FTC Busts Diet Companies for Fraud

FTC Busts Diet Companies for Fraud

Liar, Liar, Pants on fireThe Federal Trade Commission has just settled a lawsuit against four weight loss companies, forcing them to pay over 34 million dollars in restitution for lying to us.  The companies busted by  “Operation Failed Resolution” are:

Sensa: They claimed that sprinkling their powder on your food would help you “get a gym body without going to the gym.”

L’Occitane: Claimed using their cream would help people lose 1.3 inches in 4 weeks.

HCG Diet Direct: said you could lose 7 pounds in 7 day by consuming drops of a diluted hormone produced by the human placenta (oh, and also eating an extremely low calorie diet)

LeanSpa, LLC: Sold acai berry and colon cleanse products and supplements.

How did they lie to us?  Let me count the alleged ways according to the FTC press release:

  • Deceptively advertised that the powdered food additive Sensa enhances food’s smell and taste, making users feel full faster, so they eat less and lose weight, without dieting, and without changing their exercise regime.  The defendants did not have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support these claims
  • failed to disclose the fact that some consumers were compensated for their endorsements of Sensa.  In some instances, compensation included payments of $1,000 or $5,000, and trips to Los Angeles
  • Dr. Hirsch – who conducted two of the studies cited in the ads and wrote a promotional book about Sensa – gave expert endorsements that were not supported by scientific evidence, and provided the means for the other defendants to deceive consumers.  The defendants falsely cited Dr. Hirsch’s studies as clinical proof that consumers could lose substantial weight without dieting or exercise.  The defendants also allegedly misrepresented their role in a third study.

Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said “Resolutions to lose weight are easy to make but hard to keep.  And the chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs, or using a supplement are slim to none.  The science just isn’t there.”

The truth is that the science isn’t there for any method of weight loss.  “Eat less and exercise more” has no more scientific basis than sprinkling something on your food.  The chances of all diets working long-term are slim to none.  I’ve listed some research about this at the bottom of this post, but I encourage people to do the research for themselves.  That’s how I ended up practicing Health at Every Size, I had bought into the idea that weight loss was the only path to health and, having failed at so many diets regardless of how hard I tried, I started a massive literature review to find the “best” diet, the one that was successful the most.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there wasn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people had succeeded at long term weight loss, and there was absolutely no study where even a tiny fraction of people had lost as much weight as I was told I needed to lose to be “healthy.”  But I did find good research that showed that, knowing that health is not entirely within our control and that there were no guarantees, behaviors are a much better predictor of future health than body size.

The FTC has developed guidelines for spotting fraudulent weight loss claims, but I think an easy test to know that diet companies are making fraudulent claims is that their lips are moving.  I hope that the FTC keeps going after diet companies, but my true hope is that the companies go out of business because people stop buying what they are selling and spend that sixty billion on something else.  In the meantime I’m happy about this step in the right direction.



Part 2: Overwhelming growth of fat shaming in the black community, particulary towards black women

I’ve mentioned fat shaming in the African American communtiy has always existed despite the skewed studies about black women being more confidence with our weight and bodies. I grew up being fat shamed in the church, a place where we’re suppose to be loving and acting in the name of God. As a young girl I was always called out by pastors and preachers telling me about my weight and size. It was so embarrassing and unfair to me, I was only a child, but it didn’t matter. I knew they meant well, or unless I thought they did, but I couldn’t help to ponder about it.

In modern times, I’ve come to the conclusion that black people have always been fatphobic. It’s even more prominent now, and it’s done by mostly other black women, towards bodies that wouldn’t normally fall into the fat category. I saw a thread on a forum mocking Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burress, former member or popular 90’s R&B group escape. She was told by cast mate Kenya Moore that she could stand to miss a meal or two, or three, or four. The person who made the thread posted the response Kandi made on instagram/Twitter where she posted pics of her body, telling people how she’s confident being curvy and thick. The comments in the thread bashed her body and called her fat saying how she needed to lose 60 pounds. If Kandi lost 60 pounds she’d look a mess, but they went to extremes to voice their displeasure towards her body type.

Back in the day it use to be, you can be kind of thick if you had a flat stomach and a fit upper body, but now you can’t even be that, you have to be equivalent to Nicole Murphy, Ciara or Pilar Sanders. The fact that these comments were made by other women really bothered me. And what’s even worse is seeing black women refer to other black women with the stereotypical black girl body as “Centaurs” basically comparing them to animals and creatures.

