Before there were Instagram fitness vloggers posting their side-by-side “transformation” photos, there was Weight Watchers. The company pioneered the before-and-after photos that depict dieters’ dramatic weight losses, usually accompanied by some inspirational messaging about changing your life by changing your body. But those before-and-after shockers are no more; as part of its brand relaunch, Weight Watchers has announced it’s ditching the photos in favor of the message that healthy eating and living are a lifelong process.
Cosmpolitan UK reports that Weight Watchers no longer wants to promote the idea that dieting has a finite end. Cosmo quotes Weight Watchers’ head of social media Lauren Salazar as saying: “We’ve made the decision to lose the expression ‘before and after’ because our members’ journeys are so much more ... A journey of health, with no beginning, middle or end.”
This sentiment echoes larger, industry-wide trends towards healthful positivity rather than a certain goal number on a scale. Instead of fad yo-yo diets, recent messaging around women’s fitness and nutrition has focused more on changing lifestyle habits and creating health for life—regardless of whether that involves rapid weight loss.
But the visual impact of Weight Watchers’ and others companies’ advertising—the before-and-after photos, Jared holding up his giant pants in Subway commercials, etc.—is powerful. As many of Weight Watchers’ video testimonials state, women are especially conscious of how they look in photos or in certain clothes: “I joined Weight Watchers 15 years ago after seeing a picture of myself on a police officer recruitment poster. At the time I had just given birth to my youngest daughter 6 months prior and although I had lost some of the pregnancy weight, I wanted to get the rest of the weight off,” a Weight Watchers customer named Alicia says in a recent WW Instagram post.
Ditching the visual weight loss messaging will be an interesting case study for the brand. Are women glad for more holistic and body-positive messaging when it comes to weight loss, or are they just looking to lose 10 pounds and fit into a certain dress? My guess is that the answer can be both.