So there’s this ad on the radio that trumpets the claim, “You’re not fat… you’re bloated.” Yes, it seems we’ve been blaming those expansive paunches on things like overeating, poor diets and lack of exercise. Turns out that it’s not our fault and there’s a magic pill or supplement that will deliver a flat stomach in a fraction of the time it took you to construct that belly.

Apparently there is undigested fat just “laying” there in your stomach— described quite crudely as sludge— that is making people look fat when they are just bloated. I am willing to concede that there are stomach issues that cause bloating. I even respect that there are doctors and nutritionists who address this problem with suggestions on what foods you should and shouldn’t eat, as well as medicines and supplements that might ease bloating.

On the other hand, an effort to convince people that they can blame being overweight, even obese, on bloating verges on ludicrous. Go online and check out the photos of “bloated” people whose stomach sludge apparently causes their thighs, hips and other parts of their bodies to balloon into folded fat and you’ll understand the absurdity. Part of the psychology in convincing people that obesity can be “cured” without months, even years, of diet and exercise is to assure them that it isn’t their fault. Again, there are some of us who gain weight when other don’t on essentially the same diet. That is a metabolism issue and that is a whole other science.

However, losing weight in a healthy manner does require self-discipline, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s not fair, of course, that some of us gain weight much more readily that others and, worse yet, that it is so much harder to take off those extra pounds.

It’s the new year, unleashing an annual advertising assault by manufacturers of fitness equipment, gyms and marketers of magic bullet supplements and diets. What better time of the year to take advantage of a desperate and substantial population? More that 35 percent of American adults qualify as obese, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and almost 70 percent of us (as many as 75 percent of men) are overweight

There is a range of healthy body weight whatever your height. For instance, a male who is five-feet-nine inches tall could weigh between 125 and 168 pounds depending on his build and lean muscle mass, and not be overweight. Most of us know when we are carrying around an extra 15 to 20 pounds, and that means we are overweight. Add another 10 to 20 pounds and you are entering the realm of obesity.

What other demographic group is comprised of that much of the adult population? You can’t blame people in the fitness and nutrition industries for aggressively marketing their products. As someone who has fought the battle of the bulge for most of my adult life, I think it is a good thing to give people hope that they can optimize their health by losing weight. However, taking advantage of people who have reached the point where they will try just about anything, including surgery, to lose weight is something else. It’s the old maxim: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

We’re all on diets, because the general definition of diet is whatever we eat or drink in a typical day or week. It is a word that wasn’t used much until after we became industrialized. The definition most of us think of today when someone mentions the word “diet” is a regulated program designed to maintain a healthy weight or, more likely, to lose weight.

It’s tough sorting out what is best for you, who is really out to help you and who is just out for a fast buck.

The eight most popular weight-loss diets in the U.S. at the start of the previous year were, according to Medical News Today: Atkins, the Zone Diet, the Vegetarian Diet, the Vegan Diet, Weight Watchers, South Beach, the Raw Food Diet and the Mediterranean Diet.

However, when U.S. News & World Report called upon a panel of health experts last year to rate 38 diets, only the Mediterranean Diet and Weight Watchers were in the top five (tied for fourth). Jenny Craig came in at No. 10. The criteria of these ratings included being “relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease.”

The vegetarian diet placed 13th and Nutrisystem and South Beach managed to make the top 20, sort of, as part of a three-way tie for 18th.