The Weight Loss Industry is Self Perpetuating

I had an interesting conversation with Annelies from Attune foods the other day about the weight loss industry. We were talking about the fact that although reputable weight loss companies do want you to lose weight, there is also the need for any weight loss company to continually get new clients. If everyone loses weight successfully on a program, then there are no more repeat customers and eventually the pool of available weight lossees diminishes. Right?

In a way, it seems as though the weight loss industry is self perpetuating, or acting in a way to make itself continue to exist. How do some weight loss companies self perpetuate themselves and make it difficult for us to lose weight successfully?

I think it comes down to many of us buying into certain myths and believing weight loss advertisements more than we should. Some examples of ways we are swayed by weight loss programs include:

1.  We want to believe the hype.  Although some people are immune to promises they see in advertisements, many of us really do want to believe the program that claims to “have all the answers” or be the one program that will help you “finally shed those unwanted pounds.” We can even fall prey to those magic advertising words “doctor recommended” or “scientifically proven” because we really want to believe the program works.

I think it is human nature to want to trust people, and that includes advertisements. Learn to see through any hype by carefully analyzing the claims and researching terms or phrases you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.

2. Testimonials are powerful. Let’s face it. Testimonials can be powerful even if we know that they are paid actors. How many times have you been sucked into watching an infomercial even though you know it is all for show?

The diet industry knows we like those testimonials and uses them liberally. Why else would they pay celebrities to endorse their product or show beautiful before and after photos of women in short dresses and high heels? Because it works. And when we fail on one diet, we can just hop over to another diet program whose models and testimonials are better than the program we just failed at.

3. Celebrity endorsed supplements can sometimes sway us. There is no safe supplement for weight loss, at least none that my doctor has ever shared with me! Just because a television personality says it works does not make it so. Nor is that supplement necessarily safe for you.

Remember that even natural products are not necessarily safe or legal. Like my hair stylist said to me one time, “Some illegal drugs are natural but that doesn’t make them safe or good for you.”  Once again, if we try an advertised weight loss supplement and it doesn’t work, we often just go onto the next one that is popular. Self-perpetuating.

4.  Weight loss programs have your best interest at heart. Never forget that the primary goal of a commercial weight loss program is profit. Don’t ever forget that, even if you join a reputable program.

For this reason, I always recommend researching any program you join and really examining whether the program teaches you lifestyle skills or tries to keep you dependent on their products and program.

5. This program has the answer. Don’t be swayed by this one. There is no magic program, no quick fix, and no completely perfect program. Although most programs promise theirs is the one for you, the truth is that it may not be right for you.

Only you can decide whether the program gives you what you need. Ask if you can have a free consultation or attend a meeting for no cost before joining. Think about how comfortable you feel with the person, the facilities, and the cost.

The weight loss industry is a business first and foremost. They may give us tools to help us lose weight but they also need us to keep coming back for more. More help, more products, more fees, etc.

I’m not trying to degrade the entire weight loss industry, but rather point out that the goal of any for-profit company is to please investors and owners first. And because of that, we all need to be cautious and smart when using a service. After all, the point of weight loss should be to lose weight and keep it off. Not lose weight, gain some (or all) back, rejoin the program, lose weight, gain some (or all) back, rejoin the program, etc.

Do you ever think about the fact that the weight loss industry is a business and needs us to keep paying money in order for the company to survive? Diane

51 thoughts on “The Weight Loss Industry is Self Perpetuating

  1. HappinessSavouredHot says:

    “Real”, long-term weight loss is frustrating and painful. I’m talking from experience. I only had 15 pounds to lose, but it took about 8 months, and a lot of sacrifices.

    At the same time it was extremely simple.
    1) Get your a** of the couch and sweat (and when I say sweat I mean drip on the floor) or burn (and when I say burn I mean you’re pushing your muscles to do things you never thought they could do) for an hour every day.
    2) Eat TONS of veggies (I thought I would turn into a cow), loads of high quality protein and fiber and healthy fats, and ridiculously small amounts of “bad carbs”, “bad fats”, sugar, etc.

