They are everywhere—in the magazines you read, the websites you browse, at supermarkets, on hoardings, and on late-night television. They almost always have the same pitch: a pill, a liquid, an herb, or product that will miraculously melt the fat off your body. The chances are the only thing you will lose with these products is your money.
“Everyone wants to believe in the ‘magic pill’, and what can get them the fastest results with the least amount of time or effort, without having to give up their favorite foods, drinks, or social life. The bottom line is, there has never been any proven 100% effective gadget, pill, or potion that will do it,” says Danny Musico, a Hollywood celebrity fitness trainer.
Experts say the top diet scams usually involve variations of the following: metabolism-boosting pills created from herbal ingredients, fat- and carb-blocking pills and creams, and diet patches or other items to be worn on the body.
The ‘wonder’ products last year included a powder that when sprinkled on food reduced appetite; the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone produced by the placenta; double-sided pills that blocked fat and burned calories; and even caffeine-infused underwear to treat cellulite.
Danny has had clients come to him talking about following the ‘tree bark diet’. “You eat the tree bark and lose weight. I almost fell over when I heard it,” he says. “We are emotionally driven when it comes to our body image. When your heart is set on weight loss, you don’t care how, you just want it now,” says Dr Robert Pomahac, a certified personal trainer and the head doctor at MaxHealth LA wellness centre. He has heard many ‘silly’ stories. “Many people have told me about plastic-wrap that you wrap around your body and that’s supposed to help you lose weight. I had a personal trainer tell me that a foam roller on your legs was a great way to break down cellulite, a great business plow for all the ladies struggling with chunky legs,” he says.
His Personal Favorite: The pharmaceutical industry introduced fen-phen, an anti-obesity treatment, and then realized that people were dying from primary pulmonary hypertension.
Scams such as these thrive in the medical business—many purported by doctors and professionals themselves. “The issue with food substitutes is that there are very little regulations, so they are able to claim anything they want for the most part,” adds Dr Robert. A body-builder for the last 25 years, he has seen many fitness models in magazines promoting weight loss products. They are paid to not workout and gain weight so their ‘before’ pictures are actually their ‘after’ pictures.
- These products claim to cure all ailments, guarantee weight loss and improve metabolism. Doctors caution that if you already have an existing medical condition, taking the wrong pills could be disastrous. Many of them contain banned and undeclared items or substances that haven’t been adequately tested.
- Dr Robert advises reading the labels and checking for third party testing. “Just because it says protein, weight loss, or reduced calories, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. I like the 5 rule—if there are 5 ingredients or more that aren’t natural or you can’t pronounce, then don’t eat it.”
- Another side-effect of these weight loss scams can be found on a person’s emotional well-being. It’s what Dr Robert calls the “yo-yo” effect. People expect miracles from the products but they fail, they gain even more weight, get depressed and think that it’s impossible to achieve weight loss.
- Danny considers it a vicious circle. “Most people who try these quick-fix diets do not reset their body or control their appetites. They’re not releasing fat burning cells because they’re not working out and therefore not increasing their metabolism to burn fat. Their energy level decreases and their body holds on to the fat. They get frustrated and stop and then gain more weight. They’re back to where they started,” he says.
The bottom line is quick fixes don’t work. Losing weight is a long process that requires patience and hard work. It cannot happen overnight. As Danny says, “Weight loss is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix from a pill.”