Lately all manners of online information channels have been marked by whispers of Weight Watcher representatives hand-wringing as they discussed what ever could be the reason for their recent downward slide. To my (very slight) surprise the reason they gave was that nasty ketogenic diet stealing their customers. They even name-dropped Diet Doctor as the David to their Goliath (my description, not theirs).
They went on to say that ketogenic diets are “just a meme” (which is, I suppose, accurate on a technical level) and further dismissed any concern over long-term impact by saying that there are “keto doughnuts”. Admittedly I’m a tad mystified as to what they were implying with this statement, as Weight Watchers has pre-packaged dessert items as well – including ice cream and, yes, doughnuts. Perhaps there was simply some context that I missed, here.
To be clear, I don’t have even a smidgen of ill will towards Weight Watchers. I was never a member, although I have crossed paths with a few ex-members (most notable remarks being the ever-present hunger, and self blame for long-term failure on WW programs, but I have heard in passing success stories as well), and I really do wish them the best. They have a far reach, and if they caught wind of the changing currents (even if not necessarily by encouraging ketogenic diets) they could easily supply the life rafts that people need in the face of the increasingly pressing worries over the dark clouds of worsening metabolic health and chronic disease that loom in the horizon.
It seems WW is going the opposite route of what one would expect from the advice to businesses to adapt or die. They are refusing to adapt, even to “less extreme” tactics with equal chances of success, staunchly stating that they’ll continue to do “what works” as they have for the past 57 years. But is that wise to do when leaks have begun to appear within your well-intentioned business model? I suppose the ticking of the clock will reveal that one. Perhaps Ketogenic diets, and other tactics which eliminate refined carbohydrate and seed oils, are a fanciful fad that will fade none too soon, but with more science coming out on the effectiveness of these methods, and growing search trends, I do wonder…
What’s The Difference?
I have witnessed people on social media accusing Weight Watchers of having a business model of intentional failure, placing metaphorical banana peels in the middle of their Anti-Tripping classes (The Yo-Yo Model, in other words). To be honest, I don’t know if I believe this explanation, as I tend to err on the side of people-attempting-to-be-good rather than suspicions of malice. But, if this is true, how is it that Diet Doctor – slingshot wielding foes that they’re made out to be – thrives, despite the long-term apparent effectiveness of ketogenic diets? It seems there is a major anatomical difference in the underlying structure of the two companies, identifying them as two different species entirely.
While Weight Watchers is ever identified by weight loss advice and the four letter word moderation (meaning as soon as this goal is achieved, the business has lost its usefulness to the clients) Diet Doctor labels themselves as a “health company”, focusing on lifestyle, and pinning weight loss as a side effect – not the intended goal (meaning the site remains useful for focusing on a healthy lifestyle even after weight loss has been achieved). They also function as a central hub of information, news, updated science, and guides for the layman and medical professional alike.
This means that as keto becomes more popular, not only can they capture the new people looking for meal plans, but also retain the more experienced people (and doctors) seeking science, which will only continue to expand over time as research continues. It’s a business model based around the expected expansion of the science behind ketogenic diets and low carb lifestyles.
In the Face of a Hard Decision…
I have seen companies face similarly treacherous waters in the form of tech companies attempting to decide between continuing their course with on-prem solutions (e.g. selling physical servers, and hardware supply and setup) versus moving into uncharted territory with a cloud-based approach (helping clients utilize subscription based services like Amazon Web Services, or Microsoft Azure). Any decisions are difficult, and inaction can be deadly, as the success of the company depends on choosing correctly.
Obviously, in this day and age, narrowing your scope to cloud-based approaches is the obvious one, as on-prem becomes rapidly outdated and unused. But if you had been one of the lucky ones skilled at spotting the prevailing wind early, and quickly learning as much as possible, you had the possibility of becoming one of The Few who had the upper hand during the transition, while the stragglers were forced to jump into waters they were unprepared for, and unused to.
Stormy Clouds Overhead…
Whether Ketogenic diets (or some iteration of such) will be defined as the Azure of lifestyle approaches is currently unknown, it is nonetheless worth pointing out that some companies considered cloud-based solutions “a passing fad” before it took hold and overran the market. Regardless of which direction other companies decide on, it seems Weight Watchers has chosen their course for the near future, at least. Only time will tell what these uncharted territories hold, and which ships will sink – only identifiable in the future by their abandoned remains. I for one, will enjoy the ride, choppy as it may be, with the knowledge that I can easily course correct as necessary without much disruption. My only hope is that whoever goes down from the stormy weather has enough lifeboats for all involved when they inevitably need them.