I know that’s a weird title, and I want to make sure that no one misinterprets anything here as insensitive towards the people known as “the hungry”, that is, people who don’t have enough to eat, not because choose not to eat, but because they cannot access enough food due to poverty, famine, politics, or what have you. I’d like to do a post on that next to balance this one, but it’s such a complex topic, even if I just choose a part of it, that I don’t know how much justice I can do it. I’ll look into it though.
So the hungry in the title is actually a reference to the little monster in a Weight Watchers commercial called Hungry. The ad tells you that you’d succeed in your diet lifestyle long-term diet if you could just overcome Hungry, which is their gimmicky way of saying hunger. Whenever you’re trying to diet, Hungry pops up all over the place, trying to mess everything up for you by making you do one of the basic functions of all living organisms, ingestion. Pesky Hungry. If only there was a way to get rid of it…Weight Watchers to the rescue! They have advice and products for you, for a small fee, so that you can stop feeling one of the most fundamental signs that you’re alive.
If it weren’t for that commercial, I wouldn’t be writing a post about Weight Watchers, because I don’t actually get the impression that they’re the worst dieting program out there. And the solutions to hunger that they talk about in the commercial aren’t nearly as bad as the gimmick they used to present them, so if they had had a straightforward “here’s what we have to help you with your diet” ad, I still would not be writing this. But the gimmick is bad enough that it needs comment.
Hunger is a sign that your body needs food. Boredom, stress, and discontentment are usually not signs that your body needs food, but Weight Watchers didn’t make a Bored monster or a Sad monster and discuss the importance of listening to rather than drowning out your body’s signals, so we’re going to talk about hunger. When you’re hungry, you should eat and/or drink something. Even if you’re on a diet. The only exception I can think of is if you’re fasting for a medical test (and I suppose if you’re fasting for a religious or spiritual reason, although I must admit I never really understood that – oh, or if you’re doing the Fast-a-thon, which is for charity, which I do understand). Hunger is not the enemy; it is a signal from the system you’re trying to improve, your body. People who can’t feel pain do harm to their bodies before they realize that it’s happening. If you manage to ignore your hunger, you will probably also do harm to your body. I know that I’m not real good at acknowledging my hunger and sometimes I take naps when I should have just eaten something. Finally when I do eat I realize that hunger was the reason I had no energy. Energy is good for things like keeping your metabolism going, exercising, getting work done, thinking, breathing, all kinds of things.
If hunger is the enemy, your body is the enemy. If your body is your enemy when you diet, you’re sacrificing psychological health in your quest for physical health, and I don’t really believe that you’re after physical health, either. If your body is your enemy, you’re sacrificing your health, period, for your appearance. Health has become a cover-up for many people who are really just concerned about the appearance of themselves and/or others. I understand the drive to look different, given how shitty society is to fat people and even to merely not-skinny people (how sick am I of ads about weight loss where the before picture is not even fat). But it’s still not a good idea, and more to the point, it’s irresponsible of companies like Weight Watchers to promote that kind of dysfunctional relationship to your body in order to sell memberships. And even more to the point, since I’m aware that Weight Watchers does not care what I think, is that something is very wrong if society thinks these ads make perfect sense. If I said, “Hey, I’ve got a great way to help you lose weight, all you do is trick your body out of taking care of itself normally so that you can micromanage it according to my rules – for the rest of your life!” would you buy my product? I’d like to think that, when you phrase it that way, most people would see how crazy it is and stop telling their daughters and friends and whoever to try it out (you know, for their “health”), but I actually think a lot of us are so far gone that we wouldn’t even realize how messed up that is.
At least there’s an alternative. Here are some links about Health at Every Size, the anti-diet that, unlike diets, is actually good for you (and doesn’t demonize hunger).
A write-up of a study on HAES’s effectiveness (and despite the bizarre title, HAES works for non-Americans too)