In Part 2 of our walk down memory lane with Janny Craig, we’re time warping back to the 1990’s, a period in which the weight loss industry’s chickens came home to roost. We’re talking class action lawsuits, scientific skewering and much needed industry wide regulation of its outrageous advertising claims. Ever wondered why all the weight loss ads have “results not typical” in tiny writing at the bottom of the screen? We have Jenny and her snake oil salesman cronies to thank for that. Don’t miss this schadenfreude-filled anti-diet episode!

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:12 Welcome to All Fired Up. I’m Louise, your host, and this is the podcast where we talk all things anti-D diet. Has diet culture got you in a bit of rage. Is the injustice of the beauty ideal getting your nickers in a twist? Does Fitz make you wanna spit? Are you ready to hurl if you hear one more weight loss tip? Are you ready to be mad loud and proud? Well, you come to the right. Let’s get all fired up. Hello and welcome back, diet culture dropouts. I hope you’re ready for part two of our walk down memory lane with Jenny Craig. I’m so appreciative. Thank you so much for listening and if you are feeling generous today, please help us spread the all fired up love by going to Spotify or Apple Podcasts or wherever you go. And leave us a really lovely five star rating and review. Speaker 1 00:01:05 I really wanna let everyone know that all fired up is back and angrier than ever. And of course, if you are not yet subscribed, please follow us so you don’t miss anything that’s about to pop up. We’re coming out every Monday from now on. So the All Fired Up podcast is brought to you by the brand new Untrapped Academy. The Untrapped Academy is a really affordable membership subscription and it brings you new speakers on the anti-D approach each month, a skills training session to bring your anti-D diet ideas to life, plus a support group run by me. There’s also a incredible Facebook community, which has been running since 2017 and there’s hundreds of really friendly anti-d dieters ready to welcome and support you in your adventure. So who is the Untrapped Academy for? Well, if you’ve had troubles with food, your body exercise, and if you’ve just had an absolute gut full of diet culture bullshit, I’ve created this for you. Speaker 1 00:02:04 And if you’re new to the world of anti-D dieting, looking for information, a deep dive into skills training or just support, this is for you. And of course, if you’re a seasoned anti-D dieter, just looking to keep up with the new things that are popping up in this always changing field. This is for you as well as, uh, doing regular live talks and the skills training sessions in our support groups. The Untrapped Academy is home to an ever-growing online video library where everything is fat positive, body positive, and weight inclusive. So to kick things off, I’ve uploaded our body talks, anti-d diet speaker talks into the academy. This is an two-day anti-D diet feast all which was run over the weekend of international no diet day. And we had an awesome lineup of speakers. So I’m talking Diane Bondi, Christie Harrison, Dr. Sabrina Strings, Reagan Chastain, Fiona Sutherland, Sophie Hagan, Chrissy King, e K Din, Lacey j Christie, Ashley Gillon, Dr. Speaker 1 00:03:08 Fee Willer, and Megan Krab. All of those talks are ready and waiting for you to watch in the Untrapped Academy right now. Plus cuz we’ve kicked off the academy, I’ve also added in a wonderful expert speaker talk from anti-D diet dietician Shane Jeffrey, who took us through the raves model, which is really useful, particularly for those who might find the idea of intuitive of eating, uh, just a bit too much. So for various reasons, you might be neurodivergent, you might just feel like the whole idea of eating in the wild is just a bit too much and you might be craving a bit more structure. Uh, the raise model is excellent for this. Plus I’ve also added in the recording of our first skills training session with anti-D diet dieticians Megan Susan, who took the ideas from Shane’s talk and turned them into a really nifty, practical, easy to follow guide. Speaker 1 00:04:03 So making the whole process of anti-D dieting and getting started with food seemed really easy. Ah, the Untrapped Academy is just the ultimate way to learn all things anti-d dieting in really digestible, easy to consume snack size pieces. And the talks that we have are just from so many wonderful teachers. So I have less than 10 places left for our amazing launch offer for the academy. So the launch offer was for the first 50 people who sign up and become founding members. Our platinum membership is just one Aussie dollar for the first month, and then after that it’s $15 a month. And once we hit the 50 founding members, this price is going to increase. So if you’re one of our founders, you are always going to pay just $15 just to say thank you for believing in this project. I’m so excited to get the ball rolling with this academy and I really hope you’ll consider coming along and being one of our founding members. Speaker 1 00:05:03 And of course, if you’ve got clients, patients, friends, family members, colleagues, anyone really that you think might benefit from joining us and becoming a founding member, let them know about us. Head over to au to find out more on with the show. Shall we? So when we left off, everything