Historically, black women’s bodies have always been a source of ridicule. White supremacists structured society has always mocked black people’s hair, features, skin color and bodies for entertaiment. So seeing other black people submit to this type of ignorance, specifically towards black women, really is defeating.

The fat black woman catches hell enough. She’s often the butt of everyone’s joke, race aside. Fat black women are treated like fictional caricatures because the idea of fat black women being treated as human or seen as human is just blasphemy to people obviously. She’s considered a painful reminder to the black communtiy of what racism is and was. So we make sure to mock her and voice our disgust for her on the highest of platforms to prove we don’t want any association with her.

This is what happened with comedian Monique. She always preached to the public how she was happy with her size, and that she was healthy, and satisfied but in reality she wasn’t. As time progressed and the idea of thin began to intersect even more, she imo fail victim to the notion that being a fat black woman was a mockery. Raven Symone even admitted that the reason she lost weight was because of societal pressures, she never denied it. 

Wendy Williams is another topic about how fat shaming in the black community has always existed. She mentioned being put on a diet as a young age because she was the fat sister. On her shows and interviews it’s clear she’s obsessed with her weight because of it. I can tell it’s still psychologically scarred into her brain because she doesn’t go a day without mentioning her weight and how much she wants to lose. It’s really scary and sad at the same time.

Kerry Washington admitted to having an eating disorder, considerably one of the most beautiful women on the planet imo. Black women aren’t exempt from having eating disorders that don’t involve overeating. Fat shaming is a new thing and welcomed in the black communtiy. The more articles that have been embedded into our heads how fat and obese black women are, the more acceptable fat shaming will become, and tha’ts not a healthy idea to send our black daughters. Black girls already have to grow up with the idea that their beauty isn’t as good as the other girls beauty, now here’s another layer of hatred.

Michelle Obama doesn’t help, a figure black women look up to, as the ideal black woman, as she at one point fat shamed her own daughter. Btw, Obama was a cute chubby kid, that’s where the youngest daughter got her chubby body from. Now she’s a tall lean machine, courtesy to diet and fat shaming by her mother.

The Unfortunate Spread of Fat Shaming

The Unfortunate Spread of Fat Shaming

Posted: Monday, December 2, 2013 8:06 am

By now you’ve probably heard about Maria Kang. She gained fifteen minutes of fame when her Facebook picture of went viral. It featured Kang in a skimpy outfit with her three children and the headline, “What’s Your Excuse?”

Last week she was at it again. She posted a Facebook rant about a lingerie company who asked plus-sized women to post photos of themselves in lingerie to show what “real women” look like. Her comments were deemed “hate speech”. Her profile was removed from Facebook for 48 hours; it remains unclear if it was because of her words or a technical error. Regardless, Kang is a well-known fitness enthusiast who uses the tactic of “fat shaming”.

Fat shaming is aimed at making obese people feel so bad about their bodies that they are forced to eat healthier, exercise, and lose weight.

In early October, a website that calls itself a “men’s rights” arena hosted their annual fat shaming week and posted articles on how to shame women about their body weight. One of the site’s writers claims it’s a push back against the “fat acceptance” movement.

It’s not Ethical

The internet is a free reign canvas for anyone to say whatever they want. It’s possible to experience backlash, but it’s also a guaranteed way to “go viral”. It’s possible that Kang, the author of Fat Shaming Week and others are just seeking fame (…and it’s working).

But, if they were attacking any other group of people, would it be allowed? If Kang was going after a certain race or if the website was attacking a religion or sexual orientation, it would not be tolerated. However, bullying the obese is still an accepted practice.

It Doesn’t Work

The science shows all those hateful words don’t even work; they just make the problem worse. A large scale study spanning four years and consisting of over 6,000 people found someone was two and half times more likely to become obese if they experienced weight discrimination. If he/she was obese at the beginning of the study and experienced fat shaming, the participant was three times as likely to remain obese.

A second study of more than 1,500 people analyzed data related to aging and health over a ten year time period. Participants were asked whether they experienced any discrimination. The survey also asked if they felt somewhat overweight, very overweight or not overweight. Discrimination was most prevalent is participants who were moderately obese and severely obese compared to the non-obese. Those people who were victims of weight discrimination were five times as likely to also face a sharp decline in the ability to function daily: like climb stairs and carry everyday items. The obese who were not victims of weight discrimination were only twice as likely to lose functional abilities. So, physical issues aside… it’s the weight discrimination that played a role in losing the ability to function on a daily basis.

