Food Porn Anonymous

The first meeting is always the most intimidating.  You start to wonder if you came to the wrong place when you see slender women in workout gear toss their sneakers aside and hop on the scale as they chew on their fingernails. But then you revel in the comfort of the wide-bodies in the room and the leaders starts to talk about one of the Weight Watcher success strategies, and you suddenly realize that both the wide-bodies and slender-bodies have more in common than you once thought.

The commonality is the obsession with food. Yeah… Weight Watchers may be a popular weight loss program, but to sit in a meeting, you’d think you were in a 12-Step Program for addiction to food porn—especially as the holidays (any holiday) grows closer. It’s not just discussions about sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving and cookies at Christmas either—even St. Patrick’s Day, and Memorial Day are holidays (also known as obstacles in Weight Watcher terms).

February 12, 2007. Topic of the meeting: Valentine’s Day Survival Strategies.

Our leader started the meeting by proclaiming Valentine’s Day “Love Yourself” day, which prompted a series of chuckles from the more cynical members of the group—myself the leader of that pack.

“No, really, folks. Listen up. One of the reasons we struggle with our weight is because we don’t think we’re worth it. What are ways that you show yourself love or appreciation?”

At this point, the chatty members took over. Remember in high school how there was always that one girl who would practically jump out of her seat due to the excitement of answering a question? That one girl who would answer EVERY question?

Well… she still exists. Report cards and gold stars may be history, but there are still women who actively seek out that external validation. I find many of them in Weight Watchers meetings. Of course, the program encourages it, with their distribution of star stickers for losing 5 pounds or having a non-scale victory (an NSV for those in the know). Those who have met major milestones (generally, weight loss in increments of 25) are honored with keychains or bookmarks or little gold star charms for those keychains.  Those people even get to stand up in front of the group and share some of their strategies for success—what could be more validating by taking on the teacher role, if only for a few minutes?

In our group of about 40 or so, there were at least three to four women who spoke so frequently, even the leader started pulling at her cashmere cowlneck nervously as her eyes darted around the room searching for another person to speak. In our group, the main offender was Cheryl. Cheryl had been with Weight Watchers for 10 years, had lost 20 pounds in that decade and was still a good 40-50 pounds overweight. Cheryl was convinced that emotional eating was her reason for being in the chubb club. For her, there was no such thing as tracking points, but she faithfully read the articles our leader passed out, listened (or mostly participated) in the conversation and did any exercise related to the Weight Watcher success strategies. So it was no surprise that she had plenty of stories about loving herself.  After talking extensively about not getting stressed out when she made poor food choices she ended with the Gospel According To Weight Watcher:

“And I remind myself,” she said, her shrill voice cracking a bit, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”

At this point, I thought I’d vomit. Dieters memorize these weight loss cliches like Catholic kids preparing for Confirmation memorize the Hail Mary. Quite frankly, I thought if you fed me a diet of these words of wisdom, I’d become bulimic due to the nausea it induced. Not the kind of weight loss success strategy endorsed by Weight Watchers, I’m sure.

Let’s face it: believers of these mantras are only kidding themselves, hoping that if they say it enough, it will come true. It’s the grown-up version of “starlight, starbright first star I see tonight.”

Case in point:

Nothing FEELS as good as sitting at a family dinner with a noisy bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins, eating my grandmother’s homemade spaghetti and sauce. The bread is fresh from the bakery down the block, the laughter is frequent and loud, we tease each other like only family can and joke that whoever gets the bay leaf is stuck with dish duty. The pasta is cooked perfectly, sauce coating each strand. Not to sweet. Not too savory.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. The lone guy in the group—Bob, who comes with his wife every Monday, sitting complacently, sometimes playing a pocket game of poker or solitaire, spoke up.

“Being thin doesn’t feel so great when you’re sitting by yourself in a corner of the room during the Superbowl because if you get close enough to smell the wings, you’ll probably eat them. Being thin doesn’t feel good when you want to treat your wife to a fancy dinner for Valentine’s Day but you both spend the time agonizing about how many points you have to add for the prime rib.”

Donna, our leader, jumped in. “Of course not! Food is not just sustenance, but it’s social. It’s celebrative. Who has suggestions for how to manage these obstacles?”

Cheryl, of course, regaled us for 5 minutes about her recipe for fake chicken wings, extolling the gastrointestinal virtue of rolling chicken into crushed Fiber One cereal instead of bread crumbs. Bob went back to his solitaire game. In the meantime, there was a shift in the group. Eyes lit up at the talk of food. Drool gathered at the corner of some members’ lips.  Suddenly, a rather apathetic group became animated at the opportunity to share recipes and discuss their love of food. For a solid 20 minutes, they practically talked over each other, exchanging tips for substituting butter with applesauce to reduce fat (no one mentioned how much sugar that added to a recipe) or making lowfat cake with good ole Betty Crocker cake mix and a can of diet soda. When the discussion started to peter out, Donna shifted to letting people know the health benefits of dark chocolate (flavanoids! Antioxidants! And only 1 point per 1-ounce serving!), permitting everyone to treat themselves to a piece in honor of Valentine’s Day.

The talk of food had clearly had an impact on the crowd. As they left the meeting, some of them lit up cigarettes and others signed “ohhhh, that was good!” as if they had just had the best sex of their lives.

As I walked to my car, thinking about the Lindt dark chocolate a co-worker brought into the office that week, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit dirty.

 

 

 

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4 responses to “Food Porn Anonymous

  1. This is awesome! It made me laugh out loud…. and remember why I switched to the on-line program!! You captured it all so perfectly. 🙂

  2. Thanks! I actually really liked WW when I followed it, but I still find a lot of hilarity in some of those meetings!

  3. Someone kept telling me that at their WW meetings the convo talked a lot about cake… and people bringing cake to the office… I get jipped… there no cake here… we’ve had cake twice in the past year… and it was made onsite by the cafe… no one eats that… not even a binger

  4. We have food in our office on a weekly basis. Our housing manager, my boss and one of the secretaries occassionally bake and bring things into the office (usually cookies, cake or breads). One of our former assistant directors was a foodie and would bring things in all the time. But the big tradition use to be our boss bringing in Dunkin Donuts for payday and every other Friday, we’d get together in the office for 1/2 hour to sip DD coffee, eat a donut and chat. It was definitely fun, but it was in the midst of WW, so I’d always carefully plan out my points so I could have either a blueberry glazed donut or chocolate frosted.

    I’m so glad I no longer have those temptations. But if you want me to randomly make you a cake sometime for your office, I will.

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