was completely rosy in the world of Jenny Craig and I was feeling a little bit sick just from all of the insincerity and, uh, what felt like, uh, polishing nuggets of bullshit. But I think that this episode is going to be a little more satisfying for all of us. So during the late 1980s and early 1990s, diet centers like Jenny Craig, they were popping up all over the USA and all over the world, really, like as often as the Golden archers. You literally couldn’t go anywhere without tripping over a Jenny Craig Nutrisystem or Weight Watchers outlet. Speaker 1 00:05:58 And in 1992, Jenny Craig Inc. Hit an all-time high. They had 621 outlets and they posted 467 million in sales. Oh, makes you sick all this money. But thankfully, the 1990s were a time of much native comeuppance for the weight loss industry. Yes. And you know, this was partly because it just literally hit a ceiling. It reached maximum capacity. The weight loss market became so saturated that a, a downturn was inevitable. In 1997, market data research calculated that a massive one out of four weight loss centers had shut down over the five years since 1992. The weight loss industry’s rampant, obscene, disgusting growth was fueled by unbridled false advertising promising all kinds of stuff, fast weight loss, cheap weight loss. And of course, not long after this, the cracks started to appear. And this is where we’re gonna dive in, my friends. It’s awesome. So first of all, there was a series of class action lawsuits lodged against Nutrisystem owned by Harold Katz. Speaker 1 00:07:14 Yes. The very same company that Jenny Kray had sold that Gloria Marshall franchise to in 1982 for 15 million bucks. So the lawsuits were filed by hundreds of customers who’d had to have their gallbladders removed. And we know from science that when you lose weight rapidly, you can really increase your risk of uh, forming gallstones. By 1991, Nutrisystem admitted that it was facing about 300 lawsuits nationally, but other sources were putting it up around 800. Each of the lawsuits were claiming that Nutrisystem and the rapid weight loss had really increased their gallstones and gallbladder disease. Also, in 1990, the unbridled greed of the weight loss industry caught the attention of Congressman Ron Widen, who was the chairman of the House subcommittee on regulation business opportunities and energy. So he was pissed off with all of this, and he opened a series of hearings into the health risks, false advertising and profiteering that he said are the bedrock of the nation’s weight loss industry. Speaker 1 00:08:21 He said the medical field is riddled with hucksters who ply their dubious wears and their miracle cures while government regulators sit snoozing on the sidelines. What a great quote. The inefficacy of dieting and the out of control weight loss industry was also under fire from science itself. In a scathing 51 page review article by Ghana and Wooley in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, the title’s excellent. It was called Confronting the Failure of Behavioral and Dietary Treatments for it’s difficult to find any scientific justification for the continued use of dietary treatments of obesity. Regardless of the specific techniques used, most participants regain the weight loss. The inevitability of this result is often obscured by the use of follow up periods insufficient to capture the later phases of the weight. Regain mind you like this was a scathing 51 page review. And you know what? It wasn’t even the first, there’d already been two others before this one, and of course more were to follow. Speaker 1 00:09:29 In 1992, a 13 member panel convened by the National Institute of Health arrived at a consensus about the safety and effectiveness of weight control techniques. After listening to two days of testimony from leading specialists in the field of obesity, the panel said that it had found no good evidence that any currently popular methods of voluntary weight loss had much chance for long-term success. In fact, what evidence the panel could find suggested that 90 to 95% of dieters regain all or most of their hard loss pounds within five years. The panel noted that the plethora of short-term weight control techniques had not resulted in any decrease in the percentage of overweight Americans in the last two decades. If anything, experts told the panel Americans on average are fatter today than they were in the 1960s. Does this sound familiar again? 30 years later now Not much has changed. Speaker 1 00:10:25 We are still bigger than we were even in the 1990s. Well done weight loss industry, of course, in her highly sanitized autobiography, Jenny Craig is just downplaying all of the atmos. She says that all of the pesky gallbladder lawsuits quote inspired some political opportunists to jump on the bandwagon and attack the weight loss industry as a whole. He claims that the gallstone issues were later proven to be unjustified. I’m sorry, that’s not true, because actually they were settled outta court for an undisclosed sum. Now this is not the same as proving that the claims were unjustified. This is when things really heat up litigation against Jenny Craig began in 1993 when the Federal Trade Commission filed several complaints about their deceptive advertising in connection with their claims about weight loss, weight loss, maintenance, price, and safety, as well as its use of customer testimonials