Weight loss success stories are misleading and sometimes deceptive. I'm not saying every weight loss story is a lie. I am saying weight loss testimonials rarely depict a typical result that the average person could expect from any weight loss service or product.
The problem has become so pervasive that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released new guidelines governing the use of weight loss success stories, weight loss testimonials and endorsements in advertising. Effective December 1, 2009.
In the past, businesses could comply with FTC guidelines by simply stating, "results not typical." The new guidelines require more substantiation when a numerically specific endorsement is used. One that includes name, signature or likeness.
The FTC now requires genuine documentation for "generally expected results." Just because you see weight loss success stories or weight loss testimonials claiming a specific numerical result for an individual like, "I lost 90 pounds in 6 months," does not mean the results stated are a typical or "generally expected result" for the whole of people using the product or service.
I have collected weight loss testimonials for years. I have hundreds of them. Notarized on publishing release forms. All stating amount of weight lost, time required to lose the weight and language describing the weight loss experience. All truthful, legitimate and actual representations of that "single individuals experience" with my weight loss service.
I took it upon myself to discontinue the use of numerically specific weight loss testimonials in all my advertising and promotions for several reasons. Including the fact they are misleading simply because it's only one person's opinion, one person's results, one person's unique set of circumstances and conditions. And therefore cannot be a reflection of what anyone else could expect from using my service.
Let's look at a typical endorsement I found published on a popular web site under the section of the site titled "Weight Loss Success Stories."
"I lost 75 pounds in 3 short months on the XXX diet plan. My results were fast, easy and effortless. If I can do it, anyone can."
Let's assume this is a legitimate and truthful weight loss success story. When you examine what the endorsement didn't say, you can see the questions that should have been answered in the endorsement.
Other factors that greatly influence weight loss are ignored. Like age, activity levels, occupation, marital status and the big one, BODY TYPE! Apple body shapes generally lose weight more quickly than pears. Of course the sex of the person is obvious if a photo is used.
All these factors play an important role in how much weight is lost and the time required to lose it. For instance, if a 50 year old female pear shape thinks she can lose weight like the 24 year old apple weight loss success story, she will be disappointed. You cannot compare apples to oranges or pears for that matter. We are all different and everyone loses weight differently. In my opinion, any legitimate endorsement should state these facts instead of a gratuitous "results may vary" disclaimer.
I have seen one set of before and after pictures appear on three different web sites with a different name and results on each site.
I've also been contacted by people peddling their weight loss success stories and before and after pictures, for a licensing fee.
I once believed that weight loss success stories and weight loss endorsements were beneficial and inspired people to have similar success. Maybe that was true at one time. But I'm of the opinion now the before and after picture with accompanying glowing endorsements only hurts because it insinuates that anyone can achieve this non-typical result. I believe this practice only hurts by offering false hope using the unethical "sin of omission."
No doubt my sales of products and services would benefit by this practice. I personally find it unacceptable. I applaud the FTC's new guidelines and believe they are necessary and justified.
I have been helping people lose weight since 1980. I have close-up experience with many weight loss businesses and organizations. Most are legitimate and genuinely care about the people we serve. However, now it's time to emphasize getting a larger percentage of the people we serve results as opposed to getting only a few results for the sole purpose of advertising.
There are certainly people who do before and after weight loss success stories that don't regain weight. Here's my take. Oprah brought the American obesity problem out of the closet and revealed what most of us know is true today. "Diets don't work." Oprah stated on an Entertainment Tonight episode, while discussing her weight regain, after her most watched episode ever, where she wheeled out a wagon of fat and proclaimed she would never be fat again, that the jeans she wore for that program were getting tight and uncomfortable only three days after the episode premiered.
I urge you to rely on yourself to lose weight. Oprah is a hero of mine and I adore her. But you needn't allow even Oprah to inspire your weight loss. YOU need to do that. And I know from past experience you are far more capable of success and achievement than you give yourself credit for. Believe me, you don't need weight loss success stories for inspiration and motivation. You have every resource within you necessary to be your ideal weight and live a naturally thin life.
So don't expect to see any before and after pictures on this site. Period. Ever. It's not my style. Say less -- weigh less. Keep it invisible and live a naturally thin life. Unencumbered and free of the pressure of publicizing your results.
Endorsements from clients -- names and amounts of weight lost withheld...
One of my friends asked me to attend one of your workshops in Minneapolis. At first I was reluctant because I had lost my weight, did a before and after ad for the company that helped me lose weight.
