When WW Stands for Woke Weenie

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I am a Libra. I hardly ever take a stand on anything because I avoid conflict like my son avoids broccoli. I dig peace and justice. I don’t like discord. Let’s all just hold hands and be BFFs, K?

I don’t know a lot about astrology, but I generally believe in the traits associated with signs. My personality certainly seems true to the Libra scales. What is also true is that I have hidden behind my zodiac sign, both consciously and subconsciously, since I learned what it was. I am a Libra who is also just kind of a weenie who doesn’t like putting herself out there and then being told that I am wrong or uninformed or anything negative, really. (Well, but I mean, who does.) (But still. I am a weenie and I admit it.)

Yesterday, I decided to try my hand at standing up for something. The cover of the new issue of WW Magazine, depicting hands toasting wine and the words, “Cheers! Here’s to Health, Joy & Connection,” bugged me. It bugged me enough that I decided to write about it.

So I did. I spent about an hour writing. One hour out of the two and a half that I have free most afternoons, while my son is at school. During this time, I also have to walk my dogs, make my lunch, and address any other of the myriad life tasks the day demands.

I posted the piece to Connect (the WW social media network), then to Instagram, then here to this blog. I felt proud of what I’d done and, I admit, I hoped my post would garner some attention. But then my post started to trend, and I started to get some negative comments. Pride turned to anxiety. Satisfaction turned to ickiness. Regret creeped uninvited into my mix of emotions and I fell into a bit of a tailspin.

“I’m proud of you.” This humble instant message was sent by my husband after he read my post on Instagram. And it meant everything.

He knows I’m a weenie. He knows how much it takes for me to dredge up enough courage to present my point of view on a potentially contentious topic. He also knows that I’m still finding my voice. And his kind and simple words helped me boil my stew of mixed emotions back down to that first ingredient: pride.

This morning, with butterflies in my stomach, I went back and read all 140 of the comments my post received on Connect. Most were supportive of my viewpoint. But more importantly, many of the comments were thoughtful, well-articulated, and opened my eyes to other sides of the alcohol issue and other issues related to WW rebranding itself as a “wellness” company. As for the negative stuff, well, it still bothered me. I wish it didn’t. I’ll get there, I hope.

These last 24 hours have been enlightening for me, to say the least! Here are my top three takeaways from my adventure-atop-a-soapbox:

  1. Social media is… sigh. Wonderful and awful. The best and the worst. Tricky. Because you can just throw anything out there and there’s no telling how, or where, or for how long it will stick. Part of me wishes I had spent longer writing the piece, because there are some things I would have changed. But I was really hungry and had to pick up my kid from school. I did my best in the time I decided was appropriate to spend on it. But, yikes. Oops. Eh. Sigh.
  2. Some people don’t actually read what you write. They will read what they expect or want to read. I received several comments talking about how “offended” I was by the magazine cover when I never used that word in my post. (One person even put the word in quotes! Who was she quoting? We’ll never know!) I was disappointed, yes. Offended, no. These are not the same thing, y’all. Read the words, please.
  3. I now have a more woke view of WW – which, at the end of the day, is a company that needs to make its shareholders happy (read: rich). So they put glasses of wine (but they are moderate pours, people!) on their cover because wine sells more magazines than water. And who doesn’t aspire to a life lived in perfect moderation? Join WW and you’ll become a moderation maven! …after years and years of dedication and practice. Maybe.

Here’s the deal, yo. I stand behind what I wrote and I acknowledge that my piece could have been better. I also see that WW is a company with an inherent conflict between its new mission of wellness – not just weight loss – and its priority to make a profit. I firmly believe WW needs to do a better job reconciling this conflict. I hope the company chooses to make its boatloads of dough while retaining integrity. And I will not shy away from calling out the good folks at WW HQ if I feel they are not.

Consider me more woke. And maybe a little less of a weenie.

Really, WW Mag? Booze as Your Holiday Cover Girl?

I have never been one to stand on a soapbox, and I have debated all day about whether to write about this. But the more I think about it, the more upset I get. I have to call out WW (that’s the newly rebranded WeightWatchers, y’all) and WW Magazine on their November/December cover. I am disappointed and perplexed as to why a company which has just rebranded itself to encompass the concept of “wellness” and claims to be the provider of “Wellness That Works” would celebrate alcohol as its holiday cover girl; and, further, insinuate that alcohol is the path to “health, joy & connection.”

In reality, a recent study published in the Lancet states that “the safest level of drinking is none.” Alcohol is a leading cause of disease and death world-wide, killing 2.8 million people every year. In the United States, 88,000 lives are lost annually to alcohol, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death. Alcohol is to blame for nearly 1 in 10 deaths of those aged 15-49 – the likely age bracket of the folks shown toasting wine on the new cover of WW Magazine.

