I've always been a pretty loyal fan. I can think of no better way to express this than my sports team allegiances. Since the tender age of 8, I have been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. This is a little odd as I did not even step foot in the state of Minnesota until I was in my 20's. Why the Vikings? Fran Tarkenton. Chuck Foreman. The Purple People Eaters. Since that day, there is no team on Earth I love more than the Vikings. [Interestingly, there is a strange little clan of people who root for the Vikings for no apparent geographic reason. You know who you are, and you know the secret sign.]
The significance of my loyalty is evidenced by the fact that the Minnesota Vikings have mastered the art of crushing my spirit over and over and over. Four Superbowl's lost. Countless heartbreaking playoff destructions, most recently at the hands of the Saints. And now an absolutely horrendous start to the season despite having one of the most gifted rushers to ever grace the game. Yet I am stuck with them, bad years and bad years. (Jets and Bills fans know what I'm talking about).
My interest in spectator sports extend beyond the realm of sports. Weight loss organizations for example... Unlike my curious Viking loyalty, I have every obvious reason to be loyal to Weight Watchers having worked there for nearly fourteen years. Today, I am now completely unaffiliated, which means that I have absolutely no incentive to publicly pull for WW in any commercial sense of the word. I am my own man.
Given my newfound independent status, I now make the following statement absolutely unbeholden: Weight Watchers rocks the freaking house. I humbly submit this assertion for two recent reasons:
I just got back from my annual physical with my new doctor, and I smoked it. Great EKG results, low blood pressure (110 over 80), low RHR (50), normal cholesterol (HDL of 85), great oxygen scores. Everything was pretty much as perfect as I could have ever asked for, at the tender age of 47 no less. When I told the new doc what my cholesterol was 15 years ago (270 w/ HDL of 40-50), he was a little flabbergasted. He's not used to seeing these kinds of shifts purely through lifestyle change.
It was all a nice not-so-little reminder that the biggest thing I took away from my time at WW was what I gained as a member. And I will always be a WW member. Because the stuff just works, certainly for me.
I happily read the recent research published in the American Journal of Medicine by investigators from Baylor University, home of some of the worlds most preeminent health researchers. After 80 some-odd studies demonstrating the clinical efficacy of WW, this new one was a pretty big in both size (nearly 300 participants, half doing WW and half doing a self-help diet) and in implication.
The results? Those assigned to the WW arm were nearly 9X more likely to have medically significant weight loss than those doing their own thing. The average WW loss was 10 lbs at six months compared to 1.3 lbs for the self-help group.
That's pretty impressive stuff, but frankly the more interesting insights came from what the researchers observed within the WW participants. Those people in the WW research arm that attended at least half of their group support meetings, used the website 2 or more times per week AND used the app two or more times per week lost... Wait for it. 19 pounds on average in six months. Of the three ways of following the program, attendance of group support sessions was the most significant predictor of success. Notice I didn't say that they attended EVERY meeting and used the website 20 times per day. They used the WW services at what I would describe as normal and not hugely intense levels, but still achieved really strong results.
The results of the study connected with me for the very simple reason that they were just so very logical and expected. People that commit themselves to follow the program and take reasonable advantage of all the tools they get do really well. It's really not any more complicated than this. All you have to do is do it. And don't quit.
The results also make sense to me in that they validate the simple observation that actual human contact is useful in our daily lives. Humans are social beings. We are at our best when we're together. Group support is just a nice huggy idea, it works really well.
Diets, fads, new technologies, prepared meals will all come and go (and they certainly have their place), but there is a reason that Weight Watchers still works after all these years.
And unlike the Minnesota Vikings, Weight Watchers doesn't break my heart. It made it stronger. And that makes me a fan for life.