By Annie Ellison
Published: Dec 14, 2013
The Squamish Weight Watchers group has called it quits until they can find a new leader.
Four-year leader Heidi Stokes is leaving town and she says no one in the 25-30 member group has stepped up and volunteered to take on the position.
Furthermore, the organization won’t pay travel time for a leader from North Vancouver or Bowen Island to run the meetings.
Becoming an official Weight Watchers leader requires a specific set of accomplishments.
“To work for Weight Watchers, you need to be a lifetime member still at your goal weight,” said Stokes.
The weight management system is fifty years old. Members pay a fee to join and attend weekly meetings, where they use a points system to control portions.
The Squamish group has disbanded several times since Stokes joined 14 years ago.
“I’ve been asking over and over for people to step up to the plate, but nobody ever wanted to do it,” she said.
Stokes works full time as a personal trainer. She says leaders must be at their goal weight to show the program works.
Weight Watchers net earnings are down in recent years, as is its membership. Stokes says when she first became leader of the Squamish group there were 75 members.
Some members of the now defunct group have been carpooling to meetings in North Vancouver once a week. However, this couldn’t come at a worse time, as holiday party season kicks off, said Stokes.
“There’s food everywhere,” said Stokes. “It’s more likely people will lose track and fall off the rails,” she said.
Even in the outdoor recreation capital of Canada, not everyone exercises, says Stokes.
Getting together once a week is tantamount to succeeding with weight loss, she said.
Sharing recipes, stories and temptations for half an hour helps people be accountable to each other.
So why then, don’t people who want to lose weight in a supporting environment just get together once a week and call it something else?
Personal trainer and ZenFit gym owner Mischell Poitras says that’s exactly what they should do.
“I think Weight Watchers is a good program for people who need that kind of support,” she said. It works because it’s accountable.
“I think the biggest struggle is finding enough people in a town of only 17,000 people or so.
And no, not everyone is out climbing or hiking their calories off, she said.
“Overall, I think we have a fairly fit community, but that doesn’t make Weight Watchers redundant,” she said.
People go to Poitras’ studio because they don’t have time to go for a two hour hike.
Poitras says especially with a commuter lifestyle, portion-control methods like Weight Watchers are important.
“Sure, you can get up at five and work out, but it’s less likely,” she said.
Weight Watchers struggles to find leaders in many small towns across Canada, as it doesn’t want to lower leadership requirements.