    The good side of it is that I made new habits that will last me a lifetime, and that I will never need any “weight loss program” or diet of any kind.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It is simple on the surface, but underneath it can be quite frustrating and complex – just like you just indicated. Congratulations on getting those pounds off and doing it the right way!

  2. blackhuff says:

    I don’t think so. I think support groups like Weighless, Weight watchers, Personal Trainers, Gyms and more are there to help you. They want you to be healthy. Because if you succeed, they will keep coming back to you and keep paying you money to keep you on track.
    You are going to stop paying for something when it doesn’t work, right?

    • HappinessSavouredHot says:

      I beg to differ.

      All those groups are there to make money first and foremost. Sorry if I sound cynical.

      The weight loss programs you name (and more) might work (for some), but the vast majority of time it’s a temporary (and reversible) effect. People keep coming back and paying because it’s worked once, so it will work again, right? But if it REALLY work they would never have to come back. They would make good habits, bring them into their lives, and live healthily ever after.

      Gyms are a good way to exercise in ways that our daily life does not always allow, but again, a lot of people pay only to go for a few weeks than abandon. There is little follow-up in most cases.

      As for trainers, there are excellent ones out there, I have to agree with that at least.

  3. Babbalou says:

    I’m a cynic. I’m not completely convinced that all of the organizations that make money offering services with the goal of losing weight are really all that concerned with their clients’ success. Of course they need to be able to point to SOME success, but too much success and they lose revenue because people “get it,” lose the weight and move on with their lives without further need of weight loss services. I think you’re right, Diane, in saying we want to believe – I think in our hearts many of us are looking for a magic solution – or a dispensation from real life as I think of it. Self delusion can be pretty strong. I’ve certainly known friends who have paid for months of weekly meetings and weigh ins – and never actually made much in the way of changes to their diets. It’s as if they believe that showing up every Saturday morning and paying their money is actually doing something that will cause weightloss. I had a friend who’d been going to a program for many months without any loss who boasted that she was, “doing well on her water.” I’m not saying that programs have never helped anyone, I’m saying that the programs have no “magic” solution that you can’t find on your own. And in my opinion there is NO value in participating and paying for a program unless you’re ready to make some changes to your diet over the long term. Anything less is delusional and I would say a waste of time – but profitable to the company. I also think there are things we tell ourselves that are purposely misunderstood. For example, “there are no bad foods” or “everything in moderation.” I agree these are both true, to some extent. However moderation has probably been a problem or there wouldn’t be a need to lose weight. Some people have lost their perspective on what is meant by “moderation” and maybe they need to take a break from some foods for a while and hit the reset button.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      The messages sent by the for-profit programs can be very mixed, which makes it hard for the dieter to sort out what will and won’t work for them.

      For example, I had a friend who couldn’t lose the last 15 pounds of baby weight. She did WW and the weight came off. For her, it stayed off because those 15 pounds weren’t part of a larger, emotional issue with food. I had a lot of other friends (and myself) who weren’t successful with programs. In part because we didn’t follow them very closely, and in part because the larger issues weren’t addressed.

  4. vickie says:

    Agree with all your wrote.

    I have a hard time with any program that also sells highly processed ‘food’. Because I firmly believe part of the answer for long term weight loss/maintenance success is whole foods.

    I personally think that the processed foods and ‘anything in moderation’ spell NO long term success and a YES guarantee of a repeat customer.

    I think another part of the problem with these programs is they do not put the responsibility on the individual.

    There are a lot of people who move from program to program looking for the ‘answer’ and the answer was standing in their own shoes the whole time.

    Until we take responsibility for ourselves, not going to have long term success.

    And the programs do not promote inner work. This is a big part of the problem.

    I think most all of us need massive inner work. I think the fat and the food are just the parts we can see, but not actually the problem.

