Art and design

Books

Culture

Environment

Fashion

Film

Life and style

Money

Music

Politics

Science

Technology

Travel

Television

US news

World news

Goodbye to ‘before and after’ photos – Weight Watchers is right to ditch them

Before and after photos of Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watcher, c1965.
Before and after photos of Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watcher, c1965. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Anyone who has tried to lose weight will tell you that results matter. Otherwise, none of us would bother trying. So the news that Weight Watchers is ditching its long-held tradition of “before and after” photographs is somewhat perplexing.

Dieters the world over know the power of the “transformation” photo: the left-hand image shows the subject at their podgiest, around the time of that watershed moment when, perhaps after a particularly heavy Wotsits binge, the overweight person decides that enough is enough. It’s time to cut the calories. Meanwhile, the right-hand photograph shows the subject weeks or months later, wherein they have emerged like a phoenix from the BBQ ashes: slender, glamorous, slinky, smiling – and telling us: “If I can do it, so can you.”

Such images have been part of the Weight Watchers story since it was founded by Jean Nidetch in the early 1960s. Look up Nidetch online and you will be confronted with a plethora of before and after shots. She used to be fat, and then she wasn’t – and that’s why you should try her diet, naturally. These days, there are whole websites dedicated to before and after pictures, with thousands of dieters relying on them for motivation. Studies have even found that taking a weekly photograph of your body can make dieters more likely to achieve their target weight.

Nonetheless, Weight Watchers now argues that transformation photos promote the idea of a short-term diet with an end date. Really, we should be aiming for a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. “We want to promote a journey of health, with no beginning, middle or end,” a spokesperson has said.

And in this, the company may have a point – though perhaps not quite in the way that it intended. Because even if you succeed in losing weight, chances are you’ll put it all back on again. In other words, the “after” is never really the “after”. Besides, in the age of Facetune and other digital retouching apps that allow you to drop three dress sizes with the jab of a forefinger, who can really trust what they’re seeing anyway?

This article titled "Goodbye to ‘before and after’ photos – Weight Watchers is right to ditch them" was written by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, for The Guardian on Wednesday 14 February 2018 04.36pm

Life and style

Serena Williams and the realities of the 'maternal mortality crisis'

“I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia. Yet I consider myself fortunate.” So… Read more

Botox and the need for more regulation | Letters

The response by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to your article on Botox and dermal… Read more

Earliest ever British strawberries arrive on supermarket shelves

Britain may be in the grip of a cold snap but consumers can get a taste of the first UK… Read more

Martin Morales’s recipe for locro de zapallo

Locro is a hearty stew from the Andes, commonly found in Andean picanterías (female-run roadside… Read more

Tripe Day, Waffle Day, Nutella Day – when did food get so needy?

So how did you celebrate World Nutella Day? What do you mean, you missed it? How could you miss… Read more

Is southern-fried squirrel the answer to KFC's extraordinary chicken shortage?

One cold Sunday morning last month, I visited Pow Hill, a glorious moorland thick with pine trees… Read more

RaceRunner: can an old-school runner learn to love the smartphone app?

OK, I’m biased, I won’t lie. I really wasn’t expecting to like RaceRunner. It’s everything I’m not… Read more

Celebrity-endorsed vegan yoghurt recalled for containing milk

A vegan food brand endorsed by Nigella Lawson and other celebrities has recalled all its yoghurt… Read more

What's behind the rise of interracial marriage in the US?

It’s been half a century since the US supreme court decriminalized interracial marriage. Since… Read more

Six easy midweek meal recipes | Six of the best

Chickpea, butternut squash and chorizo baked rice (pictured above) Prep 20 min Cook 50 min Serves 4… Read more