It Doesn’t Solve the Problem

The American Medical Association declared obesity a disease in June of 2013. This means insurance companies will have to recognize and pay for treatments related to obesity. It is well known that being obese or even overweight causes many physical problems, but no one seems to be addressing the actual issue of obesity.

There is a large psychological component to being overweight, remaining overweight or becoming obese. People in any one of these categories use food to deal with their stress, boredom, anger, loneliness and depression. The fat shaming just causes exacerbates all those feelings leading to more eating.

People in this position may lack the self-worth to try and make a change. They may be afraid to make a change and fear the attention that healthy fit body brings. They may not even know why they eat and why they can’t stop. But, the truth remains… obesity is just as much a psychological problem as it is a physical problem.

There is no reason to treat a person with a weight problem with disrespect. If a loved one had an alcohol addiction, you would seek treatment– not make drinking jokes. If your friend was having trouble catching his breath and performing every day activities because he smoked, you would encourage him to quit– not publically shame him. You wouldn’t tell someone who is clinically depressed to snap out of it and just move on. You would make sure she received the right care and medication. There are several national campaignsagainst cyber-bullying. But, for some reason it remains okay to bully the obese.

It Doesn’t Address the Issue

According to psychologists, the number one obstacle to weight loss is emotions. There is no quick fix for emotions and no medicine that is going to change how someone feels. When bullying or discriminating someone for their weight, you are just enhancing those negative emotions.

If you have a weight problem, you can seek out a psychologist or licensed therapist to talk through those feelings so you are able to begin a diet and/or exercise plan.

If you know someone who is overweight, attacking him/her is not going to solve the problem. Instead, become an active listener and help find other outlets for negative emotions. In most cases, it’s really none of your business he chooses to eat or how he decides to conduct his life.

The power to make a change (whether you are overweight, of normal weight or obese) comes from within. No one can convince you to make a change; you have to decide it’s something you want for yourself.

Have you experience or witnessed fat discrimination? Let us know what happened and how you reacted by emailing the author at michelle@fiscusfitness.com.


Michelle Fescues writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com. Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials. 





If I had to pinpoint the thing that influenced my body positivism the most, it wouldn’t be a role model. It wouldn’t be a feminist magazine. It wouldn’t be supportive friends. It wouldn’t even be writing here on The Militant Baker. All of those things help and create the strong force that keeps me going… but there was one pivotal turning point for me. One thing that changed it all: history.

I thrive on facts, they speak to me, I trust in them. If you can prove why something is, I can use that information to better my life. Body Image is one of those subjects, and I’m about to school you in a way you’ve never been schooled before. HISTORY LESSON TIME!!!

I acknowledge the clusterfuck of a society that we live in right now. I acknowledge the inequality, the bias, the misfortune of all minorities. I see and fight bigotry on a daily basis but I’ve always wanted to know WHY. Why is our structure this way? Why are women singled out for body shame? Why are fat people bullied to the point of suicide? Why have we learned to hate ourselves? How did we get here?

Allow me to enlighten you.

This “why” comes from several moments that are complicated and muddy. There is nothing simple about our sordid, oppressive, and money driven past. I can’t include ALL the information in one post, but I’ll cover the basics and dissect it into digestible pieces for clarity’s sake; hang with with me while I do so. Our body image issues come from three major points in history, two of which are specific to the United States. The body issues that we see internationally also stem from US specific history; our idea of perfection was cultivated here and then transplanted abroad. Europe has it’s own interesting story line, but the problem is largely from North America. Lets begin:

1.) Farming and the Development of Patriarchy. Women lost equality and any hope of a balanced future the moment humans decided to stop the hunter gatherer lifestyle and become farmers. Up until that point, hunter gathers lived in a “Matriarchal Society” which didn’t necessarily mean that women had the upper hand, but that the group responsibilities relied heavily on the female gender. Women nurtured, took care of, fed, and kept the community connected. Men’s priorities focused on hunting and fertilization. Food was never stored in large quantities simply because the group was always moving and it’s interesting to note that because of this constant travel, women had children four years apart. They would wait until the youngest could walk before having another child that needed to be carried. But once stationary life started… everything changed.