and endorsements. Speaker 1 00:11:24 Now in her book, Jenny describes the legal investigation in the following way. As participants and leaders in the industry, we along with Weight Watchers, were invited to attend. Sid and I decided that I should not attend personally as I would be fodder for the media. We selected Ellen Destra, one of our vice presidents to represent the company. Now, from this quote, you’d think that she was talking about being invited to a gala, not a legal inquiry. Dodging the scrutiny. Jenny Craig and hubby sat back and watched the whole thing on tv. Jenny and Sid would’ve sat and watched experts on weight science and aggrieved. Customers give testimony about how diets don’t work and detailing all of the problems they cause. Even the psychologist and eating disorder expert David Garner, who wrote that blistering 51 page review, he testified against the diet industry in Congress, and I love this. Speaker 1 00:12:22 He coined the term data resistant researchers to describe the resistance to the writing on the wall about weight science. In the inquiry, Jenny Craig’s ads were specifically called out by Senator Widen and he criticized them for not being representative of the weight losses experienced by the average dieter purchasing Jenny’s products. One Jenny Craig ad shows a woman claiming to have lost 95 pounds. That’s 43 kilos in about six months. This is unusual. And Dere, the vice president, conceded in the inquiry that such an ad was not indicative of the average progress of most of the people that bought their program. Incredibly. In the book, Jenn says, we had never made any kind of ridiculous claims that some of the pill companies did, so we didn’t feel like we needed to make any big adjustment in our advertising. Jenny was also upset. The inquiry was telling them that they needed to be honest and upfront about the cost of their products. Speaker 1 00:13:23 And she was particularly aggrieved at being told not to use testimonials because so many other companies had people claiming their satisfaction with various products in their ads. It really feels like she’s just not getting the point. The whole point of these inquiries that testimonials and unrealistic advertising was at the heart of this. The fact that other people were doing it too was exactly the problem. But after watching all of this in the book, she dismisses it all as a strong political agenda in progress. So unfair Jenny, these hearings led the Federal Trade Commission to file consent orders with Jenny Craig and other weight loss companies, which agreed to stop airing questionable advertisements. Companies were then required to provide data to support claims of long-term weight control. And any testimonials had to be accompanied by a disclaimer that results may not be typical. What a relief in the book Jenny says, guidelines were ridiculous and would’ve made it difficult to run our company. So we fought back. We felt our rights under the Constitution were being usurped. Speaker 1 00:14:33 So Jenny Craig’s answer to the commission’s complaints was basically to deny all charges. After Jenny Craig fought back, the Federal Trade Commission actually added more allegations to their original complaints about Jenny Craig. They said Jenny Craig had also lied to the Federal Trade Commission by claiming that they had surveys from their customers to say that nine outta 10 customers would recommend the Jenny Craig program to a friend when they didn’t. Oh, honestly, Jenny Jenny’s version in the book that she’s presenting was that she and Sid bravely fought back against the government for their constitutional rights, but nowhere in the book, she just doesn’t disclose what actually happened, which was that as of 1997, they signed a consent order agreeing to the following. One, Jenny Craig has agreed not to misrepresent the performance, safety, or customer endorsement of any weight loss program and to have scientific data to back up future claims about weight loss and maintenance. Speaker 1 00:15:34 In addition, the settlement sets out the standards for the type of evidence that would be required to support various maintenance claims. For instance, claims that weight loss is maintained to long-term must be based on evidence of customers followed for at least two years. A second consent order. In addition, maintenance success claims in most ads would have to be accompanied by various clear and prominent disclosures, including the statement for many dieters, weight losses, temporary, as well as disclosures about the average weight loss maintenance for consumers on the Jenny Craig program, any results claimed in consumer testimonials would have to be representative of those that customers generally achieve. Unless the ad clearly and prominently discloses either the generally expected results or a statement such as this result is not typical, you may be less successful. The third order, Jenny Craig Advertisements that include price representations would be required to disclose either all mandatory fees or a list of the additional products or services consumers will need to purchase. Speaker 1 00:16:39 If a consumer inquires by telephone about an advertised price, and the fourth point, Jenny Craig would be required to disclose inappropriate situations, that failure to eat all the required food or recommended calories in the program can put dieters health at risk. And finally, the