The Diet Market Needs Fat People to Stay Fat (But People Are Starting to Want to Be Healthier)

This post might make you angry if you’re one of the over 100 million people who are dieting (up to four or five times per year) in the United States. However, I’m not going to sugar coat it — mostly because you’d probably try to eat it if I did. I’m not worried about making you angry, though. If you were going to get off the couch to do something about it, data tells me that you already would have. After all, life is like a box of chocolates: it doesn’t last as long for fat people. But seriously, I’m not here to pick on fat people … they already have enough on their plates (ok, yes, place in hell secured).

So, if your pants size is “leggings,” or if you’re “in shape” only because round is technically a shape, and even if the only thing you got for Christmas was fatter, take heart (clogged arteries and all), because you’re fueling a $20 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone.

In 2008 or so, I was within a curly butt hair of being 300 lbs. (I was about 135 kg for those of you who speak Science). I was lucky enough to stumble onto the ketogenic lifestyle and literally drop 100 lbs., but not before I spent a good deal of money in the weight loss economy. I dripped sweat with P90X, cried tears with Insanity by the same company, bought a body fat scale, tried a multitude of vitamins, and even hired a personal trainer and a nutritionist.

In 2015, Fortune engaged SurveyMonkey to do a poll. It found that 77% of Americans were actively trying to eat healthier, but only 19% said they were on a diet. In fact, Fortune also found, the percentage of women reporting they are on a diet has dropped 13 points over the past two decades, according to research firm NPD Group.

Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Nutrisystem all saw diminishing returns in recent years. Weight Watchers, for example, reported $1.83B in 2012, following by annual numbers of $1.72B, $1.48B, $1.24B, and finally $1.18B in 2016. Although COGS followed the same trend, Weight Watchers ended up with an anemic 59% of the earnings in 2016 versus their 2012 reported earnings.

Even more shocking is the drop in the “low calorie” foods that were once a sure bet for grocery stores to stock. Sales of Weight Watchers dinners (made by Heinz) dropped by 17% from 2009 and 2014, while those for Con Agra’s Healthy Choice line thinned by 11% during that period, according to Euromonitor.

What does this bode for the dieting market? Will we see a shift to more “holistic” approaches? The desire for a “quick fix” isn’t going away any time soon, but I’m excited to see how the market pivots to take a longer term view of customers. The clear winners will likely partner to help customers reach their goals, instead of looking for the next sucker. Please, pitch me the next health giant — I’m listening.