Some come to rallies or protests with bull horns. Others show up armed with brass knuckles and soda cans filled with concrete. America’s detractors. The vocal “progressives” throughout the country who sing a song of cacophonous discord. Their vision of America is that of a country filled with hateful people who are racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and who espouse more phobias than would be needed to fill all five boroughs of New York City’s phone books.
Now it is rather remarkable that these same people are anxious to see America filled with an extensive group of new immigrants from the highways and byways of the world. The thought occurs to me rather naturally, are these progressives sadists? Why would they want more people to be subjected to living in the dreadful environment which they describe today’s America to be? And, despite the widespread dissemination of news, are people who believe America to be a cesspool and still want to come here completely insane? We do not need to import more lunatics to this country. We already have enough of our own.
For all those who share this view of our country, I have a two word rejoinder. Weight Watchers. Let me put that in context.
Back in the ’60’s there were two stocks that traded on the NYSE which were blazing white hot. The first was Xerox which had developed plain paper copying. The second was Mead, Johnson which manufactured a meal replacement product called Metrecal. Making a Xerox was interchangeable with making a copy. And having a Metrecal was interchangeable with being on a diet. But there was one significant difference between Xerox’s achievement and in Mead, Johnson’s.
While Xerox effectively put the smudgy carbon paper industry out of business, Mead, Johnson gave serious impetus to the existence of a brand new industry – the diet industry.
Among the list of the Seven Deadly sins is gluttony. But gluttony can only exist in an environment where there are the necessities to fulfill it. In other words, it’s hard to overeat if there’s no food to consume. The Protestant Reformation in part came into being by criticizing the “cloistered virtue” of Roman Catholic religious orders for depriving their members of the right to exercise free will by removing the temptations that the laity faced and had to deal with on a daily basis.
In America we have no lack of food – and no lack of people who are consciously or otherwise willing to take advantage of that fact. Inevitably, that has resulted in a fair amount of tummy bulge leading us now to the point where we are “achieving” obesity rates that dwarf those in every other country worldwide. This is not a new phenomenon – but it seems to be accelerating it’s pace.
We were gaining weight back fifty years ago. And the marketers of Metrecal (available in four equally repugnant flavors) hit on something big. Americans were obsessed with their appearance and their weight. And we were obsessed with our God-given right to get what we want and get it as quickly as possible – including weight loss. Metrecal was the “miracle product” of the day. Pop a can open and you too could look like Raquel Welch. Had its manufacturer been able to make it more palatable to the average person’s taste, it might have been the biggest product ever invented.. At least that’s what stock investors hoped would happen.
While people grew tired of Metrecal, they didn’t get tired of trying to achieve the perfect, svelte body. Diet books were published by the hundreds – often with diametrically opposed advice on the most effective way to lose weight. But those books required a lot of effort. First, you had to read them. And then you had to implement the advice they contained. That was a lot of work for many of us – far too much. But the diet industry came up with a solution, Weight Watchers – another child of the early sixties.
Weight Watchers recognized a principle of weight loss that we still accept today. A person who consumed more calories than he expended was going to gain weight – the converse resulting in weight loss. But for us Americans who want instantaneous results, seeing a pound or two drop off after a week of self-imposed dietary discipline was discouraging to many. So Weight Watchers incorporated support meetings to encourage us on our journey – and to console us when we failed to see progress. And they charged a weekly fee to participate in their version of a seven step program.
No stranger to weight problems herself, Weight Watchers’ current spokesperson is Oprah Winfrey. She purchased a ten percent interest in the company in 2015. The company needed a high profile PR person to represent them since they spawned a number of competitors including Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig – and a host of diet pills which to some is far easier than having to weigh and measure. Of course, the latest phase of the diet industry is selling portion controlled meals, available in frozen form, which thanks to the invention of the microwave oven seems to be the way the industry may go in the future.
Weight Watchers has no operations in Burkina Faso or Venezuela or Sri Lanka or Somalia. The reason is obvious. The vast majority of people in those countries do not have an issue with being overweight. Their challenge is to find enough food to sustain themselves. And if you don’t believe that a nearly endless food supply makes America different and great – just ask Weight Watchers.