The Big Fat Money Pit of Weight Loss Revealed on 20/20

The literal business of weight loss is a very lucrative industry. Tonight’s edition of ABC’s 20/20 will break down the numbers and many will be shocked by the story of, “Losing It: The Big Fat Money Pit.”

John LaRosa is the president of Marketdata, where he has been an analyst of the U.S. weight loss market for 23 years. He gave an interview to 20/20 along with other experts, about the impact the actual “industry” of weight loss has on our country. The interviews evaluate the use of celebrity endorsements for diet companies, weight loss scams, the popularity of diet pills and meal replacements, and much more.

The subject of weight and weight loss deals heavily with numbers. Some of the most interesting numbers are those of dollars spent. Here are just a few staggering statistics that will be covered in tonight’s show, airing at 10 PM E.T.

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$20 Billion
The annual revenue of the U.S. weight loss industry, including diet books, diet drugs and weight loss surgeries.

108 Million
The number of people on diets in the United States (that’s one-third of the U.S. population). Dieters typically make four to five attempts per year.

85 Percent
The percentage of customers consuming weight loss products and services who are female.

1 Hour
The amount of time spent on daily exercise by people who lost and kept off at least 30 pounds of excess weight for five years.

The number of people with morbid obesity in the United States who had bariatric surgery in 2024.

“I believe that, coming out of the last recession, people are heavier than ever, due to a shift to cheaper fast food, comfort food, and stress-related eating. Consequently, dieters have more weight to lose than ever before and it will take longer to reach their goal weights.”, according to John LaRosa, the Research Director at Marketdata Enterprises.

$11,500 to $26,000
The average cost of bariatric surgery, which reduces the size of the stomach.

$500,000 to $3 Million
The average salaries paid to celebrity endorsers of major weight loss programs. Think Jennifer Hudson for Weight Watchers, Mariah Carey for Jenny Craig, and the Kardashians for QuickTrim.

The amount of money celebrity endorsers, on average, earn per pound lost.

Cost for a week-long (six night) weight loss program at Beau Rivage Palace, a luxury hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. The program includes massages and personal training sessions and discourages deprivation. That’s more than twice what it costs to stay domestically at one of three Biggest Loser Resort locations.

With all the staggering numbers, LaRosa explained why they will just continue to rise this year.

“We expect the total U.S. weight loss market to grow 4.5% this year, to $65 billion, supported by 108 million dieters. However, 80% of dieters will try to do it on their own, to save money. That’s why diet websites are booming and why the online business is the fastest-growing part of Weight Watchers International.”

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