Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

You ate the holiday ham, devoured Grandma’s pumpkin pie and plunged wholeheartedly into your co-worker's bottomless candy dish. Then you stepped on the scale. Now, like much of the world, you’re resolved to hit the gym, flatten your tummy and switch from French fries to organic produce starting in 2008. When enrolling in a health club or weight loss program, be sure to exercise your consumer smarts.

Selecting a health club: Before joining a gym, ask for a free trial period to check out the equipment and classes. Visit during the hours you expect to work out to find out whether you'll have to wait to use a popular machine and to ask other members their opinion about the club. Read the membership agreement carefully and be sure to get all promises in writing. A Washington law allows you to cancel a health club membership contract within three business days after signing.

Choosing a diet program: Request details about program costs, fees and promises. If possible, talk to other people who tried the program and find out whether they successfully lost weight. Inquire about the staff's credentials and whether they are professional nutritionists or sales reps. Shun fad diets and sales pitches that promise that a protein shake, diet pill or other product will "burn fat" or allow you to lose weight without effort. Doctors and nutritional experts agree that the only sure way to lose weight (absent surgery) is to eat fewer calories and increase your physical activity. Make a decision based on the facts and not on emotional sales presentations.

Attorney General Rob McKenna wrote a column around this time last year about evaluating diet and exercise programs. The advice is still good.

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