"Lose 30 pounds in twenty days". "Eat this pill and watch the fat melt away." Advertisements like these vex the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and apparently, make people fatter.
Since the advent of "Fit is in" widespread incredible claims of weight loss have mushroomed to a nationwide problem that spurred the FTC to launch "Operation Waistline" back in 1997 to crack down on misleading and deceptive weight loss claims.
And now in 2008, regardless of this operation, weight loss scams are the number one type of consumer fraud in the United States.
"Operation Waistline" aims to steer consumers to accurate information about healthy weight loss and prosecute perpetrators of fraudulent dieting claims.
To get this operation underway, Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, sent a letter to more than 100 publications that ran controversial weight loss advertisements.
Bernstein knows that consumers still believe ridiculous promises of rapid weight loss. Bernstein observes that, "[C]onsumers' anxiety about their weight and diet can easily overwhelm their better judgment. Real health consequences associated with obesity -- such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer -- can also make some consumers easy prey for diet fraud hucksters."
The FTC advocates these facts about dieting:
Products that promise quick and easy weight loss are "bogus". To lose weight, you have to lower your intake of calories and increase your level of physical activity. The faster you lose weight, the more likely you'll gain it back. "Experts" recommend losing about a pound a week. Be skeptical about products that claim they will help keep weight off of your permanently.
Another thing people can do to avoid dieting scams is to write down their plans for weight loss. For example, after reading a journal entry like, "I will affix a patch to my stomach each night. By morning, this patch will help me lose five pounds. Within two weeks, I will have lost twenty pounds without having to exercise or change my eating habits," the desperate dieter may feel a little silly.
Moreover, when the dieter is impatient with her body, she may try hasty weight loss tactics that are likely to fail. Finally, the way to steer clear of the weight loss gimmicks is to ask yourself before you begin any regime: "Am I getting ripped off? Am I so desperate that I'm starting to believe lies? Am I deceiving myself?"
Ultimately, only the consumer can stop dieting scams, because even after the 10 years of government intervention on weight loss fraud, the problem has gotten worse.
Federal Trade Commission. FTC Announces "Operation Waistline"-A Law Enforcement and Consumer Education Effort Designed to Stop Misleading Weight Loss Claims. March 25, 1997.
---Amazing Claims. Bookmark. January 7, 2008