12 Things You Might Not Know About Weight Watchers

Eugene Gologursky, Getty Images for Weight Watchers
Eugene Gologursky, Getty Images for Weight Watchers

Though devices like the Fitbit have chewed into their market share, Weight Watchers remains a formidable presence in the $72 billion weight loss industry. Unlike many fad diets and dubious supplements, there’s actual scientific evidence that says the program—which combines caloric control with social support—works. Recently, the company has expanded to include advice on overall wellness and has changed its name to its initials: WW. Current CEO Mindy Grossman believes the program will maintain its prominent role as a leader in weight management. Take a look at these 12 facts about points, spokespeople, and the role of animal organs in a balanced diet.

1. The founder of Weight Watchers was mistaken for a pregnant woman.

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When 37-year-old Queens housewife Jean Nidetch walked into a supermarket in 1962, she ran into a neighbor who complimented her on her appearance. Before Nidetch could thank her, the neighbor asked when she was due. Unsatisfied with both the social faux pas and her weight of 214 pounds, Nidetch decided to go on a diet and visited the New York Board of Health for advice. After cutting out soda and eating more protein, Nidetch lost 20 pounds in 10 weeks. To help stay motivated, she began meeting with friends to exchange stories about food temptations. One confessed to eating a donut out of a garbage can. A movement was born.

2. The first Weight Watchers meetings were held over a pizza parlor.

Once Nidetch (who eventually lost 70 pounds and kept it off) realized there was a demand for meetings beyond her circle of friends, she started Weight Watchers as an incorporated business in 1963. Those early meetings were held in an empty space over a New York pizza parlor; the owner was puzzled as to why there was a line of people outside who never stopped in for a slice.

3. The original Weight Watchers plan called for liver and brains. 

Weight Watchers spent its first decades endorsing a limited-quantities program, which didn’t count calories but restricted members to certain kinds of foods. “Group A” meats included organs like liver, brains, and kidneys, as well as white-meat turkey and chicken. The diet also welcomed frankfurters. It excluded bananas, avocados, and pancakes, however.

4. Weight Watchers used to be owned by Heinz. 

When you think of shedding pounds, you probably don’t think about slathering your meals in sugar-laden condiments. But when Nidetch’s meetings grew from neighborhood chats to public assemblies, it caught the attention of the H.J. Heinz company, the ketchup manufacturer. Heinz purchased Weight Watchers for $71 million in 1978; they sold the business off to a European investment firm in 1999, but maintained a small stake and still distribute frozen foods bearing the Weight Watchers brand.   

5. Weight Watchers magazine was for "attractive people." 

The Weight Watchers movement has bled into frozen foods, apps, and other licensed products, but one of their most enduring tie-ins has been Weight Watchers magazine. When the publication first appeared on newsstands in 1968, it presented simple food tips and lifestyle suggestions. In 1975, editors (including Matty Simmons, who would later found National Lampoon) added the subtitle Magazine For Attractive People.

6. Weight Watchers messed with success. Twice. 

Weight Watchers had long been a program based on social support and dietary recommendations. It wasn’t until 1997, when the company debuted its “Points” system, that the brand became a cultural phenomenon. By assigning points to a large variety of store-bought and restaurant foods, program members regarded choices like a banana (now allowed) or cupcake as being worth a certain number of points. As long as they didn’t exceed their total allowance for the day, they’d lose weight. The revamped PointsPlus, introduced in 2010, recognized 200 calories of protein and 200 calories of baked goods were indeed different and shifted their numerical values accordingly.

7. Not everyone was happy about the Weight Watchers change. 

On then-CEO David Kirchhoff’s blog, posters complained that the new system upended their comfort level with what had come before. “I hate it,” one member wrote. “I hate learning the new points and losing all my foods that I’ve put in over the last three years. I’m completely annoyed that microwave popcorn is three points now!!!!”   

