“Take this diet pill and lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks!”; “Use this body wrap to lose 6 inches off your waist!”; “Try this juice diet to lose weight fast!” How many times have you heard commercials or seen billboards advertising similar statements? Many people would love to lose a little weight to feel better about themselves and look better in their favorite pair of jeans. Who doesn’t want a quick and easy fix to weight loss? I know I have also been tempted to try a “quick fix” method to lose weight. However, these methods are not the safest, healthiest, or most effective ways to lose weight. It is important to be able to differentiate between healthy and effective methods and methods that are not.
These types of products, supplements, or devices that do not meet up to its promises and are usually created and promoted by an untrained individuals are called quackery. Use these six steps to try to differentiate between products/supplements that are quackery and which could be beneficial and useful to you.
1. Promotes little to no weight loss due to exercise. For example, a diet supplement may advertise that if you take this single pill, you could lose up to 5 pounds in 24 hours, eliminate cravings, and rejuvenate your body. However, if you are not exercising to help aid your weight loss process, you are most likely just losing water weight and could put yourself at risk of dehydration. In order to lose weight most effectively, it is important to combine healthy eating with regular exercise. So therefore, if a product claims that you will lose weight from doing something without doing any exercise, it is most likely quackery.
2. Provides a calorie discrepancy. For example, the Hollywood cookie diet allows its participants to eat cookies as the majority of their diet and controls their caloric intake to around 1,100 calories per day. The lowest amount of calories an average person’s body can function on is between 1,500-1,600 (this is their basal metabolic rate). To lose weight, your energy output must be greater than your energy (or calorie) intake. Therefore, by eating less than the necessary 1,500-1,600 calories, a person will lose weight. But this person is technically starving himself/herself because this is less calories than his/her body needs. You also cannot just eat whatever you want. In order to be healthy, you need to eat a variety of healthy foods: fruits, veggies, protein, the right carbs, and fats. So once again, consume more healthy calories and then exercise to cause your caloric output to be greater than your caloric intake. In conclusion, chances are, if a diet is claiming that you can eat cookies and lose weight, it is quackery.
3. An exercise product claims to tone large muscle groups. For example, the ThighMaster claimed to be able to firm and tone chest muscles, shape your inner thighs, tone your stomach, and tighten your upper arms. However, in order to tone and strengthen large muscle groups, we need to have a lot of resistance and overload that area. A simple ThighMaster will not provide enough resistance to be that effective for most populations. So if one product is claiming to tone and improve large muscle groups, you should be cautious of its truth and conduct further research to determine if it is quackery (it most likely is).
4. The product states that it is “University tested.” A weight loss pill claimed it was tested by the University for Traditional Chinese Medicine in Los Angeles, CA. While this may be true, was the study cited? Was it peer reviewed or publicized? Who funded this research? Sometimes companies will fund their own research to make sure the results will portray the message they desire. For example, data can be manipulated to seem as though it is saying one thing, although this could have been one data point instead of the average. So, if a product says it is University tested, proceed with caution.
5. Nutritional facts seem to overpromise or seem off. Although a label may say various things it contains, you never truly know what is in something unless you make it yourself. So be aware that things could be left out of labels or labels could not tell the whole truth of its product’s contents.
Although it would be absolutely wonderful to have a secret, magic pill that caused you to lose a lot of weight very quickly and did so in a healthy manner, this is not the case in real life. But please do not become discouraged by this. Is it do-able to lose weight. In order to do so, your energy output must be greater than your caloric intake—in other words, you must burn more calories than you eat. In order to do this, eat a well-balanced array of foods and exercise regularly. A great place to start as far as exercising is for 20 minutes 3 times per week. Then work your way up to 30 minutes and perhaps increase the frequency to 4 or 5 days per week. As far as food goes, try to stay away from processed foods. As a general rule of thumb, try to shop on the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where most of the “whole foods” are, or naturally occurring, unprocessed foods. If you eat a variety of whole foods, eat in moderation, and exercise regularly, you are well on your way to the weight loss you desire.
To leave you, I want to state that yes, everyone wants a quick fix to their problems; everyone wants the easy way out. But unfortunately, that is not the case. So the next time you see a commercial for a weight loss product, supplement, or piece of equipment, think: is this trying to get me to think I can take the easy way out, or is this going to help me to eat right, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, and get adequate sleep? Finally, do not just think that this 5 pound weight loss is something you want to accomplish by the time you go on vacation or attend a wedding. Make taking charge of your health—eating healthy, exercising regularly, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep—a lifestyle. Something you will continue to work towards for the duration of your life and not just to look good in something for one occasion a few months from now. You only have one body—take good care of it!
By Natalie Radloff