On February 8 Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama will sit down in front of 19,000 or so fans at the Barclays Center to discuss wellness as part of Oprah’s 2020 Vision Tour. The tour is part of WW's (formerly Weight Watchers) outreach and marketing efforts. Putting aside all other feelings for these two famous women, how much should you listen to what they have to say about diet?
Here's my take: Since Oprah partnered with Weight Watchers in 2015 (she is the second largest investor and primary spokesperson for the company), the company has undergone some massive shifts -- including the name change. CEO Mindy Grossman recently indicated that the company’s primary goal is no longer weight loss: "We are a wellness company with an expertise and a focus on weight loss." Perhaps most strikingly, Weight Watchers (sorry, WW) has progressively deemphasized the very solution it had become synonymous with—the iconic points system.
I suspect you won’t even hear Oprah utter the word “points” during her tour. And that’s a good thing. (Maybe they’ve been listening to me! Here’s a look back at my review of Weight Watchers from a couple years back.) My main criticism of the company has been that the evolving points system miscategorizes some foods – like ours! And that the points system can create the mistaken idea that by “saving up,” it’s fine to binge on junk food.
A common question we receive is: What are the WW points for Step One Foods? As best as we can estimate, Step One would not fare well in WW points because all our products contain nuts -- and almonds, walnuts and pecans are all missing from the zero point list (even though eggs and chicken are on there). Up until the recent introduction of the “Purple Plan”, Step One would have fared even worse because oats had also been overlooked for the zero points rating (!). Yet I have a feeling that both Oprah and Michelle Obama would endorse the concept of food as medicine.
But here’s where I see lots of positives. With the Oprah tour, emphasis has shifted away from tallying points towards thoughtful conversation. And that’s a shift I can get behind, especially with the questions Oprah and WW want you to ask yourself:
About nutrition: “Are you eating a lot of vegetables and fruits and avoiding unhealthy prepackaged fare as much as possible? Are your portion sizes moderate? Are you drinking sufficient water throughout the day?”
To me, this sounds like an embrace of the best dietary advice ever. WW may be in the process of pitching its Purple Plan, but in my estimation, there’s really no point in anything beyond Michael Pollan’s seven-word dictum: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
And while Michelle Obama wouldn’t say so on stage, with her dedication to improving the nation’s health through gardening and cooking at home, I have to think she would agree.
Finally, it’s important to point out that Oprah will not be just speaking about nutrition. The other questions she will want the audience to consider center around physical activity, social connections and an inner sense of purpose and joy (as well as a whole food plant-based diet). And if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already recognize these as the four pillars of healthy longevity. And you also know that I’m working on pillars 2 and 3.
So if you’re going to see Oprah live, I think you’re going to have a great time and will hopefully leave energized about improving your health. But if you couldn’t get tickets, look through our blogs. It’s all in there! We’ve been writing about these topics for years - well before Oprah ever joined WW or went on her 2020 tour. We’ve always been about helping you achieve your best health. And remember – it’s not about being perfect. It’s about being better. (Hmm --- I wonder if Oprah will say that?).