Columbia, SC, Jan. 3, 2013 – Almost as soon as consumers push away from holiday dinner tables, advertising for weight loss products and health clubs begins to hit the airwaves, the Internet, newspapers and other media.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to be skeptical of ads promising quick and easy ways to lose weight. 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.
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.” Some companies use celebrity endorsements to promote their products.
One particularly annoying ad online shows a woman’s midriff that shrinks and expands, while promoting “one weird trick” or tip to lose weight that is revealed if you click on the ad. The Federal Trade Commission has linked the belly ad and similar ones to a network of companies that promote everything from African mangoes to potions made from acai berries. The FTC says that millions of people have been conned by the ads.
“Deceptive ads lure consumers into buying diet pills, treatments or ‘cures’ with the promise of better health, fitness or appearance,” said Jim Camp, BBB president and CEO. “But many of these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and may be ineffective or even harmful. In most cases, they’re a waste of money.”
The BBB processes hundreds of complaints against weight loss products and health clubs every year. Complaints range from recurrent charges on credit cards for “free” products to dissatisfaction with the hours or service provided by fitness clubs.
The BBB advises you to watch for false claims and consider your needs and budget:
In South Carolina, consumers have three days after signing a contract with a health spa to cancel the agreement. Clubs must refund money within 30 days if they cancel within three days. Consumers aren’t responsible for the balance due on a health club contract if the club has closed and failed to provide alternative services within 10 miles of its original location.
Before starting an exercise program or diet, the BBB advises consumers to consult a doctor for an assessment of 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.