Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nestle and Jenny Craig: A Match Made in Heaven

If you haven’t yet heard, Nestle recently purchased Jenny Craig Inc. to the tune of $600 million (no, this is not a joke). What a perfect time for a post on what I call the “diet-world dichotomies.” We’re all familiar with the edible incarnations of good versus evil (carrot good, ice cream bad), on-plan versus off-plan (Monday versus weekends), and a host of other black-and-white depictions that define the diet world.

But, each extreme occurs only in relation to the other—diet Monday occurs after overeating weekend. Overeating weekend follows diet week. I’m reminded of one of main tenets espoused by Geneen Roth: “For every diet, there is an equal and opposite binge.” Call it Newton’s fourth law of (e)motion. It’s a cycle that fuels itself.

To add a psychological touch to this concept, I believe we are always acting out some part of the impulsive-compulsive spectrum. When we’re impulsive, we overeat, and when we’re compulsive, we restrict. As with most things, freedom from the struggle lies with moderation, a concept which Nestle will likely overlook.. It’s as if their marketing team will now cheer on your chocolate consumption, “More, more, more. . . oops, too much. . . go to Jenny Craig!” And, when you tire of/fail at Jenny Craig, which you inevitably will, there's a road paved with chocolate just ahead.

It’s an age-old battle:

Impulsive vs. compulsive
Id vs. superego
Jean Valjean vs. Inspector Javert

And, in its latest acquisition, Nestle has purchased the rights to the impulsive-compulsive spectrum. It has, as assets, the entire continuum of human behavior, related to food. Not bad for 600 million.


annie said...

This post is particularly interesting to me because I think chocolate is addictive--at least for me. My allergist says when you have a reaction like that to a food, often it means you're allergic to it. I'm trying not to be black and white about food anymore, but I do notice if I have some chocolate I definitely want more and then more and then more; however, if I don't have it I don't miss it or crave it. I think it might be similar to an alcoholic not being able to take even a sip of wine. Interesting that alcoholism is an allergy to the substance.

drstaceyny said...

With most foods, I'd argue against the "addictive" explanation. There's no evidence (other than self-report, which is influenced by the emotionally soothing properties of the food) that food can be addictive. Usually, it feels addictive, b/c you've denied yourself and when you finally "let go," you let go.

That said, I'm willing to consider chocolate in its own category. Chocolate contains a chemical called phenylethyamine (PEA) that is the exact same chemical produced in the brain when we fall in love. I'd say that any opportunity to recreate that feeling could easily lead to addictive behavior.

Haley-O said...

Doc, that's a really fascinating comment against the addiction theory. I.e., that the "addiction" to food doesn't hold because the "addiction" is not in fact physiological but "textual"--i.e., it is a product of our inner dialogue, of internalized rules (i.e., self-policing) where food is concerned. In other words (and to explain what I mean by "textual," food is not addictive because it's not the "thing" but the "meaning" we've attributed to foods that make them "addictive" (in quotes...). I may be speaking too academically here--I hope that makes sense. Basically, I'm saying I'm intrigued...very intrigued. And food is a far removed in our culture from anything real.

Haley-O said...

I'm also having trouble thinking straight because I have a brutal head cold....So, if the above makes no sense, sorry! But, I remain intrigued!

Shaunta said...

I notice tons of people saying they are addicted to food. I've said it myself. But after the first two weeks of "not dieting," the addiction feelings started to lessen. Now I can eat chocolate and not feel like I need to follow it up with an entire pepperoni pizza. I can eat a piece of chocolate, instead of a brick of it. I think it's because once I let myself have it whenever I wanted it, I didn't have that "If I'm going to do this, I might as well really do it up" thing going on.

Haley-O said...

I try to sustain the kind of thinking and eating that Shaunta described (hi Shaunta!), but I find it difficult. I find I think so much about not dieting, that not-dieting becomes the new "compulsion." So, the obsessive thinking finds its replacement and everything gets all haywire until the only solution is to regain some control by, what else..., dieting....

PalmTreeChick said...

Maybe Jenny will market a "healthy" version of the Nestles Crunch!

That's such a bizarre buyout, but I guess that's what these big companies do these days. It's almost like "biting the hand that feeds you"...sort of.

drstaceyny said...

Haley--yes, yes, yes! Food is, among other things, a way to soothe yourself, a way to express your anger (crunchy food!), a way to alleviate boredom, a way to rebel, a way to express control (or not), etc. All of our experiences with food over the years result in the very contextualized relationship we have with it.

And, re: your 2nd comment, sounds like you're perfected compulsive impulsiveness--not dieting becomes a diet. Any time there are rules, we want to break them (that's the rebellious creatures we are). So, if you've made a rule that you can't diet, it makes sense that that's what you'd want to do next. How about CHOOSING not to diet (in general) based on research/personal experience?

Shaunta--you're a perfect example, then, of how food is not addictive.
There is some controversy in the field. I fall, obviously, on the not-addictive side. Most (on Team Anti-Diet) will note that you can't be addicted to something you need to live (like being addicted to oxygen!) It only looks like an addiction because it's bookmarked by deprivation, as you've recently experienced.

ptc--yep, all a business. I think I read also that they own Power Bar--perhaps their version of a healthy, chocolate bar substitute (but, we're not fooled!)

PalmTreeChick said...

Oh yeah, powerbars are really goot for ya. HA!

PalmTreeChick said...

"GOOT," That's my code word for good. HA!

Anonymous said...

How fucking ironic.. a company that contributes to how fat our country is buys the biggest weight loosing company ever
nestle your awful how could you kill all those poor kids in africa