No magic pill

They're everywhere — all those annoying ads for things that will help us keep our New Year's resolutions. And since the top resolution of them all is losing weight and getting fit we're inundated with low-cost offers for joining gyms, the latest cheap home exercise equipment and weight-loss in a bottle.

The diet industry alone is estimated to be worth about $100 million US a year — including everything from mainstream weight loss clinics to the latest quick fix pill. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has slapped fines of $25 million on the makers of four brands of diet pills — Xenadrine EFX, One A Day Weight Smart, Cortaslim and TrimSpa — for misleading advertising.

The companies made claims their products are clinically proven to help customers rapidly lose or control their weight. Some also said their products may decrease risks of osteoporosis, Alzheimer's and cancer. Health Canada has not authorized any of the drugs for sale in Canada.

"You're not going to find weight loss in a bottle of pills," said FTC commissioner Deborah Platt Majoras.

"By promoting unrealistic expectations, deceitful advertising discourages people from taking the effective steps that they really should take to manage their weight."

No doubt. For most people, there is only one way to lose weight: burn more calories than you consume, and your clothes will fit better. In fact, you may have to buy new clothes. Maybe even more expensive ones, because you won't be afraid to venture outside clad in something that's not sweatpants.

Unfortunately, most people give up on their getting fit/losing weight resolutions within weeks. The key to sticking with it, according to Steven Bentley, a former professional triathlete and personal performance coach based in Mississauga, Ont., is to pick an activity you enjoy and set short-term, measurable goals.

"You won't notice the benefits of working out right away. To lose weight, you have to work out and eat better."

But Bentley says even after a week of working out, "there are wonderful things happening inside your body. Your metabolism is speeding up and your cardiovascular fitness may be increasing as well."

Suddenly restricting the calories you take in, he adds, puts your body into starvation mode. Your metabolism slows down. When you return to your normal caloric intake, your body will store those extra calories as fat.

Congratulations, instead of making good on your resolution to lose weight, you've become a yo-yo dieter.