How about showing hands toasting with hot chocolate? Or, as someone suggested on Connect, showing some hands toasting with non-alcoholic beverages? How about showing a happy holiday table scene that – gasp! – does NOT include alcohol?

I realize that the vast majority of holiday celebrations – including mine – involve alcohol. I am not standing in judgement of anyone who chooses to imbibe on a holiday or any other day.

But I am also a person for whom “gray area drinking” – that is, not hitting rock bottom but drinking enough to feel a lack of control compounded by guilt and shame – was enough of an issue that I have sworn off the stuff for a year. I have also come to trust in WW as a lifestyle that works better for me than anything else I’ve tried. I lost 23 pounds in 2017 and have kept it off with the help of my trusty tracker. I summoned the courage to take a break from drinking because of the incredible support of my #sobersisters on Connect. I achieved Lifetime two months ago (meaning, for those who are unfamiliar with WW, that as long as I stay within two pounds of my goal weight I have free access to the program) and plan to stick with WW for the foreseeable future.

So I feel let down by this magazine cover. I am not asking WW to take an anti-alcohol stance. But I do ask WW to reconsider its messaging. I believe that a wellness company should not promote alcohol, the most commonly-used addictive substance in the US, as integral to “health, joy & connection.”

Alcohol is not the key to “health, joy & connection.” Alcohol is the fast lane heading in the exact opposite direction.

Sources:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/08/24/alcohol-death-disease-study-beer-wine/1082443002/

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol

A Tale of Two Boots

The silver lining of today’s relentless rain: it gives me an excuse to wear my new (old) favorite Hunter wellies.

My husband ordered these boots for me several years ago. Well, not these particular boots. Well, they could be the ones he ordered me. But probably not.

You see, these boots are limited edition, and they came out after I had my daughter in 2012. I saw a celebrity wearing them in a magazine and my wonderful husband (who shares in my Anglophilia) searched high and low to snag me a pair in my size.

Except they didn’t fit. I felt embarrassed and defeated as I tried to yank them over my postpartum calves, to no avail. I took them to a cobbler who tried to stretch them out, to no avail. I held onto them because I loved them. But I never believed they would actually fit.

So there they sat, in my closet, a daily reminder that I was overweight and out of shape and would never be thin enough to effortlessly slide my svelte calves into Hunter boots. As if I needed one more thing about which to feel guilty in those early days of motherhood.

A few years after I first received the boots, I decided to make some changes. No, this is not when I joined Weight Watchers or decided to stop drinking. Instead I decided to accept myself just as I was. No, not acceptance. Resignation. I had had two kids after all. So I resigned myself to being bigger. I had my wedding rings sized up. I found a neighbor who is an eBay ninja and I purged my closet of these boots and other items that had been glaring at me for years, taunting me, decimating my self-confidence. I used the money I made from eBay sales to buy boxy, loose clothing in a size that made me feel shame every time I shopped.

This state of resignation lasted for a couple more years. And then I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired of feeling fat and gross and I knew I needed to try, at least, to lose weight. I had no faith in my ability to succeed with weight loss, much less being able to maintain it. But I was desperate to feel better. My mom and I joined Weight Watchers in March 2017, I lost 23 pounds in 10 weeks, and I haven’t looked back.

Except for these boots. I have looked back many times at these boots. I don’t have many regrets in life, but damned if I didn’t regret selling my Limited Edition Hunter Vintage Union Jack wellies. (Plus, my husband was not thrilled either, considering they had been very hard for him to find in the first place. His rightful annoyance was the whipped cream atop my guilt-and-shame sundae.)

I Google-stalked these boots in the hope that they would be re-released. But they weren’t. So I bought myself a pair of royal blue boots at the Hunter outlet. As elated as I was to fit into them, and as cute as they are, they still did not fill the void.

So I set up an alert on eBay. And the boots popped up a few times at outrageous prices. (Have I mentioned they are limited edition?) And then, the other day, this pair appeared. At a price around about what I made off the pair I sold. With butterflies in my stomach, I opened the listing. And after firmly dismissing a moment’s hesitation – “Do I really deserve these? After all I was the dum-dum who sold my original pair…” – I clicked “Buy now.”

And now here they are. Back in my life. But rather than searing me with shame from the inside of my closet, they are keeping my feet dry and making me feel a little fabulous as I do my usual mom-chauffeur routine.

Clearly this is about more than just the boots (but seriously how cute are they?!). It’s about believing in myself and my ability to be my best. Believing that I deserve the best. Believing that if I put good energy into the universe, the universe will respond in kind.

I’m choosing to receive these boots as both a gift and a message.

A gift to myself for putting in the work that has not only given me slimmer (and stronger) calves but improved my overall well-being in myriad ways.

