As the national, even international, rite of after-the-holidays-dieting – or trying to diet and failing — continues, it’s worth taking a look at the winners of the 2006 Slim Chance Awards. These awards are sponsored by the Healthy Weight Network, the Society for Nutrition Education, and the National Council Against Health Fraud.
Worst Claim: ChitoGenics. The ChitoGenics stable of cures for the person who wants to lose, say, “20 pounds in one week … without dieting” includes ChitoGold, ChitoGenics Mahuang, PowerUp Weight Loss Formula and Plus Chito Patches. It is claimed to be the “leader when it comes to blending herbs that effectively block sugars, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet … combined with a natural appetite suppressant fat [and] filtering for cholesterol health .” (Undisclosed: kickbacks to radio hosts.)
Worst Product : PediaLean . Advertised in tabloids and magazines including the Enquirer and Redbook, PediaLean is a fiber capsule claimed to cause substantial weight loss in overweight children. Allegedly it is “clinically proven safe and effective for use by overweight children and adolescents,” but experts say the Italian study offered provides no valid scientific proof, is poorly-designed, had a high dropout rate, and revealed abdominal discomfort in many of the children tested. Its active ingredient glucomannan is known to swell in the body and can clump and form an obstructive mass, sometimes causing esophageal and gastrointestinal obstruction. PediaLean is one of six weight loss products for which the FTC, as of May 2006, is requiring payment of $3 million to settle deceptive claim violations.
Most Outrageous Claim: Isacleanse. The detox idea is seemingly the perfect scam – it sets up a problem that doesn’t exist, then provides a solution. Ads for Isacleanse warn of toxins building up, clogging organs and deteriorating the body – unless regularly detoxified. (This doesn’t happen as the human body is naturally self-cleaning.) A “healthier, leaner body” is promised in 30 days through ingesting a medicine chest full of Isagenix cures including IsaFlush for “regularity,” diuretics, aloe pills, vitamins, ionic trace minerals, electrolyte drinks, Isalean Shakes and herbal teas. For those who are frankly more interested in wealth-building, Isagenix turns a neat trick; on the same web page it alternately offers a get-rich-quick scheme on deceiving others about the need to detoxify.
Worst Gimmick: Magic Ear Staple. What’s new is that this is a real staple, piercing the band of cartilage in the upper ear where, supposedly, it presses on an acupressure point that curbs appetite. Average weight losses of 2-5 pounds a week and success rates of 90 percent are claimed. It’s illegal in Florida, and damaging publicity in Mississippi was related to infections from “underground [operations] in parking garages, bathrooms, coin laundries and the back seats of cars,” complains Marie Fallow, a Mississippi-based ear stapler. Fallow says she has stapled ears of some 3,000 clients, is doing 2,400 new ears a month, and charges $75 for both ears. Training offered by chiropractor Carissa Hamilton-Toups of southern Louisiana costs $850 for one afternoon group class (in which students staple each other) and $1200 for a private session. Trainees leave armed with two staple guns, a set of rubber ears, staple remover, paperwork to immediately get started in the stapling business, and a warning: remove staples in four weeks or risk severe infection and the staples becoming embedded.
The 2007 Slim Chance Awards will be presented during Healthy Weight Week, which begins January 21. Stay tuned to read some sure-to-be-interesting-but-false claims for ending weight woes. And if you’re looking for an approach that offers real solutions instead of false promises, consider an approach that encourages you to feed yourself well, move your body supportively and feel good about yourself now, not when you reach some magic number. Try an intuitive eating (mindful eating) approach, like that offered at Green Mountain, to help you get in touch with what feels good and really works for you.