One of the joys of getting older is you see what a waste of time it is torturing yourself about your weight. After decades of dieting and hating my fat self, I realized that I'm fabulous at any size and I need to love my body. I feel lucky that today we live in a world with lots of body neutrality activists and people fighting fatphobia. When I was young, you certainly didn't see many examples of people doing those things. As a result, I grew up with the message that "all fat people are lazy and have no self-discipline," and I thought I couldn't have a happy and successful life until I lost weight. So, I was basically on a diet for 50 years.
People often ask me how I can write my column, Fat and All That, which advocates for loving yourself at any size and living your best life regardless of what the scale says, while, at the same time, being a lifelong devotee and member of WW. To them, it's confusing. Yes, it's true that I love myself at any size and think everyone else should do the same. And, yes, I hate diet culture and know we all have to unlearn the crazy ideas we have about fatness and weight. But I still love WW. I've done a lot of work on myself in my 53 years, and as a sober person know there's nothing like a support group to help you make progress on any journey. For me, WW is an incredible support group.
Every Saturday morning, I sit in a room full of people who've been where I've been. They've felt like losers because their bodies didn't fit the stereotype of attractiveness. They've felt worthless because they gained back all the weight they lost on some crazy unhealthy crash diet. They've all eaten an entire family-size bag of M&M's in one sitting. I can't tell you how supported and validated it feels to be in a room full of people like me. Even when I haven't been following the program, I've gone to workshops because they really make me feel better about myself whatever size I am. They also help me create a new relationship with food. There are no good or bad foods. There's no reason I should feel stress and anxiety because I have to go to a work dinner or visit my family for the holidays. My goal is to have a happy, healthy life and a relaxed, realistic relationship with food. WW helps me with both those things.
I've gone to WW on and off for more than 20 years. Sometimes I've gone for the right reasons and other times for the wrong reasons. This most recent return to WW was inspired by a ride on the subway when I was 260 pounds, my highest weight ever. Still, I was feeling good about myself: I had a great career, fabulous friends, and romance with a guy I really liked who was super into me. I'm a big subway rider in NYC and most days I rode the B or D train at least once. The line those trains run on is an extra flight of stairs deeper down the subway than many others, so climbing the stairs after riding the train can be a real chore for someone who's out of shape. Then, I felt like I could barely make it to the street without taking a rest. I found myself scanning the platform for the elevator and considering other alternate subway lines to choose that didn't involve such a climb. This is insanity, I thought. I'm 53 and if I can't walk up a few flights of stairs without nearly expiring, I have to do something. My 73-year-old mother has COPD and emphysema, which requires her to use oxygen, so that was also a reality check.
I decided to go back to WW, but truly didn't care how much weight I lost after years of focusing on body neutrality and loving myself at any size. Scale wasn't the measure of my success. After dieting for 50 years and ending up fatter than I'd ever been, I had two goals: Getting up the subway stairs feeling happy and healthy instead of wheezing and panting, and also developing a better relationship with food. I was done judging my worth on whether or not I ate french fries, although I do feel happiest when I follow some kind of healthy eating guidelines.
Back when I was younger, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich with french fries and two Cokes for every lunch and dinner. Of course, I felt like crap. Nowadays when I eat too much junk, I feel bad and sad and have no energy. I gave up all soda and although I honestly could easily guzzle a 2 liter bottle of Coke right now, I feel so much better: My skin is better, my teeth are healthier and I don't have caffeine headaches. Since one of my primary goals is having a good relationship with food, I still eat french fries any other food I really like. But WW gives me a framework that allows me to eat any food I like in quantities that leave me feeling healthy. I'm on the Blue Plan, which gives me 26 Daily Points plus 42 Weekly Points. There are no foods I can't eat, but there are plenty of foods I don't want because I feel like they're not worth the points. I still eat french fries every week (20 fries equal 13 points), but I have only eaten one grilled cheese sandwich in the past 18 months (one sandwich equals 20 points). I don't feel deprived, I feel free to eat what I really want. So for me, it's the opposite of horrible diet culture.
So that's what I did with WW. I've lost 39 pounds* and now I happily face the stairs on the D train, knowing I can get to the top without worry. It helps that I've been working out with a trainer, doing yoga retreats in India and walking more. I've never felt for a minute that I was on a diet in the 18 months I've been back at WW. I have a lot of Zero Point foods that I enjoy and I always make sure to include the foods that I really love like bread, french fries and candy. Yes, crazy diet thinking sometimes still enters my brain. It doesn't disappear after 50 years, but WW gives me the tools and support to deal with it.
Ironically, even after losing 39 pounds I'm still officially obese according to the BMI chart. And I have no final weight loss goal. I was happy 39 pounds ago and I'm happy now. I choose to be on WW for the rest of my life, whether it be with the plan I'm on now or one that's more focused on maintenance. I can only speak from my perspective: WW gives me the support, understanding, tools and community to live the lifestyle I crave. What could be more body neutral than that?
*People following the WW plan can expect to lose 1-2 lbs/wk. Mickey lost weight on a prior program and continued on myWW.