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From ES - 1-19-99

Subject: Esther Manz. (founder of Take Off Pounds Sensibly)(Obituary)

____________________________________________________________________________ Database: Gen'l Reference Ctr Gold (GPIP) Sent from SearchBank. Library: Fairfax County Public Library ____________________________________________________________________________      Full content for this article includes illustration and photograph.                                                                                   Source:   The Economist, March 16, 1996 v338 n7957 p88(1).                                                                                    Title:   Esther Manz. (founder of Take Off Pounds Sensibly)(Obituary)                                                                                Abstract:   Esther Manz founded the organization, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, in 1948 to help overweight people lose weight. She was the first person to successfully advocate the use of praise for weight loss. Her organization is non-profit and donates proceeds to obesity research.                                                                                Subjects:   Weight loss industry - Officials and employees              Weight loss - Psychological aspects    People:  Manz, Esther - Biography SIC code:   8049 Organizations:  Take Off Pounds Sensibly - Officials and employees                                                                                Electronic Collection:  A18100325                     RN:   A18100325                                                                                Full Text COPYRIGHT Economist Newspaper Ltd. (UK) 1996 SUCCESS for Esther Manz could be measured in human flesh. Last year, it was claimed, the members of her organisation in America had collectively shed some 740 tons. Slimmers tend to be desperately optimistic. What comes off may quite quickly go back on, with a few pounds added. Mrs Manz agreed with St Matthew that the flesh is weak even if the spirit is willing. But tackling obesity was a battle, she said, that could last a lifetime. This never-ending battle is the basis of a rich industry. In America alone it is estimated that about $30 billion a year is spent on slimming. Europe is catching up. In Britain, where, according to one study, about a third of the population over 15 wants to slim, the figure is $225m a year and growing. Diet books (more than 300 in print in America and Europe), videos, magazines, drugs, health farms, the surgeon's knife all seek to combat the nutritional temptations of the rich world. The clothing industry sees that joggers dispense their sweat in expensive style, and that yoga slimmers contemplate the infinite with elegance. In the anxiety business, diet consultants are a profession rivalling that of psychiatrists. Mrs Manz might be blamed (though, her supporters would say, unfairly) for having given a push to all this back in 1948, when she founded what was probably the first of the weight-watching organisations, called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). She did not invent dieting. Discontent with the human body probably started in Eden. In the 19th century an overweight London undertaker, William Bunting, slimmed down on lean meat and dry toast, a diet that still has advocates today, and published a highly popular book about it. In the 1930s, Gayelord Hauser made a fortune from ten-day diets based on his "wonder foods", helpfully promoted by the bone-thin Greta Garbo. The no-nonsense Mrs Manz saw obesity as a disease. Its sufferers should not have to face their malady alone, she said. Mrs Manz conceived the idea of fatties forming mutually-helpful groups, just as drunks gain support in the meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. A "weight goal" would be set by a member's doctor. Esther Manz established a new approach for those who seriously wanted to be thin. Now confess The story that Mrs Manz's colleagues like to tell is that the first meeting of the organisation, consisting of the founder and three friends, took place around her kitchen table. Mrs Manz, a former teacher in a rural school, was pregnant with her fifth child and, in her view, noticeably overweight. The "confessional" system used by alcoholics was adopted at that meeting. Mrs Manz confessed that as a child she pleased her mother by eating up any piece of pie or cake left, so the dish could be washed. She continued to be a human waste-bin into adult life. By the second meeting of the group the four reformed women had between them lost 28lb. As the movement grew, various incentives were devised. Those who lose weight are, in Mrs Manz's words, "treated like royalty". Those who do specially well are crowned "kings" or "queens" at well-publicised ceremonies. A bad offender in one group was called "Queen Pig". It may sound yucky, but the system of praise (and withdrawal of praise) has been widely copied or adapted by other slimming groups with apparent success. The most famous is Weight Watchers, founded in 1963. With its diet foods, cookery books and other products, Weight Watchers is a highly profitable business. For the past 18 years it has been owned by Heinz, a food firm. It sounds like a perfect business partnership. But any back-sliders tempted to nibble tasty titbits (a process that the food industry happily calls "grazing") are no doubt sternly rebuked at the next meeting. TOPS people say they feel "nothing negative" about Weight Watchers. But they note that their organisation was first and that, unlike Weight Watchers, it is not run for a profit. TOPS does not sell or endorse diet products. Any money left over from the modest dues of its 300,000 members around the world is used for research into the causes of obesity. So far, the group says, $4.5m has been contributed to obesity research, much of it to a medical college in Milwaukee, the town where Mrs Manz founded the movement. One of the research projects TOPS is supporting is into the role of genetics in obesity. Mrs Manz hoped to find a "cure" for obesity. However, opponents of dieting believe that genetic research will eventually torpedo many widespread beliefs about fatness. Being heavier than the average should not be a problem, they say, any more than being above average height is a problem. You are born that way. Dieting, they claim, can actually make you fatter, because the body reacts against this assault. Stop fussing and get on with your life. This argument is political as much as medical. Anti-dieters say that ordinary women (and men, too) should not be bullied into looking like fashion models with anorexia, just because the skinny look is the vogue of the moment. The robustness of this view would no doubt have appealed to the sensible Esther Manz. But, as one of her equally robust colleagues argues, the life-style of the rich world is on a collision course with our genetic make-up. Look at the growth of heart disease. But look at the growth of anorexia, say the anti-dieters. The debate continues.                                                                                                                -- End --