    The program that is the most dangerous/irresponsible in this regard is weight loss surgery. All those people need (major, qualified, continuous) before, during and after therapy.

    There are people who have simply put on a few (maybe with pregnancies) and need a little nudge to take it off successfully. Those are not the majority. They rarely find their way into weight loss blog land. They are a slightly different story and may do well with ‘just’ a program.

    The majority of us have a long term history and have to address the big picture (in my opinion) to find long term solutions.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I hadn’t read your comment before I wrote my above reply about my friend who did lose baby weight with WW! That’s funny we were thinking along the same lines.

      I completely agree with the inner work. But you know something – during all the times I tried to lose weight, I never even REALIZED that I needed inner work. For years and years, I thought it was because of lack of willpower, greed, laziness, etc. Understanding the emotions behind my poor food choices was so important in my success.

      And the product thing. I agree with you that whole, real food is best. However, there a lot of people who will never go that route. For them, some processed food will always be part of their lives. Do you think lower calorie processed food choices offered by WW or other programs serve no purpose?

      I’m not sure how I feel about that. Reading your comment made me think about it thought.

  5. Gwen says:

    I’ll take it a step further; it’s not just the weight loss companies in it for a profit, it’s EVERY company. Every source of food. Every low-fat, or low-sugar, or artificial anything product; the company behind it wants PROFIT first, to look good in the public eye second (part of the PROFIT), and if they can make you healthier, fine. Way down the line. No matter WHAT they say. It’s all about the mighty profit.

    We must never forget that.

    Great post, Diane!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Very true. However, there are companies who really, really try. As you probably know, I’m a brand ambassador for Attune Foods, and they honestly care. Yes they make money. But they also make sure their foods are GMO-free, don’t spray their cereals with vitamins, and seem to want to offer a quality product. I’m sure there are other small companies out there that have similar philosophies.

      Honestly, I make a little money off my book and I truly do care whether people succeed even though there is money involved.

  6. Janis says:

    The one thing I’d like to see these companies do is restrict their testimonials to people who have maintained their loss for three years at least. I can think of two high-profile examples just myself of people who hit goal, were invited by WW to be their public face in an ad campaign, said all the right things — “I love my new life!” etc. — and both started gaining back immediately afterwards.

    The problem is that WW will get more customers if they sell the “easy, breezy, fabulous” message of fitness and healthy weight than if they publicize testimonials from people who have maintained for a long time, who are far less likely to act “easy and breezy” on camera and far more likely to say hard-to-sell things like, “Maintenance is hard,” “It never ends,” and, “You have to work at it.”

  7. Janis says:

    You know … I’ve also wondered a bit about whether doing weight loss in groups is always the best thing. A lot of people swear that it’s the case — you get “held accountable” or some such — but I keep thinking of those multiple studies, including that Framingham, MA one, that said that behaviors are almost contagious in a way between people.

    In that light, I can see that being in a room full of people who (for want of a more delicate way to say it) have a bad history at holding themselves accountable and expecting them to hold YOU accountable is just not going to work. I think the risk is higher that you would get sucked into a lot of counterproductive behaviors; Norma has talked in the past about how the meetings she was familiar with were always full of people all supporting one another’s excuses and ways to get around the points system. Weight loss is contagious sure, but making excuses is more so and much harder to resist.

    Being in a room full of people with the same problem as you, and bonding over that, means that in order to keep that bond, you need to keep the problem. So I’m not sure that group meetings and that sort of thing is even a very good idea. I’m fully aware that I’m not speaking from a position of experience, but I have to say that if I had a significant amount of weight to lose, the worst place in the world for me might be a room packed with other people all of whom have their own universe of excuses for why they haven’t done it so far. It would be too tempting for me to rifle through their excuses and see if I could use them. And my excuses would seem a lot more plausible to me, and hence worth hanging onto, if I had twenty other people sitting around going, “Yeah, yeah, me too!” Initially that feeling of not being alone is good, but if you wallow in it, you never get out.

