There hasn’t been a solid study released in more than a decade that analyses how much weight Americans actually gain over the holiday season (this one from 2000 puts it at about one pound per year that we’ll never work off).
With the majority of the nation classified as obese, maybe researchers just don’t feel like wasting time pointing out the obvious: Americans have a weight problem and will fall for just about anyone who says they’ve got a quick way to fix it.
And once people start rolling out New Year’s resolutions to shave off “cookie weight”, the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry will kick into overdrive. In 2007, the American Dietetic Association estimated Americans spent $58 billion on weight loss products alone.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a commendable goal, but to really see long-term results and keep from bleeding your bank account dry, keep your eyes peeled for potential fraudsters.
“Weight loss scammers play on our weaknesses as consumers and in regard to our weight, this is a touchy subject and we are quite sensitive to it,” says nutritionist Rania Batayneh of Essential Nutrition for You. “We are looking for assurance and guarantees. The only guarantee really comes from changing your lifestyle and not only for weight loss but for lasting results.”
Here’s what you should look out for:
“Free” trial offers. The FTC just filed a complaint against a Connecticut company that claimed consumers could sign up for a free trial of its Acai berry diet supplement. All they had to do was pay a small shipping and handling fee. But soon enough, they were charged $79.99 for the trial and since the company had their credit card information on file, they were free to charge them monthly fees that were all but impossible to cancel.
Weight loss “guarantees.” According to Batayneh: “Pretending to play psychic and guaranteeing 10 pounds of weight loss (in a) week or even in one month is just too dramatic and unrealistic. Typically the faster it comes off, the faster it will come back.” A healthy level of weight loss is about a one pound per week, the FTC says.
Knocking food groups. Popular diets based on eliminating entire food groups like carbohydrates or meat rarely provide long-term results and could put your health at risk. “With elimination diets, specifically carbohydrates, the bulk of the initial weight loss is water weight,” Batayneh says. “There is really no education provided to the consumer as to what to avoid … When a client comes to me and they want to lose weight, it is my responsibility to educate them, not give them lists of foods to avoid.”
News endorsements. The FTC warns against companies that use well-known news logos alongside ads on its website. News companies never endorse weight loss products, the agency says.
Weight loss scams are just the tip of the iceberg. Now see 15 other things you should NEVER waste your money on >
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