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Weight-Loss Giant Wages War on New Zealand Obesity Epidemic

Weight-Loss Giant Wages War on New Zealand’s Obesity Epidemic

Weight Watchers Plate of our Nation investigates the root causes of New Zealand’s growing obesity problem and mounts a social movement to stem the issue

New Zealand’s largest and most successful weight-loss organisation is planning a major assault on the nation’s obesity epidemic. Weight Watchers Plate of our Nation is an ambitious and far-reaching movement which puts our attitudes to food and activity under the microscope in a bid to offer real solutions to get our nation healthy again.

With 64.8 percent of Kiwis now overweight or obese, New Zealand ranks as one of the fattest countries in the developed world. Weight Watchers is investing its 50 years of experience and scientific research to be the first commercial weight-loss organisation to take action and affect real change on our country’s collective waistlines.

Weight Watchers Plate of our Nation kicked-off in earnest with a unique, multi-layered study to investigate the root causes of the deepening obesity crisis. The report covers all areas from lifestyle, exercise, body image, health and wellbeing, finding significant disparities between generations’ attitudes towards activity levels, food consumption, cooking skills and weight. It reveals how gradual changes in the way we eat, move and live our lives, have crept up on us over time, and points to a grim picture for New Zealand’s future, with food knowledge rapidly diminishing.

Plate of our Nation key findings:
• 53% of young adults consider heating chicken nuggets to be cooking
• Nearly 4 out of 10 (39%) Generation Z respondents are unable to correctly identify staple veggies such as leek or zucchini
• 82% of Generation Z respondents don’t use any fresh ingredients in their daily evening meals
• New Zealanders rarely eat as a sole activity; 81% of us are consuming meals while doing other things, from reading, texting to working, which has been shown to lead to over-eating
• 42% of New Zealanders continue eating until overfull
• On an average day, 42% of New Zealanders exercise, compared to 87% that watch TV
• 53% of New Zealanders admit they are concerned by the obesity crisis
• 36% of Generation Z believe seeing overweight people on TV makes obesity seem normal

The findings of the Weight Watchers Plate of our Nation survey are undeniable: as a society, we’re largely sedentary, we’ve lost touch with the value of fresh food and the importance of savouring mealtimes, and it’s the younger generation whose food knowledge is most at risk. Armed with this information, Weight Watchers is gearing up to take action.

Award-winning chef, Pete Evans, has teamed-up with Weight Watchers for the Plate of our Nation mission and is also joined by a team of specialists in the field of nutrition, psychology and exercise science. He explained his involvement:

“As a chef, and someone who is in the business of bringing pleasure through food, people might be surprised to hear me being so vocal about this issue. I approached Weight Watchers some time ago because I am genuinely concerned about the growing obesity epidemic and where we are headed. We’ve swapped fresh for fast, and quality for convenience, our knowledge of food and cooking skills are in decline. We’re busier than ever before, but technology means that our days are filled with so much sitting – watching TV, browsing the net – what’s worse, we do these things while we’re eating, so we’re not giving our food and mealtime the respect they deserve.

“It’s time for a re-think and who better than Weight Watchers to rally the nation and get us thinking about this issue and taking action?”

The centre piece for the Plate of our Nation is at, and Weight Watchers is calling on New Zealand to get involved.

Plate of our Nation is somewhere where individuals can make a difference, Weight Watcher is inviting Kiwis to throw their ‘social weight’ – in other words their facebook and twitter connections - behind the cause. The aim is for the site to be alive with debate and comment. Everyone can have their say. Visitors will be able to take the survey themselves and see how they compare with the rest of the nation in terms of food knowledge and cooking skills. There will also be practical hints and tips; from shopping and cooking tips, to recipes, together with experts from the fields of nutrition, exercise, psychology, obesity research and fashion on hand to provide advice, insight and action.

Weight Watchers Australasia Managing Director, Joseph Saad believes Weight Watchers has a key role to play in getting our nation healthy again. He said: “The impact obesity has on our health, life-expectancy and quality of life is substantial; for the first time, the next generation has a shorter life expectancy than the one that lived before them. The situation seems bleak, but we know it’s entirely preventable. As the leader in weight management we saw it as our duty to take a bold stand and help lead New Zealand to a healthier future. After all, we have almost 50 years of experience, the program is scientifically proven to work, and we’ve already helped millions of people to lose weight and regain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

“Put simply this campaign aims to bring the obesity epidemic to the fore, explaining in a simple and engaging way what’s led us down this path. Then we will start to provide solutions to address it. We absolutely think we can make a difference to this issue and start to help assist many more Kiwis to rid themselves of overweight and obesity. If we can put our influence and expertise to good use, this really is something for us to aim for.”

The Weight Watchers Plate of our Nation report was conducted among 1,000 New Zealanders aged 15 - 4 years from Wednesday 11 July – Tuesday 17 July 2012. The study was conducted online amongst members of a permission-based panel.

For more information about Weight Watchers and to read the Plate of our Nation report head to:

BMI category
Among New Zealanders aged 15 years and over, 1.2% were classified as underweight (males 0.8%; females 1.5%), 34.1% were classified as normal weight (males 30.2%; females 37.9%), 37.0% were classified as overweight (males 41.3%; females 32.8%), and 27.8% were classified as obese (males 27.7%; females 27.8%) (Table 8.1; Figure 8.1)

Weight Watchers is Australasia’s largest and most effective weight management support system, with thousands of New Zealand and Australian women and men having taken part in the program since its introduction over 40 years ago. The programme’s success is based on its flexible approach to weight loss and lifestyle change.

Members can follow the programme in a multitude of convenient ways including community meetings, online, one-on-one consultations, at work or at home. The system also includes Weight Watchers extensive supermarket foods range and monthly magazine.

Recent recognition of Weight Watchers efficacy includes ranking #1 program for ‘Best Weight-Loss Diet’, ‘Easiest Diet to Follow’ and ‘Best Commercial Diet Plan’ in the 2012 ‘Best Diet’ ranking by US News & World Report. Medical journal recognition includes The Lancet, following a trial whereby overweight and obese adults referred to Weight Watchers by their GP lost more than twice as much weight as those who followed a standard care program run by their GP. Additionally, a trial published in the British Medical Journal found that overweight and obese adults referred to Weight Watchers achieved significantly greater weight loss one year after the trial than those in a control group.


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