Oprah Loves Bread (and dough)

Oprah loves bread and I love Oprah. So whats the problem?

The 12 Million Dollar Tweet

Back in January, the internet was abuzz with Oprah’s 12 million dollar tweet. In all fairness, the tweet did contain a 30 second video. And also, in all fairness, the video was about losing 26 pounds. Hard? Yes. $12 million dollars hard? Maybe. Especially when you consider the fact that she did it all while eating bread.

The Oprah Effect

Now, experts are beginning to look at Weight Watcher’s stock for the “Oprah Effect.” And indeed, it appears that Oprah’s recent involvement is starting to pay off.

Carbs are the Devil

I think capitalism is the best. And I think Oprah is the best.  But I can’t help but wonder whether it’s time for companies like Weight Watchers to do more to change the story about carbs.

I get it. It’s all about low-carbs these days. Weight Watchers, which has been struggling recently, is trying to generate PR by taking an active stand against the recent “establishment trend” of a lower carb approach. It’s Goliath posing as David, and right now it works.

But here is the thing – people, in general, are misinformed about EVERYTHING when it comes to nutrition. Our science is bad, our information is bad, and I would pose that our entire approach is misguided.

Is it ok to eat a few carbs? Sure. Everything is ok. But it’s time to stop pitting fads against fads. We need to just get closer to whole foods.

Weight Watchers May be OK, But it Probably Isn’t

I’ve done Weight Watchers before. In the late 90’s. In the 2000’s. In the 2010’s.

I’ve tried all their various formulations. Many times. Who hasn’t?

Weight Watchers does some good. Last time I checked, veggies were unlimited. And I like that. There is a focus on physical activity as well. Great. Maybe Weight Watchers is just what some people need.

But in the end, it didn’t work for me. Sure, it “worked” in some sense. But it didn’t WORK. Not in that deep way that changes how you approach nutrition. And that’s because in the end, it was about counting and restriction. And that is not a satisfying lifestyle for most people.

Another problem is the focus on processed foods. I don’t care how much I count, if I’m eating processed foods, I am never satisfied. It’s just not how people are meant to eat.

Most People Who Do Weight Watchers Regain the Weight

So I’m sure this is true with any diet. Which is exactly why it’s best to avoid weight gain in the first place, by keeping a healthy metabolic state and living on what we were meant to live on – whole foods.

What I find slightly suspect is this statement from a former Weight Watchers business plan from 2001.  The plan emphasizes that its participants “demonstrated a consistent pattern of repeat enrollment over a number of years.” The average person would sign up for an average of FOUR separate program cycles.  Furthermore, in a documentary called “The Men Who Made Us Thin,” former CFO Richard Samber explained that the business was successful for this very reason.  The majority of customers regained the weight they lost.

But Maybe Weight Watchers is What Works for You

I don’t want to be overly critical of Weight Watchers. Losing weight is hard. Sometimes it takes a few tries, and often it never works out at all. Maybe WW is the right thing for you.

But I do want to make one point. Part of the reason that losing weight is so hard is because there are so many factors stacked against you.

In order to lose weight, you need to be strong not only in the face of physical temptation, but also cultural and family pressures. And that’s not all. You also need to be strong in the face of actual misinformation. You need to make smart choices in a world where choices are so often limited to processed foods.

So when Weight Watchers celebrates bread and pasta – some of today’s biggest modern culprits, it’s not really about carbs.

Because sure, a little bread is fine. But what’s not fine is their message. That, in a world of processed foods, it’s preferable to lose weight by restricting calories and focusing on portion control, rather than cutting out food groups that are especially addicting to overweight people. (Keep in mind I use the term “cutting out,” liberally, as if to say cutting out on the vast majority of days.)

The surest approach to maintaining a healthy weight is to fundamentally alter your understanding of what good nutrition means. It means, for the most part, eating food that comes from the earth. And I think the higher ups at Weight Watchers know that.

Of course, you CAN take a whole foods based approach while on the Weight Watchers plan. But that’s besides the point. If you eat whole foods that come from the earth, you don’t need to count anything. Whole foods make you full. It’s only processed foods that make it this way.

So even though Weight Watchers can technically be done the right way, I suspect that many more people are gingerly enjoying their carefully counted bread and pasta servings each day.

Bread every day is, after all, Oprah’s selling point. And I think it’s an irresponsible one.

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Oprah Loves Bread (and dough)”

  1. I agree with you that we should return to eating whole foods and cut out most processed foods. ‘Portion’ control, as you say, does not work. However, I do not agree about the carbs. Maybe the bread (as it easy to over-eat), but not pasta, rice or potatoes (which are filling and hard to over-consume). Cultures that consume diets high in carbohydrate are the leanest people on earth (eg, asian cultures). Their obesity rate is less than 4% which is less than half that of the leanest in Europe and about a tenth that of the United States. The countries with the highest obesity rates such as the US, Canada and New Zealand are countries that consume a high amount of meat, fried foods, fatty foods, sugared beverages, confectionery; and high calorie foods such as chips, pies, cakes, biscuits, pizza, sweetened breakfast cereals, so-called ‘health’ and energy bars, fast-food, and ready-prepared foods.

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  2. I am currently on WW and it absolutely worked for me. The most recent plan looks at food as a whole instead of focusing just on calories and fats. This approach really helps people (and me) to pick healthier, natural options. It focuses on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and activity. This is their best plan yet.

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    1. I’m really glad to hear that Weight Watchers is working for you 🙂

      I’m a strong believer in the idea that there is no one single approach, and we need to just keep trying until we find what works for us.

      I’m also glad to see WW focusing on fruits, veggies and lean proteins. I did weight watchers on and off, and while it did work, my personal problem was the I find carbs addicting and I had to learn to adjust to a mostly plant based diet – which has been the only thing that has worked for me in the long term.

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