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Why Weight Watchers ditched weight loss for wellness …

Posted: September 29, 2018 at 9:42 am

Weight Watchers has rebranded as WW, focusing on overall wellness over weight loss. (WW)

The new WW joins the wellness movement in prioritizing holistic health over counting calories.

Weight Watchers finally lost the weight.

The company thats spent more than half a century helping people slim down by creating a support group (and food points system) to help them watch what they eat is the latest brand realizing that folks are more fired up to embrace wellness over weight loss.

It not only rebranded itself as WW on Monday with the tagline Wellness That Works, but its also partnered with the Headspace meditation app to get its 4.6 million members around the world working on mindfulness. Whats more, the WW app is being revamped to get users tracking healthy habits like keeping food diaries, moving their bodies and attending WW events in exchange for rewards points that they can trade for WW branded merch and experiences.

People are changing the age of dieting was all about society imposing what you should look like, and people telling you what to eat. And now we are moving into an age of wellness, Gail Tifford, the chief brand officer from Weight Watchers, told Moneyish. Dieting is so focused on what you lose and what we were hearing from our members is that wellness is about what you gain. The most popular hashtag used by WW members on the companys digital community boards, in fact, is #NSV or, non-scale victory, like resisting the urge to eat that doughnut, or feeling good enough to keep up with your kids on the playground.

And Oprah, the patron saint of living your best life (and a more than 8% shareholder in WW), also praised the companys new move in a statement: I have believed that the role WW can play in peoples lives goes far beyond a number on the scale, she said. As Weight Watchers becomes WW, I believe we will continue to inspire people not only to eat well, but to move more, connect with others and continue to experience the joys of a healthy life.

Weight Watchers has rebranded as WW, focusing on overall wellness over weight loss. (WW)

WW is the latest member of the $3.7 trillion global wellness economy turning to a more holistic approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle to lose weight, as opposed to focusing on diet which has generally consisted of creating a calorie deficit by eating less than you exercise off, or cutting out entire food groups like carbs or gluten stigmatized for packing on pounds. In fact, the number of people saying that they are on a diet dropped from 31% in 2014 to 25% in 2018, according to the NPD Group, a casualty of changing attitudes toward food, diet fatigue and the body acceptance movement telling people its OK to love their love handles.

Consumers do not want to be something that is restrictive. We dont like dieting, Darren Seifer, the NPD Group food consumption analyst, told Moneyish. So over the last decade, were starting to move away from low-this or diet-that, and starting to embrace things that are high in protein, or probiotics that can help your body.

Weight Watchers has rebranded as WW, focusing on overall wellness over weight loss. (WW)

Plus, research shows that diets dont work. A recent JAMA study found that people who focused on the quality of their food eating less sugar, fewer refined grains and processed foods in favor of veggies and whole foods lost 11 to 13 pounds over a year on average, and without counting calories. On the other hand, a 2012 study of more than 4,000 identical twins aged 16 to 25 found that those who dieted were more likely to gain weight than their non-dieting twins.

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The diet industry has been struggling with the high long-term failure rate of weight loss for many years now. As early as 1993, the Federal Trade Commission charged that five weight-loss programs, including Weight Watchers, made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their products, Dr. Sandra Aamodt, a neuroscientist and author of Why Diets Make Us Fat, told Moneyish. Many approaches work in the short term, with dieters reaching their lowest weight at about six months after starting a diet, but by five years later, the overwhelming majority of people have returned to their previous weight or gained weight.

Weight Watchers has rebranded as WW, focusing on overall wellness over weight loss. (WW)

The NPD Group also found that millennials and Gen-Zers consumed fresh foods 23% more often in 2014 than people the same age did just 10 years earlier. Theres a generational shift in the way that people are approaching food; fresh food has slowing become something thought of as better, and younger consumers are seeking food that is less processed and more authentic, Seifer added. Its more about being wholesome and healthy, which is an easier way to live your life in the long-term.

Dr. Aamodt agreed. If the aim of focusing on health is to lose weight, that effort will most likely fail in the long-term; but if the purpose is to improve health, then its an excellent strategy, she said although the health advice is so simple that she doesnt think people need to pay WW around $12 to $50 a month to access it.

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Its not clear that most people need to pay someone to tell them to eat vegetables, get enough sleep, and exercise for half an hour a day, she said. The most important barriers to following this advice tend to be structural factors, such as lack of fresh produce in local stores, having no safe place to exercise, or stress from discrimination or trying to support a family with a low-paying job. Theres no app for that.

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