Even if you’ve never signed up for Weight Watchers, you most likely know someone who has. The ubiquitous weight-loss company, which recently got a potentially life-saving boost thanks to a $43 million investment from none other than Oprah Winfrey, claims to use a science-driven approach to help members lose weight by eating healthier and getting more exercise. But even if you’re a long-time member, we bet that there’s a lot you don’t know about this huge company.
Weight Watchers was founded by a former IRS employee named Jean Nidetch in 1963, who after losing 20 pounds assembled a support group for her and her overweight friends, which evolved into weekly classes. The actual diet plan its members were put on has changed quite a bit over the years; in 1989 the company adopted an exchange-based diet, and since 1997 the company’s cornerstone has been varying incarnations of a points-based diet, where different foods have different “point” values, and members are allowed a set number of points per day or week. In order to join, potential members need to be at least five pounds overweight, and can either work with Weight Watchers via in-person meetings or through an online-only program.
For the most part, like most diet plans, Weight Watchers does indeed help its customers lose weight. Studies have shown that diet plans including Weight Watchers, South Beach, Zone, and Atkins help their participants lose about 10 pounds in a year. But while the company still has its loyal adherents, sales of both memberships and its vast product line have been down by a whopping 70 percent over the past year, according to US News. Oprah’s investment caused shares of the company to initially increase by 92 percent, and they’re still up substantially. Whether the “Winfrey bump” has longevity remains to be seen.
So read on to learn 10 things you most likely didn’t know about Weight Watchers, which operates in about 30 countries and is a certifiable juggernaut. There are many competing schools of thought when it comes to losing weight, and Weight Watchers is doing its best to stay ahead of the curve. While its future may be uncertain, it’s hard to deny that it’s unquestionably made its mark in the dieting landscape.