All the Ways Diet Companies Ripped Off People Over the Years

Starting a weight-loss program can be an exciting time. You’ve finally decided you’re tired of living the same old way, and you’re ready to lose weight and be healthier. If you’ve thought about using a popular diet product, you might be a little confused and nervous about how the product will impact you or if it even works.

We’re here to tell you that in some cases, you have good reason to be concerned. Some diet companies are only out to make a quick buck. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a product that doesn’t work or has the opposite effect you’re trying to achieve. Here are a few ways diet companies are trying to scam you.

Using celebrities to gain your trust

Oprah Winfrey signing an autograph

Don’t throw reason out the window just because a celebrity is selling the product. | Rob Kim/Getty Images

Most diet companies know a famous face sells products and raises a company’s profile. No one knows this better than Weight Watchers. For example, when the diet company revealed that Oprah Winfrey was going to advertise their offerings, the company’s shares rose 17%.

It’s a win-win for the celebrity and the company. But what about you, the consumer? The only thing that really changes is the celebrity face pushing the products. It’s essentially the same product, so the only thing you’re getting is hype. That won’t help you lose weight.

Making you believe the spokesperson is following the diet


Celebrities are paid to sell products. |

Celebrities endorse these diet products because they’re getting paid. They don’t have to necessarily believe in — or even use the product properly. Singer Carnie Wilson, for example, had to be removed from her role as spokesperson for Fresh Diet after gaining weight on the program. After a few months, it became evident she was eating a lot more than the food included in her diet plan. Perhaps those diet plans left her (and might leave you as well) feeling too hungry.

And don’t forget the controversy surrounding Kirstie Alley’s failure to stick with Jenny Craig, resulting in an 83-pound weight gain. If celebrities can’t stick to a plan they’re getting paid to use, how can you?

Taking advantage of half-truths

businessperson holding fingers crossed behind his back

Many companies are not telling the whole truth. |

The manufacturers of these products would like you to think that all it took for their spokesperson to lose weight was their product. However, it takes more than diet pills and powders to lose weight and keep it off. What they’re not telling you is that these people are also exercising (most likely with a well-paid personal trainer), and eating a balanced diet.

If all it took to lose weight was a fancy product, everyone would use it.

Covering up controversy

Kirstie Alley

Did she misrepresent her product? | Kirstie Alley Robin Marchant/Getty Images

One celebrity who got in some hot water was Kirstie Alley, who claimed to have lost 100 pounds just from using Organic Liaison, a weight-loss product she helped create. One woman who tried the product said it didn’t work and alleged that Alley really lost weight from all the hard work she had to endure on Dancing With the Stars.

A class-action lawsuit against the company followed shortly after and Organic Liaison was later sold to Jenny Craig in 2014.

Publishing misleading before-and-after photos

Muscular woman doing stretching workout on exercise mat

Don’t believe the hype. | Ammentorp Lund

It’s hard not to be wowed by the photos of people who have used the diet product you’re thinking of trying. When you see amazing results, you can’t help but dream about what the product could do for you. As you visualize your own before-and-after photos, you manage to convince yourself that this could actually work.

What you might not know is a lot of these ads are hiding a little secret.

Using fit people in their ads

gym workout

Some of the people in diet advertisements were already fit. |

Some diet companies are misleading the public by using people in their ads who don’t even need the product. You might be surprised to learn that some of the people in these ads were already physically fit. Advertisers just use the magic of poor lighting and unflattering angles to make it appear as if the model was in terrible shape and then became fit after using the advertised product. You can read more about it here.

Falling back on the fine print

Woman Adjusting Weight Scale

Make a careful decision. |

Even if the pictures in a diet advertisement are real, sometimes you’ll see fine print under these photos saying something like, “results may vary.” That’s there for a reason. Most people aren’t going to look that fabulous after using the product.

The reality is, you’ll need to manage your expectations — and run your diet plans by your doctor — before trying out a new product.


Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.