Sunday, February 28, 2016

Could Weight Watchers Be Oprah's Biggest Loser?

After missing its fourth quarter earnings estimates, Weight Watchers (WTW) stock took a 29 percent tumble Friday, costing bread loving investor and board member Oprah Winfrey a lot of dough. While the multi-million dollar loss is pocket change for the yo-yo dieting billionairess, her bigger loss is her personal cred for promoting a failed commercial diet scheme based on shaky science.

Weight Watchers stock price has gone on a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride since October 2015 when the former chat queen bought a 10 percent stake in the company and declared she was on the company's diet program. The company's share price doubled in one day.

But like a souffle built on hot air, the gain could not stand the test of time because the company's stock price is based on the Jelloish premise that most people can out-exercise a bad diet and lose weight consuming low-fat high-carb foods.

Regardless of how many online services and coaching programs Weight Watchers adds to its program menu, its celebration of mainstream nutrition's moderation theory of dieting virtually guarantees people will not be able to maintain their weight loss even if they manage to lose a few pounds. Carbohydrates are so addicting that once a person reaches their goal weight the will power to refrain from eating too many carbs is almost impossible to muster.

Weight Watchers has all but given up on marketing its program to millennials who are too savvy to buy into its old school premise. In recent years, the company has targeted older pre-diabetic adults.

In a cynical move, Weight Watchers sponsored an Indiana University School of Medicine study published in the American Journal of Public Health. And...


“The findings suggest that Weight Watchers, a widely available, empirically validated weight management program, could significantly expand access to effective diabetes prevention programs,” said the study's lead investigator, Dr. David Marrero.

Not surprised was Harvard Medical School professor and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, David Ludwig, who told the New York Post, “We found that if a food company sponsored a research study, the outcomes were four to eight times more likely to be more favorable to that company’s interests than if the study was independently funded.”

“If you just look at the funding, you can make a very good guess as to what the study will show without reading anything else,” he added.

In other words, Weight Watchers paid for research that "proved" its diet works.


Since most media reports did not include Weight Watchers' role in sponsoring the study, the news spiked the stock price more than 18 percent, not to mention dieters' insulin levels from metabolizing all the excess carbohydrates they consumed.

Meanwhile, Oprah released a TV commercial in January in which she passionately declared she had lost 26 pounds on Weight Watchers while eating bread every day.

And -- in case you're wondering -- Weight Watchers' stock price went up on this breaking news, too. There's a lot of bread to be made telling people they can follow a diet that allows you to munch on bread every day. A page on Weight Watchers' website "cleverly" titled The Skinny on Bread (you can't make this stuff up!) strategically echoes Oprah's perspective:

"Who hasn’t heard that bread is fattening? Some people would have you believe that eating a slice is akin to downing an entire birthday cake, frosting and all. But in reality, if you stick to whole grains, bread can be downright healthy. Here’s a guide to navigating the bread aisle.

"Whole grains — for example, wheat flour milled using the entire grain, which preserves all the fiber, vitamins and minerals — have multiple health benefits. According to the USDA, people who consume at least three servings of whole grains each day are at lower risk for diabetes and heart disease. And several studies have shown that diets high in whole grains are associated with lower body weight."

This view, however, contradicts the preponderance of research that for people with insulin resistance, bread is fattening because it spikes insulin, thus facilitating fat storage.

The bottom line is we all know Oprah can lose weight. Like the old joke about smokers, she's done it a million times.

The real question is can she maintain her weight loss months and years later when she has to depend on will power to control her carb addiction? And how is her insulin spiking, inflammation producing diet that favors vegetable oils over butter and bacon affecting her heart, liver and overall health, regardless of whether or not she temporarily sheds a few pounds.

Now that she's putting her money where her mouth is, Oprah needs to read up on low-carb high-fat diets and have another epiphany. Like a bad boyfriend, it's time for Oprah and bread to break up.


  1. Oprah says the word bread passionately five times in that ad. Addicted? Me thinks so.

  2. Great observation. And when you're addicted and your will power wanes, that one slice of bread because two or three ... or thirteen. Let's see what diet Oprah is pushing next year.