Watch out for sneaky scams disguised as New Year’s diets

I find it interesting that while most adults may not believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny, they’re quick to believe — as the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31 — that the “I Will Forever Eat Healthy Fairy” or the “I Will Go the Gym Five Times a Week Leprechaun” will wave his or her magic wand and forevermore they’ll be happy, lean and fit. It truly amazes me that smart, intelligent and rational people put their healthy goals in the hands of these fantasies, year after year. Especially when just a few months or weeks into the New Year, they’ve returned to their old ways of unhealthy eating and little physical activity.
The most disturbing part of all these fantastical beliefs is that I’m not the only one who knows they exist. It’s me and every manufacturer selling miracle weight loss products or services.
Did you know that consumers spend more than 30 billion dollars each year on weight loss products and services? In addition, the amount of monies spent on advertising weight loss products has doubled over the last decade, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2002 report. From broadcast and cable television, to infomercials, newspapers, magazines, supermarket tabloids, Internet advertising and Web sites, many of these companies and products promise immediate weight loss success without the need to reduce caloric intake and/or increase physical activity.
To make matters even worse, advertisers are becoming more deceptive in how they advertise. For example, I came across a Web-link that looked like an authentic report called, “Acai Berry Diet Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam?” The site even posted CNN, ABC, CNBC, and Consumer Reports logos to increase validity. The reporter’s picture was next to the article along with the caption, “Julia Estevez investigates the top diet trends of 2009 to find out for herself if these new diets work.”
The article started with a thought-provoking question, “Have you seen any real evidence to support the claims of weight loss? And, do you really think that people are losing weight with this so called Super Food?”
“Hum,” I wondered to myself, “real evidence supporting weight-loss products, let me read more.”
My suspicions peaked when the reporter only mentioned one product and talked about a free trial, explaining that it was unlike “other free trials” that lead you into buying more products. By the time I read about her “experience,” I knew I’d been duped. Supposedly she lost three pounds in the first week, another three pounds in her second week, and by the fourth week, she purportedly lost 20 pounds — effortlessly.
After much scrutiny, I finally found the Web site disclaimer stating, “This site is not affiliated with any news publication.” Well, they sure had me fooled. It looked like a legitimate news site. The Web address included the word news and it looked like an authentic report with an authentic reporter.
Listen up folks, there is no miracle diet pill, product or service. Losing weight takes patience and a permanent change in your current lifestyle. Yes, some products can help boost your weight loss goals, but in the end it takes dedication, perseverance and commitment to decreasing caloric intake and increasing in physical activity. The magic is what happens during the process, when you start reaching your goals and feeling healthier and looking better.
Turning resolutions into reality
Be realistic
Goals that are too lofty spell disaster. Set realistic goals and aim low. Rather than trying to lose 20 pounds, how about losing five? Or instead of promising a trip to the gym each day, how about joining a weekly yoga class? Make your goals attainable and livable.
Become accountable
The hardest promises to keep are those we make to ourselves. Make your goals stick by holding yourself accountable. Find a club, organization or a friend that can help you attain your goals. Sign up for a doable race and stick to a training plan. Find people and programs that will help you be accountable.
Break it down
Break your resolution into smaller digestible pieces. For instance, start with a 10-week run-walk program on your journey to running without walking. Small achievable goals build confidence and motivate you to push to the next level.
Become adaptable
Change takes time. Getting active and losing weight are fantastic goals, but they take time and sometimes goals need to be adjusted to maintain success. Write mini-goals on the calendar and reassess your progress each week. Be patient and persistent. There will be ups and downs; but if you stick with it and stay on target you will reach the next milestone.
Reward yourself
Stay motivated by celebrating large and small milestones. Keep your rewards in line with your new lifestyle. For example, if you started to run, treat yourself to some new running shoes. You lost weight? Reward yourself with a new outfit, a haircut or manicure.

Even with this overwhelming evidence, it’s human nature to hold out for a magic pill or instant cure. If this is true for you, try to balance the magic with a realistic plan and let me know how things are going in March, April and May.

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