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Watching a diet’s progress


3 Star

Watching a diet’s progress

Our Review Summary

This was the second of a four-part NBC Today show series on the experiences of individuals engaging in weight loss programs.  This segment was about the Weight Watcher’s program and provided some useful information about the skills gained through participation in the program that may better enable a person to lose weight.  It could be seen from the example of the person followed that weight loss is not automatic and that it doesn’t proceed at breakneck speed.  There was acknowledgement that weight loss can be difficult and it is not uncommon for it to proceed with fits and starts.  

However – the value of this segment would have been greatly enhanced if information had been included about the short and long term benefits associated with this strategy for weight loss; comparing its effectiveness to other approaches would have enabled viewers to better assess its value.  We got a very brief and sketchy comparison at the end between WW and Jenny Craig – but far short of what we expected from all of this airtime.  

The glaring missing pieces are the failure in both of the first two parts of this series to include evidence supporting short and long term efficacy, and quantification of treatment benefits (beyond the experience of one person).  In addition, the addition of comment from a researcher in the field of diet and obesity would provide much needed balance and information.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


There was a graphic that indicated the costs involved in participating in this weight loss program.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Although there was good discussion about some important features of the program beyond simple limitation of caloric intake today (i.e. psychological, behavioral change, tools for weight loss and maintenance of weight loss) that the Weight Watcher’s program provides, the story did not provide quantitative data about weight loss achieved through the Weight Watcher’s program.

To its credit, this story acknowledged that this sort of program ‘doesn’t work for everyone’ and provided some discussion about the types of people for whom the program is less likely to work.  It would have been interesting to include some estimate about what proportion of the population interested in losing weight for whom this program might be predicted to work.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


There was some discussion that for people with ‘complicated medical histories’, Weight Watchers was likely not an appropriate first place to go for help with weight loss.  

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

While discussing that the Weight Watcher’s program utilizes an assigned point system as its method of limiting caloric intake, the story did not provide data about the percentages of people using the program who successfully lose weight and/or maintain the weight that they have lost.  Even if such numbers do not exist, it would be good to have an above-board acknowledgement of that.

The segment would have benefited from the inclusion of an expert to comment on the short and long term efficacy of the Weight Watcher’s program as well as provide some quantification of treatment benefit beyond the experience of the single woman profiled.  

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story opened with a disease mongering segment, leading off with "It’s a health hazard across America….", which was unfortunate because the overall tone of this piece was very balanced.  The segment should have included the medical definition of obesity to insure that viewers had a clear understanding of the level of excess weight that was being addressed.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story, to it’s credit, did not make use of a company spokesperson from Weight Watchers and instead, relied on a consumer who had participated in the program and a certified dietician/nutritionist.

This piece would have been greatly enhanced by including a researcher who could have commented on the effectiveness of this weight loss program and compared its results with those attained through other approaches to weight loss. After two segments in a four-part series, wer’e starting to wonder:  is the same dietician/nutritionist going to appear in all four segments? And why her?  How was she chosen?  

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


Although there was still no mention about the spectrum of options available to aid people with weight loss,this portion of the series did a much better job than yesterday’s segment about discussion the components of the Weight Watcher’s program contribution to weight loss and weight loss maintenance and how this compared to the approach of the Jenny Craig program. 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story had a graphic with information about the availability of this weight loss program and mentioned on-line access to the program as well.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


There was not a complete discussion about the history of the Weight Watcher’s program, but there were no claims made about Weight Watcher’s being a novel approach to weight loss.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


This story did not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory


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