Find out how you can determine truth from fiction and reality from hype.
Six Minutes to Six Pack Abs! The All Natural Pill That Melts Fat! Lose 20 Pounds in 20 Days! Weight Loss Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About!
No doubt you’ve seen ads and headlines like these before. Maybe they lured you in or at least made you curious enough to click, call or turn to the page. With new studies coming out all time relating to our health and fitness, it’s hard enough to get accurate, fully vetted information from real news sources, much less from sensational headlines we see on the internet, magazine stands or even on drug store shelves.
We all want to believe scientists will discover the magic bullet to melt muffin tops (safely) or find the foolproof method to make muscle faster or even unearth a natural ingredient that quells hunger and fights fat. But alas, there are no miracle cures for being soft, lazy and hungry. Or, should I say, no legal or non-prescription way.
The cold hard truth we need to accept is that the headlines are marketing tactics to get your limited amount of attention and that there’s no “fast and easy” way (aside from having David Beckham’s or Gisele Bundchen’s DNA) to lose fat, make muscle, spot reduce or tone up a jiggly area.
Even so, that doesn’t stop the sensational ads from giving us false hope that a bikini model body, sculpted muscles and washboard abs are just one pill, cream, 30-day program or exercise device away from achieving our goal. Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a nonprofit organization that funds research on fitness trends and products, is giving a lecture to industry professionals on this very topic. He says, some of these programs are not necessarily bad, but the marketing campaigns feed people, “unhealthy expectations where they may get discouraged or disillusioned when they don’t get the results they thought they would.” This is not helpful to fostering long term adherence, which is what people need most when it comes to improving fitness and maintaining weight loss.
Are there red flags to look out for when you’re looking to start a new fitness program or buy a product to help you reach your goals? You betcha!
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before whipping out your credit card:
- Is there real science to back up the claims?
Tried and true products and programs have peer reviewed published research in medical journals. Before you become a true believer, It helps to do a little digging and see if there were any published studies, who paid for it and how big the sample size was. And for that matter, was the study even done on humans? Dr. Bryant says be suspicious of studies that were not done with a randomized control group. Also he says, don’t be easily convinced if there’s only one study on a topic.
- Is there heavy reliance on testimonials or celebrity endorsements?
Those Before & After photos sure are convincing. But be wary. What you don’t know is what they really did to get ready for that photo shoot. Even us fitness pro’s, who are already in shape, ramp up our workouts and diet like crazy for a few weeks before the cameras click. Notice also how in the after shots the subject has a spray tan, whiter teeth, new hairdo and much better posture! Believe the fine print where it says “results not guaranteed” or “results may vary.”
Celebrity endorsements are also extremely enticing. Clearly, with all their money and fame, they would only use the best of the best, right? Well….. not always. Sometimes the celebrity is paid to use the product or has a financial incentive as in a percentage of sales or ownership in the company. Just because they look good, doesn’t mean they are experts on the topic of the product, be it a cream, pill, product or program. Before you take their word as gospel, Dr. Bryant cautions that the celebrity should have some authenticity, education, credentials and real working experience in the subject.
Even doctors aren’t always a trusted source of information. Look them up and see what their area of expertise is. A Doctor of English Literature or even Chiropractic medicine won’t make them an expert on weight loss pills, nutrition or exercise science.
- Do the claims go against the majority of the scientific body of evidence?
If there’s just one contrarian to a large body of research, be cautious. If thousands of papers have been published on the benefits of fruit for example, and one author or ad says fruit makes you fat, don’t get swayed too quickly. The first amendment allows freedom of speech and that means you can’t believe everything you read.
- Are the claims far-fetched or sound too good to be true?
Some marketing tactics are scams cleverly designed to deceive the viewer. Remember those sites for acai berry supplements that looked like they were being featured by legitimate news organizations? According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly everything on those sites were fake right down to the reporter’s “investigation” into the effectiveness of the product. In reality, these types of websites are created by marketers who make a commission based on how many people they lure. The FTC reminds consumers that, “As a rule, legitimate news organizations do not endorse products.”
Beware of claims that sound too good to be true. Deep down, you know the reality. Getting fit and losing weight requires at least some hard work and commitment. There are no miracles so don’t fall for lines like, “lose weight without diet or exercise,” or “eat whatever you want and still lose weight!” When those super buff fitness models or before and after testimonials tell you how “fun, fast and effortless” it was to get in the best shape of their lives, just a word of caution, it may be fun if you like hard work, but it won’t be as fast or effortless as you want it to be. Take it from me, real results come from real work. But I promise you, it will be worth it.