    It’s like quarantining someone with flu in a room with a bunch of people with other strains of flu. The viruses will go haywire and mutate all over the place. Instead, you quarantine someone with flu in their own little plastic-shaded sterile single-bed universe so their virus will die out and not get replaced by another or mutate into something else. You vaccinate one at a time in order to get the final group effect.

    I think better way to do maintenance of healthy weight — but a nearly impossible one to monetize — would be for people to congregate not who are all trying to lose weight but who are maintaining a significant loss for a long period of time. And they accept one newcomer at a time both to maximize their positive influence on the newbie and to minimize the risk to themselves. This is the exact opposite of how most weight loss meetings go: one lifetime long-term maintainer and a room full of strugglers. Not a good balance.

    It’s often struck me how so many longtime maintainers of staggering losses lost the weight quietly and by themselves and were not online or at least visible about their efforts until they had maintained. You are like that. Jane Cartelli is like that. Lynn (don’t recall her blog off-hand but she’s a pretty Scandinavian midwestern blond woman) is like that. Norma is like that (in that she wasn’t vocal about losing while losing, even though she was online). You all lost first, THEN started talking about it, sometimes long afterwards. If you did it with someone, it was with ONE person only, not a whole group of other people in the same boat.

    I think a lot of people have it backwards — DON’T blog during your loss. Lose on your own, learn to hold YOURSELF accountable instead of expecting a bunchy of strangers to do that for you, and THEN immediately surround yourself by other maintainers.

    Sorry, that got long …

    • Janis says:

      There’s a link (I won’t put it here or else I’ll get stuck in spam quarantine but you can find by googling “derek sivers zip it”) to a talk about how shutting your mouth is often vital to achieving things. There’s another that talks specifically about weightloss that you can find by searching on “Want to lose weight? Shut your mouth” — same thing.

      Personally, I think it goes for ANYTHING. Talking both disperses the “energy” of commitment and invites all sorts of excuses, derailers, and saboteurs to latch on like barnacles, and at a time when commitment to a new path can be the most fragile. Any new life change needs mental peace and quiet more than anything else, and you won’t get that with a bunch of distracting chatter all around you.

      BTW, I really admire your blog. I think a lot of people don’t get how frustration and ranting can sometimes be symptoms of deep compassion. Then again, I’m another east coast wop, so maybe that method of communication makes more sense to me. 🙂

      • Janis says:

        In a way, you know what it is? The malocchio. It’s no heebie-jeebie mystical joo-joo anything — it’s THIS at bottom. The wheedling sing-song barnacles of denial and rationalization that spontaneously attach to any attempt to improve oneself. The people that gather around and say, “One little X won’t hurt! What, you think you’re better than everyone else? Come on, lighten up! Live a little! You’re calling attention to yourself!” They always used to say the malocchio was motivated by envy, and could cause harm either intentionally or unintentionally.

        Anyhow, I know YOU’LL know that term. I’m not saying I believe in any mystical woo-woo, but maybe our great-grandparents had a word for a type of behavior that we’d do well to remember.

    • vickie says:

      Part of the problem with (stuck in a rut) weight loss bloggers (in my opinion) is they get sucked into the enabling comments.

      We can all think of bloggers in this position. Lots of behaviors that are not actually going to work/are not healthy (for getting better) which are then being reinforced by enabling commenters.

      The one or two voices of sanity (the Norma’s if you will) are then sort of boooed by the crowd. When in fact they are the only voices with credit. I have heard Norma write about this herself – that the one or two voices who TRY to get through to these women are discarded/ignored. She was not talking about herself. She was talking about other (non-enabling) commenters who try to get through to these women.

      I remember a blogger once suggesting every comment should contain the credentials of the writer. I have seen another blogger suggest that every blogger’s side bar should contain a current picture and a concise statement of where they are (lost X pounds and have been keeping it off for X years). I think about that a lot with comments.

