Let’s take my friend, Sarah, who lost twenty pounds. Now, that’s a lot—and not easy, especially when you love chocolate souffles as I do!
And then I’ve been hearing about other people losing serious weight, and they’re not doing it by walking into some retail office, stepping on a scale, and walking out with pre-packaged food.
So, what’s been the key? How did Sarah and others manage to pull it off? Was it boot camp? Meditation? Did she suddenly become a triathlete? Nope: she used good ol‘ fashioned Weight Watchers. And in the case of others, they tried an online site called Sparkpeople.
What’s new and surprising is that these programs are built around social networking—connecting with others to gain support and help motivate you to your goal. It’s kind of like AA, where you have to admit your problem before your peers and then take action to correct it.
Sarah said these meetings gave her a place to vent and share the frustrations of trying to lose weight with other people who understood what she was going through. And that kept her “on the wagon”—well, that and having to get on a scale in front of all these people every week. (Humiliation is also a very powerful motivator.)
So how does Weight Watchers address these issues? You go to a meeting every week, the way you would for AA or Narcotics Anonymous. You have a weigh-in to see where you stand, people discuss how they’re feeling or situations they’ve dealt with over the course of the week, and so on.
So it’s a thoughtful plan. But onto the biz side of things: how does Weight Watchers make money here? Members have to pay a weekly fee even if they don’t show up at their meetings! And there’s only one way to stop paying that fee: quit the program, or reach and maintain your goal weight.
How brilliant is that? People don’t care about their health or their well being, but if you threaten them with taking some of their money, maybe they’ll shape up. That’s the whole idea behind sites like stickK, which allow users to create contracts with themselves to help them achieve goals.
By the way, you can’t invest in Sparkpeople because it’s private, but if you were interested in Weight Watchers, you might be interested in knowing that the company recently announced a 70-cent dividend, which yields a nice 3.6 percent. That means Weight Watchers is giving shareholders back a bigger piece of the pie—so to speak.
If you want to leverage the power of peer support but don’t want to pay-up, check out Sparkpeople. The site sends out personalized diet plans and peer support. They claim they’ve helped members lose over seven million pounds.
Do you think Weight Watchers and its bottom line will tip the scales, or is this biz just empty calories?
By Jennifer Openshaw of WeSeed