Study: Women, Want Higher Pay? Lose Weight. Men, You’re Fine As You Are

We’ve all heard that more attractive people earn more. So you might venture a guess, given society’s disapproval of the overweight, that obese individuals earn less than normal weight people — and you would be correct.

Despite numerous studies showing the discrepancy exists, researchers haven’t exactly pinpointed the cause: Some thought it had to do with productivity — that, for obese people, their weight gets in the way of their ability to do their jobs effectively. Another hypothesis was that employers don’t like to hire obese individuals.

Jennifer Shinall, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School, was interested in finding out which hypothesis was valid: “If it’s true that obesity gets in the way of you doing your job and reduces your productivity, it seems to me from the medical literature, that obesity would most reduce your productivity in a physical activity job. Certainly the medical literature suggests obesity has a negative effect on the musculoskeletal system and on health outcomes generally.”

On the other hand, she said, if the culprit is what she calls “taste-based discrimination” by employers — a preference for hiring non-obese individuals, then that would be detectable in a personal interaction job that requires interaction with the public and in which the employee acts as a face of the company.

In her study, “Why Obese Workers Earn Less: Occupational Sorting and Its Implications for the Legal System,” she shows that obese men aren’t more or less likely to work in any particular type of job. For women, on the other hand, the heavier the woman, the less likely she was to work in a personal interaction job. And actually, the most likely women to work in a physical activity job are actually morbidly obese women.

(Mason Masteka/Flickr)

While counterintuitive, the finding makes sense once you consider that physical appearance, being “the face” of the company, is important in jobs that require lots of personal interaction. Previous studies have also shown that attractive people were more likely to work in jobs requiring a high degree of interaction between employees and customers. On the flip side, obese individuals were less likely to be called back for jobs requiring a high degree of communication, such as in sales.

The problem is that personal interaction jobs pay more — and that partly explains why obese women earn less than non-obese women.

“However, compounding on the fact that obese women are less likely to work in personal interaction jobs, the few morbidly obese women that manage to get one of these personal interaction jobs earn 5% less for the same work than a normal weight woman, and that’s after controlling for demographics and education — and that’s pretty surprising,” says Shinall. “We only really see trends in the data for women. The fact that we see morbidly obese women get penalized for doing the same job is very suggestive of discrimination.”

A previous study found that a heavy women will earn $9,000 less annually than an average-weight women of the same skill, education and work experience. A very heavy woman will pay a penalty of almost $19,000.

Americans’ new way of losing weight has left Weight Watchers behind


Don’t even think about it. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

This should be the perfect time for a company like Weight Watchers to thrive. The U.S. is still one of the fattest nations on the planet with a third of the country considered dangerously overweight. Global obesity has nearly doubled since 1980, growing into one of the world’s most intractable public health crises — and opening a huge market for the weight-loss industry.

Yet Weight Watchers, the 50-year-old diet giant selling a slimmer, fitter America, has never looked so gaunt. The company said Wednesday that its third-quarter revenue had plunged to its lowest point since 2010, extending an unprecedented seven-quarter money-losing streak. Its market value has fallen to $1.1 billion, its lowest point in history.

So what happened? Instead of paying for a subscription to one of Weight Watchers’ signature support groups or learning how foods translate into “points,” Americans seeking to shed a few pounds are looking, instead, to free fitness apps on their smartphones, a simple shift that has devastated one of the most iconic names in weight loss.

“We do not believe that free apps will solve the obesity epidemic,” chief executive Jim Chambers said in a call with analysts late last year. But “I see now that the situation we are facing as a business and organization is more difficult than it originally appeared.”

The rise of smartphones opened an entire ecosystem of new apps that could suggest diets, count calories and track progress, undercutting Weight Watchers’ longtime business model. And because many are free, they’re gobbling up the company’s most important audience: trial-minded newbies looking for a change but hesitant to fully commit.

The popularity of free health apps has exploded alongside fitness monitors, like the FitBit, which cost only a one-time fee and offer a simple, visual, social element to exercise in a way Weight Watchers still can’t. And Weight Watchers has never been cheap. Duke University researchers said in July that the average Weight Watchers subscriber paid $377 a year and only lost five pounds — in other words, paying about $75 per pound.

“It’s a matter of free vs. not free,” said Efraim Levy, an analyst with Standard Poor’s. “There are so many free apps out there to help people lose weight that people are choosing to at least try. … It’s really a cost initiative, and that will remain a challenge, and they have to restructure to hope to compete.”

