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Why it matters that Weight Watchers pivots toward wellness

Oct. 1, 2018


Forget watching your weight. Think bigger.

Weight Watchers announced recently that it’s rebranding to make those W’s stand instead for Wellness that Works. In a statement from the company, now known as WW, President Mindy Grossman said it wants to build on its reputation as a weight-management program.

“No matter what your goal is — to lose weight, eat healthier, move more, develop a positive mindset or all of the above — we will deliver science-based solutions,” she said.

Oprah Winfrey, an investor in the company who has appeared in commercials promoting it, added that she believes the new impact could go “far beyond a number on the scale.”

But does it really matter that the company is switching its focus, at least within its promotional materials, from the scale to overall wellness?

Northwestern Memorial Hospital dietitian Bethany Doerfler said she finds the switch encouraging. It will model the conversations she has with her patients — which are about not simply avoiding one food or focusing on one thing, but instead focusing on their overall health beyond weight.

“I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “I personally like my patients to think about their whole mind-body connection when they’re making a lifestyle change, not just what they’re eating, but their sleep, their stress levels, their exercise regimen.”

Changing the name to focus away from weight sways a person’s focus away from simply dieting.

“People can’t do everything perfectly all at once, but I do think we need to get away from this idea of dieting at any cost,” she said.

When she sees patients, she asks things like: How much stress are you under? How much sleep are you getting? Not every question needs to be about how many cheeseburgers a person ate.

“We’re not just looking at what people are eating. We’re looking at how they’re eating, and how you eat also means you have to consider psychological wellness, exercise and sleep.”

Doerfler was also encouraged by the company’s move toward rewarding behaviors other than food — for example, the new WellnessWins program rewards members for tracking meals or activities; they can also now get points for exercise. And the rebranding encourages use of meditation apps like Headspace, a new partner.

A wellness journey that begins by thinking about health holistically can create changes that last longer than something anchored around a food pattern, Doerfler added.

“Sustainable weight change requires a lifestyle change,” she said. “And it’s difficult to create a lifestyle change if you’re only focused on one element, which is calories in or calories out or weight loss at any cost.”

 


McClatchy-Tribune Information Services