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65 million people lost weight with My Fitness Pal? Says who?

This post by Vik originally appeared at The Health Care Blog.

Sixty-five million Americans have lost weight with My Fitness Pal! Says who?

Free Calorie Counter  Diet   Exercise Journal (1)Now, let’s see, according to Gallup, 18% of American adults are at their ideal weight, so we’ll assume they don’t want to lose weight. That means 82% of American adults or about 198 million people might want lose weight. Thus, based on My Fitness Pal’s headline boast, their market penetration is nearly a third of the adults who need to lose weight, which is just boffo if you are a potential advertiser.

Or, is it? Observe, my dear Watson, as we play 20 questions with My Fitness Pal:

  1. How many of these people were repeat customers?
  2. How often did they come back?
  3. At what time intervals?
  4. When they came back, how much weight had they (re) gained?
  5. How much weight did the average user lose?
  6. How long did they keep it off?
  7. How many actually shifted an entire BMI category, going from obese down to overweight or overweight to normal?
  8. How many went in the opposite direction?
  9. How many users don’t reach any of their weight loss goals?
  10. How many people who were on a medication such as a statin, metformin, or an antihypertensive, were able to get off it?
  11. How many eventually went back on one or more drugs?
  12. What proportion of weight losers improved their fitness levels?
  13. How do you know the answer to number 12?
  14. Your homepage tells viewers “Eat whatever you want.” How is that sensible eating advice?
  15. What proportion of MFP users end up on some other weight loss program?
  16. How many end up opting for surgery or another invasive approach to weight loss?
  17. After I got my free MFP account, I logged in, and promptly clicked on the ad from the CruiseControlDiet (“Which Food Causes The MOST Weight Gain?”) to find out which food I should never eat. After an interminable, witless presentation, I learned…don’t drink orange juice. I also learned that I can order this entire program for just $39.99. How many of your users click on that ad and buy the Cruise Control Diet? What’s your share of the $39.99? What do you make per click?
  18. IF MFP is so flippin’ great, why even carry an ad from another diet scheme?
  19. Isn’t it in fact true that there is zero evidence of the utility of apps like My Fitness Pal?
  20. Isn’t your business model just like that of any other weight loss scheme? You need people to need you because that’s your path to selling ads and staying “free.” So, you not only need repeat and new customers, you actually have no incentive to produce stable long-term weight loss, because then, who needs an app?

I occasionally coach business executives on healthy living. One of my star pupils is the CEO of a large medical technology company. When he started working with me, he weighed 350 lbs. He lost 20% of his starting body weight and has kept it off for three years. We used a MFP competitor for a short time, and found it repetitive, unproductive, and unenlightening so we stopped.

We talk. I listen. He listens. We ask each other questions. He turns suggestions into action. He knows how to call audibles and improvise depending on circumstances. Sometimes I criticize him, and sometimes he criticizes me. We vent, make up, and here we are, making a little more progress every month, as he now envisions a long, healthy retirement, during which I believe he will not need my help.

Over the three years we have worked together, he has done nothing that I don’t teach people in my new e-book. His most important strategies: eat lots of produce; stop drinking all kinds of soda; stop drinking alcohol; stay as consistently active as possible given an insane travel schedule; get more and better quality sleep. The other thing he did was consider gastric banding surgery…for about a nanosecond. He went to a pre-op visit at the surgical center, took one look around and said, “Oh, no, I’m not doing this. I’m no quitter.”

Believe it or not, his two most powerful steps were probably stopping the soda and alcohol. The first because he just stopped drinking crap. The second had a vital ripple effect. His staff told him that his abstention gave them permission to abstain as well, knowing that he would have their backs if customers or vendors complained that they did not drink at business dinners. That, my friends, is corporate leadership on health.

My Fitness Pal is not leadership. It’s just another gimmick in a $60 billion market full of gimmicks.

Vik Khanna’s new e-book Your Personal Affordable Care Act: How To Avoid Obamacare, is available now in the Kindle Marketplace and at

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