Tuesday, January 04, 2005

meaningful "works"

From CNN.com:
"A review of 10 of the nation's most popular weight-loss programs found that except for Weight Watchers, none of them offer proof that they actually work at helping people shed pounds and keep them off.

Only Weight Watchers had strong documentation that it worked -- with one study showing that participants lost around 5 percent (about 10 pounds) of their initial weight in six months and kept off about half of it two years later."
I can imagine something like "Scientists confirm that Weight Watchers really works!" making it into Weight Watchers advertising. What I can't imagine is it being more accurate and saying: "Scientists confirm that Weight Watchers really works! The average 200 pound person who partcipates in Weight Watchers weighs 195 pounds two years later!"


Anonymous said...

Something else doesn't compute in this article:

"She also cited a recent analysis by The Cooper Institute ... that found people who followed Jenny Craig for a year lost 15 percent, or an average of 22 pounds, of their initial body weight."

22 pounds is 15% of 147 pounds. In 2002, the average weight of adult women in the US was 164 lbs; the average weight of adult men was 191 lbs (CDC). If we assume that 80% of JC-like clients are women, this puts the average weight of the people at risk of joining JC at 169.4 pounds. Even if you account for SES (and race, urban/rural, etc) differences in weight and in likelihood of joining JC, I find it hard to believe that Jenny Craig clients are that far *below* average weight when they enter the program.

jeremy said...

Yes, especially if you imagine that there is probably a substantial skew in who joins Jenny Craig, thus bringing up the average weight. (In other words, even if the median weight of someone who joined JC was 147 pounds, I would imagine that there are many more people who weigh 197 pounds and join JC than weigh 97 pounds.)

Anonymous said...

WW works because it makes people change their "lifestyle", as in, learning how to make good food choices, even when needing to eat out, and how to exercise (even if it is just walking). My mom lost over 70 pounds, and has kept it off for three years. She just doesn't cook or eat what she used to, and as a result, both she and my dad have lost weight, have low cholesteral, and very nearly don't need their blood pressure medication any more.

WW works for people are who committed to making a change for the long term. It takes a long time, and people drop out because they are frustrated at the very slow rate of loss (the goal is two pounds a week). That's why that statistic about the study they conducted is flawed. Interesting info, but the actual WW statistics are probably much better.


Anonymous said...

First, the place is called "Jenny Craig" -- what man is going to join? We're talking about women. Second, it's easy to believe the average customer weighs 147 pounds. The average woman is 5'5" -- which happens to be my height, so I'm very aware of how the numbers at this height are perceived. Believe me, women who care about their weight are appalled to be 147. They are quite upset about being 137. They are likely to be unsatisfied with 127. Especially if they are younger. In fact, when I was under 40 years old, I consider 117 an unacceptable weight. The diet book I followed when I went to college listed 107 as the right weight for a young woman my height, and I worked very hard when I was in my 20s to try to get to that weight.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry. I didn't mean to be anonymous on that post. That was me, that last one.

jeremy said...

Jn: I don't mean to sound like I don't think WW works for some people. I think probably all weight loss programs work for some people, and that WW probably works for a larger percentage of people than most/all other programs. I just didn't find the stat compelling. More compelling, perhaps, would have been the percentage of extended participants who have a substantial weight loss and keep it off.

Ann: No men join Jenny Craig? I was just looking at their alphabetical directory of success stories on the JC website, and the very first name listed (Adrian W.) was a man. Of course, the next fifty or so names were all women.

Ann Althouse said...

"Adrian" is only a man's name? So I take it you think Rocky was gay.

jeremy said...

Silly rabbit, they had a picture. Plus, here's an excerpt from his testimonial: "I will admit, I was a little skeptical of Jenny Craig at first. I’m a Male, High School Biology Teacher, Football coach, and Golf coach. Now don't get me wrong, it's just you never see men on the Jenny Craig commercials. I was worried that you would not be able to help me with my specific problem. Boy was I wrong! [pun presumably unintended] Gender has no bearing on how to eat."

Anonymous said...

Alas! I haveth no mate
to shareth my pastry fate
of donuts piled high upon the plate
Nina dost taketh not the bait
Woe! never to shareth the weight
adoringly I waiteth at her gait
to promise a most sugary spate
she flingeth her chamber pot upon my pate
Sayeth she, creme brulee doth I rate
Casteh thy Crispy Cremes upon yon sewer grate
and with stable wenches share thy greasy prate - LDM

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, well, but ... Rocky was gay.

Anonymous said...

Q: What did the plow say to the tractor????

A: Pull me closer, John Dear HA!HA!HA!

Anonymous said...

