Dear Weight Watchers:
Thanks to your new spokesperson, Oprah Winfrey, you’ve been getting more airtime and press than usual recently. I’ll add my voice to those, like MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, who feel compelled to look beyond the pitch for a weight loss program and call out the unintentionally harmful messages — subtle and blatant — you’re sending to women and girls.
“I worry, as a mom and as a woman, about the messages our daughters receive if they think a woman as phenomenal as you is not enough unless she is thin.
Who you are, what you have accomplished, how you have influenced and altered the world is all so much more important than your dress size. There is not one thing that you have done that would have been more extraordinary if you’d done it with a 25-inch waist.”
As a mother of a teenage girl and as the founder of a business dedicated to empowering girls in sports and in life, I see the focus on the weight number as a trap.
Like a ball and chain, the notion of a magical goal number on the scale weighs us down and keeps us — women and girls — from achieving our dreams. How many times have we said or heard, “If only I weighed less, I’d be able to [insert goal here]?” Make the team, get into a better college, have more friends, be more successful, be more beautiful, be happier.
My goal is to free girls from the emotional baggage of social expectations on weight and body image. There is no one right or perfect body type; women and girls come in all shapes and sizes. They are all powerful and beautiful.
Oprah has power and influence and is respected worldwide for her business acumen, acting talents, philanthropy — for her humanity. She has earned all that and more because of who she is — not because of the number of pounds she weighs or the size clothing she wears.
But rather than blame Oprah, I’d like to offer a possible solution to Weight Watchers. In this new year, I urge the company to rebrand and refocus its mission and message. Success in life isn’t about watching your weight. Success in life is about emotional and physical well-being; life is about actualizing your potential.
Instead of a fellowship around the scale, how about a fellowship of activity and wellness? Instead of selling prepackaged processed foods, how about promoting nutrition information and healthy cooking classes?
Most importantly, Weight Watchers, I encourage you to change your messaging. While you have male and female members, the vast majority of your messages are aimed at females and feed the toxic media messages about body image that bombard women and girls daily.
What I wish you would say, in a national advertising campaign, is what so many of us say to young women and girls every day:
“You are an amazing human being. You are enough as you are. Be healthy so you’ll live a long life. Follow your dreams and go after the big goals you’ve set. The world needs you — regardless of your shape or size. And I believe in YOU!”
MaryAnne Gucciardi, Founder and CEO of Dragonwing girlgear