As our country gains weight at an alarming rate, we are spending more each year on products that promise us easy, effortless weight loss. Each year in United States, an estimated 35 billion dollars is spent each year on weight loss products. The problem is that in spite of headlines that feed our hopes that a new, secret, “better” weight loss formula has been discovered, truth is there are no easy solutions to losing weight.
Simply put, weight loss is a combination of lifestyle choices, and is result of a firm commitment to making and maintaining them over a period of time. Any products that offer weight loss without reduced caloric intake and increasing activity levels are fraudulent- and a waste of money.
Why Do People Buy Products That Are Scams?
Denise Bruner, MD, MPH, FASBP is a specialist in weight loss, and a fellow in American Society of Bariatric Physicians. She shares one of major reasons that weight loss scams flourish today: “We live in a society today that wants immediate gratification. This is reflected in our willingness to buy from those that promise ‘instant results’”.
The increasing obesity in our society, and hopes that weight loss can be achieved without lifestyle changes fuels growth of frauds. Bruner states, “In U.S., currently 61% of population is overweight, and numbers are going up. There’s a huge market out there for weight loss products. After all, it appeals to us to find out that you can ‘Lose 30 pounds in 30 days.’ We don’t want to have to deprive ourselves of our favorite foods, and want something that will ‘magically’ absorb calories.”
Jeannette Kopko, Senior Vice President of Better Business Bureau for Dallas and Northeast Texas, agrees that illegitimate weight loss products feed on false promises: “People are fooled by these scams because they hope that they aren’t scams. They hope that they’re real, and are an easier, faster, painless way to lose weight.”
With huge demand for weight loss products (and their revenues), companies are more than willing to become suppliers-whether or not their products work. Kopko states, “The number of companies hawking bogus supplements and weight loss products is increasing rapidly in recent years.”
How can you spot a weight loss scam?
Typically, weight loss scams make promises that aren’t realistic. Headlines that promise weight loss without dieting are always scams, since calorie reduction is basis of any true weight loss program. There are no legitimate weight loss programs that allow you to “eat whatever you want” without limit. As Monica Revelle, public relations specialist at FDA notes: “If it sounds too good to be true-it is!”
Other tips offs that weight loss product is a scam include:
* Claims to be a “secret” formula: Products that claim to have secret formulas are scams. Dr. Bruner feels strongly on this issue, and states, “There are no ‘secrets to weight loss’ being held away from public. In America alone, an estimated 100 people a day die from obesity; we could prevent 300,000 deaths annually if there was a real product that made weight loss simple and safe, and physicians would be first to prescribe them.”
* There’s no physical address for business. Legitimate products and services will have a physical address and phone number. Be wary of those that only offer a mailbox, or a toll-free number to call manned by “help center” personnel. Kopko shares, “While not all companies that have P.O. or private mail boxes (PMBs) are illegitimate, plenty are. Check to see if there are letters ‘PMB’ after a physical address; this indicates that it’s really a private mail box, that can forward mail to anywhere in world.” She adds that Internet is also being used to promote frauds, and adds, “You can’t judge how good or legitimate a product is by how professional web site looks. This only reflects how good their web designer was.”
* They promise rapid weight loss. Weight loss that is too rapid is not only unhealthy, but is normally quickly regained. The best plans advocate moderate goals, with slow, steady weight loss of about 6-8 pounds a month over a long period. Dr. Bruner states, “Any product that offer overnight or rapid changes is a fraud.”
* They state that they can help a person lose fat or cellulite in a specific part of body. Body fat is lost overall, not in a spot, and ads that claim otherwise are frauds.
* They promise permanent weight loss. No product can do this, since permanent weight loss is maintained by lifestyle changes.
By avoiding products with above “red flags” in their advertising, you can protect yourself from illegitimate products-and save money.
Types of Weight Loss Scams
Weight loss scams can range from highly illegal (and even dangerous) to mildly unethical. Kopko states, “There are degrees of fraud and misleading consumers. Some are scams where person doesn’t receive anything at all when they send in their money. Another form of scam is when customer sends in money, and they get a product that has no benefit, such as a sugar pill.”
Other weight loss scams use questionable practices, such as making claims for an ingredient-but without scientific studies to back them up. Kopko adds, “In yet other scams, product has very low levels of active ingredients, so person doesn’t get desired result.”
Some products sell because their names are similar to real products-even though they don’t contain same ingredients or quality. Dr. Bruner warns that these knockoffs are frauds: “The person thinks, ‘Oh, I can get this a lot cheaper here…’ but be careful, and check it out thoroughly first.”
Kopko has seen all types of weight loss scams during her years with Better Business Bureau. She remembers, “Years ago, in our area, there was a business that sold ‘weight loss glasses’; one lens was blue, other brown. Supposedly, two colors ‘confused brain’ and person didn’t get hungry.” She adds, “Another fraud was weight loss “bath powder’ that a person pours into tub, that promised weight loss.”