Back when you first signed on to be spokesperson for Weight Watchers, there was some controversy around how much weight you lost in the beginning. There were some people who thought you had lost too much weight, and others who said you hadn’t lost enough. What impact did that have on your life, and how have you been able to walk away from your weight loss feeling empowered?
"Well, I definitely feel empowered. I would say it comes with the territory, and that’s why, when you decide to do something like that [a weight-loss journey], it has to be for you. This has nothing to do with anybody else. I realized not too long ago, 'Jeez, my weight is controversial, and it will always be that way. But, as long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters.' Something like this, you have to do it for you."
How did the Healthy Communities grant program that Weight Watchers just embarked upon come about? And, how do you see this reflecting a more general movement towards health in our communities?
"WW has been involved in communities for a long time, but we wanted to formalize it a little bit, so we developed the Healthy Communities grant program that is just launching. An independent panel of judges picked a small, a medium, and a large city [to roll out the program] — Baltimore was the large city. Our intent is to be able to help communities ensure that they have the tools, programs, and the services available to make improvements. Things like Weight Watchers help reverse the trend of obesity in their communities."
Jennifer, how does this align with your personal beliefs and goals?
"Well, I definitely can relate because I lived it. It’s helped my family in so many ways. I have over a hundred family members who have lost weight through Weight Watchers, and it’s completely changed our lives: the way we eat, the way we celebrate, the way we live. So, this hits very close to home for me. It’s my life."
For somebody in the new year who’s looking to begin a weight-loss goal, what recommendations would you give them, emotionally and spiritually, to prepare themselves?
"Definitely start simple. Don’t take too many leaps and bounds and put too much pressure on yourself. If you start small and take baby steps, then you can get there."
"I track my points. [Laughter.] This past holiday season was the first when I was like, you know what, I’m going to eat whatever I want. And, I did. I had chocolate-chip cookies the size of my face. So, once the New Year came in, I was like, 'Okay, now I have to pull it back... Nothing will enter my mouth without me tracking it.' I don’t care if it’s water; I don’t care if it’s a grape — you have to know what you’re putting into your body. And, so I do that every day, and I trust the program. It’s as simple as that."
I think the great thing about tracking the food you eat is that it gives you a way to remove the guilt and shame that some people feel when they don’t know how much they’re eating, or when they feel like they may not be eating right. Can you just speak to how WW or your personal diet helps to free you from that guilt and shame around eating?
"It teaches you how. It lets you know what you’re putting in your body, and it makes you aware of it. If you’re aware and conscious of it, then you can control it. Once you know those things, then you don’t feel so guilty, and then you can enjoy it. Because when you don’t enjoy what you’re eating, that’s when you tend to overeat. It’s good to make moments with your food. I do. It’s like, I have a vision for this meal. I want to sit here, and I want to laugh, you know what I mean? Make an event out of it. Don’t stand up and eat, don’t just eat anything. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Make it count, if you’re going to go there. If you’re feeling guilty about what you’re eating, then you’re really not enjoying it."
You’re such an inspiration. Do you have people reaching out to you to express their gratitude for taking on this role as WW spokeswoman?
"All the time — especially on Twitter. There’s some people that send me their pictures. They always say, 'You changed my life, you’re such an inspiration!' And, I love to acknowledge it, because I want them to know that they have that support. I like to congratulate them and hear their stories because I can relate."