Looking to get fit or lose weight in 2017? Here’s what you need to know

VICTORIA, Texas–For many of us, the New Year represents a clean slate and a chance to fulfill personal goals. If your New Year’s resolution is to get fit, you are not alone.

While some people may sign up for a gym membership, others may consider participating in weight loss programs or purchasing heavily promoted diet products. However, before you join a gym, fitness center or a weight-loss program, Better Business Bureau advises you to research your fitness options carefully. Joining a gym often means signing a contract, and not all contracts are the same.

In 2016, BBB processed more than 8,750 complaints against fitness centers, gyms and health clubs nationwide. More than 700 complaints were filed by consumers in Texas, and most complaints reported service and sales issues.

If you are looking to join a gym or fitness center, BBB advises you:

Check with BBB. Before signing a contract, research the gym at bbb.org to view its BBB Business Profile, which shows any history of complaints, customer reviews and any advertising issues. Take a tour of the facility. Check the cleanliness of the facility and check that the gym equipment is in good condition. It may be a good idea to tour the gym at the time of day you will be using the facility to make sure the number of people there at that time will not limit your activities. Don’t give in to sales pressure. Walk away from clubs that pressure you to sign a contract on the spot. BBB recommends taking a sample contract home to review before making a decision. Review the contract thoroughly before signing. Make sure the contract lists all services and fees, and any promises made by the gym. Find out what is included in the monthly membership fee and what will cost extra. Also, inquire about their cancellation policy, and be sure to get this information in writing.

BBB also urges consumers to beware of deceptive weight loss claims and misleading advertisements. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has discovered hundreds of dietary supplements containing drugs or other chemicals, often in products for weight loss.

In 2016, BBB processed more than 3,300 complaints against health and diet products nationwide. More than 200 complaints were filed by Texas consumers. Most complaints reported problems with billing and services. Consumers also alleged false advertising and high-pressure sales tactics were used.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid misleading weight loss claims:

Seek advice. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends talking with your health care provider about your weight and ways to lose weight before committing to a weight-loss regime. Ask your doctor about safe and effective ways to control your weight suited best to your lifestyle and metabolism. Significant weight loss should not be undertaken without competent medical supervision. Beware of tricky ads. Some red flags in advertisements include very small print, asterisks and footnotes, and before-and-after photos that seem too good to be true. Watch out for false claims that promise weight loss in specific problem areas of your body and statements such as, “lose 30 pounds in 30 days!” Also, watch out for buzzwords like “breakthrough,” “secret,” “exclusive” or “miraculous” in advertisements. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Seek proof. Be cautious of vaguely worded testimonials that cannot be verified. Testimonials should never serve as a substitute for scientific proof of a program or product’s efficiency. Watch out for fake news websites. If the weight-loss product is advertised on a news website it must be legitimate, right? Scammers exploit your trust by using the logos and information from well-known businesses, news organizations or government agencies to set up fake websites. The website may sell or refer you to a weight-loss product with a “money back guarantee.” Legitimate news organizations don’t endorse products