And then at the scientific advisory board meeting, my first month here, they did a readout on all the clinical trials that were happening with these medications. The FDA had approved Wegovy. We dug into it. We even met with Novo Nordisk, really trying to understand what is happening. And I just thought, “We’ve unlocked this amazing thing. How can we embrace it? How can we take it and help our members? We have a significant lapsed membership base, some of whom are lapsed because they had success on the program and moved on, but others who lapsed because our program alone couldn’t help them. And so here’s this opportunity to help people.”

A friend said the other day, “Why would I ever use Weight Watchers if we’re all getting shots someday that are going to suppress our appetites?”

That probably comes from somebody who’s privileged and understands healthy eating. For a lot of people, they’re still going to need education. We’re now able to address the hungry gut through the medications, but still the part that is missing is the hungry brain. It’s about understanding foods with high nutrient density, ways for me to ensure that I’m protecting my lean muscle mass. Those are all going to be important to the medications working well long term.

Can you explain the difference between the hungry gut and the hungry brain?

Behavior change therapy addresses cognitive patterns—the hungry brain—but there is only so much that you can adhere to with behavioral modification if your biological factors are working against you—the hungry gut. The dual-action support with medications and behavioral interventions allows members [with this chronic condition] to make behavioral changes more easily as each—brain and gut—is provided with the necessary support.

You’re already seeing that, by the way. If you go on TikTok, you’ll find a lot of people who are on the medications who are doing it alongside Weight Watchers.

I often ask technologists this: A lot of these innovations, as exciting as they are, are predicated on the idea that most of them will be used for good. I also think about scenarios in which a doctor rejects a patient for potentially life-saving medications because they see in the Weight Watchers app, “Oh, but you’re not actually eating that healthy.” I mean, that judgment happens now. They think they’re lazy. That’s it.

There’s a lot in there. One part that is interesting, with regard to how we’re entering the medication space, is that we’ve heard from people that they don’t want to go to their general practitioners who have told them their whole life, “Just lose the weight, just eat healthier.” Many of these people have had chronic conditions that weren’t recognized. It wasn’t about their own behavior. So they’re more likely to choose this kind of pathway—because of the shame that they experienced in those offices. 

The separate thing then is, if you are on these medications, are you going to change your diet alongside them? That’s a tough one. If you are hypertensive and you’re taking ACE inhibitors but you still eat steaks and high-sodium foods, does that mean you shouldn’t receive the medication? That seems like a wild judgment that I would not make.

Going back to the question you started with, which was like, “Did you feel like you would be left behind or what does this mean for your core program?” To me, it’s even interesting that you’re asking that question here. Because the difference is we would never judge, for instance, a more traditional tech company for introducing new features or adopting AI or trying to do the new thing.

Oh, we do judge them a lot though.

You think?

Well, it depends. But yes.

But also, we all have this expectation and desire for those companies, the establishment, if you will, to disrupt themselves and understand when maybe in the past they were wrong or when they could be doing better. And so the question is, “What can we do better?” I think here, this an opportunity for us to say, “Oh wow, we didn’t recognize the hungry gut for most of our existence. But science has evolved now, we know more, we’ve learned more, we’re going to do better for those members.” That’s how I see it.

Let us know what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor at [email protected].

Leave a Reply