06/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

I Think I Got Scammed by the Acai Berry Thing

Dear Dr. Dayton
I think I got scammed by the whole acai berry weight loss thing. I am always trying to lose those ten extra pounds that everyone tries to lose and the ten more I gained since I was let go from my job due to cutbacks. So I signed up for a couple of free offers and suddenly I seem to be nearly a thousand dollars in debt. My husband is furious with me and I am feeling like a real idiot. Please share my story to protect other people.
-Feeling Stupid in Wisconsin

I will start by printing your story and then respond to the deeper layers of self medicating emotional stress with food. Thanks for sharing this, hopefully it will help all of those who are also feeling stupid somewhere or another, you can bet you are not alone.

FSIW writes:
"This is basically how it went. I saw all of these adds for how you could lose weight the natural way by cleaning out your system with something called "Power Flush" and then taking "Acai Berry" . They made a free offer for $5.95 for each one and they used Dr. Oz and Oprah in their adds so it looked like a legit kind of thing. Anyway here's how I got caught and I think it's really wrong. They sent me the free offer of each then I started getting these pills in the mail and my card was being charged like $65.00 for each. They sent three of each acai berri AND Power Flush which cost almost $400.00 in total and there wasn't any phone number or web site or anything that I could call in the envelop. I tried to get their phone number from information but they had no listing at all. Finally in the next batch I got a number. I called it and got someone in India who said I was too late to cancel the first batches and maybe I could close the account for the next ones. I am so confused and feel so frustrated and now I have spent at least $400.00 that I can't get back and don't even really have to spend and maybe twice that much. I feel kind of ashamed that I didn't figure this out. They said I didn't read the fine print but honestly the add made it sound like this came with no strings attached, the fine print must have been at the very bottom of the longest page I have ever well never scrolled down and using Oprah and Dr. Oz made it all seem like they were involved in it and it was OK. Please share my story so people will know what they are getting into when they sign up for this stuff."

Thank you for getting past enough of your shame to be brave enough to share this. Try not to beat yourself up, we all get taken sometimes. Let's see if we can find the silver lining here for you and use it as a wake up call to make some positive life style changes that are really long lasting, empowering and really are FREE!

The recession has put a lot of people under a lot of stress. It's a common thing to manage emotional and psychological stress with self medicating behaviors. I am seeing a lot of this in my work in the addictions field. People are reaching for their "go to" medicator whether it be food, alcohol, drugs, sex or even spending. Tough times sometimes require extra discipline. Because of all of the stress you're experiencing it's easy to reach for your "go to" way of soothing yourself and calming down. I think you'll feel a lot better about yourself if you can take some positive actions to turn your eating around.

This week instead of self medicating with food try cutting food portions down by a large percent, making healthier food choices and taking a brisk walk for thirty minutes each day. Look for an Overeaters Anonymous OA meeting in your area so that you can share about your feelings of frustration and anxiety rather than "feeding your feelings". I think you will feel a lot better about yourself in a week if you take these actions. This is a positive way to use the extra time you have now and these are actions that will be much more beneficial to you in the long run. Sometimes the "quick fix" isn't quick at all and the slow but steady solution, which in this case actually is FREE is what really wins the race. Good luck and thanks again for sharing this!