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Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchhoff: Your Diet is Never 'Done'

Aug 14, 2012 at 5:23 PM Chime in now

David Kirchhoff

David Kirchhoff Before and After

Less than minute into my interview with Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchhoff, and I’ve already made him wince.
I’m recounting that episode of Mad Men, the one where Betty Draper (or ‘Fat Betty’as fans refer to her online) attends a Weight Watchers meeting to help address certain unhealthy habits (such as spraying whipped cream -- directly from the can -- into her mouth). She finds solace with her group of fellow housewives who “weigh-in” weekly and cheer one another’s progress.

“Yeah, the thing that makes me cringe a little bit about that scene is how they announce each person’s weight loss," says Kirchhoff. "Maybe that happened in the early ‘60’s, that doesn’t happen now. It’s all confidential.”

While the program promises discretion, Kirchhoff is famously open about his own struggle with weight and his success with the Weight Watchers system. He was one of those skinny gangly kids whose metabolism ground to a halt around 30. By 32, he weighed in at 242 lbs, and his doctor informed him he was clinically obese.

He started attending a local Weight Watchers chapter in New York, where he loved everything from the group leader - who also had a career as a visual artist - to the bravery of the members.  “A woman started talking, and it turns out she’d lost 100 pounds. I thought that was something that happened in magazines." Kirchoff ultimately reached -- and maintained -- his goal weight of 203 pounds. If you want to read more about his weight loss story, his blog, Man Meets Scale is a funny and compelling complement to his book, Weight Loss Boss.  

I ask Kirchhoff how it feels to be the male CEO of the iconic diet company when weight loss has always seemed like a women’s game.

“When I first stepped into the job I have now, I felt a sense of obligation, particularly because I was a guy.  But what I would tell you in retrospect is that women have historically been pressured to lose weight for the wrong reasons – body image, media pressure -- and men have gotten the pass. 

But now, says Kirchhoff, more men are tackling weight gain. And part of that is a newfound vanity:

”You have movies like Magic Mike, and the guy from True Blood who is like 12 feet tall. And they’re ripped, 8-packs. And men are starting to feel some of the same pressure. That’s no more right. But the fact is that obesity is a health issue. Men are as likely – if not more-- to suffer from obesity as women. And obesity leads to weight-related illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.”

Weight Watchers, says Kirchhoff, is drawing men into the fold.  And once they begin the program, they're quick converts: “When [men] start doing the points, they love it. It’s like fantasy football. By far, the most fervent, passionate, Kool-Aid drinking supporters of Weight Watchers I’ve met have been men. They love it. It makes sense to them.”
Which brings us to a real draw for dudes: turning weight loss into a game. Through the point system, dieters can log and track their consumption online and through apps. And this has turned out to be key for attracting a new, hairier demographic.

“When they start doing points, it’s like a toy. They’re like, oh wait, what’s the worst thing in the database?”

Next Page: David Kirchhoff’s Tips for Weight Loss Maintenance

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