Diet clinics put the heavies on clients

CHOICE finds hard sell and bizarre advice in diet clinic shadow shop

In an investigation of well-known diet clinics, CHOICE has uncovered some aggressive sales tactics and bizarre advice being given to clients.

CHOICE’s shadow-shop included weight loss chains Weight Watchers, Cohen’s Lifestyle Clinic, Jenny Craig and Weight Control Doctor. Information given by each company to the shadow shoppers during their consultations was assessed by independent medical experts in weight management and related illnesses.

“We were struck by the aggressive sales tactics that some of the diet clinics used. 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,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.

The medical experts were alarmed by factually incorrect and poor clinical assessments given to CHOICE’s shadow shoppers at Weight Control Doctor, a clinic headed by Dr Sandra Cabot; author the bestselling book The Liver Cleansing Diet.

In one case, the consultant diagnosed a shopper with thyroid and adrenal problems, an assessment subsequently shown to be wrong in blood tests conducted by a GP.

One of CHOICE’s experts, Dr Sam Hay, said advice given by a Cohen’s Lifestyle Clinic consultant bordered on being “irresponsible, misleading and negligent”. The consultant discouraged exercise, opting instead for a rapid weight-loss diet. Cohen’s use of terms like ‘obesity syndrome’ was also criticised by the experts, as the condition does not exist.

CHOICE was disappointed with the hard sell the shadow shoppers received at Weight Watchers, which operates on a points system for different foods. The consultant did not check on medication or medical problems and did not place enough importance on the need for daily exercise.

Despite having some questions about advice given to a shadow shopper in relation to BMI (Body Mass Index), CHOICE’s experts were generally impressed with the approach used by Jenny Craig consultants. The clinic rated well when it came to addressing health concerns, advice, options and a clear discussion of commitment and cost.

“While our experts didn’t agree with all advice given by Jenny Craig, they were impressed by the clarity of information, the care taken to find out the person’s medical history and the absence of aggressive sales tactics,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE says, before signing up with a diet clinic, people should talk to their GP first.

“Your doctor can do a thorough health assessment and run necessary tests. If you are keen on a program, check its credentials by making sure the provider is a member of the Weight Management Council of Australia,” says Ms Just.

Read the full CHOICE report on the diet clinic shadow shop. 

Media contact: Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

Related articles

Related tags:

Exercise equipment

21 Nov 2011 |

Fitness and gyms

21 Nov 2011 |


Healthy eating - does your diet stack up?

CHOICE’s expert dietitian puts our volunteers' diets to test. Find out how they measured up.

24 Jun 2008 | The most common problems in our volunteers’ diets were too much salt and not enough calcium, fibre and water.

Top 10 tips: weight loss

With spring in the air, losing the winter bulge is a mission for many. CHOICE runs through the top 10 weight loss tips for slimming down - the smart way.

4 Sep 2013 | CHOICE's cheat sheet to winning the weight battle.


Body fat scales reviews

Body fat scales can be a better indicator of overall health than their conventional cousins. CHOICE weighs up the options.

10 Dec 2009 | We tested 12 bathroom scales that measure body fat percentage as well as weight. But can they make you appear healthier than you really are?

Diet clinic shadow shop

We investigate diet programs and uncover confusing advice as well as aggressive sales tactics.

6 Mar 2012 | We put diet programs from Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Cohen's Lifestyle Clinic, and Weight Control Doctor under the microscope.


Pharmacy diet plans

A growing number of pharmacies are getting into the weight-loss business, but how do these diet plans weigh up?

20 Jan 2009 | Pharmacy diet plans may help to shed extra kilos quickly, but most fail to deal effectively with the complex broader issues around weight loss.

Slimming pills

Can losing weight be as easy as popping the latest pill?

5 Dec 2005 | If you read the ads and are left with the impression that simply popping a few pills could be the answer to all your weight worries.


Stay slim strategies

A huge US survey by our sister organisation reveals six diet and exercise secrets of the slim.

22 Jun 2010 | Are there key eating and exercise strategies that are trademarks of the slim? Learn the secrets of those who never get fat.

Weight loss myths

Is your “miracle” weight-loss strategy actually expanding your waistline?

20 Jan 2011 | CHOICE looks at problematic myths and misconceptions, as identified by our in-house experts and a survey of professionals.


Weight loss pills

Can slimming be as easy as popping a pill?

2 May 2011 | We look at the so-called "active ingredients" in weight loss pills to see if they live up to their claims.

Gastric banding

As a last resort, it can be an effective way to drop the life-threatening kilos.

19 Jan 2010 | Gastric banding is promoted as a safe, easy and effective way for obese people to lose weight. CHOICE investigates the claims.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.