7 March 2012
Australian diet clinics are dispensing inconsistent and sometimes irresponsible advice to people seeking to lose weight, according to an investigation by the consumer group Choice. Using three shadow shoppers Choice was able to compare information imparted by leading weight loss chains Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Cohen’s Lifestyle Clinic and Weight Control Doctor.
“The main priority seems to be to sign people up and get their money rather than devising a credible weight loss plan that will help them,” Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just said.
The Cohen clinic told one of the shadow shoppers, who was of healthy BMI, that she could expect to lose about seven kilos in two weeks, not to bother with exercise, and that she had symptoms of ‘obesity syndrome’ such as bloating and low energy.
Sydney GP Dr Sam Hay, who evaluated the shadow shoppers' experiences for Choice along with two dietitians, said the clinic’s advice bordered on being negligent for recommending such dramatic weight loss.
Meanwhile a shadow shopper with a BMI of 32.7 was not weighed or measured or asked if he was on medication.
Jenny Craig had a superior approach according to Choice's expert panel, with no pressure to sign up and a thorough evaluation of clients.
The Weight Control Doctor clinic, run by The Liver Cleansing Diet author Dr Sandra Cabot, was criticised for diagnosing hormonal, thyroid and adrenal problems in one shadow shopper, whose GP later ordered biochemical tests and found no evidence of the conditions.
Weight Watchers clinics had a ‘hard sell’ approach, the investigation found, and failed to check on medical issues or emphasise the benefits of exercise. Bizarre advice given by the four weight loss chains included: “exercise will not help you lose weight”, “eat a protein bar instead of fruit which is ‘full of carbs’ “, “all weight loss occurs when you are sleeping”.
Last Reviewed: 07 March 2012