Farmers could all of a sudden store excessive amounts of food, which allowed survival even through difficult seasons. With survival being the ultimate need, those with more food became the superior citizens… and thus economic class systems were born. Suddenly crops were of paramount concern and each family wanted more farmers; more farmers = more food = more wealth. Women became “farmer making machines” and desired property for husbands. Virginity became a desirable trait (“Don’t give away my workers to anyone else!”) and patriarchy was soon interwoven into the growing society. This left women with a distinct disadvantage and is the reason we have gender injustice today. Interwoven patriarchy is the cause of the female targeting that we see in the next two sections. (Read more here)

2.) The Slenderization for Class Distinction. In the late 1800’s obesity was actually a sought after body type in America. At the time, tuberculous and other diseases were causing people to waste away; body fat was a healthy and enviable trait. Additionally, food was scarce and survival was again of utmost importance. The wealthy were distinguished by their heavier body types and this highlighted their obvious access to a plethora of food. But all of this shifted as meals became readily available. Middle and lower class citizens began to fill out and soon the “rich folk” blended in with the rest. Add the sudden influx of migrant workers who’s heavier body type tended to be stocky, and classes were no longer distinguishable. The privileged decided to have none of it. Intake control and weight loss was of utmost importance and when slim, the aristocrats became recognizable once again. Thus we began the fight for a superior body image. 

It’s important to realize that “obesity” was never a concern for physicians during this time. The “obesity parasite” as is was called, was started by a few overweight and wealthy men who decided that fat was repulsive. Publications with this unfounded propaganda began to spread and the middle class began to agree that large bodies were a social tragedy. The Obesity Crisis was created by the people. Doctors didn’t originally participate in creating the obesity myth, though as the popularity grew they promoted the idea due to the collective pressure. (Read morehere and here)

3.) Perfection as an Economic Life Raft. The last piece of this puzzle was centered around World War II. Previous to this historical event, the US economy was singularly floated by the houseware industry. Housewives had the spending power and domestic life was all the rage. However, when the men left for war the women were needed in the factories and this was the game changer. When the men returned and resumed work, women were sent back to the home fully aware of their capabilities and potential independence. No longer satisfied with in-home submission, the domestic industry started to tank. I would imagine the influx of adorable 50’s ads that we all adore was a last ditch attempt to sell what was no longer flying off the shelves. But it was an epic fail.

Because of the unexpected economic quicksand, advertisers (the vast majority being men; remember the creation of patriarchy?) scrambled to find another money making industry. And so they chose two concepts that would always be: beauty and age. They created an impossible standard; a flawless woman who has never existed and they presented her as the one and only desirable goal. It’s a brilliant and effective business plan that continues today; women will forever attempt to purchase perfection. Perfection that will always be out of reach. Profitable yes, but it comes at a cost for the human race. (Read more here)

If we look at these puzzle pieces, we can see the obvious incentive: money. Money and power which translates into survival. Survival in its purest form; our history revolving around the fear of extinction. This is the root of all of our problematic behaviors today. Hatred in any form stems from this primitive terror, but unlike the original homo sapieans (hunters) who needed fear to survive dangerous circumstances, we have evolved to the point where our panic is misguided and used incorrectly.

Fear can be a healthy response and is necessary for some forms of survival; we do inherently have fight or flight for a reason. But our hatred (which is fundamentally fear) of bodies that look different is learned. Its a scheme created by wealthy men in smoke filled offices over 50 years ago. Allow me to ask you this: are you going to let your value as a human decrease because of a business man who is no longer alive? Are you going to base your decisions on how you live your life on a profit scheme? Are you going to hate yourself for not living up to a standard that does. Not. Exist? Lord, help us all.

Ladies. Lets not torture ourselves any longer. Lets not miss out on a life that can be full of joy, beauty, happiness, and fulfillment because of a historical construct. You deserve better than that, I deserve better than that. We all deserve to live in a world where these lies are exposed, old myths are debunked, and all conspiracies are unraveled. A world full of truth and acceptance.

We have one life. One body. This is all we have.

So live that life! Love that body! And be the best you that you can possibly be. This is all we have.. and it is enough.

You, my dear…  you are enough.


Anti-body positivity on Tumblr

I can’t deal with so called plus size bloggers loathing about not being thin or small enough. I understand losing weight for health reasons, that’s your choice and right. But sitting there reblogging pics of smaller women talking about “Omg her body” is not where it’s at.

Anti-body positivity is triggering for me in many ways, and it’s annoying to see plus size/curvy women complaining about their body talking about their”Weight loss” journey. Like if you’re happy and healthy at the size you are, and have been preaching to your followers about loving your curves and being curvy then no I don’t empathize with you. It’s people like you who make it hard for people like me because we already don’t have a leg in this dog against fat shaming and hatred and now you want to make yourself apart of that group?

I make sure I unfollow any plus size/curvy blogger who promotes weight loss, anti-body positivity or any other trigger anti-size acceptance nonsense.

