On Tuesday, the Goddess of housewives everywhere, Oprah Winfrey (or more likely one of her many attendants), thumbed "Eat Bread. Lose Weight. Whaaatttt?" and away into cyberspace it went via Twitter. By the end of the trading day, Weight Watchers International (WTW) shares had been levitated 19.8%, or $2.20, to $13.10 each. The Tweet was particularly remunerative for Ms Winfrey, owner of 6.36 million Weight Watchers shares. Ms Winfrey gushed in a follow-up testimonial video that she lost 26 pounds, and she lost it while eating her daily bread .
Once again I underestimate Ms Winfrey and her Svengali control over her subjects, or I should say her shrewd Svengali control. Ms Winfrey succinctly, with no enthusiasm-crushing details, implied that dieters can lose weight eating what they want. This is exactly what the marginal dieter -- the dieter seeking painless weight lose -- begs to hear. Coincidentally (or not so), the vast majority of dieters are marginal. They'll diet until the novelty wears thin, which usually occurs before the body wears thin.
So,let them eat bread, if bread is what they want. If Ms Winfrey were addressing the more vulgar sex, I'm sure she'd have shrewdly testified that 26 pounds were shed eating roast beef daily.
A finance professor of mine once observed, "You make more money selling investment advice than you do taking it. Just be sure to leave out the details." I'd amend the sage council to, "You make more money selling any advice than you do taking it. Just be sure to leave out the details and be sure you're selling what the buyer wants to hear."
There are details to weight loss, whether you care to hear them or not. The enthusiasm-crushing detail is that you can lose weight eating anything, as long as you eat a controlled quantity of it. Bread, yogurt, cheesecake, eat all you want, as long as you limit your intake to fewer than 1,500 calories. Of course, this detail is usually fatal. Caloric constraint requires discipline, and discipline requires work. Who wants that?
But even if you are disciplined in calorie counting, your weight loss hardly ensures good health.
Women favor nutritiously barren refined foods and fruits with high-sugar content -- strawberries, bananas, blueberries. High-sugar diets are breeding grounds for diabetes and inflammation.Men favor protein, which in excess, and Paleo diets are an excess of protein, pulverize the liver and kidneys and clog arteries. And that's the long-term effect. Day to day, a high-protein dieter suffers with constipation, halitosis, and other foul bodily emissions.
Both high-sugar and high-protein diets erode health over the long haul. Sure, you look presentable outside; inside you're rusting away like a 15-year-old Ferrari.
If health matters as much as appearance, then a weight-loss diet must be both calorically sparse and nutritiously dense. This means a diet dominated by raw vegetables -- green vegetables in particular -- which few commercial diets promote. Kale, spinach, dandelion greens, celery, collard greens, mustard greens, and other leafy greens should be prominently featured. They're not, because greens don't sell, with either sex at any age. A 55 year old is no more willing to eat greens than a five year old.
To be sure, enthusiasm can be extended if a carrot, or a roll, in Ms Winfrey's case, is dangled in front of the customer's nose. If extended long enough, enthusiasm can evolve into habit -- success. Much more often than not, though, enthusiasm devolves into ennui -- failure. That's the insuperable problem for the Weigh Watchers International business model, and for Weight Watchers shareholders. Not even Ms Winfrey's considerable powers of persuasion can transcend the inevitable.
Weight Watcher's shares were given a jolt of junky, gluten-fortified energy with Ms Winfrey's conspicuous revelation on Tuesday, but junky energy never lasts. I suspect Weights Watcher's new lofty share price won't last either.