CONSUMER ALERT: How to choose a fitness plan that meets both your needs and wallet

Staff Report

With the new year just around the corner, many consumers are thinking about joining gyms or investing in weight loss products. Before you sign the dotted line, Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell has a few tips to help you evaluate weight loss and fitness claims.

To find a club that best fits your needs and wallet:

• Comparison shop and take a tour. Is the gym clean and well-staffed? Do the hours of operation fit your schedule? Does it have the features you’re looking for: free classes, an indoor pool, running track or basketball court? Can you pre-register for classes?

• Take advantage of free passes at several gyms to find the one that best suits you. Plan a visit at a time you would normally be using the gym. Is it too crowded? Is the equipment in working order?

• Ask about discounts through your employer or health insurance company.

• Consider a month-to-month membership. If you’re looking to use a gym only a few months out of the year, you’ll be better off paying month-to-month rather than locking yourself into an annual contract. There’s no shortage of ads promising quick and easy weight loss without diet or exercise. Don’t trust those claims. Eating less and exercising more are still your best options for weight loss.

Claims to watch out for include: Lose weight without diet or exercise! Getting to a healthy weight takes work. Say “no” to any product that promises miraculous results without the effort. The only thing you’ll lose is money. Lose weight permanently! Never diet again! Even if you’re successful in taking weight off, permanent weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes. Don’t trust any product that promises permanent results without ongoing maintenance. Simply take a pill! Doctors, dieticians, and other experts agree that there’s simply no magic way to lose weight without diet or exercise. Even pills approved by the FDA to block the absorption of fat or help you eat less and feel full are to be taken with a low-calorie, low-fat diet and regular exercise. Lose 30 pounds in 30 days! Losing weight at the rate of a pound or two a week is the most effective way to take it off and keep it off. Products promising lightning-fast weight loss are a scam. Lose weight with a miracle diet patch or cream! The ads for diet patches or creams that claim to melt away the pounds are false and may contain harmful ingredients. Don’t believe them.