Cut the fat on diet scams

By Eric Turner

How many of you have fallen for a get-rich-quick scheme? The kind where you pay someone now with promises of profits later? Chances are very few of you have, because most people in their right minds would immediately see the schemer is just out for your money.

In a seemingly unrelated topic, how many of you have fallen for a get-thin-quick scheme?

You know, the kind where you pay someone now, with promises of weight loss later? Chances are many of you have, because most people want to lose weight but don’t care how to go about it.

Yes, dieting is a way of life for most Americans.

The Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 60 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, but two-thirds of Americans are trying to lose or keep from gaining weight.

Now, in principle, dieting is fairly straightforward – if you burn more calories than you consume and increase your physical activity, you will lose weight.

Yet the DHHS reports an estimated $33 billion is spent each year in weight loss programs, supplements and other diet merchandise. As a result, many companies cash in, whether through trend diets like Atkins or South Beach, weight loss programs like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or numerous diet pills.

Through it all, Americans aren’t getting any thinner or healthier. There is a fear the average life-span for us will actually fall due to heart disease. Why is that?

The answer is painstakingly simple – people trust fad diets, get caught up in glossy ads and read rare or fake stories of success when someone follows a certain diet plan. Most people know cutting food intake and increasing exercise is the best way to lose weight, but might find it too slow or hard. Why feel hungry and get sweaty when you can just take a pill and eat all the meat you want?

So people will fork over money just to try and find an easy way to lose weight, usually with little or no results. And judging by the amount of money spent on such programs, people will usually try several of these diets.

By marketing any and all diet philosophies or products, companies have found a nearly-foolproof recipe for profit: flaunt an idea; watch the money flow in.

Whether a customer actually loses weight is of little matter to the companies; they will get their money no matter what.

There is little an individual can do when a product or diet fails to deliver on expectations – they will likely blame themselves for not following the diet perfectly. The people in charge of the diet rarely have legal liability, thanks to the classic “Results Not Typical” line you can find in small print.

It is common sense to ignore something asking you to pay money now for profit later, and it should be common sense to ignore something asking you to pay money to lose weight.

Unless you join a gym, there is no need to spend money to lose weight; in fact, you should actually be able to have more money because you can spend less on food.

Losing weight the hard way may be work, but when it comes down to a small lifestyle change versus a never-ending, costly search for an easier way, the choice seems pretty simple.

Besides, why would you want to take products endorsed by Anna Nicole Smith?

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.