Weight Watchers suffers PR disaster in Sweden

Weight Watchers recently suffered a true PR diaster in Sweden. They’ve run a lot of TV commercials this year with its new spokesperson in Sweden, pop singer Shirley Clamp. This under the slogan “Weight Watchers – because it works”.

A Swedish paper revealed the truth behind the commercials. Shirley Clamp did not lose weight with Weight Watchers. Instead, from June to August 2012, she went to the exclusive private Bülow Clinic (price tag around $3200), which provides a very different method, including hormone supplements. A few weeks after her significant weight loss at the Bülow Clinic she signed a lucrative contract to become the public face of Weight Watchers.

Expressen (Swedish paper): Weight Watchers knew that Ms. Clamp had already lost weight (Google translated from Swedish) 

So what does this mean? Can Weight Watchers really continue to use Ms. Clamp as its face to the public and its slogan “Because it works” when Ms. Clamp has lost weight in a very different way? It would be more than unethical.

And that’s not all.

Bülow Clinic

At the Bülow Clinic an extreme starvation diet (500 calories per day) is used, combined with an experimental hormonal treatment (HCG) that supposedly suppresses hunger. It may be debated whether the hormone is beneficial or if it’s only placebo. The consequence of a 500 calorie per day diet (i.e. starvation) will of course be a rapid weight loss, even without the hormone.

The discrepancy between reality, extreme starvation and hormone treatment, and Weight Watchers’ slogans in its commercials, is huge. In the commercials nothing is forbidden, you can continue as usual and you can still eat cookies and pastry if you want. Really?


If we are to believe the pictures that the Swedish paper Aftonbladet published the other day, it is clear that Ms. Clamp had lost weight in a different way before she signed the contract with Weight Watchers.

Shirley Clamp in 2011

Shirley Clamp in 2011


Shirley Clamp in August 2012, immediately after the Bülow Clinic

Shirley Clamp in August 2012, immediately after the Bülow Clinic


Shirley Clamp in a Weight Watchers ad in January 2013

Shirley Clamp in a Weight Watchers ad in January 2013

An impressive weight loss before Weight Watchers. But if Ms. Clamp lost any more weight with the help of Weight Watchers this is hardly obvious.

The Problem with Weight Watchers

The problem with Weight Watchers is not only its lack of honesty in advertising. The problem is that they are not honest in their dietary advice either. They continue to lure paying customers by promising that small changes will produce big results long-term. That you don’t have to give up anything in order to lose weight. That you can go on as usual and eat cookies and pastry if you want (they are even selling their own chocolate candy).

This is today’s biggest myth about weight loss. Small changes don’t produce big results. This was debunked recently by obesity experts in the highly respected The New England Journal of Medicine as myth #1 regarding weight loss. Small changes will at best produce a small weight loss.

Thus, Weight Watchers is not only dishonest in its advertisement. They are also dishonest in their advice. They are making money by promising things that they cannot keep: that you can lose weight while still eating cookies and pastry. Of course many people are easy to fool. They so want to believe that what Weight Watchers promises is true.

The truth is that it is a myth that you can continue to eat junk food and maintain your weight long-term, if only you compulsively count calories. A myth that is cultivated by McDonalds, Coca Cola, Weight Watchers and thousands of others making money from this.

In reality a calorie-counted cookie-and-cake diet is a recipe for hunger, yo-yo dieting and in the worst case, eating disorders.


Why Calorie Counters are Confused

Why Calorie Counting is an Eating Disorder

How American Dietitians Sold Out to Coca Cola and Pepsi

Better weight loss advice, free

LCHF for Beginners

How to Lose Weight


Top comment

  1. Peggy Holloway
    A young friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she was going on Weight Watchers and I kindly replied that WW is not effective and gave the short anecdote of my sister gaining 10 pounds after 3 months on WW. The young lady replied that "thanks" but she had successfully lost weight on WW in the past and was going to try it again. What?!!!! I didn't reply but did post in my status that if a diet "worked in the past" why would one need to go on it again?
    Read more →

All comments

  1. Sietske
    Hej, just wanted to add that the whole HCG protocol is nicely debunked on this website: http://sugarfreegoodies.info It's not that it doesn't work, but it's the lipolysis that's doing the work (since 500 kcal is a huge drop in carbs if you come from a SAD diet), not the HCG. If anything, the HCG makes things worse by encouraging the body to make more fat cells. Or so I read on that website, it's certainly worth a look. Lot's of science based information there!
  2. Shirley Clamp looks great after faking Weight Watchers.

