Here’s what you need to know about diet scams and how to avoid them

Don't be fooled by "get slim quick" scams

The U.S. weight loss market is worth about $66 billion as of 2017, according to numerous published reports.

The CDC reports that adult obesity was at 39.8 percent and affected about 93.3 million adults in the U.S. in 2015-2016.

Kathlin Gordon, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Sentara Careplex Hospital, said most people want easy, fast results when it comes to weight loss.

The diet industry is a money-maker and some in the industry are taking advantage of that by scamming people with their “fad diets,” Gordon said.

Most of these “fad diets” or as she calls them, “scams,” promise just that: a quick, easy fix to weight gain.

This diet-field/weight loss market encompasses everything from fit teas to supplements to special diets like the Ketogenic Diet or the Special K diet, Gordon said.

While there are many fad/scam diets out there, here are some ways you can find out what’s considered a red flag when choosing your diet.

Red flags

Gordon has a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition and she is a certified and registered dietitian and nutritionist.

Gordon said a big red flag that people should watch out for is a diet telling them to eliminate a whole food group.

By eliminating a whole food group you could put strain on your organs that might use that food group to fuel their needs, she said.

For example, on the Keto Diet you cut out carbohydrates, the danger of that is your body has to turn to another source for the energy like your liver and muscle tissue.

“Most times diets that make you give up a whole food group are unsustainable and lead to you regaining the weight,” she said.

Another red flag would be the claim that you have to buy only their products to make the diet work.

This would include diets like Jenny Craig or Slim Fast. These diets claim that by drinking their drink or taking their pills or eating their food you can lose weight easier, Gordon said.

“Most people who are obsessed with dieting have an eating disorder. They are obsessed with body image,” Gordon said.

When she works with her patients, she tries to focus on establishing healthy eating habits that work in small, baby steps rather than a complete overhaul.

Gordon recommends the following when it comes to healthy eating:

  • Avoiding processed foods, foods from vending machines
  • Eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day
  • Not listening to diet trends but rather your doctor
  • Eating “Real Foods”

Real foods vs. fake foods

A big trap people can fall into when looking for healthy foods at the store is the idea that if its sugar-free or fat-free then it’s healthier.

Gordon said when a food is sugar- or fat-free, it means the fat is replaced with more sugar or the sugar with artificial sweeteners.

Gordon recommends looking at the nutrition labels and comparing the fat-free to the regular to see how much sugar, fat, calories, etc. are inside.

Another thing she wants people to watch out for are vitamins and supplements. While she said that taking a multi-vitamin a day is recommended, vitamins do not replace real food.

“People should be getting their vitamins and minerals from real food sources,” she said.

For a quiz on how to spot a diet scam, click here.  

To find more nutrition information you can visit Sentara Careplex Hospital or call 757-827-2097 or visit this website. 

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.