While losing weight I was treated like a star. The photo shoot was amazing. I got a complete hair and fashion makeover. They made me feel very special. The advertisement ran in several local and neighborhood newspapers. After three months I began regaining weight. I went back to the company for assistance and was welcomed with open arms. They lived up to their promises and did everything possible to help me lose the weight I gained.
Unfortunately I kept gaining weight. I couldn't find the same commitment I had the first time. I felt like a loser. Worse, the company continued to run my advertisement even though I eventually regained every pound. It was daily humiliation. Friends would ask what went wrong and I would start crying. I asked the company to discontinue the ads and was told the ads were scheduled three months in advance and they couldn't change the schedule. After three months my ad was put to rest. I cannot describe in words what the entire experience did to my confidence and self-worth.
When I heard you speak about the say less, weigh less strategy and keeping it invisible, plus the stories you told that were almost identical to mine, I got the message loud and clear. I have again reached my goal weight. No applause and no fanfare. I have you to thank for renewing my commitment. Not to weight loss, but living a thin, healthy life. I finally got it. My girlfriend is your biggest fan and she too is enjoying life as a thin person for the first time in her life."
"I have been on every diet imaginable. Belonged to support groups and three gymnasium memberships. My excessive weight prevented me from being truly happy for 33 years. I read your book and my light went off.
I wasted over $10,000 looking for the 'secret' only to find out the answers and solutions to my problem was within me all the time. I stopped dieting. Left a few bites on the plate at every meal and began a no excuses 30 minute walk with my daughter every day when she got home from school. My weight disappeared. My daughter who has been overweight since she was seven lost every pound. It was easy because I had no cravings and never felt like I was dieting. It was very natural."
"Barbara, I was so happy with my results I couldn't wait to begin phase two of your system. I began making small exchanges in my diet. Less salt, Tabasco in its place. Less sugar in recipes. Stopped drinking soda completely and replaced it with sensibly sweetened iced tea. Pork tenderloin instead of pork chops, 90/10 ground beef instead of 75/25. Thirteen months ago I was out of control and miserable. Taking blood pressure medication and cholesterol reducing statins. My doctor has taken me off all medication because my blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels are all within an acceptable level. When he asked me how I did it I told him I had an invisible friend and gave him your website address. You're right, Barbara, losing weight isn't hard or difficult, it's only a matter of knowing how."
"Your book combined with your website helped me lose every pound. I'm a 54 year old third grade teacher that gained a few pounds every year. It got to the point walking to the teacher's lounge and back was a miserable experience. The honesty of your weight loss system was refreshing. You pull no punches and I needed to hear every word. I had blamed my weight problem on everything from my job, students, family and friends. Your book changed everything for me. God, I was eating enough to feed a whale simply because I was wallowing in my own self pity. When I reduced portions I thought I would be hungry. It didn't happen. When I stopped drinking Pepsi I suffered a terrible headache for two days straight. But I'm no longer drinking 750 calories of soda everyday. The most difficult aspect of my weight loss was making myself walk. I sweated so bad it looked like someone hosed me down. My husband challenged me to "man-up" and I did. I've been walking for 16 solid months. I'm a few pounds away from reaching my goal and I don't even worry about it. I weighed 319 pounds when I began and my goal is to lose as much as my body will lose while I'm eating and walking the way you outlined in your book.
If you print this on your site, tell your readers to stop worrying about how much or how fast they should lose weight but to focus on eating what they want in reasonable quantities, making some of the exchanges you recommend and a reasonable increase in physical activity. Do that and everything takes care of itself. Instead of saying I'll never be fat again my battle cry is I will be thin forever. God bless and thank you."
"I have been losing the same 25 pounds for ten years. Reunion time. I starve. Weddings. I starve. I started to gain more than my same 25 pounds when my husband got on the Internet and said 'You need to look at this." I spent several hours reading every page. You're experience helping people lose weight is obvious. I can't believe how I took the hard way out to lose my weight I unnecessarily spent a small fortune on TV advertised diet food, pills and starvation, fast weight loss diets. Your background in accounting and mathematics is obvious. Anyone who can add 2 + 2 cannot deny what you recommend is true. Like many others I thought I had to suffer eating a nutritionally sound "rocks and stones" diet to be successful. WRONG! You taught me the truth. It's all about calories. When I saw how few potato chips added up to 450 calories compared to a hot dog at 300 calories or a steak at 400 calories, I had an epiphany. I cut 650 calories a day getting rid of extras. I eat my favorite foods, leave a little on the plate and walk three times a week. I've lost weight without dieting just like you said. It works."
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