Meet Debbie: Our Inspiration for Lose for Good

Debbie after
Debbie before
 This little idea I used to motivate members now benefits people across the nation. What a great payoff! 
*People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.
Debbie lost weight with a prior Weight Watchers program

Eight years ago Washington-based Weight Watchers leader Debbie Hugo asked her members to bring in a pound of food for every pound they lost to benefit a local food bank. She had no idea that her “goofy little idea” would catch the attention of our then-CEO, and later be the inspiration for our Lose for Good® campaign.

In 2005, as a Weight Watchers leader, I had to create an action plan to keep my members engaged during the holidays. At the time I had a few members that would be upset if they only lost .2 or .4. I would tell them, “That’s great work! You should be thankful for any negative number on the scale!” But I felt that they needed a visual. I figured if they brought in non-perishable food items matching the weight they lost, they’d be more likely to stay on track, while helping others at the same time. It also stirred up some friendly competition in the meeting room. Once the buzz started, members of other meetings got involved. The first year we donated 3,000 pounds of food.

Going national

In November 2007, by chance, the CEO of Weight Watchers International, attended one of my meetings. The energy level was high and my members were really proud of how much food we’d collected. After the meeting he approached me and was very excited to ask me about the details of my idea. He couldn’t believe that I was the only Leader doing this. He said, “If we have one Leader making such a difference, what could happen if they all tried this?” It was a very proud moment for me. I couldn’t believe that my goofy little idea had gotten his attention.

I got the call in June 2008 that Weight Watchers was going to take my idea national. There are no words to describe the feelings I felt. This was never where I was going with the plan. This little idea I used to motivate members is now going to benefit people across the nation. What a great payoff!

A longtime member

At Christmas in 1989 my family had gotten a new camcorder and I saw myself on screen for the first time. In pictures, I knew how to pose: sideways, or behind other people. But watching the video I thought “Who is that person with the big butt?!” It was me. That’s when I decided I needed to make healthy changes in my life. I joined Weight Watchers meetings in January of 1990.

To be honest, I didn’t want to go. My mom had been a Weight Watchers member in the '70s and I didn’t want to join a “moms club” and talk with a bunch of old ladies about what I was eating. I reluctantly went and had my first weigh-in. I couldn’t believe the number on the scale. I hated admitting that the receptionist was so nice—I wanted her to be mean so I’d have an excuse to quit. It was recommended that I lose 40 pounds. I thought, “I’ve never lost 10 pounds, how will I lose 40?” But I sat through that first meeting and never looked back.

Baby steps

The hardest part was realizing what a portion is supposed to look like. I was overeating big-time. But I got used to the plan and then it became second nature. I also started doing aerobics and gradually moving from the back of the class to the front. Once I lost 10 pounds* , my leader said, “OK, now lose 10 more.” Taking the losses in small chunks is how I eventually made it to goal.

The dress fitting

The day that I really knew I was being successful was the day I had to get fitted for a maid of honor dress in August 1990. The sales associate asked what size I needed and I reverted back to January and said “12.” She looked at me like I was crazy and said, “You’re clearly not a 12.” She brought out a size 8 and I braced myself for embarrassment. The zipper went straight up. That was the inspiration I needed to lose my last 10 pounds. I hit goal in October of that year.

Inspiring others

I decided to become a Receptionist and later a Leader to help others achieve the goals that I did. I’m so glad I’ve gotten the chance to not only make people happier and healthier, but also inspired the Lose for Good campaign, which helps countless other people across the country.

Debbie’s Tips
  • Use a food scale. I started out measuring my foods and 20 years later the scale is in the same spot in my kitchen. You’ll never outgrow measuring.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. There were times that I didn’t lose and times that I gained when I thought the world was going to come to a halt. Get real! This is an ongoing process and if you keep at it, you’ll be successful.
  • I’ve never been a fan of low-fat or fat free salad dressings. I stick to the real stuff like blue cheese and Caesar. But if you keep it on the side and dip your fork, you can still keep the meal healthy.
  • Know yourself. I know that chocolate M&Ms are my thing. If I buy a lot of them, I’m going to eat a lot of them. I keep them in the house as a treat, but only in small bags.
  • Don’t look for a quick fix. Watch the small changes because they really add up. Step by step, inch by inch, gets the process. Be mindful of that. All small changes add up to the big difference we’re seeking.