You’ve seen the ads: A woman stands in a single pant leg of her old jeans, pulling the waistband away from her body to demonstrate her incredible weight-loss results. Infomercials are full of testimonials like these, urging those struggling with obesity to “Call now!” to receive their life-changing meal replacements.
Commercial diets have a long history of promising big losses with minimal changes to one’s lifestyle, but does the science back up those claims? Hardly.
“It has been known for close to ten years that commercial diets do very little for significant weight loss,” says Dr. Dirk. “At best, a commercial diet will help you lose ten pounds. Commercial diets sell the dream of big weight loss with no scientific evidence.”
While there’s little to no evidence to back up fad diets, there’s plenty stacking up against these commercial claims. In fact, only 11 of 32 popular weight-loss plans on the market in the U.S. even attempted a randomized controlled trial. Of those plans that completed a trial, only two (Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers) demonstrated long-term weight loss, albeit with only modest numbers (12-15 pounds).
So how do commercial diets get away with such big promises? According to Dr. Dirk, “the beauty and curse of freedom of speech, as well as small print disclaimers” are to blame. Surprisingly, no federal regulation requires weight-loss companies to back their claims with scientific research, since obesity was rarely viewed as a medical disease until recent years.
“For morbidly obese folks trying to achieve meaningful weight loss, diets do nothing other than create frustration, anger and depression,” Dallas Weight Loss Surgeon, Dr. Dirk says. Instead, individuals struggling with obesity ought to treat the condition at the root of the problem, which often requires medical attention backed by research and scientific study.
Are you willing to commit to lifestyle changes? Dr. Dirk recommends that obese people try a weight loss program for three to six months. “If you don’t lose more than 10% of your excess body weight in this period, it’s time to consider something that does work, like obesity surgery,” Dr. Dirk says.