By Stephanie Choate
Vermont’s first Weight Watchers retail store opened in Williston last week, hoping to help Vermonters get a handle on their weight in a reasonable way.
Known for its point system, Weight Watchers developed the stores as a new way to draw people and organize its offerings in central locations. Residents interested in its weight-loss and body images programs can stop in and learn more, purchase memberships and shop for Weight Watchers products designed to promote a healthier lifestyle. Members can also weigh themselves privately.
Marty Moses, territory manager for Weight Watchers, said Weight Watchers helps members lose weight by teaching them to eat healthfully—eschewing fad diets and focusing on a doable, sustainable way to change eating and lifestyle habits.
“Our philosophy is you should learn how to eat healthfully in a way that will help you lose weight, but also is something you can do for the rest of your life,” she said. “We teach you what the best foods are and how to include indulgences in a way that’s doable and at the same time healthy.”
The store opened its doors Dec. 8, and staff are planning a series of kick-off events to celebrate its opening, according to manager Phyllis Etienne. Events begin with a fashion show on Dec. 28 and makeovers on Dec. 29. Weight Watchers is also partnering with several local eateries—including Starbucks, Panera, Longhorn Steakhouse and Natural Provisions—for January seminars on skinny drinks, ways to eat out healthfully and getting started with healthy foods, Etienne said.
“We encourage our members to eat fruits and vegetable, lean protein, whole grains and dairy,” Moses said. “Essentially, what we believe is you can eat anything you want, but healthy foods first.”
Weight Watchers has two ways of monitoring food intake. The first and most well-known is its point system, which has been around since 1997. Foods are assigned a point value based on what Moses described as “a simplified way of calculating your calorie intake.”
Members can also choose unlimited foods from a “power food” list—all fruits and vegetables, lean protein like chicken and fish and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and, a favorite, popcorn—and eat to satisfaction.
The food plan is the pillar of Weight Watchers’ identity, Moses said, but it also has a personal touch.
“All of our leaders and team members are successful Weight Watchers members,” Moses said. “They’ve gone through the program. They’ve lived it, they’ve lost weight on it, they’ve seen success with it and they have a desire and a passion to pay it forward and help other people who want to lose weight. I think that really makes a difference, that personal touch that we have.”
Moses said the Williston location is Vermont’s first—and will most likely be its only—Weight Watchers store location. The corporation chose Williston because it has one of the largest population bases and a central location, she said.
The site will also host daily meetings where those on the program gather to share experiences. Moses said the meetings are a helpful tool, and residents can come visit a meeting for free.
“It is rare that I sit in a meeting and not get inspired by all the people and their efforts to get stronger, more confident and more self empowered,” she said. “Someone always has a comment or a story, and I walk away thinking, ‘Wow.’”
Weight Watchers is located at 62 Merchants Row in Williston. For more information, visit www.weightwatchers.com.