Women

Are Diet Pills Too Good To Be True ? (part 2)

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The dangers of addiction

It was at her gym that Charlie first came across the ides of pills to help her lose weight. “A personal trainer I’d been seeing there gave me a leaflet about them,” she says. “They were all natural and he said they’d speed up my metabolism – he called them ‘fat blasters in a bottle’. I did a quick search online and they seemed to be readily available, so I felt reassured. I bought some from him – which cost more than twice my monthly gym membership for 30 days’ supply! But I though it’s be worth it if they worked.

Description: They were all natural and she said they’d speed up my metabolism

They were all natural and she said they’d speed up my metabolism

“A month later felt no different, so I started taking double the dose. I realised that even though I wasn’t actually losing weight, I wasn’t gaining any either, so I decide the pills must be controlling my weight. I was worried I’d get fat if I stopped taking them.”

Charlie’s story is common, says Mark Bradley, a psychotherapist specializing in body image and disordered eating. “You can become psychologically dependent on almost anything and users of slimming aids, however natural, sometimes convince themselves it’s the pills that are all important.”

If they lose weight, they credit the pills, not their hard work. If they don’t lose weight, they think they’re not taking enough. “It can mean a downward spiral into real drug abuse,” he says. “Users get more desperate to see effects, so start to investigate other sources.”

For Charlie, it didn’t get that far. “I couldn’t afford to keep buying them. Plus, a friend caught a glimpse of my ‘stash’ in the kitchen cupboard and gave me a reality check.”

Resorting to diet pills is often part of disordered eating, so if you’re feeling like they control you, Bradley advises you speak to your GP. Ask for a referral to a counsellor or contact the British Psychological Society (bps.org.uk) or British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (bacp.co.uk).

The online risks

Thousands of women in the UK buy slimming pills online, according to the government’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), oblivious to the fact that most of the websites belong to unscrupulous vendors. “Many sell counterfeit drugs that are harmful,” says Lynda Scammell of the MHRA’s enforcement division. “At the very least, you could be ripped off, at worst they could kill.”

Description: Thousands of women in the UK buy slimming pills online

Thousands of women in the UK buy slimming pills online

A quick Google search offers up hundreds of such pharmacies. Many of them look professional, featuring photos of ‘doctors’ in white coats and slim, satisfied ‘patients’ giving glowing testimonials. Others simple boast that they can sell you prescription drugs, no prescription required.

But how do they get away with it? While UK pharmacies wouldn’t be able to, there’s nothing to stop those outside the UK or EU from shipping to customers in the UK. “Anyone who buys medicines from internet sites could be receiving fake, substandard, unlicensed or adulterated medicines,” warns Scammell. “They usually arrive with no packaging or dosage instructions.”

The dangers of this are obvious. “Buying diet pills from the internet is no different to buying street narcotics in terms of risk,” says Scammell. Women who do so are taking their life into their hands in the quest to be slim.

The bottom line

Losing weight is a simple energy equation: you need to use up more energy (through movement) than you take in (from food). “Once to two ponds a week is a healthy, realistic rate for sustained weight loss,” says Dr. Ruxton. “Any more will just be muscle and water, not fat. In order to achieve this, you need to increase your activity to 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise (where you’re slightly out of breath).” This can be on four 15-minute stints, so it’s easier to incorporate into your day.

Description: you need to increase your activity to 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise

you need to increase your activity to 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise

“Food-wise, you need to cut 500 – 600 calories from whatever you normally eat in a day,” she continues. “Again, this is easier than you think. It doesn’t mean skipping meals or starving.” Look at the typical calorie content of these everyday treats – croissant, 270 cals; medium skimmed latte, 140 cals; muffin, 480 cals; packet of crisps, 180 cals; twin Twix bar, 286 cals; can of fizzy drink, 130 cals – and see how much you could save if you skipped your mind-morning or afternoon coffee-shop trips.

“If you’ve been doing this for a while and weight loss slows down or plateaus, tweak your portion sizes or activity levels,” adds Dr. Ruxton.

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