it’s killing the diet industry too

by admin
it’s killing the diet industry too


The Ozempic effect is disrupting the weight loss industry faster than Real Housewives are dropping dress sizes. 

Everyone is talking about anti-obesity drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro, which reduce appetites and improve how the body breaks down sugar and fat. 

Originally meant as a Type 2 diabetes treatment, doctors have been prescribing the injectables for weight loss, with users – including celebrities such as Elon Musk, Sharon Osborne, “Real Housewife” Lauren Manzo and ex-“Housewife” Dolores Catania – reporting stunning results.

Which is good news for longtime dieters, but not so much for companies whose sole mission is selling weight-loss plans and prepared meals to millions of overweight Americans. 

Because of this seismic shift, weight loss companies are struggling to survive in this new Ozempic-obsessed landscape.

In April, WW (née Weight Watchers) purchased Sequence, a telehealth subscription service that connects patients with doctors who can prescribe obesity and diabetes drugs.

Ozempic is the most high-profile of the semiglutides, drugs which are licensed to treat diabetes but whose weight loss effect has made them a celebrity go-to.
Getty Images

Sharon Osborne says she lost 30lb thanks to a weight-loss drug which she took for four months.

Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted that Ozempic was the secret to his svelter figure.

Last month, Noom launched Noom Med, which also provides access to anti-obesity medications like Wegovy through telehealth consultations.

The South Beach Diet is on permanent vacation.  And Jenny Craig has closed after 40 years. 

As these legacy weight loss companies transition from doling out diet tips, group weigh-ins and pre-packaged meals to prescribing semaglutide injectables, consumers are pissed off.

Weight Watchers built its business on calorie counting, with a food range to match its meetings. But now it is getting into the weight loss drug market.
Corbis via Getty Images

Weight Watchers, and the other major diet companies including Jenny Craig and the South Beach Diet relied on giving their brands showbusiness glamor – like this 1985 awards show hosted by Jerry Lewis.
Sygma via Getty Images

Author Jennifer Weiner, who often features plus-sized characters in her romantic comedy books and had bariatric surgery in 2006, took to Instagram last month to roast these companies. 

“The news offers a certain degree of vindication,” Weiner said. 

“You need to read between the lines to find it, but it’s there: A tacit admission that the plans they were pushing didn’t actually work – at least, not long term, for the vast majority of clients. WW and JC were peddling low-cal snake oil. 

“The only thing clients were absolutely guaranteed to lose on those plans was money. It wasn’t us; it was them.”

Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College in London and author of the bestselling book “Food for Life: The New Science of Eating Well”, concurs. 

Jenny Craig, which had a similar calorie-counting model to Weight Watchers, closed this year after 40 years.
Jenny Craig / Twitter

Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers, now WW, in 1963, sold it to Heinz in 1978 and promoted it enthusiastically for the rest of her life.

“These companies are admitting their old calorie counting methods have failed and are working hard to keep up,” Spector said. 

“The issue is that it still sends a message that joining a weight loss program is the answer; we must reframe overall health as the main goal. There is much more to health than just weight.”

WW and Noom claim to be following the science, which has shown obesity to be a chronic disease rather than a behavioral issue. 

Nutritionists agree. “Scientists have been working on these medications for many years,” noted Dr. Katherine Balantekin, a registered dietitian and Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at the University at Buffalo. 

WW, the new name for Weight Watchers, has recently seen a tiny uptick after moving into diet drugs but its value has collapsed as dieting changes radically.

“Certain companies, like WW, are rooted in the science, and thus evolve as our science is evolving. It makes sense that these companies need to grow when new treatment components come on the market, like the anti-obesity medications.”

To stay current (and flush), WW purchased Sequence for $106 million. The subscription plan costs users $99 a month and doesn’t include the price of the prescription, which can run up to a $1,000 a month. 

Weiner called the acquisition of Sequence a “Hail Mary pass” for WW, describing the company as a “diet giant that’s been lurching, Frankenstein-like, around the health and wellness space for years.” 

WW declined to comment for this story. Founded in 1963 by Queens housewife Jean Nidetch, its stock price has plunged in recent years, despite Oprah Winfrey investing heavily.

Noom Med’s telehealth service is $49 a month, plus the standard Noom subscription of $42 a month for the first four months. 

Oprah Winfrey was the most high-profile endorser of Weight Watchers, and invested in the company.

Among Weight Watchers’ most high-profile advocates was Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, after her divorce from Britain’s Prince Andrew.
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Clients also must foot the bill for their pricey prescription. 

