Almost as soon as consumers push away from holiday dinner tables, advertising for weight loss products and health clubs begin to hit the airwaves, the Internet, newspapers and other media.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to be skeptical of ads promising quick and easy ways to lose weight. Doctors, dietitians and other experts agree that the best way to lost weight is to eat less and increase your physical activity so you burn more energy.
At this time of year, you're likely to see claims such as, "Lose weight without diet or exercise," "Block the absorption of fat, carbs or calories!" or "Lose weight with our miracle diet patch or cream." Some companies use celebrity endorsements to promote their products.
"Deceptive ads lure consumers into buying diet pills, treatments or 'cures' with the promise of better health, fitness or appearance," said Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the local BBB. "But many of these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and may be ineffective or even harmful."
BBB processes hundreds of complaints against weight loss products and health clubs every year. Complaints range from recurrent charges on credit cards for "free" products to dissatisfaction with the hours or service provided by fitness clubs.
BBB advises you to watch for false claims and consider your needs and budget:
Avoid products that claim to help you lost weight without diet or exercise. Doctors, dietitians and other experts agree that losing weight takes work. Pass up any product that promises miraculous results without any effort.
Be skeptical of claims that you don't have to give up favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. Try filling up on healthy vegetables and fruits so you can resist high-calorie treats. However, eliminating all your favorites could set you up to fail. It's better to limit portion size or how frequently you indulge.
Determine your fitness goals. It's hard work to lose weight, and you need a program you can stick with, and preferably one that you enjoy. Find a health club or exercise facility that is convenient and that offers times that fit with your schedule.
Visit the facility before joining. Check on cleanliness, adequacy of space, machines and qualifications of instructors and any other factors important to you. Ask if you can try the facility out before you join.
Consider your budget. Ask the health club about joining or enrollment fees and ongoing monthly costs. Does a weight loss plan require you to buy specific foods? Can you cancel if you more or find that the program doesn't meet your needs? If the facility closes, can you transfer your membership to another facility?
Read the entire contract. Does it list all services and facilities and hours of operation? Is everything the salesperson promised included in the contract? What's included in the monthly fee and what will cost you extra? What is the total cost, including enrollment fees and finance charges?
Check with BBB first at bbb.org. Look at the business' complaint history and whether the complaints were resolved. For more information you can trust visit us online.