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S1: A big acknowledgment to our admirers who are Slate additional members, it’s analysis time again, which agency it’s your adventitious to acquaint us what you anticipate about Slate and Slate. Plus, it’ll alone booty a few minutes. You can acquisition it at Slate Dotcom survey.
S2: There was a bartering a few years ago that it aloof it fabricated like beef appear out of my ears.
S3: This is Erica Nicole Kendall, and she’s talking about an ad for Weight Watchers. Eat a snack.
S4: That was like, if you’re sad and you apperceive what it is like if you’re affronted because you’re affronted action bottomward or about bad if you’re sad, eat a snack. I capital to bite my television bite because it’s like you’re authoritative fun of this actual austere thing.
S5: If you’re asleep and you know, if you’re accusable and you apperceive it, if you’re stressed, eat a snack. He doesn’t apprehend a accident hit a snag.
S3: Erica is a certified nutritionist and a claimed trainer. She runs a website alleged A Atramentous Girls Guide to Weight Loss, and she’s anticipation a lot about the complicated accord bodies accept with food, which is why she didn’t anticipate this ad was funny.
S6: Bodies don’t consistently accept what it is that’s accident aback they feel like arrant and instead they eat. They don’t accept that. And you’re biting it in a bartering with a children’s song like that’s a austere matter.
S7: And you anticipate that that’s like not alone do you anticipate it’s commodity to apish in a commercial, but it’s a accumulation befalling for you. And there’s commodity they aloof affectionate of feel is bent and absolutely aloof gross about that.
S3: For about six decades, Weight Watchers has assertive millions of bodies it can advice them lose weight. Unlike added diets that acquaint you absolutely what you can and can’t eat, Weight Watchers tells you you can eat whatever you like as connected as you breach aural the boundaries of their point system. It looks at your height, weight, gender and weight accident goal. And it says this number, that’s how abounding credibility you should eat in a day. You can alike booze as abounding aught point items as you like. That agency appealing abundant absolute apples and celery and cups of atramentous coffee, but you accept to account for aggregate else.
S8: If you appetite a packet of amoroso in that coffee at a point, you appetite the amoroso and a burst of milk at two points.
S3: If you appetite to eat a Big Mac alongside it at 17 points, well, that’s best of your allocation for the day. And if you appetite to allocution about why you accumulate acclimation Big Macs and alarming through your allowance of points, there are Weight Watchers franchises in cities about the apple area you can counterbalance in, ache and allotment recipes and tips with added dieters, or at atomic you could afore the pandemic. Now they’ve gone online.
S8: The science abaft all the credibility and numbers has afflicted a lot over the years. The point arrangement didn’t alike abide aback Weight Watchers was founded, but this aggregation has awash its signature aggregate of flexibility, promise, success and congenital in association absolutely well.
S6: Weight Watchers was consistently aloof affectionate of this aspirational thing, right? Because I was consistently a additional admeasurement kid and it was Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, Jenny Craig like those were the three.
S3: About two years ago, Erika saw addition ad for Weight Watchers. And this one she did anticipate was funny.
S6: I was on Twitter and I laughed so loud and so adamantine at my boyish daughter, came into the allowance and was like, OK, if it’s that funny, like you charge to acquaint me.
S3: What Erika had aloof apparent was an ad advertisement that Weight Watchers wasn’t action to be alleged Weight Watchers anymore than Weight Watchers is.
S5: Now W-W abutting today.
S3: Weight Watchers was affective abroad from the affair that until afresh it seemed like the aggregation was all about, which was dieting, from now on it would be accepted as WW two belletrist absorbed to the tagline Wellness that works.
S6: But Erica, Nicole Kendall wasn’t assertive aback I saw the ad and I saw the logo and it aloof affectionate of absolutely eliminates the babble weight altogether. It’s like, did you anticipate that that was action to beggarly that we weren’t action to apprehend that the WWE still stands for Weight Watchers? You anticipation that removing the babble weight was aloof action to be like the apperception alarming affair for all of us, that we were aloof action to feel abnormally about this? No, no, it’s still the aforementioned thing.
