2008-06-13 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER The dog days of summer are fast approaching, and for many consumers this is the time to get in shape and shed those pesky pounds added over the winter months. It seems that everyone is hitting the gym or starting a weight loss program. If you are preparing for bathing suit season, it is best to avoid the temptation to engage in crash diets or extreme fitness regimens. Experts agree that the best way to reach a healthy weight is to follow a sensible eating plan and engage in regular physical activity. Keeping the focus on slow and steady improvement and sensible goals, you'll stay safe and have a better chance of reaching your fitness goals.

Some weight loss products and programs prey on common concerns about body image and health. Advertisements often use "before and after" pictures of people who experienced miraculous weight loss and improved lifestyles. Only in microscopic text do they say that the results are not typical. The quick-fix to "look and feel better" is often the road many people travel. Unfortunately, it is frequently a road leading to frustration and disappointment. When it comes to evaluating claims for weight loss products, the Federal Trade Commission cautions consumers to be skeptical. Before you spend money on products or programs that promise fast or easy weight loss, carefully consider the claims and keep the following tips in mind.

Some weight loss products promise that you will "Lose 30 Pounds in Just 30 Days." As a rule, the faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to gain it back. Also, fast weight loss could harm your health. Unless your doctor advises it, do not look for programs that promise quick weight loss. Other products advertise: "Lose All the Weight You Can For Just $39.99." Some weight loss programs have hidden costs. For example, some do not advertise the fact that you must buy their prepackaged meals that cost more than the program fees. Before you sign up for any weight loss program, ask for all the costs and get them in writing. Be suspicious about products promising long-term or permanent weight loss. To lose weight and keep it off, you must change how you eat and how much you exercise. Have you seen ads for programs touting the success for John or John Doe and how they lost 80 pounds in six weeks? Do not be misled by someone else's weight loss claims. Even if the claims are true, someone else's success may have little relation to your own chances of success. What about the latest scientific breakthrough?

The medical miracle weight loss drug? There are no miracle products. To lose weight you have to reduce your intake of calories and increase your physical activity. Be skeptical about exaggerated claims.

If you are considering starting a weight loss program, see your doctor for advice about the weight loss options that are best for you. Together, you should be able to decide on an approach that allows you to achieve your goals in a safe and effective manner.

For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commissions website at www.ftc.gov, or call 877-382-4357. To report fraudulent weight loss product claimsntact the attorney general's office at 800-771-7755, or the New York State Consumer Protections Board at 800-697-1220, or by visiting their website at www.consumer.state. ny.us.

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