Weight Loss Scams


soapRaise your hand if you made a New Year’s resolution that involves there being less of you on December 31, 2011 than there was on December 31, 2010.

Be honest, now. Nobody’s looking.

Losing weight seems to be one of those things almost everyone promises themselves they’re going to do at the start of each new year, a promise that seems to get broken by January 15th, more often than not. I’ve always wondered if there’s a slight uptick in running shoe sales at the beginning of January.

At any rate, odds are you’ve tried it yourself at some point, so you already know what I’m about to tell you: it’s hard.

A habit is a borderline-unstoppable entity. You can go big with overwhelming force, you can be subtle and try to outsmart it, but it usually ends up being a war of attrition; who can hold out longer—you, or the habit?

What makes losing weight even harder is the fact that it’s usually not a lot of fun for the first few months. Let’s face it—it’s a lot more fun to have a piece of cake than it is to not have a piece of cake, at least until you hit that magic tipping point where healthy choices actually start to sound better than junk food. It also involves a lot more conscious thought and physical activity, to say nothing of the social consequences (yes, losing weight can have positive social consequences, but you also can lose relationships if your old “eatin’ buddies” feel betrayed instead of following your example).

It’s no wonder people look for shortcuts.

Therefore, it’s no wonder other people set up weight loss scams.

It’s such an attractive thought, too. Don’t change your habits, don’t change your mindset, just take a pill or drink this stuff or wear a bracelet made of this material, and the pounds will just melt away! If it worked, who wouldn’t go that route?

The problem is, of course, that they never do. So, how do you tell the difference between a weight loss method that will work and a complete scam?

Who does the work?

If a weight loss product claims to work without you changing anything about your lifestyle, it’s a scam. The real products or programs always involve a lot of work, and you’re the one who has to do it. From measuring portions and keeping track of what you’ve consumed to those early-morning jogs in subzero weather, it’s you that has to put in the mileage. If the product claims to do all the work, avoid it.

Is it a pill?

I guess there are prescription drugs for weight loss, and at least one OTC out there. Those pills are up to you and your doctor to talk about.

The rest of them are scams. They either do nothing, contain prescription drugs (not listed on the label) that can harm you, or have horrid side-effects and drug interactions. I heard one on the radio this morning that basically said it cranks your heart rate up really high. This is not a good idea.

Does it use the words “fast” or “easy?”

This relates to the first rule above. Like everything worth doing, weight loss involves work on your part. There are no fast, easy solutions.

Is it being sold primarily on the Internet?

I love the Internet. I really do. But weight-loss products sold primarily online tend to be useless or dangerous. The bar for setting up a website is extremely low. Some of these nutters might even think their product works, but there’s no getting around the physical facts: the only way a copper bracelet is going to help you get in shape is if it weighs ten pounds, you have one on each wrist, and you’re doing arm exercises.

Is there an infomercial about it?

Late-night infomercials are a bad sign, for the most part. There are some exceptions in the area of exercise programs; for example, P90X looks like it would probably work (if you didn’t pass out thirty seconds into it).

 Infomercial weight-loss products, on the other hand, are usually junk. Maybe not scams per se, but rip-offs for sure.

Does it mention cortisol?

There is no single factor that leads a person to needing to lose weight. It’s usually a complex combination of intertwined factors, from “office job + new Xbox + burger joint opened down the street” to “bad habits from childhood + emotional issues + lack of information.” To say that a single hormone like cortisol is causing weight gain is to grossly oversimplify and a sure sign that someone isn’t telling you the truth.

So that’s the bad news. If you want to drop some poundage, you’ve got some work to do. It doesn’t have to be miserable if you go about it the right way, but there’s no getting around the fact that you have to put in the effort if you want to get the results.