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Quick Weight Loss or Quackery?

Even smart people fall prey to quick weight loss gimmicks. WebMD explains why.

Passive Weight Loss

To Elizabeth's credit, she tries to eat right, jog, do Pilates, and perform squats to supplement her endermologie sessions. In fact, good nutrition and regular physical activity are recommended with the treatment.

However, many weight loss, cellulite-busting, and muscle-building products promise results without having to do too much.

"It's the idea that an individual can get to the body size they want without any increase in physical activity or without any change in eating," says Jennifer Anderson, PhD, RD, professor and extension specialist at Colorado State University's department of food science and human nutrition.

She simply laughs at appetite-suppressing eyeglasses, weight loss patches and chewing gum, toning gels, fat-melting creams, and evening solutions that claim to trim waistlines during sleep.

"In some instances, it's a total gimmick," says Anderson. "In other instances, it will reduce a lot of water weight quickly, but it's never going to change eating behaviors, activity levels, and make that the key to their lifestyle."

This quick water weight loss never leads to real, long-term weight loss, says Anderson, noting that the only weight loss and toning plan that works involves eating well and moving your body.

Furthermore, she says there is no proof that cellulite can be massaged away or taken out by injections of vitamins, special underwear, or use of other gizmos. To get rid of the dimpled fat, weight must be shed, and skin made firmer by doing strength training.

Francie M. Berg, a licensed nutritionist, and founder of the Healthy Weight Network, agrees. "If you want to tone your body or become more fit, you need to do the work. It's not lying on a table, and having [a gadget] lift your feet," she says referring to no-effort toning tables, beds, and machines.

The value of toning and weight loss equipment depends on how much work you can get a person to do to burn energy, says Berg, pointing out that when people see desired results with normally passive devices and treatments, it's usually because they've also made efforts to eat well or exercise.

Truth With a Twist

Berg coordinates the Task Force on Weight Loss Abuse for the National Council Against Health Fraud, which gives out annual Slim Chance Awards to selected weight loss products.

This year's "worst gimmick" prize went out to MagnaSlim, which claims to relieve stress and its byproduct of overeating by placing magnets and a magnetized solution at specific acupuncture points. The magnet at the acupressure point would supposedly improve cell function, restore Chi (life force energy), and give a person more control over what they put in their mouths.

Weight loss promoters have long cashed in on the concept of acupressure and magnetic therapy for weight loss, even though there is no proof it works, says Berg. Items using similar concepts on the market include magnetic weight-loss earrings, adhesives, beads, and seeds.

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