A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

How I wish Weight Watchers handled maintenance . . .

on July 16, 2014

It’s no secret that while I loved Weight Watchers for weight LOSS, I’m less enamored of their approach to weight MAINTENANCE. Once you get to your goal weight, you’re given a pamphlet about weight maintenance and sent happily on your way, with admonitions to “keep coming to meetings.” However, unless you get an exceptional leader, the meetings really aren’t for maintainers. They’re directed at aspiring weight losers, which makes sense given that most of the meeting members are trying to lose, not trying to maintain. Both the weekly pamphlet, the canned talk/slides and the discussions in the meeting are really focused on weight loss. Weight Watchers does try to put weight loss in the context of healthy lifetime habits, which apply to us all of course, but many of the issues unique to maintenance are never addressed.

I realize I’m being a little whiny about this. Part of it is because I’m worried that switching to less tracking-intensive Simply Filling plan I mentioned earlier in the month is going to result in a scary number on the scale by the end of the month (and yet I know this is a worthwhile kind of experiment if I want to learn to live like a normal person), but part of it is also because I’m frustrated by a company that says it wants me to stay engaged but gives me very little incentive to do so. Cynically, I wonder if that’s because they want maintainers to fail and start paying again – this is a business after all.

If I’m going to whine, I should use it as an opportunity to brainstorm some solutions, right? Thus, my WW maintenance wish list:

1) Have a “power” session focused on weight maintenance: After the regular 30 minute WW meeting, there is always a “Power Start” session to teach anyone who is new to the program how things work (or anyone who needs a refresher). It would be so fantastic if once a month or so, that session was something focused on maintenance. It would be great to talk to other maintainers specifically about maintenance issues, which might seem discouraging or odd to people still trying to lose.  I’d love to talk to others about how to decide when  you’re really ready to maintain and when to shift back into weight loss mode. I’d love to talk to others about staying motivated and about easing away from the crutch of tracking into more real world eating. I’d love to talk to someone about whether or not this gets easier or if I’ll always feel like a recovering fat girl.

2) Recognize maintainers at meetings: Maintainers are a largely untapped resource at most WW meetings I’ve been to, although I know that depends on the leader. I had one leader who gave all of the maintainers “Bravo” stickers every month and recognized them for coming to participate in the meetings. That is definitely the exception in my experience, but maybe that’s just my experience? Just because your maintainers chose not to come to work for WW (which I get asked about frequently) doesn’t mean they don’t have something to contribute, if in no way other than to serve as an example for the aspiring weight losers there that success is possible! We don’t get the 5 pound reward stars anymore, but that just means we need to help maintainers find new definitions of success.

3) Retrain the receptionists to more effectively deal with maintainers: Honestly, this has been the biggest turn off for me in terms of interacting with WW as a maintainer. The goal of weight maintenance is just that – to MAINTAIN. Ideally, the receptionists who check in WW members for the meeting would remember that and that therefore, being in your goal range is SUCCESS. I don’t know if it is because maintenance or small gains are considered FAILURE by so many trying to lose weight (which is a whole other conversation) or what, but one of the more crucial lessons to learn in maintenance, in my experience, is learning to define success as something other than that number on the scale continuing to go down. I don’t know if they don’t see that way or if it is hard for them to recognize in the computer system that the person being checked in is in maintenance or loss. It can be discouraging to have someone disappointed in a number that you consider okay. This was a huge issue for me after the half marathon. My weight crept up once I was no longer running 20 miles a week, not surprisingly, and even though I was still well below my upper limit, I got a lot of frowns and negative comments at check in. If your goal weight is a healthy weight, expressing disappointment that you aren’t well below that goal doesn’t seem like the healthiest approach.

