A friend of mine recently asked me to look into an offer she had received about buying a new weight loss supplement package. As I read the details of her email I began to realize that what she had been offered was the far fetched end of a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) scam (or a type of pyramid scheme). An acquaintance of hers had bought into a popular MLM that sold a “revolutionary” weight loss product that consisted of meal replacement shakes, herbal cleansers, and numerous other magic pills that guaranteed amazing results within a week. This acquaintance was now trying to sell off his poor investments to friends and trying to convince them that the product works wonders. You may have come across such advertisements or emails promising such things, and I thought I might shed some light on what a Multi-Level Marketing Scheme is, as well as the reality of these so called weight loss miracle products.
How does Multi-Level Marketing Work?
A company hires distributors to sell their products and to recruit more distributors. Each new distributor is encouraged to bring in his own new recruits. When a distributor sells a product he makes a commission from that sale. Also, when a recruit of his makes a sale, he takes a small percentage of that sale as well. So let’s say that you decide to recruit two of your best friends to help you sell a packaged product for $100. When you sell your $100 package you get a commission from that sale. When your friends sell their packages, they get a commission as well, but part of that commission goes to you (because you’re above them in the pyramid). If each of these two friends now go and recruit two more people, then you make a percentage of the new recruits as well. Sounds good doesn’t it? Well, the fact of the matter is that such “business models” have a very little effectiveness because they collapse when the pyramid gets too big. People realize that the commissions are so small that they have to sell hundreds or thousands of products in order to make a decent cash earning. Bu by the time they realize this, they’ve already been suckered into investing so much of their money into the company (usually in the form of monthly fees or stock).
But now let me get into the actual product that was being sold in this pyramid scheme – weight loss supplements. First and foremost I want to go on record saying that supplements can work but only if they are used properly with the right exercise and nutritional program. Without exercise and nutrition, supplements have little to no effect. Also, based on your body type, fitness goals, exercise level and intensity, and daily eating habits, will you achieve certain results with the right type of supplements. In this pyramid scheme the supplements were being sold for about $300 and included meal replacements, herbal laxatives and cleansers, and other pills that were possible hunger suppressants. When I went on their website and read the disclaimer (fine print) it said the following:
“The weight loss testimonials presented apply only to the individuals depicted, cannot be guaranteed, and should not be considered typical. An unpublished 2008 university study showed a statistically significant weight loss of 7 lbs during the first 9 days of the Cleansing and Fat Burning System.
As with any health or fitness program, a sensible eating plan and regular exercise are required in order to achieve long-term weight loss.”
$300 for 7lbs?! If the absurdity of that doesn’t turn you off then the “Earnings Disclaimer” that they posted might:
“Earning levels that appear in this publication should not be construed as representative of fixed or typical income earned with this business, nor are they intended to represent that other Associates will eventually achieve the same level of income. Income level achievements are dependent upon the individual Associate’s business skills, personal ambition, time, commitment, activity and demographic factors. “
I also researched some of the testimonials online and found that people who had bought into these programs would put very similar testimonials about the success they’ve achieved. Phrases such as “incredible results” or “It was so simple” seemed to be commonly used as if they had been taught to place it in a sales pitch. However, other people who claimed to be victimized by these schemes described them in more believable terms. They described the weight loss program as a starvation diet and included many of the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous side effects of meal replacements and laxatives. As a medical doctor I can tell you from first hand experience that people who go on these weight loss ventures do indeed suffer a great deal of physical and mental distress. And for those who do lose a drastic amount of weight in a short period of time are not truly successful, but rather uninformed because they’ve put their health at risk.
These types of weight loss products drop your calorie intake drastically. If you eat a daily diet of 2500 calories, the meal replacements can drop you down to 1000 calories or less. For this reason many people often feel fatigue, drowsiness, lack of concentration, and low blood pressure. A good drop in calories should be small (250-500) so that your weight drops at about 1-2 lbs per week. The laxatives (so called cleansers) run the risk of dehydrating you if you don’t drink enough water during the day. Also, the basic feeling of fullness that your body understands when you eat solid foods is diminished, so it interprets this as starvation. If your body thinks it’s starving, it slows down it’s metabolism and will try to store any type of energy. Guess what it stores it as – Fat. Therefore, someone may lose weight, but they lose the wrong type of weight (muscle tissue). The biggest issue with these weight loss supplements and meal replacements is that once you stop using them your body tries to bounce back, and often out of fear of going through that same process, it will store extra energy. This is why people not only gain back the weight they’ve lost, but also add on additional pounds.
The bottom line here is that losing weight and being healthy is never an overnight fix. It takes weeks, months or years to become unhealthy, therefore it can take up to the same amount of time to get back our health. We live in a society of instant gratification, so we don’t like to hear that when it comes to our health there’s no quick fix. But if we work on it on a daily basis and incorporate good eating and physical activity into our lifestyle, we can not only achieve our health goals, but maintain them for the rest of our lives.