Why Do Weight-Loss Scams Work? Don’t Find Out the Hard Way
A close look at weight-loss scams and why we fall for them.
When it comes to avoiding weight-loss scams and choosing a safe path, you have two choices. Doing it the right way, or the wrong way.What is the right way? It’s going with a big-picture, sensible plans that include eating better foods, eating less (or eating less harmful foods) and getting some exercise. Oh, talking to a doctor is a great idea, too.
See the full podcast transcript here: Health and Wellness Scams with Natalia Petrzela
What’s the wrong way?
It’s probably choosing a lose-weight-fast approach based on one of the latest fads, pills, shakes, supplements, or powders. Also, taking advice—and buying products—endorsed and sold by people on TV or online who look healthy and who, of course we believe, must be healthy.
The first group, those who do it right, have a good chance of losing weight and probably keeping it off. And in the process, they could improve their health and outlook on life.
Or if they do, they’ll be certain to gain it back easy enough.
Here are some important things to know about many (even most of) the health plans and products you see pitched online and in the media.
Weight-loss scams are here to stay.
A great number of health solutions and remedies are scams. Even if they’re not out-and-out fakes, they’re likely not going to help you in a measurable way, which makes them a waste of time and money. If you read any reputable magazine you’ll get this same opinion.
Why are there so many so-called quick cures out there? Two main reasons:
- Because people will look for a solution to help them lose weight, slow down a disease, cure an ailment…and fast.
- Primarily, because it’s an easy way for marketers to make money with marginally effective products and programs.
Health scams have grown steadily the past few years, especially online. Weight-loss scams have always been a problem; however, other diseases (and especially Covid-19) brought scammers and zealots out of the woodwork.
Internet out of control.
The internet is an open marketplace, when it comes to buying and selling, where anything goes. Bogus products can be created, marketed and sold using the latest technologies and internet-based marketing methods. For every genuine website that’s created, there’s a website or store, imitators or peddlers of inferior products, that spring up fast.
Social media is part of the problem too. Nearly all social media platforms allow advertisers, endorsers and influencers to promote products of all kinds, including health-related products, without any real oversight.
In theory, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the U.S. is the watchdog for phony products and our protectors. In reality, that’s not the case at all.
Where is the FDA when you need it?
- Health supplements of any kind, including weight lost, are not regulated.
- Manufacturers don’t announce their new products to the FDA.
- You can’t even be sure the pills contain the ingredients they’re supposed to.
- Even if the FDA attempts to shut down a website, it can easily popup on the internet, selling the same products under a different name.
- The FDA has approved drugs that years later shut down because they were found to cause cancer or other ailments.
Think of the fight to prevent health scams in the same way we think of the fight against cyber-attacks. The authorities are always one step behind the bad guys and struggling to find solutions.
Okay, so maybe we can’t count on government agencies to protects us the way we’d like. Surely we can count on people we know—celebrities and spokespeople—to steer us in the right direction. Right?
Keep these facts in mind when buying a program or product based on endorsements:
- Influencers get rewarded for their promotions and endorsements. Influencers are internet celebrities and smart marketers who have attracted countless followers. However, they’re not responsible for the effectiveness for the products they endorse. They may not even use the product.
- Companies will use influences to boost sales. Product sales might be related to the celebrity but not to the product. While some products are good for you, many health professionals say the majority of supplements are a waste of time.
- Influencers are popular figures, not medical experts. Isn’t it odd that we should take the advice from someone simple because millions of strangers have made someone famous? Some products you may try could do you harm.
- Someone with a fit body may not be as healthy as you think. Especially in America, we tend to equate fitness to the appearance of a picture of health. And we may think the product the person is endorsing is the reason they look so healthy. Neither is necessarily true.
When it comes to weight-loss scams, self-defense is the best medicine.
Weight-loss scams and other health fraud are a part of our digital lives. More than that, there’s no one preventing scammers or money-hungry companies from peddling their alluring but ineffective products on us.
The best you can do is put up a good defense and keep your eyes open to the products and solutions you’re being sold.
- Talk to your doctor before taking any products or supplements that she or he didn’t recommend.
- Do research on any product that you gain an interest in. Don’t believe what the website says; keep doing your research.
- Finally, keep in mind that losing weight does not necessarily mean you’re getting healthier. Keep the big picture of your health in mind.
As one guest said, who recently talked about health scams on Chris Parker’s Easy Prey podcast, “…if a company or product is selling you a weight-loss solution, you should automatically be skeptical.”
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