Many people want a quick fix for either improving health or losing weight, and this desire can make them especially vulnerable to getting scammed by the diet industry. Most people who succumb to weight loss promises made by a diet program or product gain their weight back, plus some. In the end, the only thing that will be lost is money. On the low end, a diet book will set someone back an average of $12 to $20. On the other end of the flush-your-money-down-the-toilet spectrum is the belly fat burning diet pill you can find on Amazon for $379.83 (plus shipping). “New” products and programs emerge at the same time old diets are repackaged and recycled. The hunger for health and weight miracles has lead to a 60 billion dollar diet industry.
Food and diet trends come and go, but one thing never changes: the tools used to try and sell us health-conscious consumers on the latest gimmick. To keep from getting hooked into a diet fad that could waste your time, money, and possibly leave you heavier than you were, look out for the red flags below.
1. Tiny changes, huge results. By merely popping this one pill or sprinkling this special herb on your dinner, you will begin to see the pounds melt away, without needing to change exercise or eating habits. The reality is that managing weight requires time and attention to exercise and eating well. There’s no magic bullet, people. It truly is about lifestyle change. (Beware: the diet industry has begun borrowing vocabulary like “lifestyle” and “wellness”, so pay attention and look for other clues about how legitimate – or not – the program is)
2. Nonspecific sources cited. “Experts agree” or “studies show that apple cider vinegar is an effective way to burn fat and lose weight”. Sounds convincing, but dig a little deeper. What expert? Is the author credentialed and if so, what are the credentials? Anyone can call themselves a health or wellness author, and in many states anyone call themselves a nutritionist. Look at the author’s background, including whether or not they have anything to gain from promoting the product. Just as important as who is making a diet claim is what science there is to support the claim.
For example, with apple cider vinegar, there is one 2009 study repeatedly cited (one study is not enough to support a claim). If we dig a little deeper we find that the subjects in this study who consumed 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day for 12 weeks lost a mere 2 – 4 pounds and only four weeks after the study, these subjects gained most of that weight back. If a study is cited, also look at how many people were in the study (at least 20 in control group and 20 in an experimental group is best). Were the subjects people or were the subjects animals? Very often a single – even flawed – study that did not show significant results will be snatched up by the media and turned into something conveyed as true.