a night of pasta—that I definitely did not calculate in the WW point system. Hearing a woman confess about how she housed an entire sleeve of Thin Mints makes me feel normal. I don’t know any of these people. We are all different sizes, shapes, colors and ages. But, we all have one thing in common—we love to put things in our mouths that are bad for us, and I’m not talking about blowjobs here. We try; we fail; we try again. That’s why I continue to cycle through my triennial relationship with WW.
My last meeting leader, Sally, was my favorite. She streaked her hair purple, fuchsia or turquoise each week, and she had slightly hidden tattoos. Her wit and humor makes this group-therapy-like setting fun. Once at a meeting, a woman said her “thing” was CHEEZ-ITs; she said she could sit down and eat a half of a box. Right away, Sally cut in and said something like, “Wait, you mean you don’t eat the whole box? Then, that is definitely not your thing! If it was, that box would be gone. I know that, because CHEEZ-ITs are my thing, too. That’s why they cannot enter my home. Ever.” I show up for Sally but also for the regulars. Sometimes I want to call out “NORM” when Kitty enters. She’s in her 70s and talks without shame about her food struggles. I fell in love with this woman the day she told us that she was placed directly in front of the sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving, and her arm and fork just kept reaching back in for more. That’s why I was so happy the day she sat down next to me at a manicure. I said, “You’re Kitty, right? I’m at your WW meetings, but I don’t talk much.” Well, in only 15 minutes, I knew how much weight she had put on; the marriage status of her three children; and the stops on her upcoming two-week cruise.
At times, the honesty in that room is almost too much to bear. Women have started crying while talking about their fucked-up relationships with food. It’s a good thing I’m rows away, because it’d be really creepy if I reached out to stroke the hand of a complete stranger. One woman once confessed that her own father tries to sabotage her dieting. Another broke down as she spoke of having to take care of a very sick relative, which made her regain her weight. The saddest moment was when a woman said she was there, because having to ask for a seat belt extender on a plane was the lowest point of her life. It’s this room that makes people feel safe, because if you’re there to lose over 100 pounds or just ten, people get it. And, it’s a real bang for your buck when you compare the 12 or so dollars a week to the $200 for private therapy. Plus, you don’t have to dig all they way back to how your mother never hung up your school projects on the fridge.
Then there are the people who make me smile, like Kitty. Two of my other favorites are the older women with white hair who sit in the back and “whisper” comments to each other. I swear they are those two old muppet men in the audience of “The Muppet Show.” I overheard one of them say she wished she could use the WW app (which is as important to this diet as having gas in a car). I leaned over and asked why she couldn’t. She said it was because of her phone. I expected to see a flip phone, but, no, she had a smartphone. I told her I could help her, or she should ask the woman at the desk. I’m pretty sure she still doesn’t know what she’s doing. My own 83-year-old aunt is convinced she doesn’t have a texting icon on her brand new Samsung Galaxy, even though my sister and I have separately given her idiot-proof, step-by-step instructions—at least ten times.
I get more out of these meetings than just feeling like a fellow failure in a sea of yo-yo dieters. Who knew Hebrew National made a hot dog that is only one point? And, who knew there was something called Half Naked Popcorn that you could eat a lot of and still keep it legal? I also know how one woman pre-tracked her meals to navigate the exorbitant amount of food on her vacation to Mexico without tipping her scale. I even learned how one of the regulars made it through her nephew’s bar mitzvah without starving herself like she used to do. Victories, not only failures, abound at these meetings. I just sit there quietly hoping that something will click in me, too. If those muppets can do it, then why can’t I, damn it?
I dedicate this blog to that 83-year-old aunt I mentioned. She has always struggled with her weight and is probably the thinnest she has ever been in her life, having stuck to a diet for a long time. I wonder why, at 83, she doesn’t just say, “Fuck it,” but I haven’t said that to her. I never aspired to be a saboteur, only a thin person.
*All names have been changed.
**Tap on the FOLLOW button at the bottom of your phone or computer to receive emails alerting you to new posts. (Move your finger or mouse around, and FOLLOW will appear if it’s hidden.)