While these initiatives are expensive, the demand for obesity drugs is skyrocketing. Especially for Wegovy, which, in 2021, was approved by the FDA for obesity and weight-related conditions like high blood pressure. 

Since then, celebrities, CEOs and soccer moms have all jumped on the bandwagon—whether they admit it or not. 

(Unlike WW and Jenny Craig’s famous clients Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Ferguson Kirstie Alley, Valerie Bertinelli, Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson, no one’s doing paid endorsements for Ozempic. For one thing, prescribing it for weight loss only is off-label, and therefore viewed by insurance companies as off-plan.) 

Dolores Catania, a former “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast member is a high-profile Ozempic success story.

Charles Barkley has credited his 62lb loss to Mounjaro.

Nevertheless, last October, Twitter and Tesla titan Elon Musk announced he was taking Wegovy on where else, Twitter. 

Rosie O’Donnell; Charles Barkley; Golnesa “GG” Gharachedaghi (“Shahs of Sunset”); Lauren Manzo (“Real Housewives of New Jersey”); Dolores Catania (former “Real Housewives of New Jersey”); and Tracy Tutor (“Million Dollar Listing”) have also owned up to using Wegovy, Ozempic or Mounjaro.

Chelsea Handler said she was given it by her anti-aging doctor unaware it was a weight-loss drug. Amy Schumer said this month that she tried Ozempic but felt so ill that she concluded: “OK this isn’t livable for me.”

Chelsea Handler says she was on Ozempic when her anti-aging doctor prescribed it but did not realize it was a weight loss drug and has quit it.

But the open are a minority. Many celebrities have denied injecting semaglutide despite their rapidly shrinking waistlines and much-thinner frames, or declined to address claims they do, including Khloé Kardashian, Kyle Richards, Jordyn Woods, Erika Jayne and Ana Navarro. 

Even ousted CNN CEO Chris Licht has been accused of hiding his Ozempic usage.

Ozempic is not without its own controversy. A nationwide shortage is affecting people with diabetes who have been struggling to fill their medical prescriptions due to the semaglutide’s popularity. 

Amy Schumer told Andy Cohen on his Watch What Happens Live show that she had tried Ozempic but the side effects were too severe.
Charles Sykes/Bravo

And questions remain about side effects, including vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, soiling the bed and weird celebrity dreams. The long-term effects still aren’t known, such as the potential for thyroid cancer for those with a family history. 

There’s also the possibility that this might be another yo-yo diet craze, with TikTok model and influencer Remi Bader alarmingly noting that she “gained double the weight back” after going off Ozempic. 

Last September, Andy Cohen, who presides over a pageant of probable Ozempic users, Tweeted, “Everyone is suddenly showing up 25 pounds lighter. What happens when they stop taking #Ozempic ?????”

“Shahs of Sunset’s” Golnesa “GG” Gharachedaghi has said Ozempic got her down to 110lbs.

Spector, who also penned “The Diet Myth“, acknowledged the downsides of Ozempic. “These drugs are extremely expensive,” he noted. “Not everyone can take them without side effects, they do have risks and they require lifelong use. If you stop them, you will immediately gain the weight back.”

Consumers don’t seem too concerned. In fact, Ozempic and the like may even be connected to stopping addictive behaviors like gambling, drinking and nail biting. Could this be the end of Betty Ford and AA, too?

For WW and Noom, changing their business model was fairly easy. But not every company had enough cash to completely retool their strategy. Embattled Jenny Craig shut down in May.

Khloé Kardashian responded to an Instagram comment accusing her of using Ozempic by saying: “I get up five days a week at 6 a.m. to train. Please stop with your assumptions.”

Last month, the company posted a farewell message on Instagram: “Thank you to our loyal Jenny family. It’s with a heavy heart, were announcing the close of our business. The last 40 years would not have been possible without you.” Comments were disabled and emails went unanswered.

And the once ubiquitous South Beach Diet halted its home delivery of frozen meals in August 2022. Their website now leads to a barely active page with recipes and health tips.

“Weight loss science and solutions are changing,” Spector said. “And it is likely that other businesses will need to adapt or risk being negatively affected.”

TikTok model and influencer Remi Bader said that she “gained double the weight back” after going off Ozempic. 
GC Images

Nevertheless, Spector sees anti-obesity drugs as a step in the right direction.

“The field has been waiting for a blockbuster drug in this area for decades and this group of drugs looks like it fits the bill,” Spector said. 

“I welcome this progress, but I think we can do much better than just reduce appetite. The big transition will be when we actually prevent obesity, not find more ways to try and fight it once it’s happened.”

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