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The Truth Behind Weight Loss Ads

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Wouldn’t it be nice if you could lose weight simply by taking a pill, wearing a patch, or rubbing in a cream? Unfortunately, claims that you can lose weight without changing your habits just aren’t true, and some of these products could even hurt your health. Learn to recognize false claims in weight loss ads and false online stories about weight loss products.

Spot False Promises

Dishonest advertisers will say just about anything to get you to buy their weight loss products. Here are some of the false promises you’ll often see in weight loss ads:

  • Lose weight without dieting or exercising. (You won’t.)
  • You don’t have to watch what you eat to lose weight. (You do.)
  • If you use this product, you’ll lose weight permanently. (Wrong.)
  • To lose weight, all you have to do is take this pill. (Not true.)
  • You can lose 30 pounds in 30 days. (Nope.)
  • This product works for everyone. (It doesn’t.)
  • Lose weight with this patch or cream. (You can’t.)

Here’s the truth:

  • Any promise of miraculous weight loss is simply untrue.
  • There’s no magic way to lose weight without a sensible diet and regular exercise.
  • No product will let you eat all the food you want and still lose weight.
  • Permanent weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes, so don’t trust any product that promises once-and-for-all results.
  • FDA-approved fat-absorption blockers or appetite suppressants won’t result in weight loss on their own. Those products need to be taken with a low-calorie, low-fat diet and regular exercise.
  • Products promising lightning-fast weight loss are always a scam. Worse, they can ruin your health.
  • Even if a product could help some people lose weight in some situations, there’s no one-size-fits-all product guaranteed to work for everyone. Everyone’s habits and health concerns are unique.
  • Nothing you can wear or apply to your skin will cause you to lose weight. Period.

Fake Stories Online

Scammers place false stories online through fake news websites, blogs, banner ads, and social media to sell their weight loss products. For example, they create so-called “news” reports about how an ingredient — like garcinia cambogia or gonji — found in a diet pill is supposedly effective for weight loss. But there’s no new discovery. The stories are false.

Know that

  • Scammers often use the stolen logos of real news organizations, or they use names and web addresses that look like those of well-known news websites. They may even add public photos of reporters to make you think the report is real.
  • Scammers write glowing online reviews themselves or pay others to do it, or they just cut and paste positive comments from other fake sites.
  • Scammers use images showing dramatic weight loss, but these images are just stock or altered photographs, not photos of people who actually used the product they want you to buy.

Other Fitness and Weight Loss Products

Using an electronic muscle stimulator alone won’t work. You might have seen ads for electronic muscle stimulators claiming they will help you lose weight, or get rock-hard abs. But, according to the FDA, while these devices may temporarily strengthen, tone, or firm a muscle, they haven’t been shown to help you lose weight — or get those six-pack abs.

If you decide to join a gym, make sure you know what you’re agreeing to. Not all gym contracts are the same, so before you commit, read the contract and confirm that it includes everything the salesperson promised. Also find out if there’s a “cooling-off” or trial period, and check out the cancellation policy. Do you get a refund if you cancel? You also can look for reviews online from other clients to help you decide if you want to join that particular gym.

Home exercise equipment can be a great way to shape up — but only if you use it regularly. Some exercise equipment ads promise you can shape up and lose weight quickly and without much effort. The truth is that to get the benefits of exercise, you have to do the work. If you decide to buy exercise equipment for your home, first check out online reviews to see what other customers’ experiences have been. And find out the real cost of the equipment. Some companies advertise “three easy payments of $49.99,” but you have to consider taxes, shipping, and any other fees required to make the equipment work.

Other Things To Watch Out For

“Free” trial offers are often not free at all. Many people who have signed up for “free” trials have wound up paying a lot of money and have been billed for recurring shipments they didn’t want. For more on phony free trials, read Getting In and Out of Free Trials, Auto-Renewals, and Negative Option Subscriptions.

The FDA has found tainted weight loss products. In recent years, the FDA has discovered hundreds of dietary supplements that contain potentially harmful drugs or other chemicals not listed on the product label. Many of these products are for weight loss and bodybuilding.

Where To Learn More

Report False Advertising

Report fraudulent weight loss product claims to