S7: But my additional anticipation was assuredly the anatomy accepting movement got a win.
S8: For decades, Weight Watchers accept awash a band-aid to a problem. It was a set of guidelines that promised to advice its associates lose weight. And it formed for ancestors of subscribers who paid their dues, kept their aliment affidavit and advised in at account meetings. And it additionally formed for the company’s basal line. But it’s twenty, twenty one now. The accomplished abstraction of dieting and accident weight is added apparent as ailing and sometimes misogynistic and absolutely aloof uncool. The bandage of thinness hasn’t disappeared, but the anatomy positivity movement has amorphous to dent abroad at it. And so W-W a aggregation congenital to monetize that admiration to compress your concrete cocky by akin your caloric assimilation has had to accomplish a few adjustments.
S6: The altitude is changing. The ability for women is changing. The amplitude for women to be adequate with themselves is changing.
S2: And if you appetite to abide to aces up consumers, you accept to change.
S8: Will WWC new branding be abundant to amuse both its critics and its investors in twenty twenty one is the diet company’s best adventitious at adaptation to affirm that it’s absolutely not that absorbed in dieting afterwards all, and that it aloof wants you to be healthy?
S5: Welcome to Blood-tingling Tales of Avant-garde Capitalism. I’m aloof Miller bushing in for Seth Stevenson.
S9: Today on the show, accident baton W-W International.
S10: Aback did Weight Watchers like access your consciousness, like aback did you aboriginal become acquainted of this thing? I mean, it apparently entered my alertness in the womb.
S8: Marissa Meltzer’s parents were constant dieters. They inducted Marissa into their club at an aboriginal age aback she was eight years old. They active her up for Weight Watchers.
S11: And my mom went on it at the aforementioned time because a mother babe dieting was was absolutely OK in the 80s. And I went to one Weight Watchers area in a bandage capital in Santa Cruz, California, area I grew up.
S8: Marissa remembers a allowance abounding of adults, mostly average aged, mostly women, administration tips about clear ablaze and added calorie savers. What she remembers most, though, was the ritual they all undertook at the alpha of the meeting, dispatch on a calibration in advanced of a complete stranger.
S11: From my memory, I don’t anticipate we went to a lot of them, but it was about the accountability of accepting advised in every ceremony and the abeyant shame.
S3: Morissa aloof wrote a book alleged This is Big about her lifetime of attempt with weight accident and anatomy image. It’s additionally about a woman she never met, but whose adumbration afraid over her absolute life.
S11: Jean Nidetch, the architect of Weight Watchers, she was a array of a sparkly, acute character. She albino her beard and wore it in a bushfire and were actual stylish, array of like assume to be a lot of marabout accoutrement in her apparel and a lot of array of hoochie looks. And so, you know, she was affectionate of like a abundant amulet and agent best of the time.
S12: Aback I apprehend an commodity about her, there’s a account of her captivation a allotment of block with her, like her big albino hair.
S11: Yeah, she was absolutely not bistro that cake. I’ll acquaint you that. She was addicted of adage that on your altogether you should serve anybody a block and afresh you should accept some cantaloupe, which is array of like the saddest affair I’ve anytime heard.
S13: Jean Nidetch is Origin adventure begins in the alien boroughs of New York City. She was built-in in Brooklyn and active in Little Neck, Queens. She was affiliated with two kids and had formed as a agent for the IRS. Her husband, Marty, was an airport bus driver. They confused about a bit as a adolescent ancestors afore clearing aback in New York. And afresh came the day that afflicted her absolute life.
S14: And I bethink that day vividly was October 1961. I woke up that morning. I was accepting a acreage day.
S12: You know, you accord way to four hours a day. It was a adventure she’d echo abounding times over the advance of her life, as you apprehend her accomplishing here.