      I happen to fall into the category you mentioned. I was not blogging for my initial weight loss. I started blogging at the end of that time. I then maintained for two years and then went on to lose more weight. I have been maintaining at that lower level since 2009.

      I do not think that it hurts to blog during weight loss IF you are very aware of who you should be listening to in comment land. There are people who seem to be loosing weight, but are not doing it in a healthy manner. There are people who talk a lot but do not apply/change their own lives. I think you have to know where each is coming from in what they say.

      When one lives for health, the weight comes off. When one does what they need to do for their body (water, sleep, healthy real food, exercise, eating at meal time, positive life, priorities, boundaries, inner work, etc.), then the weight stays off.

      • Janis says:

        I think you have to know where each is coming from in what they say.

        You do, but I think that’s a lot of mental work for someone to do who is already expending a lot of energy trying to implement unfamiliar, radical change in their lives. It’s a lot to expect someone in that position to do — weigh and balance every comment, many of which are from people with some serious problems of their own — while they are trying to protect something that’s still in a pretty new and fragile state.

        And it’s amazing how this applies to all major life changes and ambitions, too. Weight loss groups composed of people on their 10th go-around, writer’s workshops made up of people who still haven’t finished that novel after five years, startup workshops composed of people who never actually start the business, online boards for musicians made up of people who swap excuses for why they’ll never sound like Perlman. And on it goes. We all really do have to be very cautious who we share our dreams with, especially when they are just out of the chrysalis and still sort of crumply.

        I have to shut up now, I’m clearly babbly today …

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Don’t apologize for the length! It was all good. I have taught many weight loss classes with a roomful of women who are all in the same boat. Although they do all have issues with food/weight, I believe that group support can be helpful, especially if there is definite direction in the discussion.

      For example, when a class I taught on fast food got off track with everyone talking about how hard it was to control those cravings, I stood at the white board and redirected the discussion on ways we could combat those cravings. In that case, the next week, at least half of the women came back in sharing their success over using some of the techniques I had shared.

      I often wonder if I would have blogged about my weight loss had there been blogs. I think probably not because I really am a private person (believe it or not) and would not have wanted to put myself out there.

  8. L says:

    Wow, the comments today are long ones. Guess you hit a nerve, Diane. I agree that there is a money angle to the weight loss industry, but what I fear in talking about that angle too much is that those who need to lose weight won’t try any program, because they will be skeptical that all of them are fleecing the overweight population. I think there need to be more groups that refuse to benefit financially from weight loss, but are there to encourage and support those who need to lose weight for their health. Thankfully, I belong to such a group, but our membership is small. We don’t have huge advertising budgets to point people in our direction. Many more could benefit from what we offer, but because it doesn’t come in a shiny package with a big bow on top, they pass it by or never hear about us in the first place.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      That is definitely not my intent. I want people to get on a program that works for them. Absolutely. But I also want people to be prepared to take ownership of the program, make it work for them, and keep that weight off long-term. That is what is often missing in the diet industry. Giving people the tools they need for longer weight maintenance. It’s a complex issue because there may be a need for therapy, which most weight loss programs are not able to provide.

  9. Nancy B. Kennedy says:

    In my experience talking to people about weight loss for my book How We Did It, weight loss programs do work. They have nothing to gain by “sabotaging” you. People sabotage themselves. They go back to old ways of eating, decide it’s too much trouble to get up and move, and then drop the plan because they’re discouraged. And it is discouraging… until you decide that weight loss is what you want, and what you want more than anything else. Talking to people, I could hear in a person’s voice if they were in that place. Then, whatever plan it is, as long as it’s a sane one that teaches you how to eat in a healthy way, it will work. Studies have proven that it’s not the specific plan, it’s sticking to the plan that works.

