It’s Friday afternoon and I’m so tired that I’ve somehow managed to justify eating a peppermint Aero and drinking fizzy wine from a plastic cup at my desk – hey, just because I write about weight loss, doesn’t mean I’m saintly all the time! (Though, in my defence, the wine is low kJ.)
But I couldn’t let the week draw to a close without encouraging all you Three Piece Suite readers (that means you, mum) to stand up and heartily applaud CHOICE magazine for at last stating in a clear, comprehensive and concise manner what anyone with half a brain has long known: pharmacy diet plans are liars and cheats and dirty little frauds.
Honestly, am I really supposed to believe that buying a $50 jar of stinky unidentified powder from a wheezing octogenarian in a Dr Evil-esque white tabard is actually going to be a more effective weight-loss strategy than, say, eating the occasional salad and walking around the block? Sadly, a whole lot of people evidently do believe this, because the over-the-counter slimming industry is booming.
CHOICE’s excellent investigation involved all the usual suspects: AlphaSlim, Betty Baxter, Dr Tim’s Success, Kate Morgan, MediTrim, Tony Ferguson (hiss), UltraLite and Xndo. Here are just a couple of the juicy tidbits they dug up:
* While all of these pharmacy plans like to huff and puff about their ‘dedicated staff’ and ‘highly trained consultants’, the actual training afforded these jumped-up Saturday girls is patchy at best. AlphaSlim and Dr Tim’s Success staff are allegedly qualified to prod your wobbly bits after just three hours’ training. I cannot think of any other service or industry that would deem this adequate training. Seriously, would you go to a doctor who’d simply flicked through a copy of Gray’s Anatomy for a bit? The average training time for the other programs is between four hours and two days. (Incidentally, I’m about to embark on a two-day native wildlife rescue course – so, apparently, hand-rearing an orphaned possum from birth is about as complex as saying, ‘That’s $29.95 for the shakes, lardy’.)
* During the main weight-loss phase – ie the really hellish period where you’d sell your granny for a Tim Tam – most of these programs advise you to eat around 4000kJ per day. Which, as it happens, is the same amount of kilojoules in two packets of Tim Tams. That’s not very much in real food terms. The recommended daily kJ intake for women who want to lose 6-20kg is 5,250kJ.
* All the programs, except UltraLite, want you to guzzle a minimum of two meal replacement shakes or soups a day. How do I even begin to describe what’s wrong with meal replacements… First of all, if you are overweight or obese, chances are you have a pretty messed up relationship with food. How, therefore, is not actually eating any food going to help you change your eating habits and learn about nutrition? Secondly, while you may lose weight on one of these crackpot programs (that’s what generally happens when you DON’T EAT), you will start piling it back on again the moment a morsel of proper food passes your lips. Thirdly, meal replacements are vastly more expensive than real, fresh, healthy produce. Fourthly, many are dangerously low in carbohydrates (which, contrary to popular opinion, are not the devil and are actually vital for healthy and sustained weight loss) and other essential nutrients. And fifthly… oh, forget it. They’re just bad news, okay? Trust me on this one.
(Don’t go thinking UltraLite is any better, either – it may let you eat real food but it severely limits your carb intake.)
* There are few or no entry requirements for these programs. Oh sure, most of them will put you through a cursory health assessment. But, at the end of the day, your high cholesterol or the fact that you’re a breastfeeding mother aren’t quite so important as your ability to plonk your cash on the counter.
So there you have it. Pharmacy weight-loss schemes are pants. Great big, flesh-coloured, Bridget Jones-style granny knickers. And this isn’t just my opinion; CHOICE says so. Golf claps for CHOICE, please.
(PS – Tony Ferguson immediately went on the offensive, challenging CHOICE to a debate and claiming: ‘They also ignored the psychological aspects of weight loss in their review. The leading authorities in treating obesity around the world acknowledge that being overweight is much more than a product of eating too much and exercising too little. That is an outdated method of losing weight which has failed Australians for almost two generations now.’ Yeah, and swapping actual food for a $45.50 weekly meal replacement bill is waaay more psychologically sound than eating better and moving more. Two words: clutching, straws.)
(PPS – Tony Ferguson is another one who writes weight loss as one word. Why, why, WHY?!)