Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Healthy Way to Lose 6 Pounds in 2 years

Warning: contains no actual food
A few days ago Ian Ayres over at the (hugely popular) Freakonomics blog was writing (in a post ironically titled "Because It Works") about WeightWatchers being the "the industry leader in performing rigorous testing of their services". Why? Well, for example, this JAMA study which showed that, weight for it (sorry), "after 2-years WeightWatchers helped overweight dieters lose about 3 percent of their body mass – reducing their average weight from 207 to 201 pounds".

Wow, a whopping 6 pounds in 2 years.

I think it is interesting that WeightWatchers was compared with counseling and a nutritionist, because I'm pretty sure that just giving someone a placebo for two years AND telling them it is a new weight loss drug would have worked as well or probably much better than WW (and certainly would've been cheaper). I've seen that experiment performed in a documentary and people lost more weight in a shorter period of time. The placebo effect is pretty powerful. And we all know how stuck in the Ancel Keys paradigm the average nutritionist is. Or how about instead of receiving "counseling" and a nutrition "expert" they were told to religiously read Mark Sisson's and Richard Nikoley's blogs and listen to every Jimmy Moore and Robb Wolf podcast?

I guess Ayres is impressed with the fact that the study was published in JAMA, hence "rigorous". It is a classic catch-22 situation. Low-carb diets are inherently unhealthy according to the AMA, hence they are practically impossible to get funding for, and even if carried out, don't have a chance in hell of getting published in JAMA, proving they are "rigorous". Welcome to the circle-jerk known as nutrition research.


  1. Many, many moons ago, I lost a great deal of weight on Weight Watchers...back when they were still doing exchanges and were a more or less low carb program. Then Heinz purchased them and started pushing their HFCS and refined flour garbage under the WW label, switched to this asinine "points" system and it all went to Hell in a handbasket.

  2. Yeah, and to be fair, Ayres says something similar. Still, I couldn't help but mock the rigouress-ness of this JAMA study and what it shows about the state of nutrition research in general.

  3. i think them seeing a 6 pound total weight loss at 2 years is a success. i can almost guarantee the test subjects lost much more than then average 6 pounds. then they probably put some of the weight back on. what i have observed is the WW points plan is not a sustainable way of eating. the customers never educate themselves on what foods cause problems. they are just slaves to the points. people cannot count points or calories all their life. they can eat real, unprocessed foods all their life and be satisfied without keeping track of anything.

  4. Damnit, Chuck, stop giving away the secret! I'm planning on turning this blog into a muti-billion dollar money machine. Ch-ching!

  5. My boss lost tons of weight on Weightwatchers which she has kept off for years. However, she is 10 years younger than me has a face that's awfully wrinkled up (she only uses canola oil sparingly) and is on meds for high blood pressure (which her weight loss didn't cure even though she eliminated all her fat and salt) and I don't know what else she's on because she doesn't talk to me about it anymore. Her response now is everything is under control (by meds probably). Yeah, weightwatchers is such a healthy plan :P

  6. Yeah I suppose that even if it does work for some people, are the benefits of the weight loss more than made up for by the dangers of the diet?