    Just wanted to add that Chef Paula Deans promoting diabetes medications, trumps my list as one of the worst celebrities endorsing health and nutrition. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/celebrity-chef-endorsements_....

    How many are actually influenced by all these glitzy endorsements? What really goes on behind the scenes?

    Reply: #4
  3. Peggy Holloway
    A young friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she was going on Weight Watchers and I kindly replied that WW is not effective and gave the short anecdote of my sister gaining 10 pounds after 3 months on WW. The young lady replied that "thanks" but she had successfully lost weight on WW in the past and was going to try it again. What?!!!! I didn't reply but did post in my status that if a diet "worked in the past" why would one need to go on it again?
  4. I totally agree about Paula Dean. If you read her interview articles, you see that she said that she has sworn off mashed potatoes, and now eats healthy whole grains. That seems strange.

    What burns me up though is when you have someone like Bill Clinton get another heart attack and need a stent, how conveniently the effect of the low-fat diet is explained away, and now, Bill Clinton simply has a bad heart and/or it's the effect after all those years or stress.

    In one way, it's genius propaganda. You always have a moving target, and you can always deflect it away from yourself.

    But what about all those people who are simply the beneficiaries of better and better technology, but still have heart attacks? It seems the effect of better technology works inadvertently to absolve the diet from any causal relationship to the heart attack.

    I am sure if Ms. Deans has a heart attack, it will be because of something other than the advice she followed...

    Reply: #8
  5. In regards to HCG, I know medical professionals who have done it who swear it works. It is more than a calorie restricted diet, really. I think the point is it tries to resent your so called 'set-point' for weight loss. I think this concept is scientifically valid, but what is problematic with HCG is

    A. Lots of snake oil peddlers associated with it (like homeopathic HCG, etc)
    B. The original studies were in the 1950's, so I think science has changed a bit since then. Don't you think?

    I personally think this diet needs a update to match what we know about hormonal regulation of fat metabolism, as the 'set-point' idea make a lot of sense, and as far as I know, it's not controversial that it does exist, right? It's the specifics that are debated, as most things are, in science...

  6. Peggy Holloway
    Has Clinton had recent heart events/stents since his 2010 procedures? I was not aware. However, an acquaintance who had stents in, I believe, 2 blocked arteries 15 or so years ago had a 95% occlusion discovered 12 years later which he attributed to not having gone on his low-fat before his initial blockages. Apparently 12 years of an Ornish-style diet wasn't enough to mitigate the bad effects of the SAD of the previous years of his life.
  7. Dr Davis has a story of health and weight transformed which contrasts with the Weight Watchers or Ms. Clamp's approaches.

    A “No portion control, no calorie counting” success!

    I know which is the most sustainable over the longer term.

    The problem is when people have set ideas and preconceived notions the facts then are seen in the light of those set understandings so when we see in the new Despite obesity rise, U.S. calories trending downwards the only way to respond to the fact the evidence doesn't fit the consensus view of the problem is to assume either "people should be losing weight," Dietz said. The fact that they are not could be bad news, because it could mean people are burning fewer calories with exercise. or increased awareness of unhealthy foods has caused people to be embarrassed about eating junk foods or drinking sodas, so they may still be eating those foods but are less likely to admit to it on a survey, Dietz added.

    So it cannot be that consensus medical/nutritional understanding is wrong,

    The problem must be we are lying about the exercise we don't and lying about the junk food we claim we didn't eat.

  8. Sophie
    BTW: wasn't Bill clinton always a very vocal vegetarian?
  9. "The young lady replied that "thanks" but she had successfully lost weight on WW in the past and was going to try it again. What?!!!! I didn't reply but did post in my status that if a diet "worked in the past" why would one need to go on it again?"

    The same could be said for Atkins, LC or LCHF. I've known many people who after weight loss fell off the wagon and got back to square one. They've also heard "well, if it works so well, why did you regain the weight?" Yes, I don't think WW is a good long term solution (or even worth the money as a short term "fix") But even with the correct diet there's a lot more factors that get in the way when actually trying to stick to it -family/friends sabotage, ED's, personal crises.

    Poor choice on WW part. With social media being what it is did they honestly expect that nobody would notice she lost her weight with another plan beforehand?

