Incoming Tide, Scarboro Maine

Anti-Diet Sentiment Meets a COVID Weight Loss Tide

It’s an odd intersection. On one hand, people are totally done with diets right now. And yet, here comes the news that people are reading about weight loss more than any other health topic online. More than COVID, which came in second. How can it be that anti-diet sentiment is so strong at the same time people are so interested in weight loss?

Our preferred explanation would be that people are figuring out that short-term diets don’t get them anywhere. But healthier patterns of eating might just help people find their healthiest weight.

The truth is likely more complicated. Different people bring very different feelings to the subject of health, diet, and weight.

Losing Weight or Gaining Health?

To understand some of the cross-currents in this situation, it’s worthwhile to look at the fortunes of WW International and Noom. WW is the global company that started out as Weight Watchers. It has annual revenue in the range of $1.3 billion. The company’s move away from the Weight Watchers name is, at its core, a move toward emphasizing health and wellness over weight alone. It’s been a tricky task for this dominant brand in weight management.

In contrast, Noom started out with an emphasis on better health through healthy behaviors. It’s an upstart, growing but still with revenues that are less than half of WW. To complement the core offering in weight management, the company is launching Noom Mood. The promise is stress management, better sleep, and a happier life. Who doesn’t want that? The foundation is mindfulness. All very buzz-worthy.

This could be a sign that Noom is peaking in the weight management space.

But taken together, the experience of these two very different companies reflects how difficult it is to balance the need for health and well-being against the urgent need that many people feel for weight loss.

Weight Loss in the Pandemic

One way of understanding the seeming interest in weight management is that people are listening. Obesity is a key risk factor for bad outcomes with COVID. People who have had effective treatment for obesity – like bariatric surgery – appear to have reduced their COVID risks.

Furthermore, the anti-diet sentiment is probably a good thing, too, if it means that people are putting health first – ahead of a sole focus on weight loss. But what is not clear is whether people are ready to come to a more balanced view of behavior and biology to inform their approach to dealing with obesity.

Self-help is a good start, but it can only take a person so far with a medical concern as complex as obesity.

Click here, here, and here for more about WW and Noom. For more about the impact of COVID on demand for obesity care, click here. For more on people’s worries about weight gain in the pandemic, click here.

Incoming Tide, Scarboro Maine; painting by Winslow Homer / WikiArt

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December 22, 2021

One Response to “Anti-Diet Sentiment Meets a COVID Weight Loss Tide”

  1. December 22, 2021 at 6:05 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Improved fitness and health-promoting behaviors and lifestyle are always great. People who need to lose weight must do it, especially people with obesity. But, we need help, access to treatment options with monitoring that can deliver effective care, address the biological, multifactorial realities of its disease management. Self-help is not helpful. It can be harmful. We’ve known this since the 1970’s. With the hard work, relentless efforts of so many healthcare professionals, from many backgrounds advocating for effective changes, my prayer is for the Christmas miracle that it can finally happen more universally, starting now.🎄