It’s the time of year when people are making New Year’s resolutions, and losing weight is often at the top of the list.
According to the latest data from Tampa, Fla.-based Marketdata Enterprises Inc., the weight-loss and diet-control market was a $60.9 billion industry in 2010. For 2011, Marketdata Enterprises is estimating 2 percent growth for the industry, research director John LaRosa said.
That includes spending on diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, health clubs, commercial weight-loss centers, low-calorie and diet foods, retail diet pills and meal replacements, bariatric surgery, prescription diet drugs, and diet books and exercise videos, LaRosa said.
“We’ve got the highest percent of do-it-yourself dieters that we’ve seen in a long time,” he said.
America has an estimated 75 million dieters, with 80 percent of them trying to lose weight by themselves, shifting from fad to fad.
The industry has doubled since 1989, when consumers were spending only about $30 billion a year on weight loss, LaRosa said.
January is a peak time for the health and fitness industry because of New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get back into shape, said Allen Childs, the marketing director at Gold’s Gym.
It’s the busiest time of year, followed by the pre-bathing suit and back-to-school seasons, he said.
With the constant advertisements and so many choices on the market, consumers will be challenged to guard their wallets.
“The thing that consumers always need to be on the watch for are the mail-order and Internet diet products and programs that are sold by literally thousands of diet Web sites and small fly-by-night companies out there,” LaRosa said.
Those companies sell products such as diet pills and dietary supplements that don’t help to lose weight but have dangerous side effects such as increasing the heart rate.
Some products make promises of quick weight loss, such as a pound a day.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” LaRosa said. “In some cases, you’re just going to lose your money, but people are willing to do that because they’re always looking for the quick fix and the next magic pill, which really doesn’t exist.”
If consumers stick with major programs, such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and Medifast, they will be all right because those programs are based on safe amounts of weight loss, usually one to two pounds a week.
They also have some science and supervision behind them, he said.
“As in anything else, it’s buyer beware. Do your homework,” LaRosa said. “Make sure you know the true and full costs of a program. A lot of programs will bait you in with a low price … and then when you get into the weight loss center, you found out that you have to buy company supplements or company brand food, and that’s when the money starts to add up.”