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.
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.
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.