Tom Barberi lost 35 pounds following the Nutri/System diet while he was promoting the program on the radio.
Seven years later, Barberi, a Salt Lake radio personality, says he has gained back all that weight - as well as his former sedentary lifestyle. "My exercise program would make a TV executive quite proud. I'm a poster boy for Lazy-Boy."But back when he adhered to the company's diet, eating the pre-packaged food, it worked. "The quick results were actually gratifying.
"The program does work, if you follow the program. The only problem is that it's not reality. The reality is `Gee, I really want a pizza, the whole thing.' "
Barberi, like a handful of other local radio announcers, has firsthand experience with the diet industry. In exchange for air time, local weight-loss franchises enroll radio employees. Company types bank on weekly announcements of success, hoping to spark interest among listeners who might have a few pounds of their own to spare.
On the other side of the microphone, those weekly announcements can provide great motivation. "The difference between being a real person and a radio personality is you don't stray from the diet," said Kim Hall, a midday disc jockey at KSOP.
Hall lost 30 pounds a year ago following the Jenny Craig program. He's kept the weight off so far. While he doesn't consider himself as having a weight problem, he first went the promotional route about 10 years ago for Nutri/System. He lost 27 pounds back then but put it right back on.
Radio promotions appear successful for both industries. Radio stations sell ads and find listeners are interested in the real stories. The companies get continued exposure.
"Listeners always ask: `Is it really working? Is it really working?" Hall said.
But like all of the Utahns who have plumped the local diet industry, radio personalities who have gone public with their weight battles say the programs are only good as long as the motivation lasts. And the statistics are dismal: a massive 95 percent of losers on any diet gain back their weight, unless they adopt a regular exercise program.
The best data available tracks dieters for two years after their weight loss. According to Dr. Bruce Benowitz, a local endocrinologist, only 5 percent of dieters have kept off at least two-thirds of the weight at the two-year mark.
"With any program, if you don't alter your behavior, the weight is going to come back," Hall said. "You don't get into this because you're expecting to keep it off for a long time."
Jan Snyder, news director at KISN, agrees. She lost a substantial amount of weight on Nutri/System food three years ago. "It came off fast. That's the beauty of these programs."
Snyder has kept off the weight by becoming religious about exercise - now she's training to be an aerobics instructor - and learning about nutrition.
Scott Seeger, a radio news reporter at KSL, paid his own way through the Nutri/System program a year ago. He lost 40 pounds in four months but has since gained it back.
"The problem is, as I see it, is they don't really help you keep it off. After you're done with the program you think `Hey, I'm thin again,' and you go back to the way you used to eat."
Program employees didn't appear knowledgeable about nutritional principles, Seeger said. "They're just sales people."
Hall said he liked the Jenny Craig food. And while he admits that diet programs are expensive, he believes the cost adds to a dieter's motivation.
For Kathy Benson, traffic manager at KKAT, Nutri/-System is working. She has lost 18 pounds in eight weeks. Making weekly announcements monitoring her progress has enhanced her own supply of willpower. "I'm really thrilled with the program. I have to be honest. I was terrified to have to go in there and admit to someone that I needed help."
Barberi now takes a lighter approach to the weighty subject of dieting. "You can't blame the programs. They work. What you have to do is blame yourself.
"At this stage in my life, I would love to look like Bo Jackson, but I've come to grips with the calendar and gravity.
"My philosophy of life is that physical fitness should be left to those who are physically fit."
Seeger is one who says he'll try losing weight on his own next time. "The philosophy that people really have to adopt if they want to lose weight is they've got to be concerned about it the rest of their lives."