Sunday, January 16, 2011

How I Became a Weight Watchers Leader

The obvious part of this story is that I got to my goal weight.  As I got closer to my goal weight I began thinking about becoming a leader once again as I had been thirty years before.  I remembered how much I had enjoyed doing it then and figured I would do so again.  The difference this time would be a much-improved and easier-to-follow program which would ensure I would remain at goal, together with my work-out routine which was now a well-established part of my life.  I had an excellent incentive: I hated my full-time job. I discussed it with Maureen, my leader, and she held my application in reserve for the day I became a lifetime member.  Soon thereafter I received a call from the Territory Manager for our region and we met for coffee.  It was an interesting interview.  I was asked a lot of unusual questions such as, had I ever inspired anyone to join Weight Watchers (the answer was yes, several people, including family members) and did I feel I had any insights I could pass on to others that might inspire them further.  I told her that thoughts and ideas regarding my whole weight loss experience never ceased to run through my head and I would love to share them with others.

I began Leader Training by  first training as a receptionist.  I was terrible!  I'm not a numbers person but I enjoyed the contact with the members.  When I finished the eight weeks of training my mentor presented me with a graduation gift: a bottle of white-out complete with a bow!  I have an enormous amount of respect for the people who work as receptionists at meetings.  It's a huge job.  Standing in front of people talking is a whole lot easier.  At the same time as I trained as a receptionist I attended a weekend-long seminar at a Weight Watchers Centre.  The trainer was a remarkable lady who had lost over 100 pounds and kept it off for 14 years, but it took her eight tries to 'get' the Weight Watchers message.  After I completed Leader Training I began doing summer fill-ins for leaders who were taking time off. 

At first I considered becoming a leader as a part-time interest.  I was still working full time and loathing my job more and more each day.  I had worked for the past 16 years in the legal profession as a law clerk and process server.  I worked in a small, family-owned business run by a highly dysfunctional family.  I truly believe the children were otherwise unemployable which is why their mother continued to re-hire them every time they walked off the job.  Meanwhile, I stayed there, year after year, listening to them scream abuse at one another.  We did all the 'leg work' for a number of high profile law firms in the city who always did everything last minute (it's a time-honoured legal tradition!) and always wanted it now.  Standing in line at the court house to file documents or running full tilt up the street to serve them on opposing counsel before the limitation ran out was highly stressful and the atmosphere in the office wasn't much better.  It wasn't until I realised the reason I developed a stomach every day beginning around 1:00 p.m. coincided with the time at which the boss-lady showed up that I began to understand I needed to get out of there. 

Yet still I stayed, until, after a routine mammogram I was told I needed a biopsy.  I thought I took it all in stride.  I told myself it was nothing.  But after the biopsy was done I freaked.  After a sleepless night I knew I couldn't go back to work.  I called my boss and said I needed to take the remaining two weeks of my holidays there and then and spend some time at home in my garden thinking good thoughts.  Immediately after that phone call I called my Weight Wathcers manager and told her about my decision.  I said I would do any meetings anywhere, any time just to stay busy and be in a positive, nurturing atmosphere.  She said she would do what she could to help.

After a week of relaxing at home I called my boss and told her I was feeling a lot calmer and was ready to come back.  She said she didn't want me back.  She said she was tired of all my 'meltdowns'.  How many of those had I had, exactly?  So there I was, jobless and awaiting biopsy results.

I did as many summer fill-ins for leaders on holidays as I could to keep busy and get me through until the Fall when new meetings were to begin.  I was offered an At Work meeting beginning in September as well as a meeting at a large grocery store a ten minute walk from my house.  I couldn't wait for them to begin!  I was on my way and I was well-pleased.

Being a leader was a lot harder than it looked.  Getting people to talk is not as simple as you would think.  It takes time and trust, two things you don't have when you're a fill-in and you may not be there next week.  However, a remarkable thing happened at the very first meeting I did.  A woman approached me after the meeting and asked if she could speak with me privately.  She said she had lost her motivation.  She was very near goal but she had just found out her brother was very ill and was finding it tough to stay on program.  Coincidentally, my own brother had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  To make matters worse, she had a very abusive boss.  ('Hmmmm', thought I. )  She was also a single mother with two young boys.  'Okay', I thought, 'That's way more stress than anyone needs'.  So I asked her what she thought she needed to do.  We talked about it for a while and we both agreed her children and her brother needed her to be healthy and strong and getting to her goal was a good way to ensure that.  I gave her a hug and she stopped weeping and went on her way.  I often wondered in the weeks to come how she had made out.   I came back to that same meeting to do another fill-in about two months later and she was just receiving Lifetime status that very day.  I was thrilled for her!  She didn't think I would remember her, but how could I forget?  She hadn't known it was my very first meeting when we spoke.  I will never forget that.  It's only one of many great experiences I have had.

There are so many times since then that I have heard people say the things I long to hear everyone say: how their lives are changed, how they know now this is it for life.  I wish I could hear it every day but I accept it for the gift it is whenever it happens.  Being a leader exhilarates me, inspires and and keeps me sane.  It's the best job I've ever had.

And that biopsy?  Negative, of course.


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