S14: Jean ran into an associate at the bazaar and she said, gee, you attending so wonderful. And I thought, she’s acquainted I’m thin. And afresh she said, Aback are you due?
S12: Jean wasn’t pregnant. By this time, she’d already been on aloof about every blast diet there was. She’d taken pills, she approved hypnosis, she approved awe-inspiring oils. But none of these programs were abundant to affected Jean’s adulation of Mallomars, the baby accolade awash in boxes that she would adumbrate in her bath bassinet and eat by the sleeve at night.
S13: Actuality mistaken for abundant at the grocery abundance was awkward abundant for Jean that she was bent to try and lose weight again. This time, she arrested into an blubber dispensary run by the New York City Department of Health, area she was put on a austere but reasonable dieting of foods. Lots of and actuality like fish, fruits and vegetables, no sweets or fats. Still, the Mallomars called. Here’s Marisa Smeltzer again.
S15: What happened was she had all of these array of girlfriends. She lived in this big development abysmal in Queens, and her accompany would get calm to comedy mahjong every ceremony and she would acquaint them her array of like diet programs and secrets. And afresh they all started to affectionate of do their own diet based on the diet she was on. And they appear every ceremony and added and added bodies would accompany until they started accepting proper.
S12: These affairs were acute to Jane’s claimed weight accident goals, it gave her a abutment network. She begin out added bodies hid accolade in their laundry baskets, too, and they talked about it. They talked about all of their setbacks and acclaimed calm aback they accomplished their dieting milestones one year afterwards her acclaimed battle at the grocery store. Jean had absent over 70 pounds and she had a new abstraction for a business. If this aggregate of a austere diet and accumulation affairs had formed for her, could assignment for added people, too, in 1963. She, her bedmate and two accompany who had been allotment of the groups launched a aggregation they alleged Weight Watchers and had a meal plan that was agnate to the one at Gene’s Manhattan clinic. The point arrangement wasn’t alien until way later. You couldn’t accept ketchup, you couldn’t booze alcohol.
S11: You could accept two hot dogs a day, though. So that was nice. And afresh there was a lot of, you know, bogus flavoring, bogus sweetener, aloof so abundant gelatin. And there was a lot of like apish recipes like that or aloof absolute troubling, like a affected guacamole that involves, I think, blooming beans that are arctic and pureed. So, yeah, it was a appealing austere diet, which is apparently why it worked.
S8: The abstraction of accident weight by bistro foods with beneath calories wasn’t absolutely new. But what was new? The Weight Watchers innovation, area the affairs actuality was a diet plan that accustomed that overeating is affiliated to emotion, angry, and that the band-aid had to abode the affect to. Anybody in the affairs kept a account of goals and for a three dollar appearance fee, they could go to account affairs for accountability and camaraderie.
S11: This was a time aback Alcoholics Anonymous was affectionate of communicable off fairly, adequately new. And so there was a little bit of that array of aggregate backbone in your belief and your weaknesses and afresh administration tips and tricks and recipes. There are a lot of anecdotes about bodies aggravating to accept what they alleged their Frankenstein, which was like their array of bet noir and aliment form, like their affectionate of downfall.
S8: Soon, Weight Watchers franchises were bustling up all over New York and afresh all over the apple by 1968, bristles years afterwards accumulation Weight Watchers, had bristles actor bodies in this program. The aggregation went public.
S13: It broadcast with Weight Watchers magazines, retreats and books. In 1973, 17000 Weight Watchers admirers abounding Madison Square Garden for a 10 year ceremony extravaganza.
S16: Jean Nidetch was a millionaire and the celebrity.
S11: She did things like admirers for like pilots, for sitcoms, and I anticipate there was alike some array of like allocution of a babble show, but she additionally went on like cruises about the apple and admired visiting far flung common Weight Watchers locations in Australia and Europe and actuality like that. It seems like she absolutely lived to array of accommodated her admirers and bodies who had absent weight on Weight Watchers.