8. Weight Watchers might cost you $75 a pound. 

Judit Klein, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Duke-National University of Singapore did a little number-crunching in 2014 and discovered that, with an average of $377 in annual membership fees and roughly five pounds lost per year, Weight Watchers costs members about $75 for every disappearing pound. But it’s still a much cheaper alternative than Jenny Craig, which requests members buy the company's own food at a cost of roughly $2,500 per year. At an average 16 pounds lost, that's roughly double the cost.

9. Weight Watchers is confident you won't abuse your free fruit privileges.

Under the PointsPlus system, members get a free pass with fruits and vegetables: they equate to zero points. While some dieticians and nutritionists argue that eating too much fruit could literally tip the scales, Kirchhoff explained that "There’s so little evidence that people abuse fruit. It takes a while to eat. It’s filling. Could you eat 12 bananas and count it as zero points? Yes. But how would you feel afterward?"

10. Charles Barkley was caught dissing Weight Watchers. 

One of many celebrity endorsers, Charles Barkley (a.k.a. “The Round Mound of Rebound”) became a spokesman in 2011. According to the New York Daily News, he was announcing an NBA game in January 2012 and—not realizing his microphone was still live—declared his deal with Weight Watchers to be a “scam.” He was apparently referring to getting paid to lose weight, not the program itself; the company later said in a statement they “love Charles … he’s unfiltered.”

11. Weight Watchers really had to work for China. 

Kirchhoff visited China in 2011 to see how the culture was embracing the Points system. Because pre-packaged food has confusing, spare labeling, and because the Chinese frequently eat out, the company had to stand by while chefs made nearly 20,000 common dishes and then measured their nutritional content.

12. Some people are banned from Weight Watchers. 

Not from eating sensibly, obviously, but from actively participating in the Weight Watchers community. Demographics that are cautioned against participating in their programs include anyone under the age of 18 unless those 13 and older have written permission from a health care provider; anyone suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa; and anyone pregnant.

10 Facts About Christopher Marlowe

A stone in memory of Christopher Marlowe at Kings School, Canterbury
A stone in memory of Christopher Marlowe at Kings School, Canterbury
John K Thorne, Flickr // Public Domain

Christopher Marlowe is more than a footnote in William Shakespeare’s life, even though that’s the position he’s most often relegated to, especially in fiction. It’s obvious why: Shakespeare is the most famous English playwright, and Marlowe is merely one of the most famous English playwrights. Plus, since Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare's, he ends up bursting onto the scene in cameo appearances during tales focused on the Bard.

The other reason? We simply don’t know that much about him.

Born in 1564, Marlowe led a brief, extraordinary life even before you get to all the mythology and conspiracy theories that have grown up surrounding him. He offered a memorable poetic voice that paved the way for Shakespeare while crafting stories of outsized personalities forever flying too close to the sun (or the Devil).

Here are 10 facts about a man we should know more about.

1. Christopher Marlowe achieved a lot in a short time.

Rupert Everett was almost 40 when he portrayed Marlowe in Shakespeare in Love, but Marlowe only lived to age 29. Marlowe built on the work of Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville among others, and his unrhymed, iambic pentameter—specifically the wildly popular and oft-imitated Tamburlaine the Great—represented an evolution in style that became an accepted structure in Renaissance English theatre. It’s what Shakespeare used, and what you probably learned about in high school literature class.

2. Christopher Marlowe wasn’t going to graduate Cambridge until the government intervened.

A portrait of an unknown 21-year-old man said to be Christopher Marlowe, discovered at Cambridge in 1952
A portrait of an unknown 21-year-old man said to be Christopher Marlowe, discovered at Cambridge in 1952
Wikimedia // Public Domain

In 1587, Marlowe had the Elizabethan equivalent of too many absences from his master’s program at Cambridge University, and there were rumors that he was preparing to go to France to become a Catholic priest. Cambridge officials considered refusing to award his degree, but the Privy Council (Queen Elizabeth’s advisers) sent them a letter denouncing the rumor and explaining that Marlowe had been operating to “the benefit of his country” and had done “her Majesty good service.”