Ann: "First, the place is called "Jenny Craig" -- what man is going to join?"

Fine. Assume 100% of JC risk pool is female. (Unlikely -- if nothing else, at least a few hubbies are going to enroll in JC with their spouses -- but it doesn't really make that much difference for my skepticism about the 147 figure.) That means the average weight of the risk pool is 164 instead of 169.

Ann: "Second, it's easy to believe the average customer weighs 147 pounds."

I just don't see how. (Height is irrelevant, unless you want to argue that JC attracts shorter-than-average women.) Notice I'm NOT saying that there are no JC clients who weigh less than 164 pounds, or even less than 147 pounds -- there are undoubtedly many such women. But in order for the average of JC clients to be 147, women who weigh less than the national average would have to be more likely than women who weigh more than the national average to enter a diet program. Moreover, the way-above-average women in JC would have to be offset by a roughly equivalent number of equally-way-below-average women -- Jeremy's comment about medians, redux.

As I alluded to in my earlier comment, one might be able to salvage the "147 average" figure if, say, JC clients are disproportionately middle class, and middle class women are, on average, 20 pounds lighter than all women. But I don't think this was Ann's argument.

Kim (sorry, didn't mean to be anonymous in the first post).

Ann Althouse said...

I stand by my argument. The average woman is fat. Women who aren't at all fat don't go to Jenny Craig, but it's quite possible that women who are less fat than average do. Why would this be? Because these are the women who are concerned enough about controlling their weight to invest in this particular program. They have a lower weight relative to other fat women because they are the people who most want to work at getting to an ideal weight -- they are the fat women who have let themselves go as much as other fat women. Maybe the reason JC is the one program that shows a successful result is that for some reason it attracts the women who are most determined to control their weight.

Anonymous said...

Ah, OK, I get it: Really overweight women care less about how they look and about their health, and hence are far less likely to join Jenny Craig, than are far-below-average-weight-but-still-fat women. I'd like to see some evidence, but thanks for clarifying the argument anyway. (Really). Kim.

Anonymous said...

I for one feel Mr. Freese has a professional obligation to ban that horrid doughnut man, whose 'poetry' demeans women. I grow weary of his sexual innuendo and one can only imagine the perversity he enacts with food - Helpful In New Hampshire

Joan said...

Anyone who has control over his weight will admit that it is not because of a "diet" he went on for 3 or 6 months, but because of the lifestyle changes he made to keep his weight stable.

I've been heavily involved in the online low carb community for years, and am personally acquainted with many people who have lost steadily and kept it off, following a sensible controlled carb diet. I follow low carb to stave off diabetes, which is a scourge in my family, and so far so good. My weight has been stable for years now.

Diets don't work. Eating sensibly does.

What other program would tout its results as "successful" following the criteria assigned to WW here? "Wow, after a year, people had only gained back 5 lbs!" That's a lousy track record and anyone with a lick of common sense can see it. Can you imagine if Microsoft issued updates and said, "Only half the patches failed by the end of the year!" Unfortunately this isn't too far from reality, but you get the point -- consumers are NOT happy with results like this in industry. Why are we as consumers not more upset with the food and dietary guidelines we've been getting from the government and medical establishments? Clearly the whole low-fat mantra has done nothing but turn us into a nation of pudgy slugs, and there's nary a lick of good science behind it. But it has had the effect of selling a lot of cholesterol-lowering drugs, I guess...

Bah. Sorry for the rant. I'll climb off my soapbox now.

jnsys said...

All I know is that dropping 20 pounds was all it took to get me from being a couch/computer potato, to being a lot more active and healthy than I have felt in 15 years. And I know that my mother had tried every diet in the book, but it took WW to keep the weight off. There is no magic bullet.

I think the studies that have been done are flawed, and need to be redone. But, everyone is unique, and a single diet is not going to work for everyone, even if studies show significant weight loss for a particular group. Studies are going to have to take into account the different psychological motivations people have for losing weight and keeping it off. I think the study of eating disorders would greatly help in planning for diet programs that take into account the psychology behind weight gain and loss.

Anonymous said...

I've been hog fat and candy wild all my life and I don't give a damn - put that in your frying pan, buster!

Anonymous said...

Weight Watchers works! I was a skeptic - and skeptical of all weight loss or diet plans, drugs or programs. At the urging of my wife (who found success with WW) I got on the WWW (Weight Watchers Wagon) and lost 20 lbs. And, I've kept it off.

It's all about moderation and just plain eating intelligently. I'm not doing WW anymore, but I've learned how to eat right, AND I've kept even weight.

The best part....I don't exercise at all!!!