Founded in the early ’60s by an overweight New York housewife, Weight Watchers found its claim to fame largely due to its social appeal: support groups of women meeting often to talk diets, and all the reasons they shouldn’t cheat. Over the decades, it ballooned into a corporate powerhouse, fueled by a sale in the late ’70s to the Heinz food conglomerate, which sold branded frozen meals to dues-paying attendees of the firm’s bustling weight-loss classes.

About a million people attend more than 40,000 Weight Watchers meetings every week worldwide, according to an SP report, and the program remains well-reviewed: The U.S. News World Report this year ranked it the country’s best diet for losing weight.

But Weight Watchers is far from the only player in America’s $60 billion weight-management industry. Their competition has expanded beyond longtime rivals like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem – both with their own sales woes – to larger sophisticated players like Nike seeking to win over a growing fitness-minded clientele.

Half of the company’s revenue comes from meeting dues, with the rest tied to online subscriptions and sales of things like snack bars, books and points calculators. But even the packaged parts of Weight Watchers’ business model are shrinking, losing out to health-conscious eaters opting more for fresh foods. The market share for Weight Watchers’ frozen-ready meals has fallen to its lowest level since 2005, beaten handily by Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice, data from market research firm Euromonitor show.

Weight Watchers has tried to change with the times. They launched a mobile app with a barcode scanner, food log and meeting finder, announced partnerships with fitness trackers and, this month, unveiled a few upgrades to better match the iPhone’s new health and fitness suite. Earlier this year, the company spent an undisclosed sum to buy Wello, a Silicon Valley startup offering streaming video of fitness classes.

But other campaigns have done little to fatten their business. The number of subscribers to WeightWatchers.com, their online plan, dropped about 7 percent last year, and a big push to appeal to both genders has mostly floundered; only 18 percent of today’s online users are men. The company is working to win over corporate America by installing company-wide fitness plans, but even those membership numbers remain slim.

“They’ve signed up some bigger companies, but even if you’re an employer with 100,000 employees, the number of people signing up will be … a drop in the bucket,” said Kurt Frederick, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “They need a lot of big companies to make a big swing in that mix. And they haven’t gotten to the point where its a big piece of the business.”

Every quarter of this year is expected to see double-digit sales decreases over the year before, a losing streak the company didn’t even see during the Great Recession. Investors have also lost confidence the company can turn it around: Shares today are selling 65 percent below their 2011 peak. And there’s little optimism about future prospects: JPMorgan analysts wrote this summer that 2015 looks like “another difficult year.”

As the crucial New Year’s diet season nears, the company said it’s trying hard to engineer a turnaround. Their big strategy to compete with the app-store diet, they said: The human touch.

“It is our fundamental belief that tools alone, technology alone, food programming alone will never reach the levels of success that are possible when they are combined with human engagement,” said Chambers, the chief executive, in an analyst call in July. “The strength of the Weight Watchers brand is and always will be in the human connections that make a weight-loss journey more successful.”

Men Can Lose Weight Easier Than Women! But Which Sex Is More Likely To Hit …

Why is it so much easier for men to lose weight?

Turns out it’s all about the muscle, or so says Sydney-based physiologist Allan Bolton. As Bolton explains, men usually have less fat and more muscle than women. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, men’s metabolic rates can be five to ten percent higher than women’s.

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Bolton says, “Think of muscle as a big sink for glucose {blood sugar}. Active muscles take up glucose to use as fuel, helping to keep blood glucose levels healthy. This helps you avoid insulin resistance, a condition that makes it harder to keep weight down. Insulin resistance causes the body to produce more insulin to control blood glucose – and more insulin makes it easier to store fat.”

“Muscle might weigh more than fat but it takes up less space – a kilo (around 2.2 lbs.) of muscle is about the same volume as a small or medium vegemite jar but a kilo of fat fills the same space as a wine bottle.” 

Bolton added, “If you don’t exercise, from about 30 onward you’ll likely lose on average around 200 grams of muscle a year – so over a 10-year period your metabolism will gradually slow down. But if you can keep the same amount of muscle at 40 that you had at 30 it will be easier to maintain a healthier weight.

Professor Philip Morgan, co-director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition says that appetite hormones can make a difference too.

Morgan explains, “Research has found that compared to a man a woman’s appetite is more likely to be stimulated after exercise – the reason many women eat more after exercise may be more about appetite hormones than willpower.”

But just because men can lose weight easier than women, doesn’t mean that they all have the willpower to do so.