3. Christopher Marlowe might have been a spy.

The "good service" he was doing for Her Majesty? The Privy Council never explained. Nevertheless, the secretive work, the religious nature of the rumors during an era when England persecuted Catholics, and the fact that Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham, often recruited young men attending Cambridge, have created the foundation for the theory that Marlowe was part of a spy network. At the very least, Marlowe did some undisclosed work for the government, which got him a helping hand that explained his school absences.

4. Christopher Marlowe was arrested for counterfeiting coins in Holland.

In 1592, about five years after the wild success of Tamburlaine, Marlowe was arrested for counterfeiting coins in the Dutch town of Vlissingen. This was a crime punishable by death, but Marlowe seems to have walked away with no, or very light, punishment. Naturally, some think this supports the idea that Marlowe worked as a spy.

5. Christopher Marlowe translated ancient poetry.

In addition to his plays (he wrote at least four, and some say seven), Marlowe also wrote poetry—"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and "Hero and Leander" most notably. In the former, a shepherd woos a lover by glorifying nature, and the latter retells a Greek myth where a man swims a narrow sea to reach the woman he loves. Marlowe also translated ancient works, including the first book of the Pharsalia, a Roman epic by Lucan about Caesar facing Pompey the Great in battle, and Ovid’s books of love poetry, Amores.

6. Christopher Marlowe was arrested for holding heretical views.

In 1593, the English government had a largely welcoming attitude to Protestant immigrants, so authorities were livid when anti-immigrant tracts began being posted on the streets of London. One that was judged to "exceed the rest in lewdness" alluded to two of Marlowe’s plays and was signed “Tamburlaine.” As part of a sweep targeting suspicious characters, authorities arrested and then tortured Marlowe’s friend and fellow playwright Thomas Kyd, who asserted that an unorthodox religious tract found in his room belonged to Marlowe. A warrant was issued, and Marlowe presented himself to the Privy Council, who told him to check in with them every day with them until further notice. He died 10 days later.

7. Christopher Marlowe's death inspired conspiracy theories.

The official story is that Marlowe was killed on May 30, 1593 while arguing about money in a boarding house with an associate named Ingram Frizer, and that very well may be the truth. But the strange circumstances around the event are numerous: Marlowe had been arrested for being an "atheist" only 10 days prior but received no real punishment for it; Frizer (and the two other men there) had all been employed by spymaster Walsingham; and even contemporaries doubted the plausibility of the coroner’s report. The list of people who apparently might have had cause to want Marlowe dead is long (right up to the queen herself), but the most fanciful theory is that the whole event was faked so that Marlowe could escape a very real death if convicted for religious heresy.

8. Christopher Marlowe pushed against anti-LGBT bigotry in his work.

Some scholars think Marlowe may have been gay, but (like so many other elements of his life) there is no conclusive evidence. However, there is concrete evidence that he treated same-sex relationships differently than other writers of the time. In other work of the same period, gay characters were usually villains, but Marlowe wrote about Edward II’s relationship with Piers Gaveston with humanity and beauty in Edward II. Some experts believe the play upheld conventional views on gay relationships by “punishing” Gaveston with death and killing Edward II in a way that evokes sodomy, but, even if so, Marlowe still covered the topic throughout the play with greater complexity and consideration than his contemporaries.

9. Westminster Abbey installed a window memorializing Christopher Marlowe in 2002.

The Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey is home to the graves of over 100 poets and writers, starting with Geoffrey Chaucer, who was buried there in 1400. Marlowe is buried in an unmarked grave in St. Nicholas's Church in Deptford, London, but shares a memorial in the form of a window at Poet's Corner with Elizabeth Gaskell, Oscar Wilde, and more. The space was donated by The Marlowe Society, who included a question mark next to his death date.