S16: The success afflicted her action dramatically. She and Marty divorced. She confused to L.A. She anachronous Fred Astaire. She went on a cruise with one man and came aback affiliated to another, addition from the ship’s band.
S11: She was a actual abundant gambler. I accede it array of replacing one predilection or array of antecedent of, I don’t know, absolution for another. And she spent a lot of time in Atlantic City and Las Vegas arena poker and eventually lived in a chief circuitous in Florida. And, you know, was that woman who founded Weight Watchers until she died.
S8: She died in twenty fifteen. But by then, the affair that Weight Watchers was affairs was appealing far from her aboriginal vision. In nineteen seventy eight, it was bought by the Heinz Corporation for seventy one point two actor dollars. The weight accident industry was added alms packaged diet aliment products. Heinz would acquaint ample arctic commons with the Weight Watchers allowance of approval on them later.
S11: I anticipate aback Heine’s bought Weight Watchers, you know, there were synergy amid the array of packaged appurtenances that Heine’s bogus and and the admirers and the kinds of things that Weight Watchers sold. And so, you know, there were things that you could alpha having. You could absolutely alpha accepting bolt up by then.
S3: Weight Watchers connected to about-face with the Times adorning both its business action and its diet plan.
S11: The 80s came and, you know, you could accept booze on Weight Watchers.
S3: And afresh the aggregation fabricated its bigger move yet. It alien the point arrangement and started cogent bodies they could eat what they capital as connected as they backward aural their point tellies.
S11: And you aloof had to accumulate clue of your allotted credibility for the day, which is this abundantly Byzantine adding that involves calories and fat bare fiber. And in the canicule before, like apps, you had to like, accept this awe-inspiring calculator that you, like, bought and manipulated and approved to amount out how abounding credibility were in aggregate so you could accept everything. But you absolutely had to absorb like bisected of your day addition out the amount of what you were, what you were consuming.
S8: In 1999, Hynde’s awash Weight Watchers to the clandestine disinterestedness abutting ATA Luxenberg for seven hundred and thirty bristles actor dollars at the captain of the auction was advance mogul Raymond de Bain, who concluded up demography the aggregation accessible afresh in 2001. But the bigger changes and challenges were yet to come.
S6: Annihilation aftertaste as acceptable as attenuate feels.
S10: Accept you had a burger like a acceptable burger? You beggarly nothing?
S8: I aloof don’t like food. Added on that afterwards the break.
S17: I accept never been bottomward Weight Watchers myself, I had some academy attached that were consistently accomplishing it, so I array of knew the accounting abstraction from like them. You know, this was in academy saying, you know, I’m aloof not bistro all day so we can booze aback we go out Friday night because I accept to save my credibility for this.
S8: Virginia Smith is a contributor to the New York Times parenting section, area she writes a cavalcade on food, weight and anatomy image. She started out her autograph career at boyhood and women’s magazines, which meant she wrote a lot of dieting stories. She says she had to do a agglomeration of brainy gymnastics aloof to feel OK with the assignment she was doing, like aloof diet culture.
S10: One on one allocution like this one isn’t a diet, it’s a affairs plan.
S17: And this one is you know, this one’s aloof about allocation ascendancy and that’s accomplished and all of these things. But aloof array of added action like this does not add up to a bulletin that feels accessible to people, mostly because our readers were never, you know, award bewitched unicorn tenderness. They were still struggling.
S18: Like Virginia, a lot of bodies were accepting annoyed of diet, culture. They were acumen that absence commons so you’d accept some credibility larboard over for beer pong ability advice accomplish you thin, but it absolutely wouldn’t accomplish you healthy. A new way of cerebration about aliment was acceptable mainstream, one that focused on bistro chapped foods and affairs from bounded farmers. Here’s the biographer Michael Pollan in a 2015 PBS documentary.
S19: And aggregate I’ve abstruse about advantageous bistro can be summed up in aloof seven words.
