Do you believe in magic? In August, Canadian weight-loss chain Herbal Magic declared bankruptcy and shut its central and eastern Canada locations. The weight-loss program consists of a low-calorie diet and the services of personal health coaches who are not required to have any education or experience in nutrition or fitness. They are salespeople pushing dubious weight-loss supplements, which cost hundreds of dollars per month. Some other weight-loss companies are ethical and use legitimate methods, but there are too many like Herbal Magic that appeal to our desire for a quick and easy solution. Fat-blocking pills, cleansing powders or vitamin injections should raise a red flag in your mind when you’re shopping for ways to lose weight. There’s no magic pill.
Shysters, hucksters, charlatans – call them what you will. They are unscrupulous. The diet, fitness, and beauty industries have plenty of them. From malls to media, it’s hard to avoid them. They prey on our insecurities. You need a healthy dose of skepticism to avoid being bamboozled by these experts of deception.
I was recently lured into a beauty products shop in Florida by a young saleswoman offering free samples. She dabbed some cream under my left eye then held up a mirror.
“You look five years younger!” she squealed with delight.
Was a miracle in the making? I stared at my reflection and shrugged my shoulders. There was no visible difference between the left and right sides of my face. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a free sample, but, since I’ve been duped by similar trickery in the past, I’ve learned my lesson. I was just curious to hear what she had to say. She relentlessly continued her pitch. She tried to convince me I needed three creams, which, she claimed, were the best on the market and had a value of $1,000 U.S., but she’d let me have them for only $500. I’d had enough and stood up to leave. In a final bid to win me over and earn her commission, she told me she’d give me the VIP price of $240.
“I’ll think about it,” I said as I finally skedaddled out of the shop.
A skilled salesperson can make a compelling argument for any product. If you are channel surfing and come across shopping channels or infomercials, you’ll notice that whatever wrinkle cream, exercise machine or slimming aid is being touted, it’s the best thing ever invented. How about a belt that jiggles away your belly fat while you relax; an age-defying lotion that makes your double-chin disappear; or an exercise video that, in just weeks, transforms you from a shlub into an Adonis?
Remember the ThighMaster? Spokeswoman Suzanne Somers convinced me and millions of other people to buy it back in the 1990s. I looked up the old promotional videos on YouTube and realized what an ill-informed and naive consumer I was back then.
“I used to do aerobics until I dropped. Then I discovered ThighMaster,” declares Suzanne Somers. She goes on to say, “It’s quick. It’s easy.” Then a surgeon appears and explains that when “these muscles get out of shape, the result is flabby thighs.”
I Googled the doctor and discovered he was an ophthalmologist. What do eyes have to do with thighs? His irrelevant area of expertise was not the real issue. Any medical doctor should have basic knowledge of physiology. Weak adductor (inner thigh) muscles do not cause fat to appear just as strengthening those muscles will not significantly reduce the fat. You can’t spot reduce fat. If you want to decrease your overall body fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume (eat less, move more). Later in the video, a series of exercises for different parts of the body is briefly demonstrated. Hmmm, all those exercises don’t sound as quick and easy as Suzanne said.
Have we become smarter consumers since then? Many of us still take health and wellness advice from models and actors, and we’re spending more than ever on products to improve our appearance. Our quest for beauty and eternal youth keeps us trapped in a vicious cycle of wasting money on products that don’t deliver and we remain dissatisfied with ourselves. If you want to improve or maintain your health, fitness or appearance, ignore whatever sounds too good to be true. Put in the time and effort to make the changes you desire. And, if you can’t change something, accept it. A wrinkle never killed anybody.