Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Taking on the iceberg: The Weight Watchers perspective on obesity

If you’ve ever seen a cross-section of an iceberg, you know a little bit about the problem obesity poses to the health care system, according to Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchhoff. He likened obesity to the portion of an iceberg visible above water. What’s less apparent below are the serious health issues tied to obesity: progression toward diabetes, cardiovascular trouble and more. Diabetes alone accounts for close to $250 billion in U.S. health care spending annually, and Kirchhoff cited forecasts that suggest if current trends continue, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2050. The challenge, he said, is really understanding what drives obesity. “People eat for a thousand reasons that have nothing to do with an energy deficit,” said Kirchhoff, who himself knows this struggle, having fought back from a BMI over 30 to a healthy weight today. The answer, he argues, is both simple and hard: “There’s only two things you have to know: One, you have to start dealing with it, and two, you have to keep dealing with it. That’s it.” How to make that happen? Education, behavior changes, technology goal-setting and perhaps most important, starting with the right attitude. Kirchhoff challenged health plans to tackle the issue. Stakeholders across the spectrum have little choice. If the dire diabetes predictions are realized, Kirchhoff said, “that literally makes the difference between a solvent health care system and an insolvent health care system.”