  10. #9 Mel-
    I was thinking the exact thing about losing weight fast and then pack it back on after been on lchf, atkins or any other lc-diet. And there is the problem I think. For many people it is NOT a diet but a change of heart and become healthy/healthier. The words lifestyle changes is too much for some, many just wanna lose the extra kilos and then return to normal. Whatever normal is. And I've been there, done that. And I am paying the price now, with an overweight that is glued unless I am so strict its ridiculous. But I'm doing it. Because it is worth it.

    To regain your health is a big step and people not might even know they're sick, so why start something that will cost them the beers, garlic brad and pasta. I have people in my family who are there and it is sad to see them walking straight towards diabetes (one already).

  11. Alexandra
    We women will blame ourselves when a diet doesn't work, we should be questioning the diet advice, but we are too compliant. It is our fault that we could not sustain starvation indefinitely. Once you try Low Carb and realize you can lose weight with solid nutrition and not starve it is like a miracle. People who haven't tried it just can't wrap their mind around the idea.
  12. yuma
    Based on my personal observations that everyone I know that has gone through WW has regained the lost weight, I've come to the conclusion that WW is a LFHC racket, where they bamboozle you with the promise of weight loss while still eating your goodies, with the full knowledge that you'll fail and come back.
  13. yuma
    @ Ted Hutchinson: I read the article you posted and LMAO at the ridiculous explanations for weight gain while eating less food, specially the last one where the "scientists" infer that subjects lied on their survey.
    Reply: #19
  14. Barb
    This is a reply to number 8 regarding Bill Clinton being a vocal vegetarian. Mr. Clinton was alwys quite vocal, but the man was a junk food addict. I vividly recall him making a stop for burgers and fries in the middle of a jog. Supposedly, he's adopted a vegan diet at this point.
  15. Jennapher
    I've done WW before.. You lose about a pound a week, maybe 2 if you're super strict.. you can eat cookies, chocolate and other crap but it's all low fat and hardly worth it.. PLUS I was always disappointed in my meals. I'd spend forever sauteeing and baking and boiling and at the end it just wouldn't taste that great.. meh.. HFLC is the way to be!
  16. I can't imagine trying to eat at an energy deficit with junk food in my life. That would require monumental self-discipline. There are some people who can do it, but IMO most can not.
  17. vldr
    Advertisements are always lying, I hope that's no news for anyone. That does not mean Weight Watchers isn't a good way to lose weight (nor does it mean that it is). Weight Watchers is extremely commercial though.

    My wife and I each lost 40kg's using the Weight Watchers and it has given us a way (of life) to keep our healty weight (BMI 25).

    I'm currently trying LCHF as an alternative "way of life" to keep my weight under control, but I don't feel much more satisfied with it, and I feel my choices are much more limited. Also, I've gained a few KG with LCHF so I need to seriously look at my intake (so far for not counting calories)

    And it is true, you can eat anything with WW (which isn't true for LCHF), but not in any amount and you will have to make choices. You can't have a starter, main dish, desert, beer and wine. You can have that piece of pie, but you'll have to eat a salad for lunch in stead of 4 sandwiches.

    (I'll probably get flamed by the true LCHF believers for saying this since anything non-LCHF is evil. Please keep an open mind and understand there's also quite some relevant psychology behind food and diets that LCHF doesn't really address)

  18. Srdjan (#5) said: "In regards to HCG, I know medical professionals who have done it who swear it works. It is more than a calorie restricted diet, really. I think the point is it tries to resent your so called 'set-point' for weight loss. I think this concept is scientifically valid..."

    HCG doesn't 'work' and it most certainly does not 'reset' any fat or weight loss. In fact, it does what roughly two million years of evolution has primed it to do as a species survival adaptation: it gives pregnant women _extra_ fat cells (empty at first) so when they get pregnant in good times, they will have extra fuel in possible lean times, thus avoiding the catastrophe of losing muscle mass. As for being scientifically valid, please read the full, four part scientific analysis and debunk of Simeon's work at: http://sugarfreegoodies.info/blog/hcg-diet-analysis-part-i

    Having now reviewed the metabolic blood test results of hundreds of women who took real HCG (injections) and/or who followed the Simeon's diet, I can definitively state that they are uniform, and uniformly awful: hyperinsulinemia usually, with leptin, insulin, and thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) resistances. And of course, no matter what their (returned) weight, they are literally fatter than ever. Anyone can bludgeon their bodies into 'loosing (scale) weight' for a time, but starvation mode will always defeat you in the end. The only true cure for obesity is to stop treating the _symptom_ (excess adipose fat) and treat and reverse the root cause: insulin resistance. HCG and the diet do the reverse by making the root cause worse, not better.

