Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Letter to Akkasha

Dear Akkasha:

I just read your last couple of journal entries, and I could just about cry for you. You've made an amazing transformation over the years, not just in your physical body, but in your whole being, and both are for the better. You've just had an appointment with a physician you trust, and you both agree that you are at a weight that is healthy for you, that you can maintain, and judging by the pictures, you look GREAT at. And girl, you do look great. Those before and after pictures look like something out of those "A-MAY-zing NEW DIET PILL LOSE 50 in 36 hours!" ads. Except those ads are bogus. You are for real, and you are an inspiration. Remember that, because I'm coming back to this.

Yes, you're fixated on a number. Yes, you will get over it. Yes, you've been here for so long that its almost anti-climatic. But what is clearly bugging you is some, as you put it, arsenine WW rule that says you can't be a receptionist or leader unless you're at the BMI weight set by WW. I can read this into your two entries: this is a rejection. And trust me, girl, the emails between me and some of my weight loss buddies and some closed boards I'm on are flying. This IS indeed ridiculous. (Frankly, this might be a local thing: my first WW leader, still the best I ever had, wasn't any 155 pounds. She was a big girl. She was one of the best leaders I ever came across and I'll wax poetic on her in a later post). You might want to check into this. But back to the main point, you're sounding rejected. After all the impressive weight you've lost, after all your electronic leadership, after all those points lists you've converted to a Palm Database (which has been invaluable to me!) some unnamed entity at WW is saying you're not good enough. Chin up, girl. You know firsthand this won't be the first time the folks at WW passed up something good: look at all those Palm applications they drove underground (and their sorry excuse for a Palm app that they came up with, instead). So I'm going to say something to you that is probably one of the hardest things to say, and will be difficult for you to hear. I'm going to say it about an organization which has taught us much, has provided us with tools and motivation and friendship and guidance and is the reason you are where you are today. But if they can't see past their little number books and look at you and listen to your doctor, the day has come.

Fuck Weight Watchers.

That's right. I said FUCK Weight Watchers and their stupid little numbers.

I'm going to give you two analogies to soften the blow here. Leaving Weight Watchers is going to be like leaving the Catholic Church. Its also like leaving a job you're really really good, at, but one day you wake up and realize if you stay there, you're never going to be anything more than an administrative assistant barely making ends meet, and you're more than that. Ironically, these two analogies converge in my real life: I left an admin asst job at a Catholic university because, since I haven't finished my bachelor's degree (I'm 12 hours away), I wasn't eligible to be anything but an admin asst there. Never mind I totally computerized an entire department. Never mind I completely regorganized a total office management style and increased efficiency. I was never going to make more than 20K in that position. And it was hard to leave. I had a great relationship with my boss, I really enjoyed my co-workers, the benefits and hours were great, but they were never going to see past the fact that I hadn't completed the numbers. And so I polished up my resume, and within 6 months of leaving I had doubled my salary. I'm doing even better now, but on my last day of work 9 years ago I was crying. It was hard to leave a job that came along right when I needed it, that gave me the confidence to get out of a string of dead end jobs. But I had to if I was ever going to grow professionally.

But back to the other analogy: leaving the Catholic Church. This is even probably a closer analogy to you, because really, its not like the Church (or Weight Watchers) is kicking you out. You're taking the lessons you've learned, lessons that will stick with you forever, and going out into the world and facing the challenges. And like the Church, you're always welcome back. Like the Church, there will be a few changes (they always shake up "program" every few years) but the general jist of a mass/meeting is always the same. You go, you sign in, you weigh in, there's some chat time, then leader stands up, gives out the weekly awards and announcements, then goes into that week's topic of discussion. Then there's Q&A and the sendoff. Just like you can go into any Catholic church anywhere in the world and celebrate the same mass, you can go into any WW meeting anywhere in the world and in a very comfortable way, this is what will happen. Just like mass, you could probably go to a WW meeting in a foreign country where a language you don't know is being spoken, and probably make out what they're saying. (Numbers are pretty universal -- though in some places you'll have to do a little metric conversion.) So I'm here to assure you that comfort zone will always be there. Like Mother Church, they'll never turn you (or your money!) away. (And if you stay on maintenance, they'll take you without the money). OK, so you can't enter the priesthood. Neither can I. (We're women, the Church has a problem with that.). BFD. Ok, BFD another day. Today it still hurts.

That doesn't mean you can't be an inspiration. You are. I suspect you might have a slight clue, but you really don't realize just how high a priestess of the Church of Weightloss you are to many of us who read your journal, who get your mailing list, who marvel at your pictures that are indeed worth a thousand words. But I know, you need something concrete. A few suggestions.

  • Start looking around for an agent and a ghostwriter who can help you turn your journal into a book. Those before and after pictures alone will sell the thing. I'd buy it. One of the great things about your story is that you're a regular joe who didn't take some weird pill or whatever. You just plugged away and had your ups and downs and found the strength to do it all.
  • Write to Fitness Magazine with your before and after photos for their "I Did It!" feature. I'll bet they'll feature you in a future issue. I've seen them feature people whose "after" weight is 185 -- and they talk about how healthy those people are. These are the kind of people who GET it. And you'll have a hardcopy version of proof that people see you as an inspiration.
  • Keep your site up. You're a virtual Weight Watchers leader, and you probably don't realize it. You give people inspiration, just for updating all those fast food lists alone you are probably responsible for literally tons of pounds lost. You're probably a legend at your local WW meetings already.
You ARE a leader. You are beyond a leader. All Hail the High Priestess of Weight Loss Akkasha!

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