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Losing weight with healthy approach
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While some mourn the loss (almost) of the traditional healthy Chinese diet - high in veggies, good carbs and low in animal fat - those in the weight-management business are cashing in.

One of the most obvious problems associated with increased prosperity is the growing incidence of obesity.

Urban living brings with it the convenience of modern transport, which in turn means less open space for exercise, while a greater disposable income often entails a change to a richer, Western diet.

Fast food is selling better than before in China, while sports apparel companies are relying more on the lifestyle aspects of their brands to shift products from workout gear to more spacious duds; sodium is everywhere like it is going out of style.

Already people are taking notice, if the prevalence of slimming centers and expensive fitness centers are anything to show. Billboards, stories high, are adorned with svelte beauties in seductive poses, suggesting that you, yes you, with the right mindset and the requisite thousands of yuan, could command the lustful stares of men and the envy of your female peers.

Global weight-management provider Weight Watchers International is looking to cash in on the insecurities of the body conscious with its recently launched local weight management Website. It also operates four centers in Shanghai.

The site (www.weightwatchers.com.cn) is the result of years of research adapting their world-renowned weight-loss strategies to a local context, providing local consumers with the tools and support to lose weight and keep it off.

"We didn't actually translate the program - the Weight Watchers program is not really translated from country to country," says Matthew Mouw, CEO of Weight Watchers Danone (China), a joint venture between the international parent company and Europe's Groupe Danone. "We applied the WTW philosophy to the program in China.

"We really built the program from the ground up. We aren't able to take the research that we did in America and apply it to China. Beef in America, for example, is different because the cows here are raised with different level of fat."

The patented WTW Points program is the core part of the company's strategy, which also includes exercise, behavior modification and support. Instead of the hassle of counting calories, the POINTS tracker assigns values to each dish. A healthy adult can consume a maximum of 25 points a day.

While the points system covers a wide range of food items - a tablespoon of peanut butter is two points while a whole milk latte is a whopping six points - applying the same principles to the various local cuisines here will prove trickier.

While the company's press release claims more than 20,000 Chinese food items and recipes will be available by the end of the year, the only examples the company is able to provide at present include the ubiquitous and totally Chinese staple, low-fat pineapple salad with skim milk yogurt (one point).

WTW International President and CEO David Kirchhoff tells Shanghai Daily that the company is not simply about "thin is beautiful" and members are encouraged to set themselves believable and attainable goals.

"These goals should be based on achieving health, not unrealistic body image," he says.

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