    • vickie says:

      But this doesn’t take into a account the variables of things like food addicts. Those people can try for a million years to eat ‘everything’ in moderation and it is never going to work. Ditto with insulin resistance people (which is a LOT of people). They cannot just count calories and lose weight/belly. The whole mentality of telling people they can eat as much as they want of certain foods (they do not count) is not teaching them responsibility. Ditto with the whole ‘can eat more because I exercised thing’ which is true for Olympic athletes, but the majority of us cannot exercise off self sabotage food choices. I think a lot of these food plans are irresponsible in what they promote/teach.

      • Janis says:

        And a lot of them may be good plans, but they can’t be stuck to in the environment in which many programs operate: while surrounded by large numbers of people all of whom are very skilled at denying or rationalizing weight gain.

        It seems that many group-centered programs give with one hand and take away with the other: they hand you a good plan to follow, and then put you in an environment where sticking to it will be almost impossible.

      • evilcyber says:

        The vast majority of people are not overweight because of “insulin resistance,” they are overweight because they eat too much. To gain weight, you need to eat calories – energy can’t appear out of thin air.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      My thought on your comment Nancy is that yes, the plans do generally want you to lose weight, but they also do very little toward getting to the bottom of why you need to be there in the first place. And then there is the whole issue of weight maintenance, which is very undertalked about. In fact, when my agent and I talked about whether or not I would ever like to write another book, I said “Maybe one on weight maintenance because there isn’t a lot out there.” She indicated that’s because they don’t sell well. People want a “how to” lose not a “keep it off” book. That’s good for the diet industry, though.

    • Jennifer says:

      Nancy, I loved your book, How We Did It! It was awesome to read how the different programs appealed to different people.

      And, I agree with Nancy’s point that the weight loss programs don’t necessarily want to perpetuate the industry. People get back to old eating habits, and forget their long-term goals.

      I’m also with you, Diane. Books on “weight maintenance” are what we need, not “weight loss”. However, just about every resource available tells what product to take or which program to sign up for.

      Research from the National Weight Control Registry shows that people who maintain weight loss for one year are more likely to keep it off. Perhaps the key is to have a one year plan, instead of a 3-6 month plan?

      • Janis says:

        Or for WW not to give anyone lifetime status until they maintain their loss for a year.

      • Diane Carbonell says:

        One of my pet peeves is when someone loses weight and instantly becomes a celebrity. Check with that person five years down the road and just like the majority of people who lose weight, they have often regained their weight.

        Accountability in the industry just isn’t there. It is all about the flavor/diet plan/celebrity of the month. Fortunately there are voices of reason within the blogging community who are saying otherwise. Yay us!

  10. Brian says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Most people are naive to the amount of money that companies spend on advertising. Gone are the fairy-tale days of a quality product simply becoming successful based on its own merit and utility. Now all you need is advertising money. The small companies that may actually be producing better quality can’t compete with the larger, more established, less ethical ones. This has only become worse with our exponential growth of media consumption. Not long ago there was newspapers, radio and word of mouth. Now we carry around devices (smartphones) that constantly broadcast falsehoods directly to us.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      You are absolutely right. It is just like politics. There may be a really great candidate out there that could make a difference, but without the money behind him or her, it will likely never happen. Abraham Lincoln never would have become president today because he didn’t have the power, the money, or the looks that is expected now.

  11. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    I would write a huge ole rant BUT I am supposed to be on sabbatical but did not do a good job of it – we all know this is a money ruled world!

    I recorded Katie the other day to watch a childhood obesity show. They had kids on there from People mag who dis this article BUT they are one of the mags that perpetuate the craziness! UGH!