The other issue I’ve had with the receptionists is the idea of attending the meeting without weighing in. I’ve had a few times where I’ve attended the meeting without weighing in, because some variable has been introduced to my morning that would make that weigh in not comparable to my prior weigh ins. It has come up when I had breakfast with O before coming because we snuck out of the house to let my husband sleep in or I had a run in the morning before the meeting. As I generally weigh in before I’ve eaten anything, eating or significant exercise would be a distinct deviation from my prior measurements. As a science-oriented person, I don’t see the point in obtaining data I can’t interpret and that more importantly, has the potential to aggravate or depress me when I have to deal with the receptionist telling me about how I’ve gained and what did I do wrong this week, etc. I’d love to say these issues with the check in process was just a single person or center, but it has happened at all 3 centers I’ve visited which makes me wonder if it is a central training failure. I’ve had some frankly snotty comments from the receptionists about how the only people who successfully maintain are those who weigh in every week. If that were true, that should be the requirement in maintenance. Frankly, I should get credit for coming to the meeting whether I weigh in or not, as that demonstrates I’m still engaged in the process, right?

Sigh. Rant over. Really, it’s been issues with the receptionists and check in over and over again that have me making the WW meetings lower and lower on my priority list. Honestly, other than a couple of exceptional leaders I’ve encountered, I don’t feel like WW itself is a useful resource for me to turn to when I’ve got questions or struggles with maintenance. I’ve found a lot of information online about weight maintenance through my own research and valuable social support online, which addresses the first concern I had above. However, that information is not easy to come by. Most of what you find about weight maintenance is gloom and doom about how unlikely success in weight maintenance is. It would be nice if WW took a more active role in supporting their members in maintenance so that we could start to shift that dialog a bit.

Do you guys have any good resources for weight maintenance? What would weight maintenance support look like in an ideal world? I suppose ideally we wouldn’t need any weight maintenance support at all because once we got to goal, maintenance would be easy but I doubt I’m the only person who finds this not to be true at all!

A big ranty post with no pictures is no fun, so I’ll show you guys my first panoramic picture I took with my iPhone on a hike Monday morning. Gorgeous, right?

A panorama of Big Sky, Montana

A panorama of Big Sky, Montana

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17 responses to “How I wish Weight Watchers handled maintenance . . .

  1. I don’t think you are being whiny at all, in fact I completely agree with this post. As large a company WW is, they need to be supportive of their success stories. That being said, I think you deserve a lot more credit than you are giving yourself – you have a ton of knowledge and share it with us here on your blog. Taking that knowledge and forming a plan for yourself is very doable and I think would keep your success strong! Just my thoughts :0)

  2. leannenalani says:

    Amen, sister! You’re not being whiny when there truly are not enough resources out there for maintainers. It’s a small miracle anyone can maintain their lost weight because we have to figure it out on our own for the most part. We have to be extra resourceful in finding answers and understanding maintenance. It’s probably because there’s not enough money in maintenance and all the money is in weight loss I’m sorry you’re not getting the most out of your WW meetings. Using their Lifetime members as resources on a regular basis would be a great way to involve meeting groups.

    • It makes me a feel little better that I’m not the only one cynical enough to suspect it’s a money thing. 🙂

      On Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 3:53 PM, A Little More Each Day wrote:

      >

      • Donna says:

        Hi, I totally agree with you. In fact, I was just telling this to a ww coach. I undereat some days so I can overeat others. No big eating swings usually, except for 2 weekly splurges, one big, one medium. I track daily and weigh myself everyday. I refuse to “weigh in” once a month and signed up for the online program for losing weight and never formally went to maintenance. I pay for this program. There is a lifetime members meeting once a month in San Francisco. Someone there gained weight on Simply Filling because you can’t eat unlimited amounts and it takes discipline to watch portions. I don’t consider “my own plan” normal eating, but I refuse to gain weight. By the way, I eat an ok amount of food daily approx. 28 to 31 points, so I’m not starving. Tonight I asked a coach if they tracked daily and they said, yes but some lifetimers don’t track and do fine, it is individual. I am mostly on my own with maintenance and believe ww needs to address this. I’m am willing to go on this way to keep my weight stable but again, I don’t think this is “normal” eating, I think this is vigilant eating and serves my purposes, namely to keep weight off and stay somewhat in a reasonable range. There are so many issues that us maintainers face, such a struggle – that ww ought to come to our aid – it’s the only responsible thing to do. The ww coaches need to share their own experience, too, not just be cheerleeders. I don’t know what else to say, but strive on kids.

      • That is so great to know you’ve got a monthly Lifetime meeting as an option. Maintaining is a totally different mental game than losing. I wish WW would embrace their maintainers more. It would help us and not something that’s really available through any other program.

