Fraudulent weight loss products and programs often rely on unscrupulous but persuasive combinations of message, program, ingredients, mystique, and delivery system. A weight loss product or program may be fraudulent if it does one or more of the following.
1. Claims or implies a large, fast weight loss — often promised as easy, effortless, guaranteed or permanent. (Weight loss should not exceed an average of one pound per week.)
2. Implies weight can be lost without restricting calories or exercising, and discounts the benefits of exercise.
3. Uses typical quackery terms such as: miraculous, breakthrough, exclusive, secret, ancient, from the Orient, accidental discovery, doctor developed.
4. Claims to get rid of “cellulite.” (Cellulite does not exist and reference to it is a red flag warning of fraud or misinformation.)
5. Relies heavily on undocumented case histories, before and after photos, and testimonials by “satisfied customers” (who are often paid for the testimony as written by the promoter). Weight loss claims should be typical of all clients, or include a disclaimer.
6. Misuses medical or technical terms, refers to studies without giving complete references, claims government approval.
7. Professes to be a treatment for a wide range of ailments and nutritional deficiencies as well as for weight loss.
8. Makes claims which are not stated on the product label.
9. Promotes a medically unsupervised diet of less than 1000 calories per day.
10. Diagnoses nutrient deficiencies, as with computer-scored questionnaire, and prescribes vitamins and supplements (rather than a balanced diet). Recommends these in excess of 100% of Recommended Dietary Allowance.
11. Promotes aids and gadgets such as body wraps, sauna belts, electronic stimulators, passive motion tables, aromatherapy, appetite patches, earrings, accupressure devices or acupuncture.
12. Promotes a nutritional plan without at least one author or counselor who has reliable nutrition credentials. (Nutrition educators and registered dietitians are preferred.)
13. Fails to state risks or recommend a medical exam.
14. Uses unproven, bogus or potentially dangerous ingredients such as spirulina, glucomannan, human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), echinacia root, bee pollen, fennel, chickweed, starch blockers, or chromium picolinate.
15. It is illegal to make a drug claim not allowed by the Food and Drug Administration for any ingredient, food supplement, or nonprescription drug. A drug claim is any claim that the product will alter body processes, such as suppress appetite, speed up metabolism, or block digestion. The only allowed drug claim is appetite suppression — for phenylpropanolamine (PPA) and benzocaine only.
16. Claims ingredients will surround calories, starch, carbohydrate or fat and remove them from the body are illegal drug claims.
17. Encourages reliance on a guru figure who has the ultimate answers or secrets unknown by others.
18. Grants mystical properties to certain foods or ingredients.
19. Bases plan on faddish ideas, such as food allergies, forbidden foods or magic combinations of foods.
20. Declares that the established medical community is against this
discovery and refuses to accept its miraculous benefits.
Method of delivery
21. Is sold by self-proclaimed health advisors or “nutritionists,” often door-to-door, in health food stores, or chiropractor offices.
22. Distributed through hard-sell mail order advertisements, television infomercials, or ads which list an 800 number without address, indicating possible Postal Service action against the company.
23. Demands large advance payments or long-term contracts. Payment should be pay-as-you-go, or refundable. (May display prominent money-back guarantee, but a common complaint against these companies is that they do not honor their own guarantees).
24. Uses high pressure sales tactics, one-time-only deals, or recruitment for a pyramid sales organization.
This year, instead of succumbing to such tactics, try starting the year with another focus. Check out tips from Green Mountain at Fox Run for starting the new year with a new outlook that will help you make it your best year yet!