"It's no potatoes, no bread," said Pamela Liebman, CEO of Corcoran Group, a New York-based real-estate firm. "If I ordered a piece of cake, people would be shocked."
It's even swept up a devout gourmet like Citigroup's Weill.
Oddly, it took the high-profile probe of analysts' research practices on Wall Street, including Citigroup's, by the New York State attorney general to reform Weill. Before his company reached a settlement, the CEO vowed "something good has to come out of all this stuff," and swore off bread, desserts and even gin. He also started 6 a.m. workouts and shed more than 40 pounds in the process.
Industry rides crest
Such focus is all good news for the $40 billion diet industry, which has recently started targeting CEOs as a new market. Pritikin recently introduced a new ad campaign showing a CEO behind his desk with text suggesting, "Yes, you've built a multimillion-dollar business, but you've mismanaged your biggest asset -- yourself."
The latest ads from Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas, which also targets upper-management types: "Healthy People Have an Edge," which is running in publications like the Robb Report Collection and first-class airline magazines.
For Stephen Gullo, a diet consultant in New York, it's all about the "Wall Street Syndrome," where driven types skip meals, pick at snacks all day and then gorge on a big meal at the end of the day, or when the market closes. Meetings are especially bad, with their platters of cheese cubes and profiteroles.
For an initial $1,500 fee, Gullo follows clients around to figure out their "trigger foods" and comes up with customized programs. Business is so good, he said, he's got 23 percent more clients than two years ago, and has so many dieters at Goldman Sachs, he calls the firm "Goldman Fats."
Of course, it's not just the diet business proper that's feeling the impact of the CEO weight battle.
The Multnomah Athletic Club, one of Portland's business-lunch hot spots, has moved to an a-la-carte menu at the men's bar, so members can order South Beach-friendly side dishes. At the Grill on the Alley in Beverly Hills, Calif., sometimes called the William Morris commissary because so many talent agents eat there, VIPs have their customized preferences right in the kitchen computer, while Michael's, the New York restaurant, has eight to 10 standing orders from media and fashion executives for off-the-menu dishes like grilled chicken paillard.
Across town, the Four Seasons has built its popular lunch business around such quirky requests as meals of baked potato skins and a chopped salad, or double orders of oysters or shrimp cocktail. Not only has the restaurant's butter consumption dropped by half in the past five years, but also the chef recently added a $10 crudites plate because so many executives were asking for the raw vegetables instead of bread.
"We're selling cucumbers and radishes," said Julian Niccolini, the restaurant's co-owner. "That's how they stay in shape."
Losing their willpower
But even access to the best restaurants and trainers doesn't mean these folks are more successful than the average dieter.
Cuban, the Mavericks owner, lost 10 pounds on a modified Atkins plan last year, but, thanks to a sweet tooth -- and a portion-control issue -- he gained most of it back. It's not just a bowl of ice cream; it's the whole carton, he said, or a box of cereal instead of a bowl.
And if he's on the road when the Mavericks lose, Cuban raids the minibar in this order: Kit Kat, Toblerone and Snickers bars. "Then I'm so mad at myself, I forget about the game," he said.
Meanwhile, executives like Bobby Zarem, president of Zarem Inc., an entertainment public-relations firm in New York, are just tired of all the fat jabber. Though he works out daily, Zarem likes nothing more than picking up a dozen Krystal burgers on the way home at night and watching old movies while gobbling them up.
"Most of these people have nothing else to talk about," he said. "They should eat more."
In fact, things might be going that way. Already, some CEOs are switching to strategic calorie-loading to stave off snacking. Some execs are starting off their mornings at home with waffles with peanut butter and bananas. Others, like McManus, CEO of Leading Hotels of the World marketing group, are incorporating bread back into their diets. Another tactic: stashes of power bars, like the new Atkins Endulge, that fans say taste like Kit Kats.
The CEO diet enters new era
Low-carb regimens, personal chefs, nutritionists mark executives' more sophisticated approach to staying in shape
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