Potentialities of Television

WeightWatchers Adds Telehealth & Obesity Meds

Okay, we’re awake now. WeightWatchers has entered a deal to add telehealth and obesity meds to their business strategy. The company will spend $132 million in cash and stock to acquire Sequence – a subscription telehealth service for weight loss that utilizes advanced obesity meds like semaglutide.

Weight Watchers CEO Sima Sistani explains her rationale for this move:

“As science advances rapidly, we know there is a significant opportunity to improve outcomes for those using medications. Clinical interventions require better education, access, care management, community and the integration of a complementary lifestyle program for best results.

“With our science-backed lifestyle program and Sequence’s tech platform – which puts complex, slow insurance processes on tech rails – this is an unmatched opportunity for us to create an integrated product offering.

This will take a while to digest – it’s the latest twist in a wild ride for the WeightWatchers corporate strategy.

Not Your Grandmother’s Weight Loss Plan

To be sure, it is hard for an icon to stay relevant in the cultural cross-currents of body image, weight loss, and health. The company started in the early 1960s. This was a time when weight-reducing candy (called Ayds, no joke) was a popular item. It became a cultural icon, standing resolutely for a sensible approach to weight management based on support groups, a healthy diet, and weekly weigh-ins. No fads, no drugs – it was all about structure, motivation, and support.

But cultural norms around diet, health, and lifestyle do not stand still. Dieting became a bad word and face-to-face support groups became less relevant with the rise of mobile apps and social media. In a quest for more cultural relevance, the company partnered with Oprah in 2015. Then in 2018, it decided to lose weight from its name and become simply WW. The tagline became wellness that works.

Today, Sistani has decided the company will lean into its roots in weight loss. She told the Wall Street Journal:

“We started re-embracing WeightWatchers because I think it’s important to not shy away from the conversation around weight loss being important for health outcomes.”

Wait and See

The company announced this move alongside a rather dismal report of sales and profit for the full year of 2022. The company lost $51 million in the fourth quarter and $283 million for the full year. It expects another $30-35 million loss in the first quarter of the year. The stock price is at record low levels.

Will the dramatic news of a jump into telehealth with advanced obesity meds mark a turnaround for WeightWatchers? Or turn out to be the last gasp for an iconic brand? Uncertainty is the only sure thing in this situation.

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Potentialities of Television, reproduction of a drawing after David Louis Ghilchik, licensed under CC BY 4.0, from the Wellcome Library, London.

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March 7, 2023

One Response to “WeightWatchers Adds Telehealth & Obesity Meds”

  1. March 07, 2023 at 1:13 pm, Valerie said:

    As a Weight Watchers member I was pleased to see that WW has added a group for people who are using weight management medications to their Connect social media app. I was also stunned and horrified by the amount of ignorance, misinformation, and especially judgement that poured out when WW announced the formation of this group.

    I know from my reading here (thank you!) that meds can be a very valuable tool, but just one of many, and that they can make a huge difference to many people. I hope this works out for WW. I also hope they can help foster a more holistic view of obesity as the chronic condition that it is and take steps to dispel the moral judgement and the view that it’s simply a matter of “calories in, calories out.”

    Thank you for your work!