Before this week, I’d have said that nothing steams my clams as much as a pseudoscientific scammy ‘wellness’ product flogged at a desperate and largely illiterate public.
That was until some underemployed knob-bag came onto my FB page to try and promote their pseudoscientific scammy ‘wellness’ product.
Aside from the fact that a person who loses all their body fat is a) dead or b) rapidly on their way to being dead, there are few products on the market that work to metabolise fat without a caloric deficit induced by either dietary restriction or exercise that also don’t cause… well, a person to be rapidly on their way to being dead. Suffice to say, ‘fat burners’ don’t really work unless you’re already at a caloric deficit, and even then their benefit is marginal at best. (Also, why spend money on something that offers marginal benefit when eating a smaller quantity of the food you already like to eat is not only free, but cheaper than what you’re doing already?)
So I posted it up on my personal Instagram. It’s basically an account for me to quarantine my boring-ass running shit away from my Facebook, to the relief of friends and family. The shit-stirrer in me thought to include some incendiary little tags. (No regrets: rugby training is long, and I’d got through all my marking.)
Enter successfuljon: a man so in love with the shitty wares he hawks that he doesn’t look at the photo he likes, or its accompanying caption.
Granted, bots and MLM spammers on Insty are definitely not looking at most of the stuff they comment on. They’re bots (or at best, very, very brainless people). They exist to respond to any command and to perpetuate their shitty product. I hypothesised that surely if my actual image was truly offensive to them – perhaps by outright stating that the products fellated hoofed animals – I’d get a different reaction. Using my very worst MS paint skills, my phone, and the 17% battery I had left, I set about testing that hypothesis.
Turns out that MLM coaches, bots and scammers will froth for *any* mention of their product – no matter how inflammatory, insulting and borderline libellous your content is.
After all this, I had numerous accounts follow me, all by shady ‘wellness’/’entrepreneur’ coaches. My experience with watching terrible ‘wellness’ promoters online and in the media had already informed me that most self-labelled entrepreneurs are either a) people shelling out lots of money to hucksters like B School, which exists to take money off photogenic yet underemployed young women who want to be the next Belle Gibson, or b) contestants on The Bachelorette. Many were silent on their involvement in MLMs, but others promoted their involvement with companies like It Works!, Isagenix, Herbalife or Visalus with pride. Like this sickening display of Pepto-Bismol failure at life:
I could launch into explaining why MLM products don’t work, but I won’t. Other people have done a corkingly good job of ripping apart the claims of MLM wellness products by corporations like It Works!, Herbalife, Isagenix, Monavie and Visalus. If you’re coming to this page on account of googling these products, start with these links – suffice to say, they’re not the only reason why you shouldn’t buy into this stuff.
I could launch into explaining why MLMs are stunningly bad on a business front – except that once again, people with more money than $400 in their bank account have also addressed this. And you can read about it here, here, here, here and here.
The big issue I have about it is that ultimately, scammy supplements and ‘wellness products’ that sell for a high price are exploitative, and in an environment where people are so poorly informed about health and nutrition, it makes me angry that very little is done legislatively or socially to discourage pseudoscience.
People are rightly and reasonably confused about the mechanisms of weight loss because so much shitty, conflicting information (and shitty, ineffective products and systems) floods the market and makes decision making hard. As with most evidence-based preventative health measures, the answer is always the most cost-effective: just like wearing sunscreen and clothing with good coverage to prevent skin cancer and getting free or subsidised vaccines to prevent debilitating, lethal and contagious diseases, eating a slight caloric deficit and getting exercise can be cheap or even free. And though I may disagree with many of the principles of HAES and fat acceptance, I ardently agree with them that there is a multi-billion dollar economy designed at selling ineffective or dangerous products to overweight people. And these products play into it, and play a role in the harm of obesity in society. Even worse, MLMs are predicated on manipulative social marketing and the relationships between friends, relatives and sellers becomes complicated; at least nobody is forcing you to walk into a supplement or ‘wellness’ store to buy expensive products that won’t help you lose weight.
Diet pills, ‘weight loss wraps’, fat burners and other products that don’t have an evidence base are costly, both financially and psychologically. Their failure to work further disappoints those who feel that weight loss is physically impossible, and poor experiences with products that don’t work provides a disincentive to repeat dieters to find a means of losing weight. It undermines the relationship between patient and doctor, and makes it harder to have a productive, supportive and pastoral dialogue about the role of excess adiposity in overall human health. It promotes the idea that optimal health is only possible with supplements (nope), “clean eating” (yeah nah), expensive organic/vegan/superfood products (not even), and that caloric intake plays no role in human body fat storage and use (come on bro).
I certainly don’t blame people who’ve tried or at one point sold MLM products briefly; the social pressure to support a friend’s “business” is often overwhelming, and the critical literacy required to question a dodgy looking before-and-after pic is something we don’t really teach in school. To me, there’s very little to differentiate these people from frightened parents who fall for anti-vaccine science, or the terminally ill who fall for the lies of naturopaths and fraudulent programs like Gerson therapy. But it means we absolutely should be harsher and offer less social approval and tolerance to those who profiteer. Higher level MLM scammers are just as bad as the Hulda Clarks and Anthony Williams of the world, and unfortunately our innate societal politeness and unwillingness to draw opprobrium for criticising fraudulent beliefs just allows them to fester.
So next time a friend makes a coy comment about “PMing them” for help with weight loss or “a healthier lifestyle”, or promotes a certain pill, wrap or shake, don’t be afraid to ask them for evidence. Don’t be afraid to link to critical articles about how these things don’t work. And most of all, don’t feel bad for calling out those pastel-background, inspirational quote assholes who hide their shady-ass basic bitch MLM proclivities behind Maya Angelou quotes.
Righteous indignation probably does burn some calories, after all.