10. Shakespeare paid tribute to Christopher Marlowe in verse.

There would be no Shakespeare without Marlowe. Honoring the young trailblazer after his death, Shakespeare included one of Marlowe’s lines from Hero and Leander in As You Like It (“Who ever lov’d that lov’d not at first sight?”) and had a character possibly allude to Marlowe’s killing. There are also nods in Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost. Of course, Shakespeare’s highest homage came in how often he echoed Marlowe’s poetic style and dramatic themes. (Though definitely not written by Shakespeare, there’s also a 1981 rock ‘n’ roll musical tribute to Marlowe that’s set in the 16th century but somehow also included miniskirts.)

10 Bold Breaking Bad Fan Theories

Bryan Cranston as Walter White and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad.
Bryan Cranston as Walter White and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad.
Ben Leuner, AMC

It’s been nearly six years since Breaking Bad went out in a blaze of gunfire, but fans still haven’t stopped thinking about the award-winning crime drama. What really happened to Walter White in the series finale? What’s the backstory on Gus Fring? And what did Jesse Pinkman’s doodles mean?

While El Camino, Vince Gilligan's new Breaking Bad movie, offers definitive answers to at least one of these questions, these fan theories offer some alternative answers—even if they strain the limits of logic and sanity along the way. Read on to discover the surprising source of Walt’s cancer diagnosis, and why pink is always bad news.

1. Walter White picks up traits from the people he kills.

Walter White is an unpredictable guy, but he’s weirdly consistent on one thing: After he kills someone, he kind of copies them. Remember how Krazy-8 liked his sandwiches without the crust? After Walt murdered him, he started eating crustless PB&Js. Walt also lifted Mike Ehrmantraut’s drink order and Gus Fring’s car, leading many fans to wonder if Walt steals personal characteristics from the people he kills.

2. Gus Fring worked for the CIA.

Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) in Breaking Bad
Giancarlo Esposito and Javier Grajeda in Breaking Bad.
Ursula Coyote, AMC

Who was Gus Fring before he became the ruthless leader of a meth/fried chicken empire? Well, we know he’s from Chile. We also know that any records of his time there are gone. And we know that cartel kingpin Don Eladio refused to kill him when he had the chance. Since Don Eladio has no qualms about eliminating the competition, Gus must have some form of protection. Could it be from the U.S. government? A detailed Reddit theory suggests that Gus was once a Chilean aristocrat who helped the CIA install the dictator Augusto Pinochet in power. Once Pinochet became a liability, Gus went to Mexico at the CIA’s behest to infiltrate a drug cartel. His alliance with U.S. intelligence kept him alive even as his work got more violent, and helped him bypass the normal immigration issues you'd typically encounter when you’ve murdered a bunch of people.

3. Madrigal built defective air filters that gave Walter white cancer.

Madrigal Electromotive is a corporation with varied interests. The German parent company of Los Pollos Hermanos dabbles in shipping, fast food, and industrial equipment … including air filters. According to one fan theory, Gray Matter—the company Walter White co-founded with Elliott Schwartz—purchased defective air filters from Madrigal and installed them while Walt still worked at the company. The filters ultimately caused Walt’s lung cancer, pushing him into the illegal drug trade and, eventually, business with Madrigal.

4. Color is a crucial element in the series.

Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt) and Hank Schrader (Dean Norris)
Betsy Brandt and Dean Norris as Marie and Hank Schrader in Breaking Bad.
Ben Leuner, AMC

Color is a code on Breaking Bad. When a character chooses drab tones, they’re usually going through something, like withdrawal (Jesse) or chemo (Walt). Their wardrobe might turn darker as their stories skew darker—like when Marie ditched her trademark purple for black while she was under protective custody. Also, pink signals death, whether it’s on a teddy bear or Saul Goodman’s button down shirt.

5. Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead exist in the same universe.

Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead both aired on AMC, but according to fans, that’s not all they have in common. There’s an exhaustive body of evidence connecting the two shows—and one of the biggest links is Blue Sky. The distinctively-colored crystal meth is Walt and Jesse’s calling card on Breaking Bad, but it’s also Merle Dixon’s drug of choice on The Walking Dead. Coincidentally, his drug dealer (“a janky little white guy” who says “bitch”) sounds a lot like Jesse.

6. Walter white froze to death and hallucinated Breaking Bad's ending.

Bryan Cranston in the 'Breaking Bad' series finale
Ursula Coyote, AMC

In her review of the Breaking Bad series finale “Felina,” The New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum suggested an alternate ending in which Walt died an episode earlier, as the police surrounded his car in New Hampshire. He could’ve frozen to death “behind the wheel of a car he couldn’t start,” she theorized, and hallucinated the dramatic final shootout in “Felina” in his dying moments. This reading has gained traction with multiple fans, including SNL alum Norm Macdonald.

7. Jesse’s superheroes are a peek into his inner psyche.

In season 2 of Breaking Bad, we discover that Jesse Pinkman is a part-time artist. He sketches his own superheroes, including Backwardo/Rewindo (who can run backwards so fast he rewinds time), Hoverman (who floats above the ground), and Kanga-Man (who has a sidekick in his “pouch”). The characters are goofy, just like Jesse, but they may also reveal what’s going on in his head. Backwardo represents Jesse’s tendency to run from conflict. Hoverman reflects his lack of direction or purpose, while Kanga-Man hints at his codependency.

8. Madrigal was founded by Nazi war criminals.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) in 'Breaking Bad'
Bryan Cranston and Michael Bowen in Breaking Bad.
Ursula Coyote, AMC

This might be one of the wilder Breaking Bad theories, but before you write it off, consider Werner Heisenberg: The German physicist, who helped pioneer Hitler’s nuclear weapons program, is the obvious inspiration for Walt’s meth kingpin moniker. While Heisenberg only appears in name, there are plenty of literal Nazis on the show. Look no further than Uncle Jack and the Aryan Brotherhood, who served as the Big Bad of season 5. At least one Redditor thinks all these Nazi references are hinting at something bigger, a conspiracy that goes straight to the top. The theory starts in South America, where many Nazis fled after World War II. A group of them supposedly formed a new company, Madrigal, through their existing connections back in Germany. Eventually, a young Chilean named Gus Fring worked his way into the growing business, and the rest is (fake) history.

9. Walter white survived, but paid the price.

Lots of Breaking Bad theories concern Walt’s death, or lack thereof. But if Walt actually lived through his seemingly fatal gunshot wound in “Felina,” what would the rest of his life look like? According to one Reddit theory, it wouldn’t be pretty. The infamous Heisenberg would almost certainly stand trial and go to prison. Although he tries to leave Skyler White with information to cut a deal with the cops, she could also easily go to jail—or lose custody of her children. The kids wouldn’t necessarily get that money Walt left with Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz, either, as they could take his threats to the police and surrender the cash to them. Basically it amounts to a whole lot of misery, making Walt’s death an oddly optimistic ending. (This is one theory El Camino addresses directly.)

10. Breaking Bad is a prequel to Malcolm in the Middle.

Bryan Cranston in the series premiere of 'Breaking Bad'
Bryan Cranston in the series premiere of Breaking Bad.
Doug Hyun, AMC

Alright, let’s say Walt survived the series finale and didn’t stand trial. Maybe he started over as a new man with a new family. Three boys, perhaps? This fan-favorite theory claims that Walter White assumed a new identity as Malcolm in the Middle patriarch Hal after the events of Breaking Bad, making the show a prequel to Bryan Cranston’s beloved sitcom. The Breaking Bad crew actually liked this idea so much they included an “alternate ending” on the DVD boxed set, where Hal wakes up from a bad dream where "There was a guy who never spoke! He just rang a bell the whole time! And then there was another guy who was a policeman or a DEA agent, and I think it was my brother or something. He looked like the guy from The Shield."

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