Morgan says, “Although most men carry too much weight, many don’t see this as a problem and may not be aware of the health consequences… Meanwhile women are often set up from an early age to believe their appearance is of primary importance – it shouldn’t be this way but it often is.”

“Studies show that men may be slower to recognize that they’re overweight and that they’re less likely to enroll in weight loss programs – partly because weight loss has been feminized and most programs don’t account for physical, psychological and cultural differences between men and women. But once men decide they need to lose weight, studies have shown that being male can make weight loss easier.”

“Men generally have less emotional baggage around eating and weight los. But with women it can be more complicated. It’s true that some men do have eating disorders but in general eating disorders and restrained eating are more common in women… I think this is why a one-size-fits-all approach to weigh loss doesn’t work – we need to consider gender differences too.” 

Lose weight and give up smoking or you can’t have surgery, hospital tells patients

  • Morbidly obese patients will have to lose a certain amount of weight before they will be put forward for any non-urgent operations
  • Those with BMI of 40 or over will be targeted under policy to be introduced 
  • Smokers will also have to quit for six weeks before being put on waiting list 
  • Bosses in Devon said the measures needed to recover a £14.5 million debt

Sophie Borland Health Correspondent for the Daily Mail

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Patients who smoke or are very obese are being denied routine operations by cost-cutting NHS managers.

Bosses in Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said the measures are ‘urgent and necessary’ to help recover a £14.5 million debt.

Under a policy to be introduced this month, morbidly obese patients will have to lose a certain amount of weight before they will be put forward for any non-urgent operations.

The restrictions will apply to patients requiring non-urgent operations and are ‘urgent and necessary’ to help recover a £14.5 million debt, say hospital bosses in Devon 

These patients have a body mass index of 40 or higher which is equivalent to a 6ft man weighing just over 20 stone.

The CCG – which covers a population of 900,000 – has yet to decide how much weight they must lose but it could be several stone to bring them down into the ‘obese’ or ‘overweight’ range.

Similarly, it is demanding that smokers give up for at least six weeks before being put on the waiting list for all non-urgent surgery.

But experts accused managers of ‘prescriptively’ rationing vital treatment from patients just because of their lifestyle choices.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, pointed out that operations such as hip and knee replacements would be hugely beneficial for the obese in helping them exercise.

‘This is a prescriptive and cost-cutting measure.’

‘Such operations would be hugely cost effective in the long term and highly beneficial for patients.

‘It’s just rationing.’

The organisation said it had no choice and needed to ensure there was enough money to care for patients during the busy winter months.

But it is not the first time managers have resorted to such arbitrary measures to cut costs.

Smokers will have to give up for at least six weeks before being put on the waiting list

In 2012 it emerged that a quarter of trusts were restricting at least one procedures from the obese or smokers – although in most cases it was IVF.

At the time, managers pointed out that surgery can be riskier and less effective for patients who are very overweight or who smoke.

They are more likely to develop potentially fatal complications as a result of the general anaesthetic including pneumonia, blood clots, heart attacks or kidney failure.

Hip and knee replacements tend to be less successful in the obese and there is also evidence they benefit less from IVF.

As part of its cost-cutting measures, the CCG is also making it harder for all patients to have cataract surgery or hernias removed.

They will have to meet certain criteria before being eligible which might include a certain amount of sight loss or having restricted movement.

Patients who have a body mass index of 40 or higher – which is equivalent to a 6ft man weighing just over 20 stone – will be targeted 

Rebecca Harriott, the CCG’s chief officer, said: ‘We must act to protect essential services through our busiest winter months and ensure that care is there for our patients when they really need it,” she said.

‘The CCG has already begun to implement a series of measures designed to improve efficiency in the system and encourage patients to contribute to improving their own health outcomes.

‘These measures bring the CCG into line with similar organisations in the NHS. However, they are not enough.

‘The CCG is working up a series of measures to prioritise those patients most in need, while at the same time, increasing efficiency in the wider system – and the CCG itself.’ 

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Bribing obese people to lose weight will do a fat lot of good says Carole Malone

There have been some crazy, crackpot schemes to fight obesity but the NHS’s latest offering takes the biscuit. In his new report, health boss Simon Stevens says firms should get government funding to “bribe” staff to lose weight.

These bribes would take the form of ­shopping vouchers, cash or prizes.

So here’s how my devious mind works… Say I’m not fat enough for this scheme but I’m a bit skint. Why don’t I just shovel in a few more cakes, another shedload of pizza – and I’m a dead cert for a Christmas bonus.

