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Dieting Stockholm Syndrome?

stockholm-syndromeWhy do people return time after time to a weight-loss program that they have not had long-term success with in the past? And why do some of us passionately defend these fall-back plans, despite the fact that we are paying the companies our hard-earned cash over and over again again? And again—this time for good, of course.

I have one possible answer! Stockholm Syndrome. The term originates from an ordeal which occurred during a robbery in the 1970s when hostages were taken at a bank in Stockholm, held captive for almost a week, and then finally released . . . only to defend their captors. “Stockholm Syndrome” is now shorthand for identifying with someone who is victimizing you, even to the point of sticking up for them. Ever heard of Patty Hearst?

Anyways. I have been a member of Weight Watchers at least . . . seven different times now. SEVEN. I pay them $40 a month currently. Now, I may be a little unhinged, but I’m not completely insane. So what gives?

My primary conscious reason for attending the meetings: I once had success losing over 25 lbs with Weight Watchers. Losing it. Not sustaining the loss though, or losing the full amount of weight I needed to drop. The other times I joined, I lasted maybe 5 or 10 lbs before cracking. Sometimes less.

It could be argued that this was all a personal failure on my part. And frankly, I have always accepted that blame. But have you ever noticed, those of you current or former Weight Watchers, how many people in the meetings are re-joiners?  Nevertheless, WW is something I know and trust, for whatever reason.  Stockholm Syndrome?

I’ve offered my own behavior as an example of perhaps-illogical loyalty. Have any of you guys ever experienced dieting Stockholm Syndrome?

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9 Responses

  1. Stockholm is definitely a clever way to put this across. I have never been on a diet program including weight watchers.I have always belived that healhty eating,exercising and having a good reason to lose weight is thew way to go.

    Losing weight is a learning curve, you fail many times but you pass the exam at the end if you are determined..

    Stockholm phenomneon has always been around..like an addiction it seems to offer a easy way out, a temporory haven for our misery but identyfying the real cause and the need to heal requires soul searching and trusting yourself to take control..

    Thanks for a great thought provoking article. It will make many to put that thinking cap on.

  2. Wow…interesting thought and concept. Possible answer, or perhaps are we addicts attending another “anonymous” meeting? We’re on the wagon, we’re off the wagon, we’re sick of the wagon, we’re done with the wagon! I do agree, this seems to be the only one I trust because of longevity and the possibility that if I give in and don’t be rebellious, it might actually be something I can live with the rest of my life. Who knows…still trucking along…on the wagon.
    Thanks for the good viewpoint!

  3. Castlegard: Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I very much agree that healing takes time and a willingness to take control of the pursuing that goal.

    Anna, thanks for stopping by! Yep, I’m still “trucking along” on the wagon, too ;). Guess we’ll just see how things go!

  4. This could have been written by me! I am a WW “frequent flier”. I have had similar weight losses as you. I have tried a few other plans with mixed levels of success, but have found WW to be the most nutritionally sound and I PERCEIVE it to be the most reasonable when/if I reach goal. It’s calorie-counting, but making us look at fat and fiber, too. Eat less, lose weight. The fact that we learn to do this with our “regular” food makes me believe it is possible for a lifetime.

    But who knows? I’m back for the umpteenth time. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome:)

    Good luck at WI Sunday!
    @wwagain on Twitter

  5. Great way of putting it! I’ve had that idea in my head for so long and never been able to verbalise, but you’re right, it IS Stockholm Syndrome!

    I did WW for a while, and lost about 3 stone over 2 years, but put it all back on twice as fast. So then things got a bit desperate (few harsh words from the Doctor) and I’m losing weight with a Very Low Calorie Diet now that’s doing so amazing! And I keep going on and on about it to everyone who will listen!

    Must be boring everyone, and I’ve only been on it for 2 weeks, so far too early to tell yet. I guess it’s got something to do with us putting all our faith into something and not being able to admit that we might have got it wrong. Or we see that other people can do it successfully, and blame ourselves and not the program for our own failure- the obese have never been known for their over confidence!

    Guess it’s all about finding the right diet and having the incentive to keep going through the hard times! Best of luck to you!

  6. Brilliant analogy. Certainly nothing I would’ve put together, but there’s logic to it.

    I think maybe we return to those “failed” plans simply because we don’t have anything better to try.

    For me, a huge turning point in having success (long term, I hope) was in realizing that I couldn’t follow other people’s diets. I needed to incorporate what *I* liked to eat into a healthy eating plan. It was the only way I could sustain it.

  7. Regan: Well, at least we can suffer from Stockholm Syndrome together ;). Good luck with your weight loss!

    Emma: I guess we each have to find our own way (not to mention come up with our own powerful motivations), and I wish you lots of luck on yours!

    Cammy: I think you’re right that part of the reason we return to the same plan is because we feel there isn’t a more reasonable option out there, or maybe we’re just afraid to break from the “pack,” so to speak. It’s really cool that you’ve found what works best for you individually.

  8. This is incredibly insightful! I really like the connection that you’ve made here- it’s so very true. It’s difficult to break away and try something new… change is often thought of as a scary thing.

  9. Hi, Sagan! Trying something new—especially when you don’t know anyone else doing it at the time—often requires overcoming fear. I know that part of the reason I continually return to WW is the reassurance I find in having a group to meet with who are all following the same plan. Even when the group occasionally irritates me, it can also be comforting. Oh dear. I think I’m a sheep. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Baaa.

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