And a message from the universe:

“You are forgiven for not believing in yourself. And I trust you won’t make that mistake again.”

Wedding Day Gazing

Today is my ninth wedding anniversary. I have a feeling that if I took my dress out of its box, it would still fit – #thankyouweightwatchers. Maybe I’ll actually try it on for our big 10th next year!

Unlike in previous years, today I am looking back at my wedding day through an alcohol-free lens. And it’s an interesting view.

I’m happy to say I didn’t get tanked at my wedding. The day and night are a blur in my memory, but not because of booze – just because it was the most momentous day of my life up to that point and even though I tried to absorb every moment deep into my bones it went by in a beautiful, picture-perfect flash.

I didn’t get tanked at my wedding, but alcohol played a role. We had champagne for the toasts, of course. After an embarrassing brush with a drunken relative I made a break for the bar, only to be disappointed that the bartender served me the Chardonnay we had on hand for my stepmom instead of the Sauvignon Blanc I’d ordered.

But besides that, I didn’t drink. I remember this was a very purposeful strategy. I didn’t drink because I wanted to remember everything. I thought it would be hard to stay away from wine on my wedding night, but it wasn’t. First of all because I was SO EFFING THIRSTY the whole time, so all I wanted was water. But I didn’t want to drink too much water, because I didn’t want to have to pee in my dress. Oh, and secondly? Because I was having the time of my life and I didn’t want alcohol to mess with my bridal vibe.

I told myself not to drink too much, and I was too busy having the time of my life to break this rule that I had broken so many times before, and have broken so many times since.

I wish I had realized it then: that I don’t need alcohol to have a great time. That, in fact, alcohol often makes a good time bad and a bad time worse.

I wish I had applied the lesson I learned on my wedding night to my life once it went back to my newlywed normal. Alas, the lesson was lost in all the momentousness.

Do I blame myself for this? No way. Am I grateful to be able to see it all so clearly now? You betcha.

And that is the beauty of this year. I will experience all of these special days – anniversaries, birthdays, holidays – without alcohol. And if this day is any indication, important insights await me at every milestone. Little gifts of clarity around every corner of the calendar.

Day 77. My longest AF streak ever, not counting my pregnancies. Yay. Onward.

Alcohol-Free Football Season Game Plan


Football season is upon us. I am giddy thinking about everything Fall. This has always been my favorite season. I love that the crisp weather necessitates jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt. I love taking our kids to the pumpkin patch and apple-picking. Having grown up going to college football games and coming from a family of diehard fans, I love watching NFL games on Sundays. And I love all the treats of the season, of course: fresh apple cider donuts, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin beer –

Oh wait. There won’t be any of that this year.

Right. Alcohol-free Fall. Lazy sober Sundays watching football. Hmm. This will be… different.

In years past, pumpkin beer was a seasonal staple. Before I joined WeightWatchers in 2017, a typical Sunday evening spent watching the game would include a couple of pumpkin beers and half a large pizza, and then half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and maybe some wine. I would go to bed feeling buzzed and looking like I was well into a second trimester of pregnancy, my belly bloated to its max. I would wake Monday morning feeling gross, guilt-ridden, and paralyzed at the thought of having to start a new week.

Those days are behind me now. Half a large pizza is now one or two slices on the Sundays I choose to indulge. I always have a huge pile of veggies or a big salad along with it. And Enlightened ice cream occupies Ben & Jerry’s former freezer drawer. I feel good that I’ve reformed my eating habits. And I do not miss that pizza-and-beer-belly.

But I’m a little nervous about facing my first-ever alcohol-free football season. I felt momentarily sorry for myself walking past the pumpkin beer at the grocery store yesterday. So I decided, much like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, I’ve got to get my head in the game. Time to strategize how I’m going to not just survive – but enjoy! – football season without booze. No pity parties allowed at this sober tailgate, people.

Here is my game plan:

1. Exercise – I have been doing #Peloton rides on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Gotta keep this up because it puts me in a healthy mindset to start the day, and it’s easier to stick to good habits when I’ve worked out.

2. Hydration is everything! And now that it’s getting cooler I will start drinking tea again. Water, tea, seltzer, and the occasional Propel when I want something sweet make for a deep and diverse beverage line-up.

3. 1-SmartPoint hot dogs and 3-SmartPoint chicken brats – I discovered these at the grocery store and the brats in particular are delish! A great substitute for the fattier stuff. I’ll add sauerkraut for the probiotic benefits, and to help to offset the small batch artisanal tortilla chips I refuse to give up.

