New Year, Same Junk – Top 5 Weight Loss Scams to Watch Out for in 2010

Well 2010 has rolled in, lugging in last year’s strain of scams and hoaxes.  This year, forecasters anticipate old scams repackaged with new themes and more sophisticated methods.

new year 2010 calendar

According to the Better Business Bureau, the lucrative trend for scam artists in 2009 was playing off of people’s emotions.  This year however, experts are predicting a rise in spam and email scams which claim to help you, but fail to deliver.  And with a recovering economy, experts expect the “get rich quick” and other financial relief schemes to linger in 2010.  This includes the overdone lottery scams, phony offers of employment, bogus debt assistance programs and mortgage foreclosure scams.

As we all know, the fitness or, most notably, weight loss industry has been scamming people for generations.  Miracle pills, formulas, routines, gadgets and gizmos all in the name of  a leaner and more muscular body.  Here’s an article that came out last year from a 20/20 investigation on weight loss and diet fraud.

Although not always blantant, most scams may in fact be the result of marketer’s promoting offerings based on misinformation rather than disinformation (misinformation is accidental, where the purveyor of the message is misinformed; disinformation is intentional).

Regardless of the intent, when flawed information and false promises accompany a product offering, consumers will be in a position to waste hope, money, energy, and time.   Allow me to share some fitness truth related to a few “hot” items on the slate for “big sellers” this year.

I’ve rounded down the top 5 Diet scams to beware of in 2010:

1.   Metabolism-boosting/calorie-burning pills:  At the top of the list of diet scams are pills based on herbal ingredients that promise to boost your metabolism and help you burn calories or fat faster.  Some examples of herbal diet pills that have caught the attention of the FDA as being dangerous are ephedra, synephrine and kava.  While they can result in short term weight loss, and even short term accelerated fat loss in individuals committed to eating right and exercising, they alter endocrine production.  Ephedra of course has been “banned” by the FDA so now supplement companies are currently promoting ephedra free products with” natural” labels.  Natural disasters are “natural” too.  So just understand that natural does not necessarily equate to “safe.”

2.  Fat- and carb-blocking pills
:  The idea behind these kinds of diet pills is that you take them before you eat and they rush the carbs or fat through your system so they aren’t absorbed by your body.  At best, these compounds may prevent the conversion of a small amount of ingested carbs (glucose) into triglycerides.  To turn this into “eat anything without worry” requires wild exaggeration.  To suggest that it’s OK to eat high fat and high carb foods and cancel their negative impact with a pill is pure fantasy –  a fantasy without a happy ending.

3.   Detox Diets:  Fad diets are never a good idea for long-term health and well-being.  Detox diets are no exception.  There is no scientific proof that detox diets work to help you lose weight over a long period of time.  Typically what happens is that you lose water weight while on a detox diet.  The initial weight loss is encouraging for some dieters and it is a good way to kick start their diet and motivates them to continue to lose weight.  Common complaints from overweight people on a detox diets include: being tired, headaches, nausea, irritability, withdrawal symptoms, hunger, bowel problems, feeling deprived, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

4.  Weight Loss Pill Free Trial Offers :   Ads offering trials of acai or resveratrol weight loss pills appear on many web sites including some respected national news organizations.  The marketing campaigns often falsely claim endorsements by Oprah, Rachel Ray and Doctor Oz.  Thousands of consumers have complained to BBB that the free trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month

 

5.   Fitness Clubs:  Nearly 33 million people are members of some 17,000 health clubs in the U.S. today, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.  Although many consumers who join health clubs are pleased with their choices, others are not.  They’ve complained to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations of facilities and services, broken cancellation and refund clauses, and lost membership fees as a result of spas going out of business.

 

scam artist

Before buying a weight loss product, service or system:

  • Be wary of overblown claims and buzz words such as: No Diet! No Exercise! . . .  Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days . . . Eat Your Favorite Foods and Still Lose Weight . . . Shrinks Inches Off Your Stomach, Waist, and Hips . . .  Scientists Announce Incredible Discovery! . . . Turn On Your Body’s Fat-Burning Process . . . Automatically Convert Fat to Lean Trim Muscle! . . . New Scientific/Medical Breakthrough . . . and the list goes on . . .
  • Remember spot reduction in your abs or butt is a myth.  You can’t lose fat in a specific part of your body alone.
  • Be skeptical of testimonials.  People in commercials are paid for their participation.
  • Beware of “experts” spouting junk science or technical mumbo-jumbo.
  • Before-and-after photos are impressive, but those results are probably not typical and may be photoshopped.
  • Look for a footnote hidden somewhere in an ad noting “diet and exercise required.”
  • Try before you buy.  Testing a product is the only way to know if it’s right for you.

 

I’d love for you to share your comments or other diet or fitness scams that have impacted your life,

Craig Simms
Craig Simms is a personal trainer and weight loss coach in Vancouver, B.C. Craig has been a fitness leader for over 11 years and has amassed over 15,000 hours of personal training experience in that span. He specializes in personalized weight management programs.
Craig Simms
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