S17: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants in those amoebic aliment was accepting absolutely contemporary farmer’s markets like there was this accomplished ability solidifying about wellness to bodies who had spent their lives dieting, alleged apple-pie bistro looked a lot bigger than what they’d been putting their bodies through. And, you know, that was a actual alluring abstraction because bodies were ailing of the algebraic of counting credibility and counting calories. So you had this what started as an ecology amends movement now become a accessible bloom movement, but absolutely about authoritative ourselves thin.
S18: Weight Watchers absolutely suffered in these years as wellness ability started to booty appearance by the abatement of 2015, the aggregation had appear 10 beeline abode of crumbling sales.
S8: They knew they had to axis if alone there were commodity or addition who could change the messaging, addition who could aback that putting yourself on a diet was at its amount about attractive and action your best. It was absolutely about admiring yourself.
S16: Curious assertion point.
S9: This is the joy for me. I adulation red.
S8: Love, correct, I apperceive appear the end of 2015, Oprah Winfrey bought a 10 percent pale in Weight Watchers for 43 actor dollars.
S9: She additionally became a spokesperson. That’s the ability of this program. I absent 26 pounds and I accept eaten aliment every distinct day.
S17: She uses anatomy positivity address all the time aback she justifies her captivation with Weight Watchers and her captivation in the diet industry in general. She consistently filters it through the accent of airs and actuality your best self. And, you know, she is adage to you, I’m amazing, but I could be added amazing if I was thinner.
S1: Oprah was Weight Watchers savior. Afterwards years of crumbling sales and allotment prices, associates assuredly grew.
S3: About that time, the aggregation apparent a affairs alleged Beyond the Scale, with added holistic messaging and methods abiding in cerebral behavioral therapy. That seemed added on trend. But no amount what it sold, no amount what hoops a jump through to argue bodies that it wasn’t still aggressive focus on anatomy size, Weight Watchers was still saddled to the babble weight.
S20: And Mindy Grossman, the admiral and CEO of Weight Watchers, is here. And as we’ve said, there is a big admirable announcement. I apperceive my mom’s absorbed in this, too.
S14: So what do you accept for us? Well, acceptable morning.
S20: And we’re absolutely aflame about is the all-around baton in weight administration about the world. Weight Watchers is affective to W-W to be the all-around mark of wellness for everyone. You’re alteration your mind, aloof weight alteration the name for abiding to the mark of W-W. Absolutely.
S3: In twenty eighteen, Weight Watchers new CEO Mindy Grossman, aforetime of the Home Shopping Arrangement and abutting acquaintance of Oprah Winfrey, went on the Today appearance and appear that her aggregation was afterward to be accepted as W-W. The aggregation said those two belletrist accustomed the bequest of Weight Watchers, but didn’t absolutely angle for annihilation in particular. Virginia Soul. Smith didn’t buy it.
S21: I anticipate I laughed out loud because it acquainted like such an accessible move, but additionally such a affectionate of a atrocious move in a way. I mean, it was both actual acute of Weight Watchers to say this cast is Obama’s plan because that’s what bodies want. And it gets us abroad from this accomplished weight accident affair that’s gotten so controversial. But it was additionally impossible. You can’t bead weight from Weight Watchers, WWE, nobody, everybody who writes about it and every address on, say, the aggregation aforetime accepted as Weight Watchers, because they’re never action to lose that from the brand.
S3: By the way, this was additionally about the time aback Dunkin Donuts became aloof Dunkin, it didn’t stop affairs the donuts, it aloof didn’t appetite them. So advanced and center. And that’s what W-W aforetime Weight Watchers was accomplishing here, too. It was still a diet, but with some added wellness accretion and whistles.
S18: Despite skepticism, the rebranding was initially a success. Twenty eighteen brought a assemblage in banal prices and abundant subscriber growth. But by the afterward year, aggregate plummeted aback to Earth. And in 2020 there was added bad luck affronted by the pandemic.
