Stacy Fuller is Refinery29's Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing, and a long-time WW Member. Here's her story, as told to Refinery29.
I grew up eating out. My immediate family owned a series of diners — which provided most of our meals. At any given time, plates of comfort food were readily available — grilled cheeses, burgers, scrambled eggs — so it was rare that I saw my parents cook (not to mention the fact that, as Texans, Tex-Mex was our go-to takeout order).
Naturally, I never built a relationship with the process of preparing food. I knew little about nutrition or balance. In fact, I was 24 years old when I learned to cook for the first time — when I learned how to be selective about what I consumed or how it made me feel. And I have Weight Watchers (now known as WW) to thank for that lesson in adulting.
I know there’s a stigma around the program. In fact, there’s a stigma around limiting or changing what you eat at all — and for good reason. Narrow beauty ideals have led us to equate self worth with thinness and thinness with self-restriction. I’m a huge advocate for body positivity, but the reality is, wanting to change your eating habits can be an act of self-care, too. For me, I chose to use WW for the first time at age 24 because I had turned a new corner in adulthood, and I was worried about both my cholesterol and my lack of energy. I wanted a blueprint for healthier living, and I found that the habits that WW taught me — to eat more fruits and vegetables, to take in less processed sugar and saturated fat, and to spend more time cooking at home, among other practices — made a huge difference in how I felt. Any program that has weight loss as one of its aims can perpetuate unhealthy habits, but, for me, WW helped me take better care of myself with sustainable practices rather than quick-fixes.
I’d always been active in high school — I was on sports teams, I took aerobics classes. But I was far more sedentary both in college and immediately after, living in Chicago. At that point, I’d gained a pretty substantial amount of weight. Cholesterol concerns aside, I didn’t feel like myself. So I joined WW — then known as Weight Watchers — and I learned more about listening to my body than I had in the two decades prior. I gained access to a battery of easy recipes that were designed to lower cholesterol and emphasize healthy protein intake. I learned how to meal-plan around my favorite foods (french fries), so I wouldn’t have to cut them out. I took courses on the ways our bodies break down sugar, how our arteries handle saturated fats, and the sort of probiotic foods intended to balance pH levels in our guts. I learned how to be more active in my daily life without joining a gym (Take the stairs! Try a standing desk!). I studied intuitive eating — a practice that asks that you respond to your own internal cues to gauge when you’re full or hungry, rather than relying on a premeditated plan or structure. And last but by no means least, I built a community by attending workshops. In short, I began to feel like I was gaining control over my own health.
Without fail, I’ve continued to re-join WW every handful of years. It’s not because the tools aren’t sustainable for me but, rather, because every time I undergo a major lifestyle shift, my healthy habits take a hit. When I moved to New York and started at Refinery29, all the routines I’d built sort of broke themselves apart. I fell out of my cooking rituals, stopped exercising, and went out to eat constantly.
And the truth of the matter is, I don’t regret a second of that. It’s how I built my roots here. But WW has always been my touchstone when I'm ready to get back into the routine of cooking meals that emphasize lean proteins, consuming more fibrous fruits and vegetables, and eating intuitively. Recently, my annual physical revealed that my cholesterol was high. I trusted that I could rely on WW coaching to help me address just that. Already, a few weeks in, it’s made a huge difference. My cholesterol is lowering, I’ve found a laundry list of meals I love to cook, and I’m feeling both strong and energized.
At WW, “diet” is something of a banned word. They call it “the D-word.” Instead, the program is all about making the right lifestyle changes — which, for me, has meant learning what makes a food low cholesterol (and how to cook it) or how to get my steps in without taking time out of my day to visit the gym. In workshops, there’s no diet-shaming, and there’s no fat-shaming either. Aside from the educational, nutrition-oriented portion, it can feel a little like group therapy.
At a workshop this week, one woman spoke about how her mom is really hard on her during the holidays. She often feels like her attempts to eat intuitively are mocked by her mother. She’ll poke fun at her healthy eating choices or announce that her daughter has lost weight to the table. So many of us in the group had had similar experiences — people who had shamed us rather than supported us in our attempts to meet our goals, be they about promoting heart health, strengthening for a marathon, or simply learning to cook for a family. Everyone chimed in with their advice or their own personal stories, and it was a really powerful discussion. At the end of every meeting, we set an intention together. This week’s was about redirecting — finding ways to change how we manifest any bad or unhelpful energy. I’ve fully embraced it, especially during the hectic holidays.
I always leave meetings feeling like I’ve just received a pep talk. For me, the program is about so much more than reaching a goal or a finish line. It’s about finding smart ways to approach the lifelong journey that is personal health and wellness. It’s about community and looking after one another. It’s about developing healthy habits, from how you talk to yourself to cleaning out your closet. But the crux of the matter is that my relationship with my body has totally evolved. I look forward to cooking — and just as often, I look forward to treating myself to Tex-Mex takeout or a tall glass of wine. I take the stairs and walk often, but I no longer beat myself up for not attending that popular workout class. I’ve learned a form of moderation and balance that allows me to enjoy my routines in a way I never could before. Of course, this isn’t a catchall solution — we all maintain entirely different relationships with our bodies and there is no right way to go about caring for them. But for me, WW is a way of empowering myself — and there’s no shame in that.