The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers to be skeptical of advertisements promising quick and easy ways to lose weight without cutting back on calories or increasing physical activity.
At this time of year, you’re likely to see claims such as, “Lose weight without diet or exercise,” “Block the absorption of fat, carbs or calories!” or “Lose weight with our miracle diet patch or cream.”
Consumers often are lured into buying diet pills, treatments or “cures” with the promise of better health, fitness or appearance. However, many of the products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and may be ineffective or even harmful.
The BBB advises consumers to apply a healthy dose of skepticism to ads for weight loss products and plans. Doctors, dietitians and other experts agree that the best way to lose weight is to eat less and increase your physical activity so you burn more energy.
In the last year, consumers have filed hundreds of compalints nationally addressing health clubs, health and diet products, weight loss and physical fitness firms. Consumers said the companies either failed to deliver promised results, charged fees that were higher than advertised or, in the case of some health clubs, closed abruptly.
Before you invest money in joining a health club or buying weight loss products, the BBB advises you to beware of false claims and consider your needs and your budget:
- Avoid products that claim to help you lose weight without diet or exercise. Doctors, dietitians and other experts agree that losing weight takes work. Pass up any product that promises miraculous results without any effort.
- Be skeptical of claims that you don’t have to give up favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. Try filling up on healthy vegetables and fruits so you can resist high-calorie treats. However, eliminating all your favorites could set you up to fail. It’s better to limit portion size or how frequently you indulge.
- Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight, and you need to find a program you can stick with, and preferably one that you enjoy. Find a health club or exercise facility that is convenient and that offers times that fit with your schedule.
- Visit the facility before joining. Check on cleanliness, adequacy of space, machines and qualifications of instructors and any other factors important to you. Ask if you can try the facility out before you join.
- Consider your budget. Ask the health club about joining or enrollment fees and ongoing monthly costs. Does a weight loss plan require you to buy special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find that the program doesn’t meet your needs? If the facility closes, can you transfer your membership to another facility?
- Read the entire contract. Does it list all services and facilities and hours of operation? Is everything the saleperson promised included in the contract? What’s included in the monthly fee and what will cost you extra. What is the total cost, including enrollment fees and finance charges.
- Check with the BBB first. Anyone can check a company’s Reliability Report at www.bbb.org or by calling 800-649-6814 during business hours. Look at the firm’s complaint history and whether the complaints were resolved.
Before you begin an exercise program or diet, the BBB advises consumers to consult a doctor for an assessment of their over-all health risk. Get the doctor’s recommendations on weight-loss options and/or exercise regimens that fit your health status and ability to stick with it.
If your doctor prescribes a medication to assist in weight loss, ask about complications or side effects. Tell the doctor about other medications or over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements you may be taking.