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After founding Houseparty, WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani is turning the 60-year-old diet platform into a digital community

November 21, 2022, 1:20 PM UTC
WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani at MPW Next Gen on Nov. 16, 2022.
Stuart Isett/Fortune

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Elizabeth Holmes is sentenced, Wimbledon changes its dress code, and WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani has a plan for how to pivot. Have a productive Monday.

– Ready to pivot. Sima Sistani is known in Silicon Valley as the founder of the pandemic-favorite social video app Houseparty. After Epic Games acquired her business in 2019, she took on an executive role at the gaming company before assuming the CEO post at WeightWatchers in March. 

Going from gaming to an almost 60-year-old weight loss platform might seem like an odd pivot. But Sistani says she accepted the role to help WeightWatchers bring its traditional in-person communities online. The community aspect has always been at the forefront of the WeightWatchers experience, she says, but the app-based version of the program focuses on counting points and less on connection. “The throughline of all these experiences is digitizing social connection,” Sistani told me last week at Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, her first live interview since stepping into the CEO job. 

WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani at MPW Next Gen on Nov. 16, 2022.
Stuart Isett/Fortune


However, digitizing communities brought together through weight loss is trickier than gathering friends. The conversation around weight and wellness is fast evolving, with many encouraging a “health at every size” approach. Case in point: WeightWatchers went through a well-publicized rebrand as “WW” in 2018 but has started using its original name again. “The onus is on us to change the stigma associated with the word ‘weight,'” Sistani said onstage. 

Sistani has used WeightWatchers herself, relying on the platform to lose 60 pounds after the birth of her first child. But she said nutrition and discussing its effect on health and body image aren’t new to her because her mother is a dietician with a degree in food science.

At WeightWatchers, she’s balancing improving the digital experience for users who love the platform with not pressuring those who don’t want to lose weight to do so. “Body positivity is amazing. But there’s a false dichotomy that we have to be at odds,” she said. “The undercurrent in all those conversations is shame—shame for gaining weight, shame for losing weight, shame for loving the body you’re in, shame for wanting to change that body.”

But WeightWatchers’ stock is trading below $5, and customer acquisition is necessary. Sistani said the business is profitable but has not exhibited growth, so investors have valued its share price so low. Rather than rely on marketing, which consumers can read as pressuring people to use WeightWatchers and lose weight, she plans to improve the product so people who are already looking for weight-loss support will hear about it from their friends. “That’s a big pivot from the way we’ve potentially shown up in the past,” she said. “If this is something you choose,” she added, “we’re here to support you.”

Keep reading below for more from last week’s MPW Next Gen.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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