Weight Watchers is undergoing a significant transformation. The company has closed down hundreds more workshop locations and acquired Sequence, a telehealth company that uses FDA-approved medications that counteract biological factors that prevent many people from losing weight. With this move, Weight Watchers aims to expand into the field of medical weight loss management, which is also known as clinical weight management.
This marks a significant shift for Weight Watchers, as they move beyond their traditional focus on nutrition and exercise to incorporate medication-based solutions for weight loss.
As a longtime lifetime Weight Watcher, who has witnessed many changes since losing my weight on the old food exchange program that preceded Points, I'm curious about all these changes. I know many members, especially those who have seen their workshop/meeting locations closed, are upset.
This article details what I've discovered and suggestions for not letting these changes derail you from pursuing your weight loss goals.
Weight Watchers to Begin Offering GLP-1s like Ozempic, Wegogy, and Trucity to Support Weight Loss
WeightWatchers, also known as WW International Inc., has acquired digital health company Sequence as part of its expansion into the market for diabetes and obesity drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy. Sequence provides a subscription service that offers telehealth visits with doctors who can prescribe the medications, and WW plans to promote Sequence's telehealth services to its members.
According to Sima Sistani, WW's CEO, the new drugs are the most significant innovation in the industry, with real excitement for their potential health outcomes. However, Ms. Sistani also acknowledged the need for support to make diet and exercise changes for people taking these drugs.
Sequence, which started in 2021, has approximately 24,000 members and offers an app to track weight loss, telehealth appointments with doctors who can prescribe weight-loss medications, and meetings with dietitians and fitness coaches for a monthly fee.
In response to the acquisition, WeightWatchers plans to develop programs tailored to people using weight-loss drugs, with an emphasis on strength training and consuming high-protein foods to prevent muscle loss during weight loss.
Weight-loss medications like Ozempic and Wegovy mimic GLP-1, a hormone that stimulates insulin production and slows the emptying of the stomach, making users feel fuller for longer. A study published in 2021 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with a body mass index of 30 or higher who took semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic, dropped about 15% of their body weight on average after 17 months on the drug.
WW says it sees the new obesity and diabetes medications as an adjunct to its existing offerings including its cornerstone eating plan, where users track what they eat and drink and aim to stay within a certain number of daily "points."
My Thoughts on What These New GLP-1 Agonists Could Mean for Our Health and Weight Loss Struggles
For decades, I've been fascinated by the intricate relationship between food, health, and weight. Our biology has evolved over the millennia to enable us to survive in a feast or famine environment. The urge to eat when we see food is a natural response that helped us sustain ourselves when food was scarce. However, in today's developed world, food is abundant 24/7, and we are always feasting, never experiencing famine. This has resulted in overeating, weight gain, obesity, and chronic diseases such as diabetes.
To combat our natural biology and thrive in this new reality, we work hard to change our behaviors and manage our environment. We adopt diets, count calories, fast intermittently, try to avoid tempting foods and to establish healthy habits. It takes a lot of effort and focus to succeed.
Now there are GLP-1 agonists such as Ozempic, Trulicity, and Wegovy that can help align our biology with our modern environment. These drugs allow us to feel satiated with much less food. They help people maintain control in the presence of abundance rather than overindulging in it.
By using these drugs properly, we may be able to establish healthy habits and supportive environments more easily. With our natural desire to dive into food subdued, it becomes simpler to make better choices and avoid tempting foods. In essence, GLP-1 agonists, in addition to helping manage diabetes and obesity, can provide us with a pathway to a healthier lifestyle.
Why Is Weight Watchers Closing Studios?
WW Membership has decreased. The number of subscribers is down to 3.5 million from 4.2 million, about 80% of whom are digital-only members. Many in person meeting locations weren't profitable.
What options are available for Weight Watchers members whose meeting locations have closed?
I recently had an email from a reader who was starting a support group of her own because Weight Watchers had closed down and there was not another option in her area. I was impressed by her proactive approach. It would be tragic to allow this new reality to derail you from weight loss success.
Here are some other things Weight Watchers whose meeting locations have closed can do:
- Attend a Weight Watchers Virtual Workshop. Workshops are 30 minutes long, and you can join as many as you like. No car. No commute. Just your mobile device or computer. I love the ability to tap into meetings from wherever I am and the variety of coach options. You may have to try out several until you find a coach you connect with. Folks on Reddit are big fans of Jocelyn and Kimmi.
- Attend a Weight Watchers Virtual Workshop with a friend of two. Many folks have said they much prefer in person meetings. Create a hybrid meeting by getting together with a friend or two or three and tuning into your virtual workshop together.
- Start a Weight Watchers In Person Support Group of Your Own. Gather with a few others from your now closed location. Find a time and place to meet and have a little workshop of your own. You can review the Weight Watchers Weekly Technique notes available in your APP following the basic format of a WW workshop sharing your successes, struggles, discoveries, food finds, recipes, aha moments and weekly intentions.
- Find a Helpful Weight Loss/Healthy Eating Podcast. This could serve as a healthy substitute for your closed workshop. I like Half Size Me. Thin Within and Weight Loss Made Real.
- Read Helpful Weight Loss Books. Use your meeting time reading helpful books. I'm a big fan of Mindless Eating and The Kindness Method.
- Find an alternative in person support group. Check out your local hospital, community center, library, fitness center, church for an in-person alternative to Weight Watchers.
Weight Watchers is changing. It is very different company and approach to weight loss than the one founded by Jean Nidetch back in 1963. It has evolved to reflect the times and advances in our understanding of healthy weight management. Even though change is inevitable we humans are prone to struggle and resist it. It's natural. We are creatures of habit. But it's important that we not use our resistance as an excuse for not pursuing our goals.
Related Content: Tips for Staying Motivated Beyond Workshops/Meetings
Martha is the founder and main content writer for Simple-Nourished-Living.
A longtime lifetime WW at goal, she is committed to balancing her love of food and desire to stay slim while savoring life and helping others do the same.
She is the author of the Smart Start 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge.
A huge fan of the slow cooker and confessed cookbook addict, when she's not experimenting in the kitchen, you're likely to find Martha on her yoga mat.
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