Jan. 4, 2012 – With many Americans overweight and an increasing number of them obese, it’s no surprise that losing weight is among the most common New Year’s resolutions.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers who want to lose weight to beware of exaggerated claims for weight-loss plans or products. The only safe and effective way to lose weight is to eat less or exercise more – or preferably to do both.
In the last year, consumers have filed nearly 1,200 complaints with the BBB about health clubs, health and diet products, weight loss and physical fitness firms. Many consumers said the companies either failed to deliver promised results, charged fees that were higher than advertised or, in the case of some health clubs, closed abruptly. Others said they weren’t able to cancel memberships.
Before you invest money in these plans or products, the BBB advises you to beware of false claims and consider your needs and your budget:
- Avoid products that claim to help you lose weight without diet or exercise. Doctors, dieticians 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 to find 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 your schedule.
- Visit the facility before joining. Check on cleanliness, adequacy of space, machines and 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 special foods? Can you cancel if you move 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 the BBB first. Anyone can check a company’s BBB Business Review at www.cantonbbb.org or by calling 800-362-0494 during business hours. Look at the firm’s complaint history and whether the complaints were resolved.
Before beginning an exercise program or diet, the BBB advises consumers to consult a doctor for an assessment of over-all health risks. Get the doctor’s recommendations on weight-loss options and/or exercise regimens that fit your health status and ability to stick with it.
If your doctor prescribes a medication to assist in weight loss, ask about complications or side effects. Tell the doctor about other medications or over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements you may be taking. Report any changes you experience after taking the medication to the doctor.