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After 45 years, Weight Watchers remains popular with participants

At one time or another, everyone has had a problem with weight.

More often than not, the issue is taking weight off. When cutting back on eating and increasing exercise doesn't work, many people join support programs.

Weight Watchers, one of the first national weight-loss programs, started in 1960. A woman in New York named Jean Nidetch started meeting in her home with friends, and they discussed the challenges and behaviors associated with eating and weight loss.

According to Weight Watchers leader Tracy Gould, of Round Lake Beach, people come together with a common goal – to learn how to successfully lose weight. Several months ago, Gould started having meetings at 9 a.m. every Monday at Round Lake Sports Center, 2004 Municipal Way, in Round Lake Beach.

From the outside, a Weight Watchers session can feel as secretive as an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. According to a Weight Watchers' brochure, "People who attend meetings lose three times more weight than those who try to lose weight on their own. In addition, meetings are a great place for people to share what works and laugh about what doesn’t."

Gould first came to Weight Watchers as a client. In 1998, she joined the program and lost 35 pounds, which she has kept off eight years later.

"Weight Watchers doesn't promise overnight results," Gould said. "It would be great if you could drink two milkshakes a day [to lose weight], but do you still want to be doing that in 10 years [to keep it off]?"

When Gould went to her first meeting, she admits she went kicking and screaming. Like a lot of women, she started going because she wanted to lose weight for her wedding.

"I thought it would be nothing but old women kvetching," she said with a laugh.

Like attending Sunday school, each week Weight Watchers has a topic for the meeting. Participants come in, register, weigh in, and pay. Gould said the lesson usually last 30 minutes.

"Once you've weighed in for the week, you can go to other meetings," Gould said. "You can get extra help for those four Christmas parties you have over a weekend."

Gould said there are a number of payment options available to fit any budget, and the most anyone will pay for a meeting is $12. The payment covers the cost of program booklets.

The point of Weight Watchers and its new Turn Around 2007 programs is simply to teach participants how to eat normal food, in sensible portions, and to increase their exercise.

Lynn Canaday, 42 of Round Lake Beach, has been on and off Weight Watchers for 20 years. She has suffered from the yo-yo effect, and has tried other things, but she always comes back to Weight Watchers.

To learn more about Weight Watchers services, products and publications, visit www. To find the nearest Weight Watchers meeting location, call (800) 651-6000, or click on the “Find a Meeting” link at the top of the home page.

Weight loss methods

This is the first in a three-part series on weight loss that will run the next three weeks

• Part one looks at the phenomenon of Weight Watchers.

• Part two delves into NutriQuest, a medically supervised program, which consists of a liquid diet and exercise.

• Part three addresses gastric bypass procedures – an option when diet, exercise and pills fail.

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