Words can be tricky things, especially in the fitness realm. Consider the word fat, which has undeniable negative connotations. There once was a belief eating foods that contained dietary fats made one fat. Yet, dietary fats are one of only three macronutrients, making consuming them vital for basic health and well-being. Even body fat itself is necessary for life. Depending upon a person’s age, men need body fat in the range of 11-25% and women need a range of 21-35%.
Diet is another tricky word with multiple meanings. Diet has always meant the make-up of nutrients consumed. It can be applied to a population, demographic or individual. In reality, everyone is literally on a diet. But, with the advent of trying to lose weight by controlling calorie consumption, diet also became a verb. For decades, the latter has been manipulated, tortured and hocked into a string of fads, deprivation, food elimination and disordered eating that, in the end, led millions to yo-yo between weight gain and loss and rarely led to lasting healthy habits.
In small corners of the fitness industry, the verb version of diet has been exposed as a falsity that typically results in less healthy outcomes. Those who are honest with the facts know a person’s body weight, taken in isolation, is probably one of the least helpful parameters in determining a person’s health.
Weight Watchers has, at least in part, learned this lesson and embarked on a name change. They are now known simply as WW. With the re-branding, they claim they intend to move the focus away from weight and toward wellness. Which introduces a new buzz word that has the potential for manipulation. Fitness has a fixed definition that includes a healthy, balanced diet (not dieting), active lifestyle and proper sleep. The term wellness takes fitness and adds to it optimal emotional and mental states to achieve health via a balance of mind, body and soul. But, even that is my personal take on wellness. The truth is, wellness is one of those concepts that can mean different things to different people.
And, in the press, Weight Watchers is getting some push-back. While WW is giving a great deal of lip service to the shift away from dieting and focusing more on well-being, they still have their signature diet plan known as SmartPoints and encourage tracking food intake. Some say it’s really a change in name only with the push to diet for weight loss the same as it always has been with a sprinkling of trendy wellness jargon added as window dressing.
After perusing WW’s revamped website, I have a mixed take on it. I applaud the name change and many of the features they’ve added, such as encouraging exercise through their point system, offering workouts on the website and linking with fitness trackers. They’ve also added links to articles promoting mindfulness and a healthier self-confidence. However, the point system remains geared to a singular goal of weight loss and there’s nothing I can find encouraging the establishment of healthy sleep habits.
Overall, I give WW credit for recognizing that fitness and health are so much more than calorie control. The same certainly cannot be said for nearly every other mainstream diet plan touting weight loss. The fact that WW isn’t quite there yet when it comes to recognizing that fitness and health are so much more than a number on the scale is less of a poor reflection on them as it is on most of the health and fitness industry.