Yesterday in response to a post that I made in which I said that Weight Watchers doesn’t work, reader Jen left the following respectful question:
“While nutrisystem and that medi-diet crap is prepackaged nonsense that REQUIRES you continue to buy, it appears to me that weight watchers is more about portion control and teaching appropriate eating habits vs insta-slim, freeze dried scams. The only ‘on’ you do paying attention to what you are putting in your body and how much, so being ‘off’ is…not paying attention? An unaccounted for buffet is just as bad for my obesity as it is for my crazy in shape, vein popping, bicep curling, best friend…. I’ve never done it, but if I understand correctly it is misleading to lump it in with the prepackaged ridiculousness of Jenny Craig or the fad diets of Atkins or Stillman. I think everyone’s goal is the slowest rate in which you die, right? I’ll take healthy over slim any day, which seems like what they promote. I have no personal interest in weight watchers, but am interested why this is treated the same or if I am totally off their concept all together. I would love some feedback! Thanks!”
I’ll break this all down, but let me start here: Weight Watchers markets and sells weight loss. Their success at that is abysmal. And they know it. One study showed that participants lost around about 10 pounds in six months and had regained half of that two years later (after which they just stopped tracking them, I imagine so that they could avoid having to talk about how they eventually regained it all.) Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer of Weight Watchers International at the time, said: “It’s nice to see this validation of what we’ve been doing.”
Their chief scientific officer said: “It’s nice to see this validation of what we’ve been doing.” I
after which they just stopped tracking them, I imagine so that they could avoid having to talk about how they eventually regained it all. Their chief scientific officer said: “It’s nice to see this validation of what we’ve been doing.” If they are so comfortable with those numbers, why doesn’t their advertising say “Join Weight Watchers and you have a decent chance of being 5 pounds lighter 2 years from now?
So if they are so comfortable with those numbers, why doesn’t their advertising say “Join Weight Watchers and you have a decent chance of being 5 pounds lighter 2 years from now?”
It seems to me that they are trying to have their Weight Watchers Brand One Point Cake Square and eat it too. First, they take credit for the short term weight loss that almost everyone can accomplish on almost every diet and then they blame their customers for the long term weight regain that almost everyone experiences. They promise that anyone who tries hard enough can lose weight, and when they are challenged with the fact that their product almost never does what they say it does, then their messaging is “we’re just about health and portion control.”
Giving people options for healthy eating is fine, but then the diet companies add “...and then you lose weight.” Not because they have any proof or reason to believe that will happen long term but because people are willing to pay for the promise of weight loss without caring about the proof (or lack thereof) Interestingly, one of the reasons that people will pay for it is that Weight Watchers has spent billions of dollars in marketing and advertising to convince people that they need to be thin in order to be attractive or healthy, and that anyone who tries hard enough can be thin.
There is not a single study where any weight loss method is shown to be successful over the long term. Not a single one. Not one.
Yet I have witnessed the following:
- The college’s Dietician tells a group of students (who have come to hear a panel on eating disorders) that diets fail 95% of the time because people lose the weight too fast, and that people can keep the weight off if they lose 1/2 pound a week. I asked if there was research on that and she reluctantly admitted that there wasn’t. But if I hadn’t been there those students would have probably believed that, as a professional, she was giving them advice based on evidence.
- Weight Watchers and other diet companies have been successfully sued by the Federal Trade Commission for Deceptive Trade Practices, and yet they continue to sell weight loss because people ignore the legally required disclaimers
- Personal trainers claim that they have the secrets to weight loss even those research shows that while exercise will likely lead to better health, it probably won’t lead to weight loss.
Anyone who says that they know how to help people lose weight and keep it off is lying. (At least I consider telling someone that you can get a result that you know only happens 5% of the time time to be a lie.)
I think everyone’s goal is the slowest rate in which you die, right?
I don’t agree. I think that this is demonstrably incorrect (and dangerously close to breaking The Underpants Rule.) It’s totally cool if that’s what you want to do but there are plenty of people who choose something other than the longest possible life as their priority.
I’ll take healthy over slim any day, which seems like what they [Weight Watchers] promote.
I do not think that is what they promote – I think that they promote weight loss. I think that because every commercial they air is about weight loss, because I get postcards from them once a month telling me how many dress sizes I can lose before the next event in the Diet Axis of Evil (Bikini Season, the Holidays are Coming, New Years Resolutions). If they were promoting health, their name would be Health Watchers, I would not see commercials with Jennifer Hudson saying “I lost weight and you can too!”, they would not do weigh ins, and people would not win prizes for meeting weight loss goals or be chided for not meeting them, and their marketing would not conflate weight and health or weight and beauty.
if I understand correctly it is misleading to lump it in with the prepackaged ridiculousness of Jenny Craig or the fad diets of Atkins or Stillman.
I disagree. First of all, although their clients aren’t required to eat it, Weight Watchers has a ton of pre-packaged food. But mostly I think that they should be lumped together because all of these diets encourage using food as a way to manipulate body size and all of these diets have the same abysmal success rate at doing that.
There’s a term for a health program that actually focuses on health by the way – it’s called Health at Every Size, it’s what I practice and I chose it based on my love of research and math.
So that’s my take on it Jen, thanks for asking!
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