How stupid is that? Even more stupid – and much more important – is that jobless people won’t qualify for this scheme even though there’s plenty of research to show obesity is more prevalent among the long-term unemployed.

And there are two reasons for that. One, because of  lack or money or education, these are the people who mostly buy junk food. And two, they’re the ones sitting at home all day in front of the telly scoffing it because they’ve got nothing better to do.

But this is all besides the point. I know fatties are costing the health service up to £30billion a year. I know obesity is one of our biggest killers. But rewarding people for stuffing their faces is not the way to go.

And you’d think the numpties running the NHS would know that. You’d think being on six-figure salaries they’d be smart enough to know the answer is people taking responsibility for their own bodies. It’s them learning how to say no to food they know will kill them. It’s not being nannied into believing their health is the State’s problem.

Bribery isn’t the long term solution here. It’s just a sticking plaster dreamt up by people who haven’t a clue why others get fat.

It’s no coincidence Simon Stevens is skinny. I suspect the people who helped him come up with this barmpot idea are also skinny.

Not a fatty: Simon Stevens

So when they are formulating policy about fat people don’t they ever bother talking to any of them? Don’t they ever look at why people are eating themselves into an early grave? Because if they did, they’d see that bribing them with cash after a lifetime of binge eating isn’t the answer. Many fat people are fat precisely because they’ve been bribed before. With food. By their parents – to shut them up, to make them feel loved or because they were being a nuisance.

And make no mistake, fatties – and I speak as one – are clever. We lie. We’d tell those bosses paying us to lose weight that we’re just eating chicken and vegetables when we’re actually shovelling down doughnuts like there’s no tomorrow.

We’d say we had a slow metabolism and couldn’t understand why the weight wasn’t shifting but please give us the money anyway because we need it.

And who’s going to police this scheme? How much will it cost? And what happens if people lose weight and put it all back on? Will they have to pay the money back? I doubt it. So that’ll be more NHS cash that could have saved a few cancer patients wasted.

Stevens also says “something is going wrong” because when kids start primary school 10 per cent of them are obese. But by the end of it 20 per cent are.

Bleedin’ Nora! EVERYONE knows what’s going wrong. Childhood obesity is a parenting problem, NOT a health problem. Kids who are fat are made fat by parents who are lazy, stupid or trying to buy their children’s affection with food.

Give him his due, Stevens had some good ideas in his report. But if, as he claims, obesity is crippling the NHS then he needs to know a whole lot more about what makes people get fat. And until he does, his chances of doing anything about it are zero.


 

Palo Alto mom launches app to help kids lose weight

Joanna Strober’s 11-year-old son had a weight problem. Looking for advice and specific weight-loss tools, she took her son to see his pediatrician, who didn’t offer much besides “exercise more, eat less,” Strober said.

“It’s really hard to know what to do when the doctor tells you that,” the Los Altos Hills mother said.

She looked into other options to help her son be healthier. There was the Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program, a six-month-long behavioral and educational program that Strober referred to as the gold standard for children’s weight loss. But it comes with a $3,500 price tag (though financial assistance is available) and its success — since 1999, more than 80 percent of the children have achieved “age-appropriate weight reduction” — is based on active, in-person participation. Groups of children ages 8 to 18 and their families are required to be on campus weekly for two-hour meetings, which is logistically challenging for many parents, including Strober.

But talking to Stanford staff and doing some research on weight-loss apps, Strober realized that the program’s gold-standard practices could be translated into a more accessible platform that reaches kids and parents where they are. With a background in venture capital, she did what any other Silicon Valley mother would do: She founded an app company she named Kurbo.

The company, made up of a 10-member team that works out of a downtown Palo Alto house, licensed Stanford’s program and turned it into a mobile version offered to 8- to 18-year-olds and their parents at no charge. The main feature of the app is a meal-tracking system: Users log what they’re eating throughout the day, and the app lets them know how they’re doing using a “traffic light” system. Red foods are deep-fried items, fats, sugars and carbs. Greens are fruits and vegetables; yellow is everything else, to be eaten in moderation.

When Kurbo users log what they had for breakfast — perhaps two eggs and whole-wheat toast with butter — the app will let them know how many red foods they can eat the rest of the day. Kid-friendly games teach about what foods fall into which traffic-light category and why; videos offer information on topics like portion size, exercise and budgeting.

“The best thing you can do for weight loss, period, is to track what you eat,” Strober said. “If you pay more attention to what you eat, you’re more likely to lose weight.”

This doesn’t mean counting calories so much as learning about what is in the food in order to establish a healthier, long-term lifestyle.

