Catonsville Patch: How long have you been in WeightWatchers?
Joanne McCorkle-Smith: I lost 85 ¾ pounds in WeightWatchers in 1976. I cannot wear a size 22 ½ any time again in my lifetime. The clothes just ain’t that cute. I’m impressed with my full figured girl-friends, but for me, I got to keep on with my program.
Patch: How has the WeightWatchers program changed over time?
McCorkle-Smith: The plan now is not the plan that I lost weight on. Be very glad. It was a diet then. We had our liver meal once a week and we had to put mustard in our tuna fish! I’ve seen maybe 14 evolutions in the years I’ve been a member and, believe me, this one is the best.
One of the strategies that has been in place since the beginning is tracking. We used to call it a food journal. Now people can do it online, but it’s still the same principle: keep track of everything we eat, every day.
At the end of the day, nothing surpasses the meetings. We bring people together from all walks of life to encourage each other on this weight loss journey.
Patch: How long has this center been in Catonsville?
McCorkle-Smith: Wow, I would venture to say that there has been a Catonsville location for WeightWatchers for over 25 years.
Patch: Why did you become a WeightWatchers leader?
McCorkle-Smith: This is a plan that works! The only way that I was sure I was going to keep my weight off was to help someone else. I needed to take the focus off of me. When you’re a leader, you have to walk the walk. This is a job that physically your body has to look like what you are.
Patch: What do you do as a WeightWatchers leader?
McCorkle-Smith: Most of my meetings are in Pikesville in Pomona Square. I come over to Catonsville on Friday mornings. In addition to leading meetings, I also am an ambassador, which means that I am tapped for public information: TV, radio and newspapers.
Patch: Obviously, from your turn-out today, this is a busy time of year.
McCorkle-Smith: Oh yeah. This is the time of year when people say: I’m not going to eat sweets, I’m not going to snack, I’m not going to drink liquor. But that is such a set-up. The word diet has always equaled to me deprivation and that’s why diets don’t work. The whole concept is so self-condemning. I am going to incarcerate myself in a room full of lettuce leaves!
But when people come to WeightWatchers, they see that they can live a healthy lifestyle and eat foods like a normal person if they change their behaviors towards food and activity.
Patch: What are some other misconceptions people have about weight loss?
McCorkle-Smith: I see people join WeightWatchers in January, and if they haven’t lost 50 pounds by February, it’s all over. They lose one or two pounds a week and they get impatient. They might even gain in a given week and they say, “I ain’t going to go over to Catonsville and pay those people to be gaining!” and they stop coming. Or they weigh themselves all the time and then they come in and our scales say something different and they say “Something’s wrong with that scale.” What they don’t know is that these scales are calibrated by the Department of Agriculture every month. I say, “You think something’s wrong, yes, something’s wrong, you’re getting on too many scales!”
So, basically, what people need to understand is that this program is a lifestyle and it lasts a lifetime.
Patch: What’s one of the hardest things about your work?
McCorkle-Smith: The hardest things for me are the heart-wrenching reasons that many people are weight challenged that have nothing to do with food. It’s difficult not to hurt for some of the people who walk in our doors.
Patch: What are you most proud of?
McCorkle-Smith: As time goes on, I watch people begin to think differently as it comes to food. That’s my reward, when they get it.
Patch: Tell our readers about one of your favorite stories.
McCorkle-Smith: In the summer of 2005, I was in Rome, Italy, with my husband when a gentleman came up to me and asked, “Are you the WeightWatchers lady?” I didn’t recognize him, but I said yes and he called out to his wife, who had sent him over, “It’s her, Blanche, come on over!” So, there I was, hundreds of miles from home, having a little WeightWatchers meeting because Blanche said she’d been having a bad day what with pasta and red wine and all! That was one of the funniest things that ever happened.
Patch: What’s your favorite thing about your work?
McCorkle-Smith: WeightWatchers is partnering with the Baltimore City Health Department to provide meetings to hundreds of low income families in Baltimore City. To see people begin to learn about food and to start making healthier choices about food and activity is one of the most gratifying things I’ve done in my job.
Patch: What are you looking forward to?
McCorkle-Smith: More blessings. Because I’ve lived my life so that I could serve as an example of someone who has tried to do the right thing, my faith teaches me that I am in store for more blessings, not for me, but so that I may bless someone else.