COMMENT:

Weight Watchers is rebranding. No longer will the company be focused - in name, at least - on losing weight. Now it's all about "wellness". WW is the new name, which stands for Wellness that Works.

Wellness is a very fashionable word. That Weight Watchers has latched on to it may signal we have reached peak wellness. The term is seen widely online and in social media; it's vague at the best of times and downright fluffy and misleading at worst.

Weight Watchers has clearly seen the writing on the wall (and on Instagram) that diets are falling out of fashion. It's not at all cool to say we're on a diet these days. Even people who promote diets don't say that's what they're promoting. They are typically at pains to say "it's not a diet. It's a lifestyle" - even when that lifestyle has long lists of foods that are off-limits.

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Weight Watchers says the same thing - in fact its shareholder and most famous advocate, Oprah Winfrey, is right there on the homepage of the US site smilingly saying that the new WW is "a way of life".

The new WW (just like the old one) doesn't have lists of banned foods, but it does still have points assigned to foods - participants count their points depending on limits based on their weight-loss goal. So not a diet, then, but a points-based lifestyle. WW says it won't be eliminating this programme, but it will be adding a WellnessWins loyalty programme to reward customers for "small, everyday behaviours that are proven to lead to healthier habits"; and focusing more on mindset and "community building".

It sounds nice, but I can't help but think of when Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded itself as KFC. The thinking presumably was that the Fried in the name reminded people of what they were eating, and that thing was not so healthy.

Did KFC change its fundamental business of selling fried chicken? No. The name changed; the offering remained the same. And cynically, I feel like this is much the same. The name has changed; they've added in some more holistic elements but, really, it's a weight-loss company at heart.

Weight-loss companies rely on people feeling they want to or should - for whatever reason - lose weight. Their business models also rely on the fact that most of those people will fail to do so.

That's because dieting, in the sense of restriction of what we eat, doesn't work. Yes, people lose weight. But most will gain that weight back again, and the dieting cycle continues. Changes in how we eat only work if we can sustain them long term; for life, basically. Most diets (or "lifestyles") are too restrictive and mess with our heads too much to allow that.

Maybe counting points for everything you eat becomes natural for some people, and can be sustained long term. But you have to wonder if it's the best way to true physical and mental wellness.

Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide www.healthyfood.co.nz