Yesterday, the CEO and president of Weight Watchers, Mindy Grossman, went on TODAY to announce that the 55-year-old company will now be called, "WW" in order to represent "wellness beyond just weight." It's very on-trend to pivot to wellness from dieting, but you might be wwondering wwhat this actually means.
If you can decode the jargon-y message on their website, the general gist is that instead of catering to people who are looking to lose weight, WW will now be a wellness brand for people who just want to build healthy habits.
WW will continue to be "the best healthy eating program for weight loss in the world," but now they simply want to do more, Grossman told TODAY. "We can inspire people for healthy habits, to help them eat better, move better, use their mind to help support their efforts and really be about total wellness," she said. In addition to the new name, WW's app also got zhuzhed up with new features, such as custom guided meditations from Headspace, new "Connect Groups" for meeting like-minded members, and a new FitPoints program.
This move might seem to indicate that the company is shifting away from the now-taboo world of diets, but they aren't really changing anything or fooling anyone. Going forward, WW will still use their SmartPoints system, which assigns a "point" value to foods based on "complex nutritional information," so that members can keep track of their daily allotted points, and ultimately eat less and lose weight.
When TODAY hosts Savanna Guthrie and Hoda Kotb asked Grossman to clarify that the points system is not changing, Grossman talked in circles. "The reason why the business has been performing is that this idea of going from weight to wellness is more sustainable for people, because we’re giving them more than just a short-term solution. What we want is to be a partner in health sustainably," she said. In other words, WW is really just a diet in sheep's clothing.
"In the long run, continuing to assign a point-value to food evokes a dieting mentality," says Melissa Bailey, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian in Philadelphia. Using points still categorises foods into "good" and "bad" categories, which can lead to negative mental health implications, like guilt and shame, she says.
Any structured eating plan or "healthy eating plan" that demonises certain food groups, puts stress on daily food choices and can fall into the realm of disordered eating, says Danielle Zolotnitsky, RD, an outpatient dietitian at Einstein Medical Centre. "Ultimately, [this] goes against the idea of wellness: complete physical, mental, and social well-being," Bailey adds.
The biggest issue of all, which WW is now capitalising on, is the fact that "wellness" is a vague concept. As Kelsey Miller, author and creator of the Anti-Diet Project on Refinery29, wrote on Twitter, "Weight Watchers is not 'shifting focus.' It's doing the opposite. It's blurring the lines between health and dieting even further, and conflating them both with the blurriest buzzword of all: 'wellness.'"
By encouraging everyone — not just people who want to go on a diet — to track their weight and count points, WW is doing more harm than good, which was kind of their business model to begin with. "Grossman is right — this is exactly what they've been doing for 55 years," Miller wrote. "Finding new ways to make you feel like a problem and sell themselves as the solution."