*Results Not Typical

They should make this disclaimer a little bigger, don’t you think?

Have you ever wondered about that little fine-print disclaimer you see on literally every ad for a diet or weight loss program? “*Results not typical.”

I remember seeing that when I first became interested in, then joined, Weight Watchers. They would put it at the bottom of all those enticing before-and-after photos that I would later become so addicted to. At the time, I didn’t really understand that that meant: *Results not typical.

I thought maybe it meant that some people would lose varying degrees of weight but it was impossible to know how much weight someone would lose. It never occurred to me that it might mean that some people would not lose very much weight at all, or that most people would gain most of their weight back (or more) within a few years.

No, I absolutely did not think it meant that.

And because I lost the weight I wanted to, I conveniently forgot that little disclaimer and went around thinking, “If I can do it, anyone can!” And that’s what the diet companies really want you to think, and why they show those before-and-after photos as proof* of their effectiveness.

Why do weight loss companies have to display that little fine-print disclaimer on all their ads? Because more than 30 years ago, the FTC figured out that their diet shit doesn’t work for most people. But rather than stopping the sales of snake oil (which, admittedly, might be difficult to do), they forced the snake oil companies to put this little disclaimer on all their ads selling their outrageously ineffective products.


But at least they did that, and they keep trying to crack down. They could do a better job, like demand much more rigorous, long-term evidence that any diet product or service works long-term for more than a tiny fraction of people. If they did that, we’d never see another diet company ad again.

So when you see *Results not typical anywhere, just remember what it really means. It means someone wants to sell you some high protein/low fat/low carb/low taste snake oil that most likely won’t make you thin in the long run simply because it’s not the typical result.

*This is not good proof

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