Some of my best friends are overweight or obese.  That’s not quite as embarrassing as having smokers for friends, but if you believe TV and movie stars it’s heading that way.  If I ever raise the necessary courage to be that politically incorrect I’ll make friends of homeless drug addicts.  Until then, my subversive streak will have to be satisfied by a few obese friends.  .

     Two-thirds of North Americans are overweight or obese.  That’s a lot more people than the unfortunate nicotine addicts forced out on to the patio.  Having been convinced by TV “personalities” and movie “stars” that slim is good, fat is bad, these unfortunate fatties looked desperately for a fix.  In our “instant on” and “a pill a day will fix it” society, that meant looking for an “instant fix” on the local drug store shelves.

     Where there’s such a huge potential market, there is, of course, an industry (or is it the other way around?)  And the “lose weight now” industry is enormous. 

     Apparently it’s also fraudulent.

     The Federal Trade Commission is fining the marketers of four weight-loss drugs a collective $25 million for false advertising claims.  (Despite that, the U.S. being the land of the free and the home of the brave, the pills — Xenadrine EFX, CortiSlim, One-A-Day WeightSmart and TrimSpa — will remain on store shelves.)

     Some of the products marketed their claims through endorsements by “celebrities” you’d never expect to see browsing your local Wal-Mart  pharmacy shelves.  TrimSpa, for example, was touted by Anna Nicole Smith, who apparently qualifies as a celebrity among those naïve enough to believe a pill can melt pounds off flabby tummies and backsides and offer such pleasant side effects as reduced risks of osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.    

      Actually, the whole ‘quick-fix-pill’ scam was wrapped in deception.  Xenadrine even had a study showing people who took a placebo lost more weight than those taking the pill.  The FTC found consumer endorsers — people who appear in the before-and-after pictures in many ads — lost weight by dieting and exercising.

     I know at least one formerly obese person who resisted these pleas to resort to chemical fixes and lost weight by getting a dog.  Taking his dog for a walk twice a day gave him the exercise he needed without paying the hefty fees demanded by a health spa.  The dog also offered genuine friendship, not the phony bonhomie of the gluttons anonymous group at the spa.

     If my other overweight and obese friends ask how they might lose weight, I’ll suggest a dog, fewer calories, and healthier food.

     At least a dog won’t scam them.

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