4. Fruit and veg – Load up on ‘em! Always.

5. Most importantly: remember why I really love football season – I don’t love it (just) because it’s an excuse to eat small batch artisanal tortilla chips. I love it because football is entertaining and provides plentiful opportunities for family snuggles and relaxation. We love teaching our kids about the game and our favorite players. Watching a game together on a Sunday afternoon is a welcome pause in the action of the school year and busy extracurricular schedule. Football time is family time, and that is why I really love it. I never loved it for the booze. I just had football and booze intertwined in my subconscious. Let the re-wiring commence!

So, as much as I am feeling a slight pang of longing for pumpkin beer, I am feeling a deeper pang of excitement at the thought of experiencing our family football bonding – and everything else I love about Fall – with complete clarity and presence.

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

In Which I Wear a Bikini and Receive a Compliment

A simple, git ‘er done kind of day. My husband is finally feeling a little bit better but was still out of commission so I took the kids to their swim lessons in the morning and then to the big pool in the afternoon.

I have been really disciplined with my eating this week (hello, #lifetimeorbust) so I decided to wear a bikini top with boy shorts to the pool. Even though I decided back in June to own #bikinigoals, my self-consciousness is so deeply ingrained (and my eating has been so all over the place) that I have only worn a bikini a handful of times since then. Which is still more than I ever have in a single summer. But anyway. For me, wearing a two-piece suit is still a thing. I don’t want it to be, but it is. For now.

While I was in the pool with my doggy-paddling son, a mom friend waded over to me and this is what she said:

“Jen, your body is SICK. Seriously, I mean it. SICK. What do you do to look like that?”

Eek! A compliment! About my BODY, of all things! What do I do?!

“Oh my gosh, thank you so much. You’ve made my day. I do kickboxing three times a week and I have a Peloton. Oh, and I’ve also given up alcohol for a year so that’s part of it too.”

Hold up. Did I actually just ACCEPT a compliment about my BODY??? Without putting myself down, or making excuses, or even just rejecting it outright?

Whenever the pre-Weight Watchers me would get a compliment, my initial response was almost always some sort of self-deprecating put-down. Which of course insulted not only me but also the compliment-giver.

“I love your outfit, Jen.”

“Oh this? I got it on super-sale at Target because it was the only thing that fit and did I mention I haven’t showered for three days?”

“Your hair looks nice today, Jen.”

“Ugh well that’s because I just had it done for the first time in like two months. It never looks like this normally. Did I mention I have more grays than my husband who is five years older than I am?”

But not today, people. Today I was given the gift of a wonderful and genuine compliment on something I have worked very, very hard to achieve. And instead of spitting on it and handing it back, I accepted it with grateful, open hands and heart.

Progress!

No Day But Today: Day One of My OYAF*

*One Year Alcohol-Free

I woke this morning with a dry mouth and puffy face, the result of two margaritas and a few sips of wine: my last alco-hurrah before embarking on my 52-week experiment in sobriety. I had planned to drink one last glass of Sauvignon Blanc to say farewell to my drinking days. But by the time I got to it I already felt queasy from the margaritas and zillion tortilla chips (because ‘Merica) so I could only manage a few measly sips.

It was a good ending note, actually. I could have done without the nausea but it was reassuring (in an albeit unpleasant way). I had planned to have a few drinks, to celebrate Independence Day and my own impending independence from alcohol. But my body didn’t want ’em. There will be less to miss, I think, now that I know I’m no longer capable of “having a few drinks” the way I used to “have a few drinks…” every night.

I have had Sauvignon Blanc, my shining beacon of fabulosity, on a pedestal for the last several years. She has been my savior, my salve, my BFF. She has comforted me, chilled me out, lifted me up.

Except she’s a devil in disguise. A fraud broad. A knockoff handbag sold out of a trash bag on Broadway. At least that’s how she has been revealed to me. Everybody is different. But my body is onto her, even if my still-smitten brain wants to give her another chance. And another.

For the next 365 days, that won’t be an option. I’m locking the door to my mental trophy room and letting the key fall into the bottomless pit of my mom bag, to rest among the half-crayons, Hot Wheels, and used tissues.

Why am I doing this now?

My gut has announced that now is the time. I have a year before my son starts kindergarten. So, a year to figure my shit out so that I don’t feel completely gutted when he struts onto the school bus. That same September, in 2019, I’ll be celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary. I’m still a couple of years away from turning 40, but I want to lay the groundwork now to feel amazing by then.

I am closer than I have ever been to my best body ever. And I have been doing Weight Watchers for long enough now to know that I can’t effectively address my eating issues (read: battle the sugar-and-salt monster) with the shadow of alcohol looming over me. Willpower is a finite resource, after all.

As the phase of early motherhood comes to an end for me, I need to be able to think clearly and creatively about where I’m heading. I know I can’t do that if I continue to be seduced by Sauv B. Those days are over. For now. Maybe forever. But definitely for now. And I have a feeling that if I ever chose to open that door again, I’ll find Sauv B’s pedestal has crumbled to dust.