Pictures like this on the way out
THEY used to be a weight-loss ad staple - but Weight Watcher's signature "before and after" photos are about to become a thing of the past.
The iconic brand has just unveiled a revolutionary new "strategic vision" - and these days, short-term weight loss is out, while long-term "wellness" and healthy habits are officially in.
As part of the company's revamp, Weight Watchers will remove artificial ingredients from its products and "inspire healthy habits for real life".
By the end of 2020 the brand hopes to grow revenue to more than $2 billion and attract 10 million worldwide members to the ranks.
Free memberships will also be offered to teenagers aged between 13 and 17 in a bid to tackle childhood obesity, and while members will be free to share photos of their weight loss progress, the company will no longer use the classic "before and after" shots in their advertising campaigns.
Weight Watchers International's new strategy was revealed at a conference in the US earlier this week, with head of social media Lauren Salazar confirming the term "before and after" would officially be retired, with the company instead focusing on "a journey of health, with no beginning, middle or end."
CEO Mindy Grossman told news.com.au while members would not be banned from sharing their own weight loss photos and "before and after" updates, the new focus would be on the individual's journey and their long-term healthy habits and choices.
"What I find is that people want to know about the journey, they want to know what people are experiencing, they want to know how it relates to their own life - when I talk to people who have had an incredible experience with Weight Watchers, whether they have lost 10 pounds or 200 pounds, the consistent thing they are saying is how it made them feel versus how it made them look," Ms Grossman said.
"They go together - people want to look and feel great - but in order for health to be sustainable, it needs to be integrated into everyday life and people need to be educated and inspired at the same time.
"That's not to say we'll never have people saying 'I lost 50 pounds and I feel great' but what is very interesting to me is that so many members who have achieved their goal stay in the program because of the community and because they want to make sure they stay healthy.
"It's about being healthy 365 days a year, not just during diet season."
Another radical new strategy for the company was the offer of free memberships to teens, with the offer to be rolled out globally later in the year.
The announcement raised some eyebrows, with several experts warning of a link between dieting and eating disorders in young people.
"There is research that links dieting in teenagers with a higher risk of eating disorders,"
childhood nutrition expert and author Jill Castle told the New York Post.
"Placing children on calorie-restricted diets can be very harmful and alter their relationship with food for the rest of their lives."
However, Ms Grossman said teens could only take up the offer with the consent of a parent or guardian, and that the focus was on overall health and not simply shedding the kilos.
"We are the biggest advocates for body positivity you could ever meet, but we also know teens who aren't in their healthiest condition and in some cases might be overweight are not feeling good about themselves," she said.
"It's about eating healthy foods and making healthy choices. It's really important to learn that early on.
"When families do things together, they all get healthier."
Ms Grossman said the world was facing an unusual paradox at the moment - and that Weight Watcher's new vision would help.
"One thing that has really become apparent to me as I've been doing all this research is that the world is facing a paradox right now - everybody is talking about health and wellness and nobody wants to hear the word 'diet', but we're not getting healthier. It's actually the reverse."
Weight Watchers International was founded in Queens, New York in 1963 by homemaker Jean Nidetch.
It offers a range of products, services and programs aimed at helping members lose weight.
It operates in 30 countries around the world, and uses a science-backed method to help members lose weight by forming healthy eating habits, encouraging exercise and providing emotional support and encouragement.
Oprah Winfrey is an ambassador of the company and its largest shareholder, owning a 10 per cent stake.