  12. Susan says:

    I actually do beg to differ as well. I’ve heard this argument often. Disclosure: I’m a member and an employee of Weight Watchers. I speak for myself individually and I also believe that it is the philosophy of the company that we DO NOT WANT repeat business from the same customers/members. Nothing would make me happier than to have our members achieve their goals, their lifetime status, and then continue to be part of the community FOR FREE. But I’ve been there myself. It took me over 15 years from joining to actually making my goal, and then joining as a staff member. Now that I have been a leader for four years, I am beginning to see the pattern, and also recognize what happened to me. People work hard to lose their weight. They achieve their goal, and then they think they’re “done.” They stop coming to meetings (which they could attend for free, without paying). They slip away from the healthy choices they used to make all the time. They regain some or much of the weight and then they return, months or years later and start all over again. We always welcome them back. But I feel like if they had kept coming, just once a month, if they had continued to partake in the motivating, supportive conversation, they might not have strayed so far from their original good choices.

    The same could be said for the health care industry. Or ANY industry. We always need more customers/clients/patients. I’m a physical therapist. Ideally, we could see our patients, help to fix what ails them, and send them on their way. Honestly, I would be THRILLED to never have any repeat business. I am never worried about not having enough customers. There are, sadly, always going to be people who need our help. Always people who injure themselves, who fall and break their hips, who need their knees replaced or who get old and can no longer climb the stairs to their homes. It’s a cycle of life.

    It is the same with people who need the support of the weight loss “industry” of Weight Watchers. I believe that if every single one of our members achieved their healthy weight goals, that would be FANTASTIC. It would be fine. They would join our ranks of supportive, successful members who could encourage newer members. This is often what happens. Even if every single member reached goal, there would always be new members who need to learn those healthy choices and habits, who could use our help. We DON’T NEED OR WANT repeat business, I swear. But if repeat members come back to us, we will never shame them or turn them away. We will keep welcoming them back as long and for as many times as it takes.

    Our CEO Dave Kirchhoff often tells us it would make him happy if we were ever to go out of business because people no longer needed our support, and I actually believe him. But I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon, or ever.

    • evilcyber says:

      Well, that may be, but it stands to reason that Weight Watcher’s customers are completely engulfed in the experience – from the groups, to the foods, to the books, it is a very, shall we say, immersive experience. One, I reckon, people can start feeling very dependent upon to achieve their weight loss goals.

      It is certainly not in the interest of Weight Watchers for people to find out they could very well lose weight on their own, without paying for it.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thanks Susan for commenting on this. My intent was not to single out WW because I think the program has a lot of good points. My purpose really was to talk about the need for all of us consumers to be aware that there are profits involved and to take ownership of our plans, whether we use WW, TOPS, Jenny Craig, or something else.

      It comes down to personal accountability and learning how to eat a healthy diet on our own. I teach weight loss classes sometimes and want every person in there to succeed. I try to give them the tools they need to move forward, but they have to be ready to embrace them.

      For some, that takes years. I know it did me. I can’t even tell you how many pounds I lost with WW and other programs over the years. Hundreds probably. And when I finally lost weight on my own I definitely used the best lessons I had learned from those programs to add to my success.

  13. Babbalou says:

    I think this is an excellent group of comments, a lot to think about here and a lot that I agree with. I have observed the enabling commenters on some weight loss blogs and have felt personally attacked when I offered a differing opinion. It never occurred to me that weight loss groups might also enable counterproductive behavior and in the end be more of a negative factor than a positive factor. There is research that shows we are influenced by the weight and eating habits of friends and family. I know that I have often tried to “think and eat like a thin person” – and have joked about getting out of a line in a food court when I realized the line was composed of only overweight people – joked about it but also done it, telling myself, “well, this is obviously not where the thin people eat!” Good topic, Diane.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thanks. I knew it would be a hot topic and one to generate interesting discussion. I also think it brings up some really interesting points about group support that I will probably write about later.

