It would be really, really, REALLY great if a weight loss product actually did what it promises. There are few other products – erectile dysfunction products come to mind – that create such . . . um, high . . . expectations.
A list of guidelines for evaluating the claims for the many weight loss products on the market would be so helpful, and that is exactly what I found. Developed by the Federal Trade Commission (Try their quick quiz), the Seven “Gut Check” Claims have been adapted for publication in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The following seven claims are worth noting and using to avoid unrealistic expectations – and wasted time and effort.
1.Causes weight loss of 2 lb or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise.
Gut check: Meaningful weight loss requires taking in fewer calories than you use. It’s that simple. But it’s also that difficult for people trying to shed pounds. That means ads promising substantial weight loss without diet or exercise are false. And ads suggesting that users can lose weight fast without changing their lifestyles—even without mentioning a specific amount of weight or length of time—are false, too. Some ads might try a subtler approach, say, by referring to change in dress size or lost inches, but the effect is the same.
2.Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats.
Gut check: It’s impossible to eat unlimited amounts of food—any kind of food—and still lose weight. It’s a matter of science: To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in. To achieve success, dieters have to put the brakes on at the dinner table. If an ad says users can eat any amount of any kind of food they want and still lose weight, the claim is false.
3.Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product.
Gut check: Without long-term lifestyle changes—like continuing to make sensible food choices and upping the activity level—weight loss won’t last once consumers stop using the product. Even if dieters succeed in dropping pounds, maintaining weight loss requires lifelong effort.
4.Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight.
Gut check: Without lifestyle changes, no over-the-counter product can block enough fat or calories to cause the loss of lots of weight. To work, even legitimate “fat blockers” must be used with a reduced-calorie diet.
5.Safely enables consumers to lose more than 3 lb per week for more than 4 weeks.
Gut check: Medical experts agree: Losing more than 3 lb a week over multiple weeks can result in gallstones and other health complications. So if an ad says dieters can safely and quickly lose a dramatic amount of weight on their own, it’s false.
6.Causes substantial weight loss for all users.
Gut check: People’s metabolisms and lifestyles are different. So is how they’ll respond to any particular weight-loss product. The upshot: No product will cause every user to drop a substantial amount of weight. Any ad that makes a universal promise of success is false.
7.Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.
Gut check: Weight loss is an internal metabolic process. Nothing you wear or apply to the skin can cause substantial weight loss. So weight-loss claims for patches, creams, lotions, wraps, body belts, earrings, and the like are false. There’s simply no way products like that can live up to what the ads say.