  3. […] of the posts I’ve written about binge eating, my struggles with setting a goal weight and frustrations with Weight Watchers. Writing my thoughts really helped me identify the most important factors and make a plan for going […]

  4. sjclarke says:

    Great post. As someone who recently left WW as a paying member strictly for financial reasons, I tried to do maintenance on my own. Big fail. I’m following the plan again (I still have about 25 lbs to lose) on my own and the numbers are going down. I’m disappointed in the level of support I hear that WW is giving their members. But, alas, the almighty dollar speaks the loudest.

    As for a solution – have you heard of MeetUp.com? People form their own local meet-up groups on whatever interest they have – some are for singles, euchre players, hikers, canoers – find a hobby and you’ll find a group in your area. I’m willing to bet if you started a Meet-Up group on this topic you would find many other LTM who would join. Mostly they meet in coffee shops etc. Something worth considering.

    Good luck to you!

    • You’re definitely not alone in that. I know lots of people who have regained and ended back in Weight Watchers. They are very good at helping with the weight loss part. I’m not sure I’m completely done with them yet – I am still so grateful to the program. I think I’ll just take it a month at a time. Meet-up is good idea – surely I’m not the only one in Omaha with these concerns. 🙂

  5. Susan Steinke says:

    I found your blog as I doing a search on WW maintenance info. If you are interested, there is a new facebook group for lifetime members. We do need to encourage and support each other. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1493461894243208/

  6. Kate says:

    Funny you mention that. Im a returning lifetimer after gaining most back… the problem was partly the receptionists (i cant blame them entirely). When I would check in they would give me a hard time about being below goal (my leader actually had me pick a higher goal so i could keep losing while being “free”, not anorexic!) and would charge me! I didnt get why a lifetimer would be punished for losing weight! Eventually I avoided meetings and weighing in and now I’m right back at the weight I started 😦

    • That is so frustrating for you! It’s really a shame that the receptionists can be such a negative force, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with that experience. There definitely needs to be a better way to get feedback to WW about that issue. There are lots of good leaders out there but as your one-on-one encounter is mostly with the receptionist, they’re almost more important. I specifically asked about being below goal and was told that I wouldn’t be charged, but I stay very far below goal (but still in a healthy range) they were officially supposed to have me set a new goal weight that was lower. However, my leader was like yours – she said to set my goal as high as allowed and that it was totally fine to keep losing beyond that point. I’m back to losing again too and it’s frustrating (and slower!) the second time around, but at least I caught it early. This really is a never ending struggle.

  7. […] been less in love with it for maintaining that weight loss (for reasons I talked about a lot here). Over the last 6 months I’ve watched my weight creep back up little by little despite that I […]

  8. Just saw this from your link yesterday. This is a shame that this is a reality for so many members. I can see why you have been frustrated! My situation was different since I did Weight Watchers at Work. There was no receptionist, and it was very informal. Our leader just came once a week to our location, and our meetings were pretty small with about half of people on maintenance. So a lot of the meeting discussion revolved around maintenance and not just losing. I’ve only ever been to a regular meeting once, when our at-work meeting was canceled, and didn’t like it because it was too big and seemed more formal. I find the requirement of having to pay if you’re above your range a very powerful motivator to maintain, so I do like WW for maintenance.

    • That sounds like a much better experience! I confess that giving up the free stuff as a Lifetime Member is what kept me from cancelling several months ago. It is quite the motivation! One of the perks of LifeTime is the lifetime aspect of it, so if I decide I want to go back (because there really is a lot I love and if my old leader came back I’d be back in a flash!) I just have to pay one weekly fee and then I’m back to free so long as my weigh in is good. Definitely motivation to keep my weigh in at the right range. 🙂

      On Thu, Jan 8, 2015 at 6:32 AM, A Little More Each Day wrote:

      >

  9. Barbara says:

    I have been doing Weight Watchers just online, not going to meetings. I am two pounds from my goal weight and beginning to look at maintenance options. I am astonished to find that there are none at all. Not even mentioned. I found a couple of links to Weight Watchers maintenance pages, but neither link was active. I have always found pep talks, weigh-ins, and meetings counterproductive so I was thrilled I could manage the online plan myself, but I will be cancelling my Weight Watchers membership when I reach my goal.

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