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Is Weight Watchers Connect the Only Good Social Network?

Finding inspiration in a dieting app

I talk about sex and poop and periods and acne freely, but I rarely talk about weight. It’s one of the last things I feel self conscious about. I’ve been doing Weight Watchers since January, already losing about 25 of the pounds that have slowly amassed along my hips, thighs, tummy, and chin in the three years since I graduated college, but I've barely told any of my friends that I've been on the plan. But all this time, as I've been losing and point-counting in relative secret, I've been helped by watching dozens of people go through the same thing.


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I found my fellow losers on a social network inside the Weight Watchers app, called Weight Watchers Connect, which I am asserting now to be the only good social media network that’s left. I rarely post, but I look at Connect multiple times a day. I was an OG Tumblr teen, and I’ve seen the darker parts of weight control social media. This is not that.

With sports bra selfies and earnest pleas for unconditional support from strangers, Connect is intimate. It is always positive.

Connect, a tab on the same app where Weight Watchers users log their food, exercise, and weight, is my favorite social media network in existence right now. It’s mostly image-based, operating most closely to an app like Instagram. Users scroll through a feed that’s filled with all sorts of empowering stuff, like weight loss memes, Weight Watchers in-jokes, before and after weight loss pics (a template is built right into the app), aerial pictures of meals with the number of Weight Watchers SmartPoints each item is overlayed, and plenty of gym photos. Oprah "I Love Bread" Winfrey posts on there pretty regularly, too. With sports bra selfies and earnest pleas for unconditional support from strangers, Connect is intimate. It is always positive.

Recently, one user posted a picture of his legs in a pair of new jeans comfortably fitting underneath the steering wheel of his wife’s Chevy Equinox. It got 1,086 likes.

Another user posted a picture of her with her young daughter. She captioned it, "Had this picture taken of me and my daughter today and all I could do is cry and call myself T-rex. Day 4 of WW and I’ve lost 3 pounds, my health is terrible and all I can think of is that my daughter needs me." It got 1,560 likes and 580 comments of genuine support from other users. One read, "Some day this will be your before picture and you’ll have a story of inspiration. But for today, you probably feel a lot of bad. If you can, hold on. If you can keep doing this a point at a time. If you can believe our voices instead of the one in your head that is calling your names. If you just keep moving forward, you’ll never have to feel this way again."

Weight Watchers Connect is the only social media network remaining that doesn’t make me hate myself.

Weight Watchers Connect is the only social media network remaining that doesn’t make me hate myself.

Connect is the product of the efforts of Ray Wu, who led the December launch of the network. While at medical school at Cornell, Wu realized how important social support was for people trying to lose weight. Simply consulting with a physician wasn’t enough for most people. Wu applied for funding through the startup launching Y Combinator program and created something called Weilos. "As we were working on Weilos, even from the beginning, it began to make a lot of sense to work with a company like Weight Watchers," Wu said. "In fact, Weight Watchers was the obvious choice because it’s built from the meetings concepts where people are supporting each other."

Weilos still exists on its own, but a Weight Watchers-specific interface makes up the bones of Connect. One and a half million North American members belong to Weight Watchers, and in the United States, Connect hosts on average per day 9,000 posts, 42,000 comments, and 223,000 likes. On average, each posts gets 23 likes. Across the app, the posts are wildly diverse.

"One of the first things we saw in the first week of Connect was a woman who was 75 years old and she posted this amazing before-and after-picture that got crazy engagement," said Wu. "And then the next couple of minutes we saw a 20-year-old in college and it got the same kind of support."

"I get on there whenever I’m like I need to eat some cake now."

Connect is especially useful for people losing weight without any support at home. Erica Zutz, a 28-year-old Connect user who just relocated to Michigan with her husband, has few people around her in her new town to celebrate or commiserate with about weight loss. She uses Connect constantly for a little human touch. "I get on there whenever I’m like I need to eat some cake now," she said.

For Zutz, Connect has modernized her experience with Weight Watchers, too. She still goes to meetings with "a bunch of old ladies," but wants support that’s more relatable. "I get on Connect and see there’s hundreds of girls that are my age and going through stuff," said Zutz. "It makes me feel like okay, like I’m not alone."

"I’ve had some Weight Watchers leaders in the past who are like, ‘I lost 20 pounds in 1976."

Wu has been pleased to see how community has organically grown on Connect and assures that in the near future, users will have even more ease in finding each other. As it stands now, the app is fairly buggy: users can’t send messages to each other, and hashtags only kinda work. But even in its sometimes-busted 1.0 version, users have successfully found ways to create niches through hashtags and similar interest. One of my favorite haghtags to peruse, even if it has little to do with my own "weight loss journey" (that’s what everyone on the app calls losing weight), is #wwbros.

The glory of the #wwbros is how much it makes one realize that struggle with self-image is not bound by gender.

Weight Watchers historically had a reputation for being the preferred weight loss plan of soccer moms, and the #wwbros found each other on the app. Some posts are about protein shakes or the SmartPoints in one’s DIY mozzarella, but the glory of the #wwbros is how much it makes one realize that struggle with self-image is not bound by gender. Recently, one user screenshotted his Weight Watchers weight table overlayed with the message "Buh-Bye, Easter Weight!" Another took a foot selfie with the caption, "MY SOCKS FELL DOWN!"

Connect users have their own version of "internet famous" too. Laura W., a Connect user in Texas who is on the plan for the third, and she affirms, final time, has found a bit of that notoriety. She posts photos of herself in a pink swim cap, usually taken before 5 a.m when she goes to the pool, and has become something of a celebrity on the app. "The pink swim cap is a symbol," she said. "When I put on my pink swim cap, I feel like an eight-year-old kid. I know that seems crazy, but it’s like I can do whatever I want to do with my pink swim cap on."

"When I put on my pink swim cap, I feel like an eight-year-old kid. I know that seems crazy, but it’s like I can do whatever I want to do with my pink swim cap on."

Laura has successfully lost over 35 pounds and her pink swim cap has become an icon for other users to rally around. "Another user told me her own pink swim cap was going horseback riding again like she did when she was a little kid."

I’ve deleted Twitter off my phone, deactivated Facebook, and conditioned my body to only look at Instagram once a day. And social media still makes me miserable. But on Connect, instead of jockeying to be funniest or hottest, users instead compete to be the most inspirational. Users don’t even try to lose more weight than their peers. There’s no hate-faving, no political follows, no sucking up, no sharing of longreads you never read. It’s just a bunch of people coming together over fitness, or confidence, or pink swim caps.

"It’s a magical social media land that doesn’t have the negativity," said Zutz. "Nobody talks about politics, nobody bombards you with stupid fav this baby! posts. We’re all just talking about getting better."

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