3 Reasons Why The “Cheating Scandal” On The Biggest Loser Is AWESOME


This week, millions of Americans tuned in to the Biggest Loser show on NBC to be treated to a few surprises beyond the formulaic , publicly sanctioned, fat shaming that they usually expect.  For one thing, First Lady Michelle Obama along with White House Chef and Director of the Let’s Move! campaign Sam Kass made an appearance to promote the Drink Up and Let’s Move! programs.  This was unfortunate timing for those of us who are advocates working to combat weight stigma as that was also the day that I, along with Binge Eating Disorder Association Founder and CEO, Chevese Turner met with Let’s Move! staff to discuss our concerns about this “potential” appearance in the first place.  It wasn’t until we were in the meeting that we found out the Biggest Loser appearance was indeed happening, as a matter of fact it would be airing THAT DAY and our efforts to petition the First Lady not to appear had failed.  The White House, to their credit, allowed us to discuss why we would like to dissuade her from future appearances and they took the time to really listen to our concerns – thank you Let’s Move!.

Of all the concerns that Chevese and I expressed, the unsustainable lifestyle the participants are engaged in, the misinformation about how to safely and effectively reach health goals, the mistreatment and fat shaming that the show promotes within our culture… none of these will be as effective an argument against future appearances as was served up by the show itself.  The winning reason not to go on TBL?  I guarantee you that it has to do with CHEATING.

As it so happens, trainer Jillian Michaels was called out after having been caught providing her team with caffeine supplements, which is a big NO-NO!  When allowed to comment on her strategy, her response was nothing short of (I’m  doing the evil overlord, hand wringing thing here…) MAGICAL!  Michaels said everything absolutely right – her moment to shine ‘as a professional’ let it slip that this show is NOT about health as so many people like to claim, this show is about sensationalism and weight loss AT ANY COST.

Though I’m certain Michaels was not trying to make my point for me, her statement, “Caffeine supplements are significantly healthier than unlimited amounts of coffee.  My only regret is that my team, they are the ones suffering the consequences of my professional opinion” does just that several times over.

UN-Healthy Weight Loss – “Caffeine supplements are significantly healthier than unlimited amounts of coffee”

IF a person is working to attain a permanent reduction in weight (a complex issue in and of itself) caffeine supplements or massive amounts of coffee do not support long term results nor are they healthy.  Anyone old enough to know what ‘speed’ is knows, caffeine to lose weight is a bad choice no ifs ands or buts.  NOT HEALTHY.

Professional Opinion – What????  What on earth is she talking about.  If she’s qualified to guide people into living healthier lives then why does she condone stigmatizing people, whether in her own ‘team’ or as a general rule.

The way she mentally and emotionally abuses the TBL contestants is notorious and one of the main reasons why people watch the show.  You only need read through the Tuesday night #BiggestLoser Twitter feeds to see the voyeuristic bloodlust fans share when watching her “tear them apart”.  She may be certified to work on weight machines and to develop muscle groups but her “professional” everything stops right there because she has not made the connection that good health (if we’re fooling ourselves back into the theory that TBL actually has anything to DO with health) involves a balance of movement, nutrition and mental wellbeing.

Perspective – This is a game and as such, there are rules to be followed.  In this case however, the game is playing with the health of the contestants and by cheating, Michaels did more than take unfair advantage of a situation, she put the health of her team at risk.  She showed unequivocally that to win by any means is paramount and to do so she is willing to compromise people’s lives – living, breathing, vulnerable, trusting, hopeful lives.

The fact is that the true impetus of the show is sensationalism, fat bashing, weight based bullying weight loss and NOT health management and lifestyle support.  We KNOW this, whether we choose to accept it, that’s apparently another story, however, by being called out for cheating with supplements, this loss of perspective is easy to identify.  In other words, messing with the long term wellbeing – physical, emotional and mental – of people is complex to track but being caught ‘doping’ is a quick and easily identifiable crossing of the line.

Whether or not you are engaged in the nuanced conversation about weight stigma, there is no doubt that you understand the concept of cheating.  We all do and we all know it’s wrong.  We were taught this lesson as children and we hold cheaters in low esteem.  We see them as weak and unable to control their impulses to win at any cost rather than compete fairly with others.  And in games as well as politics, nobody wants to be associated with a cheater.

So thank you Jillian Michaels for your unvarnished truth.  The viewers, as well as the Office of the First Lady, can have no doubt about the intent or the character of the show.  It’s a rare day when the opposing team makes my arguments for me but you did an eloquent and concise job!