There is no miracle formula to losing weight.

Durban - If it sounds too good to be true, it is. The old adage may be old but it’s worth reiterating as in recent times we’ve encountered a spike in the number of women complaining they’ve fallen into weigh loss product traps.

The truth is scammers are getting more sophisticated and us women, who aren’t getting any less self-conscious about our looks, are perpetuating the trend.

Many of the scammers hinge themselves on credible sources – prime among them being American health guru Dr Oz.

Oprah’s doctor need only mention the power of a potent herb before there’s a bottle of pills, with its name on, for sale on the internet.

A Durban hairstylist I spoke to recently said she ordered the infamous Garcinia Cambogia on the internet about two months ago.

She said the site said it was official and a live online chat allowed her to talk to the sellers.

R1 000 was debited from her account, but no product arrived.

At the end of June more money was debited and still no miracle pills.

The seller assured her that it must be caught up in customs and she should make enquires about how to retrieve her parcel.

A Durban secretary said she repeatedly came across weight loss products adverts on the internet. These included testimonials from women claiming to have lost a fair number of kilos in a short space of time.

On investigation we found the same woman’s picture and testimonial extolling the virtues of a number of different products.

When you followed the link to the seller’s page it often said that that particular day was the last on which they had a special offer on the product – in other words, “buy now”.

Social networking sites didn’t appear to be safe either and it’s easy to see how intelligent individuals would be led to believe that these internet scams were the real deal.

Suna Kassier, a dietician and lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said: “Slimming lotions, potions and pills are all around us. If these products really did what they promised at the outset, theoretically we would all look like barcodes while lying on the couch, watching TV and tucking into our favourite foods.

“The answer is very simple: we live in a fast-paced, quick-fix society in search of instant gratification. It’s not a very glamorous explanation that the golden ticket is to eat less and be more active.”

Kassier says the next time you’re tempted by a miracle product, consider the following:

* Read the fine print. It often recommended the use of the product in conjunction with an eating and exercise plan.

*l Know that it is impossible to lose weight in a specific body part such as the tummy versus the thighs. “Spot reduction” can only be achieved by combining weight-loss efforts with an exercise regime that helps tone body parts.

* Arguments that your weight problem is the result of water retention are not likely to be scientifically sound. Excess fluid only accumulates in the body if your liver and kidneys are not doing their job.

* If a product is endorsed by a TV personality or celebrity, remember even if the product did “work for them”, in the wings there could be a personal trainer and chef, dietician, psychologist and cosmetic surgeon.

* “Scientific studies” are not always a viable claim as they could have been conducted on a small number of people.

* Dosage is a minefield. Even if a certain ingredient holds promise, the products may not necessarily contain enough of the active ingredient to have the desired effect.

So, what is the solution to gradual sustained weight loss that won’t put you out of pocket? Eat small, regular meals throughout the day. A dieter’s worst enemy is meal skipping as this leads to overeating at subsequent meals or binge eating. Start by eating smaller portions of what you usually eat. Then look towards healthier food choices high in fibre and lower in fat by eating more fruit and vegetables.

Identify triggers that lead to overeating – depression, anger – and replace them with positive non-eating activities. Last, exercise and be active, whenever you can.

The Mercury