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Goodbye To Jenny Craig
Jenny Craig has announced that they are shutting down. While I’m deeply sorry for the stress and unemployment it will cause for the employees who really believed they were helping people (because Jenny Craig told them they were,) as far as the program itself, I say good riddance to bad rubbish.
Jenny Craig was a commercial diet plan (aka lifestyle change) that sent members prepackaged food for them to either eat out of the wrapper or cook and eat. Some programs allowed people to add their own food, some had them eat only Jenny Craig food. (To be clear, this is a description of the program and not a judgment of prepackaged or “convenience” foods. I am absolutely against food shaming and I have no issue with pre-packaged or convenience foods (and often the arguments against them are some combination of ableist, fatphobic, out of touch with the realities of poverty, food insecurity, and food accessibility, and/or white supremacy masquerading as health/wellness advice.)
At any rate, Jenny Craig has been peddling their wares in some shape or form since 1983 and in all that time they never had a study that actually showed that more than a tiny fraction of their clients achieved significant, long-term weight loss. Their longest study showed that, at best, people lost around 15 pounds at the two-year mark. But follow-up ended at two years, before it could capture the likely regain that research shows will happen for almost everyone between years two and five.
Like all commercial diet programs, Jenny Craig relied on a repeat business model created by taking credit for the first part of the biological response to restriction (when people lose a little weight) and then blame their clients for the well-researched, completely predictable second part of the same biological response, when people’s bodies change physiologically to create weight re-gain.) Their clients believed they had failed and came back to Jenny Craig, when the truth was that Jenny Craig failed their clients and cheerfully signed them up to repeat the (expensive) experience.
Sadly, they aren’t closing because people decided that they weren’t going to pay $420 to $856 a month to eat tiny portions of frozen food in order to lose 7.5 pounds a year for two years (at a rate of $672.00 to $1369.60 PER POUND LOST and a total expense of $10,800 to $20,544 if they were “on program” the whole time) before almost certainly gaining it all back. They are closing because of their “inability to secure additional financing.” In the words that they’ve used to turn people they’ve failed and harmed into repeat customers over the last 4 decades – maybe they just didn’t try hard enough?
This might also be a good time to revisit a 2020 Washington Post Live interview with former Jenny Craig spokesperson Valerie Bertinelli in which she said of her time and celebrity with the company “Looking back now, I was part of a diet culture that didn’t celebrate women no matter what size. It was about getting down to the smallest size you could possibly get to, and if you’re not there, then you’re a failure. And I don’t believe that to be true any longer.”
I don’t believe that anything Jenny Craig sold was true, and they aren’t alone. It’s inevitable that the NutriSystems, Nooms, and Weight Watchers of the world will try to snap up Jenny Craig’s clients, so this is just a quick reminder that exactly zero of these programs have research showing that they can create significant weight loss that lasts even five years, let alone “for life” as they like to suggest.
So as far as the end of Jenny Craig, I say one down, more to go.
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*Note on language: I use “fat” as a neutral descriptor as used by the fat activist community, I use “ob*se” and “overw*ight” to acknowledge that these are terms that were created to medicalize and pathologize fat bodies, with roots in racism and specifically anti-Blackness. Please read Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body – the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia and Da’Shaun Harrison’s Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness for more on this.