Thanks to Middleweb and School Library Journal for recommending this resource.

“Testimonials from individuals are not a substitute for science, and that’s what Americans need to understand.”
FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, quoted in Jan. ’07 AP story  about FTC fines against weight loss product producers for false/misleading advertising”If you see an ad for a weight-loss product making fantastic claims, keep your money in your pocket,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Source

Did you ever hear the phrase “caveat emptor” (“let the buyer beware”)?  That’s pretty good advice, especially when it comes to the promises made by diet and weight loss advertisers after the new year. Yes, it’s that time of year again–for the weight loss ad explosion.  Magazines (like these below) in particular feature cover stories on losing weight.  And weight loss advertising seems to be everywhere, especially in these new year’s publications

Do your students know how to analyze/read/deconstruct print ads? I have previously written about how to do just that for (a website for middle grades parents and educators.)  Here is one worksheet that you might use with your students: it includes some good starting questions for them to consider.

Presented here are some resources, ads, and activities that will encourage young people to use “critical thinking skills” as it relates to these persuasive forms of advertising.  Since teaching ad technique and awareness is in most state’s health teaching standards, these ads are perfect for use in classroom settings. If you have comments, please send them to me:


In early December 2003, the Federal Trade Commission issued new guidelines to the media about accepting advertisements for weight loss products which may be deceptive in their claims. Read how the media covered the story.

FTC Advice issued December 2008: Have some healthy skepticism. Consumers can learn how to spot health scams, such as fake cancer cures and bogus weight loss products, and do some research on buying generic drugs, Lasik eye surgery, and using dietary supplements. Consumers can learn about rights they may not even know they had – like the right to obtain a copy of prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses at ( See also the FTC website: Red Flag: Bogus Weight Loss Claims)

Presented below are several ads for educators/parents to consider using.  Use of these ads in this context does not imply any deception. Rather I invite educators/parents/students to use media literacy concepts and critical thinking questions and apply them to these ads.

Typical ads for analysis & deconstruction (many located on web pages)

SLIMFAST-ENT-RR PS16_CleanEating_300x150_Banner_14521774258728 weight loss

 FTC Fake WebSite for Student evaluation:  FatFoe

Recent news articles/research:

Diet apps are peddling plans that may cause deadly weight loss. (January 2021)
TikTok Bans Ads for Diet Pills; Restricts Other Weight Related Ads (Nov. 2020)
Celebrity Ads for Diets Should Be Banned (November 2019)
Instagram & Facebook Ban ‘Miracle’ Diet Posts (November 2019)
Spotting Fake Celebrity Endorsements in Ads (October 2016)
Public Deceptions: Diet Lies from Social Media (March 2016)
How Far Can Companies Stretch The Truth In Ads
(Sept. 2014)
FTC Fines Marketers for Deceptive Claims (July 2014)
Dieters beware: Those before-and-after weight-loss photos aren’t always legit (February 2014)

FTC cracking down on deceptive weight-loss ads (January 2014)

 VIDEOS:  If Celebrity Diet Ads Were Honest (Cracked)
If Diet Ads Told The Truth
The Truth Behind Diet Advertising

 Vintage Weight Loss Ads
 Diet companies now targeting men
Fake weight-loss ads on Web lead to FTC settlement  (March 2012)
 Viral Video Reveals Dramatic Before & After Infomercial Diet Tricks (Feb. 2012)
Why Weight-Loss & Diet Commercials Are Dangerous (Jan. 2012)
 New Year Brings New Diet-Company Ads, Programs
Jenny Craig Ends Ad Campaign After Lawsuit
Weight Watchers sues Jenny Craig for Bertinelli ad
Marketers of Unproven Weight-Loss Products Ordered to Pay Nearly $2 Million (Jan. 2010)
FTC wants more scrutiny of weight-loss ads (July 2009)
New Year, New Round of Diet Programs
Internet Marketers of Dietary Supplement for Weight Loss Agree to Pay $150,000  (Dec. 2008)
Before & After Ads Lead to Bias (Nov. 2008)
TrimSpa’s Ads Change After Anna Nicole
Claims in diet-pill ads are too good to be true, FTC
Sellers of Popular Weight Loss Supplements Pay $25 Million Over FTC Allegations of Deceptive Advertising
Diet ads under scrutiny
FTC To Require Four Weight Loss Pill Companies To Change Ads And Pay Penalties
 What You Need to Know About Weight-Loss Programs (Jan.2007)
 Americans fall prey to weight-loss supplement hype (Oct.2006)
How adolescent girls interpret weight loss advertising (July 2006)
FTC to start naming bogus ad broadcasters
Diet & Hype (Newsweek March 2006)
“Before and After” diet ads not fair on obese people: Study
FTC Stops Bogus Ads for ‘Bio Trim’ and Other Weight-loss Products (Nov.2005)
This diet pill contains saturated advertising (July 2005)
Diet pill use on the rise among teenage girls (May 2005)
FTC Sees Drop in Ads with False Weight-Loss Claims( April 2005)
Weight Loss Ad Claims Disputed, Study (Dec.2004)
Diet ads promote stereotypes
 Miracle-Diet Ads Lie? Well, Duh! (TIME)
Weighing the evidence in diet ads

Download  Soloflex Ad (August 2006)

Online ad for TIMSPA featuring before and after shots of actress/model Anna Nicole Smith.
(I don’t know who they’re trying to fool, but the picture on the left was obviously taken years earlier)

small print above reads:
*The “546% weight loss” claim is based soley on Zantrex-3’s active weight-loss
component. However, Zantrex-3’s non-ephedrine, xanthine-based Super Stimulant TM
has been shown to produce additional weight loss in some studies.
+For full study details visit



Share this page:
Contact Frank W. Baker

Invite Frank W. Baker - one of the nation’s leading Media Literacy Experts - to your School, District or Conference