This was the first of a four-part series on the NBC Today Show about "some of the more popular diet programs on the market." It featured one woman’s success using a commercially available weight loss program, Jenny Craig, to restrict her caloric intake sufficient to lose 18 pounds over a 12 week period. The discussion briefly touched on the difficulty of going from the very controlled situation in which your food is prepared with built-in portion size restriction, to the real world situation which requires the individual to monitor and control food intake on his/her own.
The story would have been improved by allowing for more explicit discussion about how this diet program achieves its limitation on caloric intake, the changes which result from weight loss, and the options available to people to support success with weight loss. There should have been some expert testimony about the efficacy of this program and how it compared with other approaches to achieve and maintain weight loss. Overall, the story was lacking in evidence and data about the chances for benefit.
At this point, after reviewing one part of a several-part series, we can’t know what is still to come. But we yearn for a direct head-to-head comparison with other commercial diet plans with data to back up the comparison.
The piece included a graphic detailing the costs involved in the program.
The health claim made by the certified dietitian/nutritionist – "For every 5% of weight that you lose, there is about a 50% reduction in certain risk factors." – is not founded in evidence; it is sufficiently vague enough to be meaningless. The segment should have pressed her to explain what she was talking about and press her for where the data supporting this claim come from
The certified dietitian/nutritionist alluded to the fact that the Jenny Craig program is not individualized and mentioned that it might not be appropriate for people who may have certain medical conditions.
The focus of this piece was the human interest story about the particular woman interviewed. The piece was clear about the calories consumed and the resultant weight loss; the certified dietitian/nutritionist who was interviewed reiterated that the weight loss achieved (18 pounds in 12 weeks) was within the range (1-2 pounds per week ) that could be expected for people ingesting this level of caloric intake.
There was no discussion beyond the experience of the one woman interviewed about the percentage of people who attempt to use this diet program who are successful at sticking to the limited caloric intake to attain the resultant weight loss.
The story would be much stronger if a scientific expert were consulted to discuss evidence for efficacy (short and longer term) of this diet, and to compare it with other commercial diet plans.
The very opening segment discussed obesity as an epidemic affecting millions of Americans. While accurately reflecting the number of people who are categorized as being obese, coupling this with the term ‘epidemic’ serves to conflate condition with disease. Beyond this, the medical definition of obesity should have been provided so that viewers would have a clear understanding about the level of excess weight being discussed.
In addition, it was patronizing for the host to refer to weight gained after the birth of twins as ‘baby weight’.
The Today show deserves some credit for not relying on a spokesperson from Jenny Craig to talk about the program. Instead they had an individual who had used the program and dietician who did not seem to have any ties to the program. While these are two sources of information about the treatment, in this case the use of the Jenny Craig program for weight loss, it would have been a stronger segment if a researcher commented on the efficacy of the program.
Although it mentioned the prepackaged food that is the hallmark of the Jenny Craig program, it could have been clearer about how this affects the desired outcome, i.e. by eating only those calories provided by Jenny Craig, it limits total caloric intake and results in weight loss. While understanding that this segment is part of a larger picture, there was not any information presented about general approaches to weight loss and weight loss maintenance; nor mention of other weight loss treatment options. If this is the only segment that a viewer sees – after all, how many of us are glued to the Today Show every morning? – the information lacks context
This is a piece about one woman’s experience with Jenny Craig, a commercial weight loss program that is known to be widely available.
The history of Jenny Craig or the longevity of the program was not mentioned. However – the piece did not portray the program as being something new.
This story did not appea to rely on a press release.