respondents would be prohibited from misrepresenting the results or existence of any test or study. Now, I think these are really important consequences. I suppose they’re viewed by Jenny as just petty details not important enough to add into her autobiography. Well anyway, this is such a wonderful moment in diet culture history. I’m literally basking. And here’s another one. In 1994, Jenny Craig settled a class action involving 360,000 clients from Orange County in California after it was alleged that the products could cause gall bladder disease. According to the LA times, Jenny Craig agreed to pay 10 million and give away 36 million in Jenny Craig merch, but also admitted no wrongdoing In her book, Jenny calls this massive lawsuit, frivolous quote, after the Nutrisystem suit gained so much publicity, lawyers in every state decided to jump on the bandwagon. Speaker 1 00:18:00 We were sued. I won’t go into the whole ordeal from start to finish. In fact, she has absolutely no details except to rant about how much the lawyers cost literally throughout this entire period. There is no sense of responsibility anywhere. And her sense of outrage is it’s patently ridiculous. Shouldn’t a company that offers to help people struggling with their obesity, trying to improve their health, being nurtured by government agencies instead of being attacked. And then she presents pages and pages of testimonials from happy clients without the results. Not typical disclaimer. Oh, Jenny, do you ever learn? Ugh. So the unbridled greed of the weight loss industry of the 1980s led to lawsuits, scientific reviews, consensus panels, federal investigations and charges, all of which eventually forced the industry to tow the line and reel in their false advertising. Excellent stuff. There’s more dirt, which is completely absent from Jenny’s autobiography like in 1992 when Jenny Craig’s own shareholders bought a lawsuit against them claiming that the rapid expansion that they were doing in the early part of the decade was being done to camouflage financial trouble. Speaker 1 00:19:23 The LA Times stated the suit claims that at the time of the October, 1991 public offering, the company knew that the market for diet clinics had become saturated, but still went ahead with expansion plans to boost their revenue and create the illusion that Jenny Craig was a prosperous company. It seems that even their shareholders had their noses outta joint when Jenny Craig made 80 million bucks in that half an hour. So there’s also that time that Jenny Craig became a Fen pill mill. So in 1996, just months after Fen F was released in the us, Jenny Craig had doctors prescribing diet pills at all of its 630 centers. Now, for anyone who’s listened to episode 77 of all fired up on the dark history of weight loss drugs, we all know that Fen, that the Fen scandal was massive. Uh, and it was removed from the market by the FDA in 1997 because of serious issues causing pulmonary hypertension and literally killing people. Speaker 1 00:20:25 But I guess these two details just weren’t important enough to stick in such a shiny autobiography. So Jenny Craig hit some hard times in the nineties. In 1992, Jenny Craig stock was training at 34 bucks a share. But thanks to all the negative scrutiny on dodgy weight loss centers, this dropped to $15 just one year later. In response to this, Jenny Craig restructured the company and they brought in a series of new executives who they’d hired from other companies, including Nutrisystem, but none of them stayed long. Jenny’s book touches on the bad share prices, but really like expresses just bewilderment. She only mentions that the Nutrisystem lawsuits and the negative publicity kind of hurt them by proxy and like honestly, by this time, the autobiography really is just a story. It’s definitely not the truth. In 1995, Jenny injured her jaw and that impacted her ability to speak. Speaker 1 00:21:22 So she didn’t do her own ads any longer and began to use her daughter alongside a lot more celebrity endorsements. And she pulled back from running the business day to day. In the book, there’s a long and quite insufferable section where she name drops a long list of celebrities that she’s met and hung out with. And then there’s even more about her new life spending millions of dollars buying racehorses. It’s not the most riveting read. By the late 1990s, Jenny Craig was in the serious doldrums. In 1999, they closed 86 outlets and reported a loss of 2.7 million compared with a profit of 2 million a year before the company’s stock price, which was $21. When it listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991 was just a dollar 56 In 1999. In 2002, Jenny Craig was taken over by uh, ACI Capital and partners private investment firms. Speaker 1 00:22:23 And at this point, Jenny says she seriously stepped away from anything to do with the business. The book was published in 2004 and limps to an excruciating end with Jenny Craig giving us all of the things she’s learned from being in business. I won’t bore you with them because they’re insufferably smug. In 2006, Jenny Craig was sold to Nestle in a transaction valued at about 600 million. Now you might know that Nestle and considered one of the most villainous companies in the world with a long history of scandals relating to child labor, polluting plastics, and killing babies with their baby formula. Listen to the swindled podcast episode, the