It’s also about choice. Kurbo doesn’t tell users what red foods they can or can’t eat; that’s up to them.

The app’s second defining feature is a coach who serves as a third-party (read: non-parent) support system for the kids. Instead of weekly in-person meetings, the Kurbo coaches — all of whom have established experience in children’s health — are available to both the children and parents via Skype, FaceTime, text or email at all times. Scheduled sessions usually take about 10 minutes and generally don’t occur more than once a week. The coaches can view the foods and exercise time children have logged and help them to set personal goals around eating and exercise.

Esther Levy, a former elementary school teacher who worked at the Stanford pediatric program for four years before joining Kurbo as a coach, talks to kids when they get home after school, before they go to bed — even while they’re on vacation.

“It really reaches kids wherever they are and makes it as easy as possible to support them in losing weight or just being healthier,” she said.

“We know that the third-party accountability is really important and taking the role of the food police away from the parents,” said Strober, who said she struggled with that with her son.

“I was telling him what to eat, and I was creating a lot of problems,” she said. “You’re really scared (as a parent). It’s not just the weight issue; it’s the health issues; it’s the emotional issues. There are a lot of things that happen for kids who are overweight.”

Coaches aren’t, however, free; consultations costs $75 per month. Strober said they plan to roll out a text-only coaching model soon that will cost less.

Kurbo coaches often serve as parents’ support system, too. (One parent recently emailed Levy pictures of food labels while grocery shopping, unsure what was the most healthy choice.) But it’s up to the child whether or not to allow parents to be able see the app. And after an initial session with the coach, children also choose if they want their parents to be present for future sessions.

Jordan Greene, a freshman at Carlmont High School in Belmont, said her coach helped motivate her to meet goals they set together and was someone with whom she could talk. She likes that the app is on her cell phone, and she has her coach’s phone number so she can text her if she has a question or a need. (Greene’s mother joked that she listens to her coach more than she does her own mother.)

And it’s actually worked. Since starting with Kurbo in April, 14-year-old Greene has lost 30 pounds. She’s learned about portion size for the first time with a helpful comparison: One serving is about the size of one’s fist. Fond of dance, she wants to try out for her high school dance team and says she now feels less self-conscious.

Greene’s mother, Michele Brenner, said her daughter’s doctor suggested she try Weight Watchers a few years ago, but it wasn’t the right model for someone that young. They knew about the Stanford program, but it just wasn’t accessible, Brenner said, and there weren’t any other programs out there for someone of her daughter’s age.

But, Brenner said, it’s not just that Kurbo is easy, free and accessible. The feature that sets the app apart, said Brenner and other users, is the fact that it puts the entire process — the tracking, the education, the goal-setting, the accountability — in the hands of the child.

“It put her in the driver’s seat,” Brenner said. “She was doing it because she was self-motivated to do it, not because it came from me.”

Putting kids in charge of their weight loss is an approach Kurbo replicated from the Stanford program. Sam Feldman, a sophomore at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, participated in Stanford’s program when he was 9 years old and 50 pounds overweight. He joined the Kurbo team this summer as an intern, testing out the app and advising on what worked or what didn’t work for him at Stanford. (Along with a youth advisory board, a group of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital pediatricians, psychologists and well-known tech experts helped develop the app and continue to provide guidance.)

Feldman — now a slim, healthful, confident young man who plays three sports — clearly found success through Stanford’s program, and it went beyond just losing weight.

“It really changed who I was in all aspects. I didn’t just lose weight,” he said. “I feel like I can really accomplish anything because I saw who I was before and who I am now, and it really gives me the confidence to do anything.”

Feldman was at first skeptical that a mobile app with nowhere near the same level of in-person instruction could produce such results. (Plus, it ran counter to the idea that kids who need to lose weight should be spending less time on their screens and more time outside exercising.)

But, he said, the more he thought about it, the convenience and affordability of a mobile version of Stanford’s approach made sense. Instead of carrying around a journal to log what you’re eating, you can pull your phone out and take a picture or make a note on the app. Kurbo coaches are available through numerous mediums at all times. He saw beta users testing the app lose 15 pounds and more.

Since launching to the public in August, thousands of people across the country have downloaded Kurbo, and coaches currently work with about 100 users, Strober said. More than 80 percent of users have reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI), a standard measure of body fat based on height and weight.

“When the kids start feeling like they’re empowered to make changes, it’s really cool,” Strober said. “When they have a tool that helps them and then they have someone else who cares about them talking to them — that combination, we found, is really powerful.”