The Real Story About Fake Diet Pills

“Eat all you want and still lose weight.”

“Magically melt off fat within days.”

These are a few of the many taglines weight-loss companies use to target people who have fallen victim of being overcritical of their bodies. Weight-loss industries thrive off of these insecurities by filling their ads with empty promises and false hope. We are brought up in a world that constantly emphasizes the importance of being physically attractive and the characteristics that define such beauty. Every women’s magazine is adorned with flashy ads featuring slim, beautiful models as well as celebrities endorsing weight loss products to advertize and promote the thin ideal.

In this day and age we are constantly fixated on quick results and miracle cures, but are never willing to put forth the effort.  This mindset can be properly attributed to the growing obsession with weight-loss and dieting; people want to be fit but are unwilling to workout and eat healthy. The media has glamorized the diet pill, creating a false image of instant beauty through claims that are often times lacking actual research. For example, the company Goen Technologies used Anna Nicole Smith as their spokesperson for TrimSpa, a dietary supplement designed for weight loss. TrimSpa was later found to contain Ephedra, an ingredient that had been linked to serious side effects and a number of deaths and was banned in the U.S. by the FDA in 2004.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 72.5 million U.S. adults are considered obese. So many people are looking for almost any way out of obesity, and plenty of individuals are turning to these diet pills for answers. Weight-loss pills gain their appeal through people who are often times trying to overcompensate for the unhealthy patterns of busy schedules and more frequent fast-food stops. These influences make people think that they are physically unable to improve themselves, and to further believe that the only way to transform into this unrealistic body image is through the use of diet pills.  The weight-loss industry offers a way of looking and feeling better without even breaking a sweat; it is no surprise that diet pills are an ever-growing trend.

In addition to diet pills, the term “skinny” has turned into a marketing phenomenon, from skinny jeans to skinny lattes; skinny has become a standard. As I went away to college, I recognized that a lot of my friends were becoming increasingly obsessive over their weight. Every other sentence would be either a complaint about their body or a comment on how dissatisfied they were with themselves. One of the main reasons people have difficulties losing weight in the first place is the fact that their busy schedules do not allow them to find time to workout, as well as a lack of motivation.  Subsequently, these obstacles tend to force us to consider diet pills that offer a quick and painless answer to our problems without interfering with daily activities.

The unfortunate truth is that the majority of people consuming these diet pills are unaware of what they are actually putting in their bodies and the potential health risks involved. They just care about the short-term outcomes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers nationwide to not purchase or consume more than 25 different products marketed for weight loss, and to be cautious of dietary supplements that claim to contain only natural and herbal ingredients. Many of these weight-loss pills have been found to contain undeclared, active pharmaceutical ingredients that may place consumers at risk. In addition to the harmful ingredients, many of these pills work by suppressing appetite, which deprives the body from receiving proper nutrients.

Despite these warnings and possible health consequences, people continue to take these weight-loss pills. Everything has become modified to take place of the traditional cardio exercises and healthy diet, from the lap band to appetite-suppressing sprays and foods. People need to be better educated on not only the downside to these diet pills, but be informed of realistic ways to change their lifestyles through actual demonstrations of how to cook healthy meals and the importance and benefits of staying physically active.

Granted, these instant weight-loss supplements may seem appealing, but are these results really worth the possible health consequences in the future? We can look to our fast-paced lifestyle for answers, but at the rate we are moving, there doesn’t appear to be an end to this vicious cycle.

Stephanie Ho is a fourth-year public health major. She can be reached at seho@uci.edu.