formula. If you want more details on this incredibly dodgy company, under Nestle’s ownership of Jenny Craig came the infamous scientific research studies to prove it was effective. , not it’s hilarious. The first of these was from 2007, which was a tiny Jenny Craig funded clinical trial comparing 35 mostly white women who were given free Jenny Craig food for a year to a control group. Speaker 1 00:23:33 And they reported at 12 months on average, the Jenny Craig ladies lost seven kilos, which is absolutely not surprising because everyone loses weight on a 1200 calorie diet in the short term. And also people in real life have to pay for the Jenny Craig food. There’s another one from 2011, the same research team did a larger version of the same kind of trial, and this was published in Jamma, uh, free Jenny Craig. Food was given to mostly white women doing either in-person or telephone based free Jenny Craig programs, and then compared that to a control group. The two year trial shows that weight loss did occur, of course, and at the 12 month mark, this was when people’s weight was at their lowest. But by the two year follow up, the regain is clearly happening. So for the in-person women who are doing the Jenny Craig program, they’ve gone from a starting weight of 92 kilos down to 82 kilos at 12 months, and then back up to 84.8 kilos at two years. Speaker 1 00:24:39 And of course, the whole study was sponsored by Jenny Craig. And again, the food was free. . Ah yes. Results not typical. Indeed. Would you pay thousands of dollars to eat shitty food for two years? Well, I almost died from boredom and hunger, doing it for just six months. It’s just not typical. And to prove it, I can’t go past this section without mentioning an absolutely delicious paper, which was published by Corby Al in 2010. This was real world Data on thousands of people. So from Jenny Craig. So there was over 60,000 people followed doing their platinum program and 85,000 people doing their rewards and gold program. So they’re following people who are really paying for this and seeing what happens. And there’s a table in this paper, which shows the dropout rates. And this has to be seen to be believed. It starts at week one, of course, with a hundred percent of customers enrolled. Speaker 1 00:25:37 And then it’s a literal, it’s a plummet. It’s an, it’s an absolute plummet. By six months in more than 70% of their customers have gone by week 52, more than 90% of people are off. That is the real story of Jenny Craig, that most people just don’t last because it’s incredibly expensive, very boring, unsustainable stuff. Over the years, Jenny Craig have made a huge song and dance about their published research in JAMA, but the reality is, it’s just another case of deceptive advertising. They’ve just published it in a journal perhaps kind of smelling where everything was going. Jenny Craig got sold again in 2013 to North Castle Partners. Now, under their ownership, there’s even more scandal. So in 2018 in Australia, Jenny Craig was forced to pay penalties of $38,000 for misleading Australian consumers on its advertisement, lose 10 kilos for $10. The a ACCC said that the advertisements misled consumers into thinking that they could participate in a Jenny Craig program and lose 10 kilos for 10 bucks. Speaker 1 00:26:51 But in reality, of course, with all of the food, customers would have to spend far more than that. Hmm. It seems like Jenny Craig have already forgotten all of those inquiries from the 1990s. So we’re now at the final sale of Jenny Craig in April, 2019. H i g capital acquired Jenny Craig from North Castle Partners. And by this time it was definitely in a death spiral and in a pit of massive debt and unable to find a buyer. On May the second, 2023, Jenny Craig announced to employees via email that the company was going to wind down its operations. On the 5th of May. Jenny Craig filed for chapter seven bankruptcy, and on the 9th of May, it’s apparently unaffected Australian operations were placed into voluntary administration by by Jenny Craig. Jenny Craig herself is still alive. She’s now 91 years old. And husband Sid Craig died back in 2008. Speaker 1 00:27:52 Jenny Craig’s autobiography was called, how One Woman Changes millions of Lives. Well, she certainly did change lives, but her legacy of upholding fat phobia, making piles of money from desperate people, failing on her promises of lasting weight loss, misleading advertising and messaging and behaving like a downright shark, isn’t something I’d be looking to emulate. The death of Jenny Craig’s weight loss centers is undoubtedly wonderful. One of my major career goals was to see the likes of these massive weight loss companies go broke. But we’re definitely not out of the woods. The weight loss industry in the 2020s, it’s definitely changing. It’s morphing, it’s becoming more medicalized, more invasive, and frankly more terrifying. And so we can’t stop fighting. Thanks for listening, everyone. Now, if you’ve wondered why I haven’t talked about the Jenny Craig ambassadors in today’s episode, the reason is because our next episode is gonna be all about that special breed of diet culture dego the celebrity weight loss ambassador. Do not miss it. It’s gonna be a cracker. Okay? So take care, my lovelies, and see you next Monday. In the meantime, trust your body. Think critically, push back against diet culture, untrapped from the crap!