Our last day of family vacation found me at WeightWatchers weigh-in, and I'm happy to report that today I was down -2.4 lbs. for a total weight loss since April 7th of -29.0 lbs.
But this post is about something completely unexpected that happened to another WW member today during the meeting that always follows our weigh-in.
A woman, probably in her early 60s, who I'll call "Leslie" has lost 70 lbs. so far during the past eight months. All the regular attendees know her. She's been a fixture at every WeightWatchers meeting that I’ve attended thus far and she’s been an inspiration to me – although I’ve never spoken with her directly.
It was a pretty packed meeting today but out of the blue Leslie broke down sobbing in front of all of us. She said that she splurged and ate a half gallon of ice cream in a single day this past week, which sent her on an eating binge.
She literally wept uncontrollably for 10 minutes straight sharing the regret and shame she felt as well as how completely out of control she was and that she wanted to give up – quitting the program all together.
The meeting leader, who I’ll call “Molly,” comforted Leslie and had every one applaud the fact that Leslie had drawn up courage to come to the meeting seeking the help and support she needed to stay on track. Several of the women gathered around Leslie; hugged her; patted her shoulder or told her what an inspiration she was to them.
From the back of the room, my heart went out to Leslie as well, her pain, her emotion and regret were palatable.
While Leslie continued to cry softly in the arms of other members, Molly asked all of us if there was anyone in the room who was perfect? Obviously no hands were up.
Molly then told Leslie to look around and acknowledge that she wasn’t alone. Molly then asked who had made bad eating choices this week and many of our hands went up. Molly reiterated to Leslie, that she wasn’t the only one who had made bad choices this week while encouraging all of us not to give up. Molly then went on to say something profound – she stressed that the program is NOT about perfection, but it’s rather about progress.
It's about moving on from the mistakes we’ve made; continuing to move forward and getting support from those who are walking the path with us so that we don’t give up. It was a powerful, inspiring and impromptu message that went beyond the food we eat to the core of why we do the self destructive things we do.
That message would have been appropriate in an NFL locker room or from a Sunday morning pulpit.
When the meeting time was up and most of us left, several of the attendees lingered around Leslie with Molly, encouraging and supporting her on her journey.
As I walked out of the door, I looked back at the cocoon of caring and my heart silently went out to Leslie again. Any human would have empathized with her – because we’ve all been there. We’ve all made mistakes that have hurt ourselves and others.
As crazy as it sounds, this WeightWatchers meeting reminded me of a church service where real people are not judged for their shortcomings and failures, but are rather comforted and supported through genuine pain and remorse. Where they’re brought through real suffering to the other side by the faith of others and a belief in something larger than themselves.
However, “authentic” church services like that are hard to find.
Maybe that’s why attendance at virtually all religious services is on the decline in this country, because we’re all broken people but the pretense and hypocrisy of the “holy faithful” makes people feel wholly inadequate and worse about their mistakes than they already do.
Many churches, synagogues and mosques might benefit from the meeting model set by WeightWatchers and Alcoholics Anonymous.
The parallels were striking and unavoidable for me. I’m glad I went today because my soul got fed - I would never have thought that would be possible at a WW's meeting. I plan on attending next week and I’m fairly certain that Leslie will be back as well.