Nutrition Articles

12 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet

Identifying Weight Loss Scams

119SHARES

The next time you watch an infomercial, read an advertisement, or spot a new supplement reporting miraculous weight loss results, we wouldn’t blame you for cocking a wary eyebrow. When evaluating claims for weight loss products, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends a healthy portion of skepticism; most don’t come close to fulfilling their claims. And in the rare cases where a product might result in some temporary weight loss, it is almost never a permanent solution and is usually unsafe.

Before you spend money on products that promise fast and easy results, weigh the claims carefully. You might even consider contacting the FTC directly for more information or if you have concerns.

These 12 tips will help you critique and evaluate weight loss claims and spot a scam before it’s too late:

1. "It’s so easy to lose weight without dieting or exercising!" Face it—permanent weight loss takes work, effort and time. Pass on any products that promise miraculous results without the effort. Buy one and the only things you’ll lose are money and confidence.

2. "Eat whatever you want and still lose weight!" Losing weight requires sensible food choices, not overloading on high-fat, high calorie foods.

3. "Lose weight forever…you’ll never need to diet again!" For weight loss to be permanent, it requires lifestyle changes. On-going maintenance is always a must.

4. "Block the digestion and absorption of fat, carbs, or calories!" Remind yourself that a little pill to curb cravings and suppress appetite just doesn't exist. There is no magic potion that will allow you to completely block the digestion and absorption of fat, carbs, or calories either. The majority of these over-the-counter products and "supplements" are scams with no supporting scientific research and thus a waste of your hard-earned money.

Note: SparkPeople does not endorse or recommend the use of any diet pills, but since this article was published, one over-the-counter weight-loss medication has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. When taken with low-fat meals, Alli can prevent up to one quarter of the fat you eat from being absorbed. Alli is not without risks, so talk to your doctor and do your homework first.

5. "Rapid weight loss: Lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks!" Looking to lose weight rapidly for your high school reunion or wedding? Products that safely produce lightning-fast weight loss just don’t exist. A weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week is the safest and most effective way to take off weight and keep it off.

6. "Finally, a weight loss formula for everyone!" A diet that claims to be perfect for all is erroneous. One-size-fits-all just doesn’t work. Your lifestyle habits and health concerns are unique. That’s why SparkPeople helps you design your own personalized nutrition and exercise programs to suit your particular lifestyle needs.

7. "Lose weight with this miracle diet patch, cream or gel!" You’ve heard it all before—"Apply and watch the fat melt away!" But truthfully, all that melts away is your hard earned money.

8. "Scientifically Proven! Doctor Endorsed!" Where is the proof and how was the research conducted? Were people studied, or rodents? Were there 3 subjects in the study or 3,000? Has the research been published in a medical journal and reviewed by peers? A doctor of what profession? Or is the "professional" as purely fictitious as your weight loss will be? Be sure to check the details.

9. "Money-back guarantee!" It may make you feel safer to give the product a try, but realize that many companies do not follow through with this promise. You’re left holding an empty promise and an empty pocketbook.

10. "100% safe!" Just another attempt, trying to get you hooked with a meaningless phrase. Think of it this way – if there were no reason to doubt, why would they need to make this claim at all? Many products have been removed from the market due to safety issues, but not until too many lives were already destroyed or lost. Does ephedra ring a bell?

11. Those convincing testimonials: We can all look 10 pounds slimmer by: standing up straight, shoulders back, and stomach in; having a good hair day; applying the right make-up; and hiring a professional photographer. Remember, just because you recognize the actor or actress doesn’t make the product any more reliable. They are now just a little richer and you a little poorer.

12. "A miraculous breakthrough!" Turn and run the other direction when extravagant claims make the product sound to good to be true.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
 


Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
119SHARES

Member Comments

  • ANNE-IN-GTX
    My favorite lines from Marie Osmond's NutriSystem commerical:

    "No fads or gimmicks" -- NutriSystem qualifies as BOTH!

    "My belly is flatter now than when I was in my 20s" -- Of course it is...you stopped breeding like a rabbit!!!
  • I thank you very much for the article. I think that the information contained in this article is great. Thanks again.
  • I am shocked at the number of comments here about the ads... doesn't everyone use AdBlocker? I could not surf without it ha ha...
  • Isn't this interesting? But isn't one of the challenges here on SP (the BMI Smart Challenge) sponsored by I-Remove...a pill (or something) that purports to block some portion of the carbs we eat? How can SP give this advice, but carry advertising/spons
    orship from a company like this? I know that the ads pay the bill, but how about some integrity?
  • I do NOT believe in 'fad' diets. Diets such as Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig and Plexus ( the worst one out there) have been proven to be FAKES and they do NOT work. I tried Slim Fast and when I saw that I was NOT losing weight I stopped using it. I realized that it was a fake, fad diet just like all the rest of them. I wasted money on that crap and I will not be wasting my money on another crappy diet.

    I stick to portion controlling, eliminating sugar and pop, eating more fruits and vegetables, working out 30 minutes a day and drinking plenty of water.

    Those fake 'fad' diets know where to stick it.
  • Actuallya "little pill to curb cravings and suppress appetite" does exist. It's called Contrave. Only available from your doctor.
  • I love the comment,"Suck it up and some day you won't have to suck it in." That way it becomes more appreciated.
  • EBRAINK
    Excellent advice! Perhaps people need to exercise their skeptical and critical thinking, too?
  • its all determimation and willpower. After im done with my goal im going to as well sell stupid worthless products that don't work either. Everybody should do it. ... Its the American way!
  • I love how the bottle in this ad so closely resembles the bottle in the article about Alli
  • I agree. You earn your weight loss. Thanks NancyAnne55
  • I find it a bit ironic that this article be featured at the same time ads for Sensa are on nutrition tracker. While I realized Sparkpeople.com does not endorse its advertisers, seeing a product like this on my nutrition tracker makes it appear otherwise.
  • I would like to come out with a new REVOLUTIONARY product. A little white plastic bottle with a great label that promises fantastic weight loss, health benefits, and added years to your life. It will have a huge cotton ball inside that you have to take out. And when you take the cotton ball out it will have a string attached to a message that reads: "GOTCHA...only eating healthy, limiting your calories, and getting exercise is going to work...WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE"
  • When I read this article the tv ad for "Sensa" came to my mind. Just sprinkle sensa on your food and lose the weight. If it were only that easy! In the ad I see people sprinkling it on hot dogs and french fries....... then also there is a new ad for Jenny Craig called "my day". You do 5 days with Jenny and 2 days of your own healthy choices but yet the people on "my day" are shown eating movie popcorn and french fries. Is that healthy? They are telling people to make healthy choices but showing people they can eat whatever they want. sigh.......
  • BAMAJAM
    Too bad that the FDA does not monitor the "miracle diet pills/powders" industry, and require products be safe for comsumption. People are often desperate to lose pounds, and will risk their health in taking these diet aids....
    WHY--- doesn't the government require testing on this?

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

x Lose 10 Pounds by May 4! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.