So when things aren’t going well in the weight loss world we are vulnerable to the temptation of the quick fix. The juice detox, the pills, the coffee, powdered meals, anything that is going to make the job of shifting those extra pounds that you are carrying, that bit easier and quicker. And every so often a new flurry of products starts doing the rounds, that prompts us to remind everyone why these aren’t a good idea.
I have been there, taken slimming pills, tried weight loss shakes and even just eating purely raw vegetables at one point to ‘detox’ my system (that didn’t last long let me tell you!). I know people who have spent hundreds of pounds on detox juice programmes, get half way through and realise it’s not for them, no doubt because they are starving hungry, feel weak and listless, and can’t function properly. It infuriates me that these companies steal our money with false promises of achieving the life we are so desperate for.
We log on to our social media channels and our Facebook, Insta and Twitter feeds are full of pictures of people who have dropped a stone in a week, or something equally ridiculous, from consuming a few sachets and a couple of pills, or maybe the odd cup of coffee or specially brewed tea. These promises of products that are going to see us drop loads of weight, in a period when we are floundering, all make it so tempting to click the ‘buy now’ button! And before we know it we are entering our card details, for £150 worth of some ‘magic’ potion or other that we hope will solve all our problems and get us to goal, quickly!
During my time regulating the food industry, these type of products were booming, and to be fair they still are! Every couple of days we were made aware of yet another company with another product that claimed all sorts of health benefits, that were completely unjustifiable. In the majority of cases the claims made on most products were simply false and without scientific proof, and in other cases the products were downright dangerous.
The size of the market is huge! I recently typed weight loss into the search bar in eBay, and was greeted with a results list of over 10,000 sales listings. Amazon has over 10 times that amount listed on their UK website. And this is just the UK – Google returned over 670 million results for ‘weight loss products’, no doubt listing thousands of foreign websites selling god knows what, to who ever will pay for it, out of the reach of the UK regulators.
It’s thirteen years since the advent of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations, and the requirement to have claims approved by government. And still there is no approved claim for the term ‘detox’. This means that a company cannot claim that a product is a detox or any word that means detox, such as ‘cleanse’. This means that not one single company has been able to prove that their product actually does what they say it does and therefore renders the product illegal.
When it comes to the claims about weight loss, there are only three claims permitted. Two relate to meal replacement products with a very specific nutritional profile, and one relates to the product konjac, a particular type of fibre that is used in the very low calorie noodle products.
It is also illegal to refer to a rate or amount of weight loss on a product – so you couldn’t say ‘Lose 7lbs in 7 days with our coffee’, or ‘Rachel lost 5 stones eating this soup’. But the industry get round this with the before and after pictures and the “I’ll inbox you hun” statements, where the people selling this can make as many false claims as they please in the privacy of your inbox, where they are protected from the prying eyes of enforcement officers.
The companies that sell these products can be completely unscrupulous, all in a bid to relieve you of your money. It has been reported that some companies use fake reviews, and fake before and after photos, to get you to part with your money.
The worst aspect of this industry is the ingredients that are used. In the majority of cases they are just totally ineffective, but there are instances where they can have very negative effects on the body.
There is perhaps a grain of truth in some of the herbal and natural ingredients, such as grapefruit, turmeric, black pepper and capsicum and but you would have to consume them in such huge volumes, it is practically impossible to do so, unless you absorbed it 24/7.
Some ingredients can have detrimental effects on your digestive system, with some products containing laxatives and diuretics by other names. The effect will definitely be that you will lose water and solids from your system, leaving your tummy a little flatter, but do you really want to be on the toilet every five minutes. Some laxative type ingredients can even have the opposite effect, bulking up your stools until you become constipated. I think you’ll agree neither of these symptoms are desirable, and best avoided at all costs. Either way, the results are temporary, and as soon as you stop them the water goes back into your body, and your weight increases again.
There is also the dark side of supplement use – laxative abuse, which unfortunately is a common practice in people with eating disorders. Psychologists have concerns that the inclusion of laxative and diuretics in products on supermarket shelves normalise the use of such products, fuelling the fire of eating disorders. The concern is now to the point where the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency , launched a review in 2018 into how ‘legal’ products are sold, to prevent their sale to vulnerable people.
Next up are ingredients that can affect other parts of your body. Some products contain products that they claim will speed up your metabolism, putting you into ‘fat burning mode’, but leave your heart racing, giving you palpitations and dizziness. These may seem harmless at first glance when you are reading the ingredients – caffeine, Guarana and bitter orange extract – but the quantities used, can have detrimental effects on our heart.
Other ingredients are newly developed, or have been discovered in deepest, darkest Peru, with scientific Latin names like Hoodia Godornii and Acacis Rigidula. In these cases, if they haven’t been consumed in the EU before, they should be scientifically checked to make sure they are safe for use. In a lot of cases this doesn’t happen, and products have been known to go on the market without the business ensuring its safety for their customers.
Further to this, chemicals are manipulated from other industries, to be used in fat burning pills, without any human testing whatsoever, unless you call a few fellas in a back street gym somewhere a human trial!! There have been countless deaths and catastrophic side effects from these so-called ‘fat burners’ containing ingredients with such unpronounceable chemical names that they have to be shortened to a few letters like DMAA, DNP, HCL and 5-HTP.
I am even sceptical about some meal replacement products. In nutrition, the terms bio-accessibility and bio-availability are used to explain how well the body processes the food you put in it, and absorbs the various nutrients that it contains. It is the absorption of these nutrients that ensures our body is firing on all cylinders, that our systems all interact with each other properly and we remain healthy and free from disease and illness.
The process of nutrient absorption is a really complex one. Different nutrients impact on each others absorption, as well as different food structures impacting on how nutrients are absorbed also. As it stands, the jury is out on how bio-available and bio-accessible nutrients are in powdered meal-replacement foods, with scientists calling for further research into this area. And there is even currently a lack of testing methods on the bio-availability of foods, so it really is a complete unknown.
We just don’t recommend it!
So, as you have probably gathered, weight loss supplement and weight loss product use is something that really gets us annoyed at Be Strong. It’s exploitative of both the users and to some extent, the distributors. Some products are sold by network marketing companies, sucking in distributors with promises of untold wealth, when the real sell is to get other distributors signed up to your team, to make more money for the people further up the chain.
At best, these products will be ineffective or temporary, and at worst they could cause you some serious physical damage! So please, I beg you, next time you are struggling, or you need a boost or a kick start to your weight loss, please don’t be tempted to click the ‘buy now’ button. At best you will waste your money and your self belief will take another massive knock, at worst you could be left feeling unwell, or even worse still.
If you need a boost, a refocus or a kick start, detox from the detox and magic pills and do our #21daychallenge or Protein Programme instead!