In October 2015, Weight Watchers International, Inc made an official announcement as it prepared to join forces with Oprah Winfrey in an unprecedented, long-term partnership with a mission to “inspire people around the world to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.” The company reports that its proven results and new efforts to expand the reach and scope of its mission compelled Winfrey to become deeply involved with the company. Weight Watchers reports that her involvement extends into three key areas: Member, Board Member and Adviser and Owner. In the capacity of a Weight Watchers member, Winfrey will use the Weight Watchers program and act as a celebrity spokesperson. While Winfrey’s involvement is quite significant, it is not the first time the company enlisted the support of celebrities to endorse its program and products. Previous spokespeople include Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson and Jenny McCarthy. As a Board Member and Adviser Winfrey will “bring her insight and strategy to program development.” Finally, Winfrey has taken a 10% stake in the company, equating to an estimated $43 million investment, as reported by Forbes, and the company has presented the media mogul with options for an additional 5% stake.
Winfrey’s steep financial investment combined with the unveiling of a redesigned weight loss program called “Beyond the Scale,” has caused some controversy and has received a mixed reception from current Weight Watchers members. While many have quickly adapted to the new program, some have voiced concerns over additional restrictions and fewer choices. Some medical professionals have criticized the company’s focus on a point system rather than nutrition and popular low-cost or no-cost health apps such as iTrackBites and MyFitnessPal are becoming increasingly competitive. This combination of factors has inadvertently provided a unique advantage to some of Weight Watchers’ lesser known competitors, like Medifast, that rely on nutritional science and data. Even though Medifast’s products and programs have been recommended by over 20,000 doctors since 1980, they are often overshadowed by larger companies like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. Many of these companies are less visible to the wider market as they do not invest in massive marketing initiatives or celebrity spokespeople.
Medifast California Center locations have certified weight control counselors to guide clients through every step of the weight loss process, including food choices, providing ongoing and holistic support for sustainable results. Since a growing number of Americans are seeking more effective and supportive approaches to reaching their weight loss goals and are becoming more skeptical of celebrity endorsements, lesser known competitors may be gaining a significant edge.