  14. Cate says:

    I joined Weight Watchers a few months ago and was really angry to see all the advertisements for food every time I went to their website and logged in. I usually had time to do that at night after I had eaten my food for the day and the constant ads for their chemical desserts and snacks really upset me because it made me want to EAT! I realized that they are messing with the minds of people that are highly sensitive to that kind of advertising – the kind that sends you to the kitchen looking for food. They have this whole group of people to mess with and keep failing and rejoining and paying them forever. I quit Weight Watchers after I realized they are a business and the clients represent $$$$. I also didn’t like the new meetings where they sell you on their products by making you watch a video and then talk about how great the product is. It took up too much of the meeting.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I haven’t been on their site or been to a meeting in years and years. When I went to WW in the 1980s and 1990s, the meetings were just the leader talking. There were some good discussions and this was back in the day before WW had a tremendous product line of foods, weight loss helps, and books.

      Honestly though – I do know people who lost weight with WW and kept it off. It is not the program for everyone, but of the programs out there, it does talk about personal accountability, eating a balanced diet, and exercise.

  15. Brian says:

    #5 really got me thinking. Everyone likes to feel like there is some magic bullet. I can’t tell you how many people have told me the “secret” to losing weight. Kevin James does that routine where he talks about people who are heavier then him going up to him and telling him if he wanted to lose weight he had to switch brands of chewing gum.
    A lot of these companies rely on evangelists. WW lifetime members become commission free salespeople. They’re people to populate meetings. I truly wonder how the company would do without them?

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I don’t know because I do not know how many long-term WW maintainers there are out there. I am always impressed when I meet anyone who has maintained their weight for longer than a year whether it be through WW or doing it on their own.

      I agree that people want a magic bullet. The media almost makes it seem like there “should” be one but we all know in our hearts that there is not a magic bullet. It is just hard to move from understanding that to taking the steps needed to get where we need to be.

  16. Diane Carbonell says:

    I have a lot of friends who do the same thing and I know how frustrating it is because I used to do it as well. I do believe that there are WW leaders who want the best for their clients, but I also know that without repeat and new clients, there would be no WW.

  17. Diane Carbonell says:

    Yes to TOPS. That is why I tried to distinguish between the for-profit and non-profit groups. I have known several people who lost weight with TOPS and kept it off. The support from fellow members has got to play a role in that success.

  18. Lynn says:

    It took me a long time to learn that it is more important to listen to my body than to listen to the claims by the so called “experts” (many times self-proclaimed). I now surround myself with people that are helping me to understand what my body needs for fuel and how to become fitter and healthier and NOT focus on a number.

    If only I could have all that money back that I put into the profits of so many fads….but at least I am getting to where I think I need to be for the rest of my life….living a lifestyle that is sustainable.

  19. Kimberley says:

    Thankyou. I had never really thought about that before. I have naively believed that they wanted me to lose weight as much as I did. I will be more aware of what I am signing up to next time.

  20. Jen says:

    I think what a lot of peopleforget is that in most cases the reason for most “over-weight” situations is too high an intake of food, and in particular too much of foods of the wrong kind. If we all started by getting this more in line, ie starting at the basics, the whole process would be less open to profiteering and plain taking advantage.

  21. Margaret@WellnessCircle says:

    People will always think about, proper diet and exercise again and again, not that it won’t but without self discipline it would be nothing. Yes, they work well together but you must work with them too. The weight loss industry is self perpetuating especially for those people who don’t have much motivation and self discipline.

  22. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    Actually, testimonials are mostly NOT paid actors…they are people like me who want to show they world “how I did it.” That’s my backstory…I was an eDiets “success story” who went on to be on the cover of a magazine, then in a commercial, then regained half weight. I thought I had it all figured out…and I wanted my 15 minutes. It’s also important to note that many of the Big Diets are associated with Big Food. I refuse to believe that there’s just been a massive failure of personal responsibility in the last 50 years.

  23. Dominick Lanting says:

    Great article Diane! I also agree with Marion. It’s really tempting to enrol for an easy and quick weight loss programs. A friend of mine is a victim of some online weight loss programs which he paid costly without any major changes in his lifestyle. There were so many promises in the ads and he was totally fooled. I really pitied him for that.

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