Battle of the bulge

Generation gap: Melanie Edgar, 47, is a Weight Watchers leader and lives with her husband and daughters, Michelle and Sally, in Kent. Michelle, 17, a business studies student, is overweight but is unconvinced by her mother's diet regime

Melanie

`I like to think I brought up the children eating right. I've tried to guide Michelle, not nag her when she's putting on weight'

Weight is a real family problem. When my dad came out of the army he was at nine and a half stone and now he weighs about 14. My sister has a real weight problem. My mum isn't alive any more but she had a weight problem too. I think this is what is behind Michelle's weight.

It was not until I got married and started experimenting with cooking that my weight went up and up. I've been in Weight Watchers for 24 years. I joined in 1972 and became a "leader" in 1977. For me this way of eating is normal. We eat lots of vegetables, plenty of fruit, not too much red meat, cut down on cheese and keep the sugar and alcohol to a minimum really. That is my life. That doesn't mean that I always like it but I do stick to it.

Sometimes I feel like rebelling. There are not many jobs where you lose your job if you are overweight. That creates an awful lot of pressure. You couldn't go on a binge for a week. The new programme (called "1, 2, 3 Success") lets you make it up one day if you overeat the day before.

When I joined Weight Watchers it was nothing like it is now. The children would have found it difficult. It was so strict. The new system is far more flexible. It cuts down on saturated fats as well as the calories because that is what causes the health problems.

I don't do lots of cooking because I'm often out. But over Christmas everything we ate was a Weight Watchers recipe and everyone enjoyed it. When Michelle was doing a GCSE in home economics she used a few of the recipes and she did pass - believe it or not! - though she hasn't been in the kitchen since.

I like to think I brought up the children eating right. I never tried to push it. I never said you can't have crisps, you mustn't have chocolate. That's not what we want in Weight Watchers. If I said to Michelle you're not going to eat this or that, she'll want it all the more. I've tried to guide her and not nag when I see her putting on weight.

Eleven-year-old Sally is a different kettle of fish. She likes cooking and adding up the points for the programme. I don't think she'll have such a weight problem. Some people say: "I don't know why Michelle has got a weight problem when you think of what you do." But she's got to want to lose weight. I'm not going to make her because that's when children rebel and go completely the other way.

I weigh myself every morning. Michelle weighs herself at weekends but she never tells me what she weighs. I hope that one day she really does want to lose weight bad enough to stick to it. Of course she might be happy as she is. Lots of the time I know she agrees with me but she just does not have the willpower

Michelle

`I don't think you should have to stick to a programme. You should just eat what you want, but only healthy foods'

Everything in the fridge and cupboard at home is low-fat, but at school most of my friends have burgers and chips and things. I try not to, but then I think, "I don't care, I'll have it." I'm not as bothered as Mum.

Mum was doing Weight Watchers before I was born. When I go round to my friends' houses and see some of the things they eat! I'm just not used to that. But you never see normal people weighing out their food. They just eat what they want. I used to weigh out an ounce of cereal, but that didn't last more than a couple of weeks. I did the new Weight Watchers programme for a day and gave up. I just eat when I'm hungry, and try not to eat too much chocolate and things like that.

When we go out to eat, say, for pizza, I order what I like. Mum won't have any cheese but I have what I want. Then she wants a dessert, but I don't because I'm full up.

I don't think it's silly to worry about your weight as long as people don't get obsessed. Ever since I turned 11, I've always worried about weight, and I don't think it's made it any better. It does bother me being overweight, but I don't know if this is because of Mum, or if I would be anyway. All the time I keep thinking, I really want to lose weight and I've got to get my act together and do it. But I don't want to do Weight Watchers.

I don't think you should have to stick to a programme. You should just eat what you want, but only healthy foods. I don't like the new programme where you can have chocolate bars. I think that if you're going to lose weight properly you shouldn't eat crisps and chocolate and things. You should cut them out.

The trouble starts when people begin to eat normally again. I've seen so many people who have reached their goal weight and then they've put it all back on again. That's why I think you should do it for yourself and find out what you like.

Mum is always saying I should stick to the programme. Every time something new comes up at Weight Watchers, she says, "This would be really good for you. Why don't you try this?" I say, "Might do!"

I don't have time for cooking because when I'm not at school, I'm working. I clerk for my mum and I work in a bakery and a video shop and I do ironing and Avon as well. Before I started clerking for Mum - I never tell anyone it is for Weight Watchers - I went to aerobics twice a week and swam once a week.

So really, perhaps it hasn't helped me working with her, because I've had to stop doing all the exercising I was doing

Interviews by Ann Treneman

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