  19. Ocean
    I'm laughing with you. Though, commenting on an earlier post on this site, some troll implied I was lying when I said that I was unable to lose weight -- pre-LCHF -- despite drastically reduced caloric intake. Just goes to show, I guess, that some people are overly invested in the concepts of CICO and ELMM and take any evidence against those concepts as a personal affront.
  20. Wade Henderson
    Quite a few remarks here about Bill Clinton being a vegetarian for many years, then needing heart surgery and more stents.

    You areally need to review the facts.
    Yes, Bill Clinton did invite and listen to Dean Ornish while he was president.
    However as he as often stated, he barely followed any of the guidelines untl AFTER his most recent heart procedures.

    ONLY then did he begin to follow the Ornish, Esselstyn, guidelines about 95%.
    He stated he did so after that scare because he wanted to live to see his daughter married.

    I can't give you exact dates, but the dramatic change in his diet and appearance is relatively recent compared to when he first invited Ornish to the White House for tips.

    Hint, he has been out of the White House for over 13 years.
    The motivation to see his daughter married and to see grandchildren only came later.

    Clinton's heart surgery was in 2004, his second warning that rushed him to the hospital again was February 12th., 2010
    Chelsea Clinton's marriage took place July 31, 2010.

    That scare, February 12th, 2010 sent him, for the first time.. to really follow the directions of Esselstyn and Ornish.

    The dramatic results in weight loss took place between February and July of 2010.,.

    It never ceases to amaze what some people will try to do with facts in order to make them fit with a preconcieved notion, or to prove some point.

    In short, Clinton has been following a vegan lifestyle (not perfectly, but fairly well) for about 3 years. That after 63 years of SAD.... Standard Arkansas Diet .

  21. leonie
    I have lost 26kgs on WW, 25percent of my weight. i have battled weight all my ife, I have learnt so much through WW. Yes the add was not good on the behalf of WW, but dont knock the program, it works. If I only had time to fill you in on how for the fist time in my life I feel I will get to my goal, all the online surport. THANK YOU WEIGHT WATCHERS.
    Reply: #22
  22. Sorry this program is not currently available but the program information may help other readers may a sensible decision.
    Dispatches: Weight Watchers: How They Make Their Money

    I'm perhaps somewhat biased as following Dr Dahlqvist dietary program enabled me to lose weight, regain my mobility and continue to eat to satiety. Dr Dahlqvists regime is very similar to Diet Doctors and there is sufficient information available online for anyone to follow their advice without extra cost.
    The extra costs involved in eating real food, instead of junk foods, is counterbalanced by the fact that eating more fat induces longer satiety so you eat less food in total.

  23. Out of curiosity, why can't Shirley Clamp and the Swedish Weight Watchers execs be charged with fraud?
  24. redninja6
    I lost 44 pounds on WW and needed a boost to help with the last 20 or so. The holidays set me back by 10 pounds and I did my research and decided to try the Lady Soma Detox . I am pleased to say that after taking 3 per day for 4 days I have already lost 7 pounds. Lady Soma def makes the lbs come off. No jitters and no side effects that I can tell as of yet.
  25. Jim Gremillion
    I fell for one Weight Watcher "fad of the week" a few years ago... it was "eat all the fruit you want". I gained 3 lbs in one week. I would have gained more except for the "gastric problems" caused by so much fruit. Weight Watchers is a business and they need to continually add customers to replace the large numbers that drop out. Their program, without the gimmicks and with the peer support, can work but these silly programs they come up with never do.

    P.S. I have been on low-carb for about 18 months to combat diabetes. I control the diabetes with diet and have dropped 30 pounds as a side benefit.

    Reply: #26
  26. DD
    I noticed much the same thing with WW - weight loss was slow, inconsistent, and they were always changing something. If it works, why do they need to change it annually?

    I did not feel supported or encouraged at meetings. People who lost weight that week were encouraged to talk about what they did and their success (i.e. how the program worked well for them), and people who were stable or up either mostly stayed quiet or were subtly put down (if you were working the program correctly, you'd be down instead of up - so what did *you* do wrong? It can't be that WW doesn't work for you!)

    And the marketing! The leader often mentions WW products and can even be pushy. One meeting, we were discussing low-point summer treats, and right after the leader talked about their pricey 4-point ice cream bars, I mentioned that I like Lil' Drums, which are only 3 points each. The death glare she gave me...

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