S8: There were abounding canceled memberships and the aggregation appear it had to cut costs by backward spring. There were letters of accumulation firings over Zoom, and in agreement of its wellness offerings, W-W has befuddled about aggregate at the wall. It’s partnered with Headspace, the amenity brainwork app. Some versions of its accepted plan accept decidedly broadcast its account of aught point foods to accommodate things like angular proteins and alike accomplished grains. Its app offers on appeal fettle classes. It afresh launched what it calls its best holistic affairs ever, the new My W-W Plus, which promises to advice users yes with their weight, but additionally with their concrete activity, brainy bloom and sleep. And it’s approved to allege anon to the communicable by alms an online association of coaches and adolescent associates online. But it’s additionally done some things that belie this holistic caring image. For instance, it still requires alternate wins, and if you don’t own a skill, it’ll advertise you one. The website says, quote, A footfall on this bath calibration is a footfall in the appropriate administration for composed active with W-W abilities by Koner, you can accumulate clue of your wellness journey, end quote. There was additionally the amount of the arguable Karbo by W-W, a blush coded weight accident app advised for dieters age-old eight to 17 in the appearance of a cartage ablaze system.
S17: Oh, it blew up big. There was a actual actual and able backfire online from dietitians, from doctors, from parents, from bistro ataxia advocates, all adage that we do not charge to be affairs diet to kids.
S1: Virginia Sole Smith says that if you appetite to see WWE accurate intentions, you charge attending no added than Karbo and its arrangement of blooming ablaze foods for consistently OK, chicken ablaze foods for advance with attention and red ablaze foods that should be eaten by your adolescent sparingly.
S17: They were adage it’s not a diet, it’s not a diet, it’s not. Of advance it’s a affairs plan.
S3: Nutritionist and biographer Erica Nicole Kendall says that this business accomplishment has beneath to do with advantageous lifestyles for accouchement and added to do with the anxieties of their moms and dads.
S2: They’re not targeting children. They’re targeting the parents. You know, they’re targeting us. We’re audition about affection ache and affection ache is anon affiliated to blubber and diabetes is anon affiliated to obesity. And it’s like. Weight Watchers isn’t able to anticipate my adolescent from developing diabetes, able to not accept my adolescent be overweight.
S8: You ability say that W-W bottomward the babble weight from its name is a assurance of commodity alteration for the better. A assurance that we’re acquirements to acquaint the aberration amid actuality advantageous and actuality thin. But are we really? Every being in the story, myself included, has accomplished a lifetime of absolutely complicated messaging about aliment and anatomy image. We’ve affiliated it from our families, from the diet ads we saw aback we were kids, from the way we’ve been treated, as our bodies accept afflicted at altered credibility in our lives. Some of us were put on diets aback we were young, afore we absolutely accepted any of this. And I’m actuality to acquaint you it can absolutely spiral you up.
S6: Diet ability is not advantageous mentally, emotionally for women. And companies like Weight Watchers had alternate in assiduity it.
S8: And as connected as this abashing exists, as connected as we still alive in a association that prefers bodies to be thin, whether or not it consistently says so explicitly, there will still be business for W-W. But if the aggregation absolutely wants to accomplish its barter healthier, it’s action to accept to do added than change its name.
S16: That’s our appearance for today, this adventure was produced by me, OSHA’s Lucja and Cleo Levin Technical Administration from Merritt. Jacob Gabriel Roth is Slate’s beat administrator for Audio. Alicia Montgomery is the controlling ambassador of podcasts at Slate. June Thomas is chief managing ambassador of the Slate podcast network. Next ceremony on the show, a superhero fueled improvement story.
S22: I mean, I feel like aback I was growing up, bodies acclimated to accomplish fun of people, you know, but we’re like nerds and, you know, apprehend banana books and now it’s normalized. Now everyone’s watching Marvel movies and it’s not commodity that you’re the other. Now, if you’re not watching it, you’re the other.
S9: Seth Stevenson will be aback then. For now, I’m aloof Miller. And this has been blood-tingling tales of avant-garde capitalism.
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