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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

The Unhealthy Truth Behind the Weight Loss Industry

Wherever we turn our heads there’s either an advertisement or post on Instagram showing us the importance of being fit and healthy. Of course, they’re not completely wrong as living a healthy lifestyle is what will prevent future illnesses and injuries from occurring. Plus, by living a healthy life, you reap immediate benefits from clear skin to feeling energetic and youthful, there are certainly much more plus than minuses when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Naturally, whether it’s an upcoming wedding, graduation, bikini season, or health condition, there’s always a reason for people to want to lose weight. But for most us, we confuse adopting a healthy lifestyle with dieting.What happens? This results in people consuming weight loss drugs which are potentially life-threatening. Of course, the ideal method of weight loss is exercising and healthy eating but live in a society where everything comes to us in a matter of seconds.

We can order a pizza online and have it delivered to our door in under twenty-minutes, we can have someone else shop for our groceries and we can call an Uber and have them pick us up faster than it takes us to get our jacket on. So, with all these conveniences, why would anyone want to invest hours and hours experiencing physical pain and mental torture just to lose a couple pounds?

Well, the health industry picked up on our human tendencies to be lazy and figured out an amazing way to profit from it while producing minimal results: weight loss drugs. The profits are huge as consumers are annually spending approximately $66 billion on diet soft drinks, gym memberships and dietary supplements. Sadly, people often misinterpret the word nutrition with dieting, thinking that the only way to lose weight is to go on a short-term diet. You’ll hear people around you saying, “oh, I need to go on a diet and lose ten pounds,” but ‘diet’ and ‘nutrition’ are completely different words with completely different meanings. Unfortunately, this is what keeps people from actually losing weight. The word ‘diet’ comes with restrictions such as eliminating specific foods, feeling hungry and avoiding going out because of their dietary restrictions. But this because the word ‘diet’ has defined itself as the denial of favorite foods. When anyone hears the word ‘diet’ they cringe, thinking about how unpleasant their life will be, but since it’s a short-term fix, they see it as something manageable. Though dieting has and always will be a popular method for weight loss, healthy companies are using people’s vulnerability and weight insecurities as a way to profit. Though we all want to have our ideal body and wear it proudly, companies are going the extra mile in putting us at risk in order to achieve it.

The Federal Trade Commission invests time and energy in finding and charging companies which advertise deceptive weight loss products which promise consumers drastic weight loss effects without any scientific backing. Back in 2014, four companies – Sensa Products, L’Occitane, HCG Diet Direct, and LeanSpa – where charged to collectively pay $34 million to refund their customers. Though, they weren’t the first to be penalized for their false marketing. In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission charged six companies including Himalayan Diet Breakthrough who promised customers extreme weight loss in less than eight weeks. In 1997, the Federal Trade Commission was targeting fat burner dietary supplements. The urgent rush to eliminate these products is due to being completely fraudulent. More and more studies are showing that almost one-third of all herbal supplements currently on the market are frauds.

Products which are announced as obtaining ginseng, echinacea or Ginkgo biloba resulted, after testing, that they actually do not contain any of the said ingredients and rather is just a mixture of rice, wheat and mustard. But how did we allow the health industry to become saturated with false products? Products which also come with a hefty price tag. This is due to the lack of governmental regulation and the FDA which approves all drugs and supplements prior to them being released to the general public. In order to prevent fraudulent weight loss supplements from entering the mainstream market, the government needs to amp up its regulations on drugs and supplements. Because not all supplements are ineffective and low-quality, however, those that give the industry a bad wrap.

So what are you going to do? What are you left with now that everything you’ve thought about the health industry is packed with lies and deception? Well, there’s only one thing you can do if you want to lose weight. It’s time to go back to basics. Eat healthy, exercise and get a good night’s sleep. Is it going to take a while to accomplish? Absolutely, but at least you know it’s going to work

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