Monday, June 13, 2011

Buyer Beware

Periodically throughout my years as a fitness professional I have been approached by people/companies asking if I would like to carry various products that could assist my clients in losing weight and getting in shape. The premise, I suppose, is that these products will help you lose weight rapidly so that you? Feel better about yourself and THEN feel better about exercising? Make you lose weight so you will not have to work so hard or maybe you won't need to exercise at all? (It also means that, as a fitness/health professional, I have an extra source of revenue that does not involve my actual time.)

I can understand wanting to lose weight quickly and wanting to see results faster but the truth is there is not yet a magic bullet to weight loss or getting in shape. For lasting results, a 1 - 2 lb weight loss per week is safe and about what you can expect if you start to watch your calorie consumption and increase your level of exercise. If you're losing more than that, chances are you are either: a) exceptional, or, b) losing water weight which you will gain back once you stop starving yourself and go back to your regular eating habits.

I can also understand, as a self-employed person who relies on giving my time for my income, wanting to add "revenue streams". Personally, I have opted to source out locally designed and produced athletic clothing and other products I think are eco-friendly to offer my clients. This is by no means a huge money-maker but I feel really good being able to offer products that I use myself and take a lot of pride in representing. 

And, as for getting in shape, it takes time to form the habit of being active or eating healthfully (studies say 66 days to form a habit of any kind) and to gain muscle mass and improve your cardiovascular system takes slow and steady work if you've been sedentary for an extended period. The best way to do it is to find an activity you really enjoy doing and start doing it. You may have to try a few--walk, jog,  do yoga classes, get a dog, join a dragon boat / softball / soccer / roller derby team! Get a Wii Fit!

But I digress, back to the "products". I get the phone call asking if I'm interested. Maybe *shrug*... but I explain that I'm not a fan of "cleanses" -- I've never heard any conclusive evidence that anyone needs them... "no, it's not a cleanse"... "ok, then what is it?"... "well, watch the videos"... ok, fine, you can't explain what it is... I go to the web site and watch 3 promotional videos that never once actually say what the product is made of -- just that it's the nutritional equivalent of a truckload of food--and will fill you up and make you lose tons of weight--and there are all manner of testimonials like "I lost 80 pounds", etc. Oddly, a disclaimer on the bottom of the opening page states:

"* Results not typical. Healthy weight loss is 1–2 lbs. per week. Results vary by amount of weight you need to lose, diet, exercise, and adherence to the program. ***** products are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Note: You should not take this product if you are pregnant or lactating, or using blood thinning medication. Please consult your physician prior to use..."

At least they're honest here. Ok, so you want me to invest in your MLM scheme with a product or products that are not only not necessary, but also not approved by the FDA (or the Canadian equivalent - Health Canada)? Righhhhtttt. I attempt to search the site further for more information--maybe I'm missing something--ingredient lists, calorie counts... anything... Nothing!

Here's how this particular distributorship works.

Now, to be fair, I didn't find any sites that said the products were not good or injured anyone. Just many, many sites talking about marketing, sales, revenue streams and bonuses, etc. This particular line (Body by Vi/Visalus--in case you hadn't figured it out yet), has all manner of bonuses and incentives--for example: when you get 3 friends to join you in "the challenge", you get your own months' supply of products free. And something about luxury car bonuses after a certain level? I would love a free car but I would love know how a company can afford to give you a BMW for selling some health products... this doesn't compute unless your product is grossly overpriced does it? (Apparently, the car is not quite free as you are offered a $600/month allowance toward your own BMW lease as long as you keep your sales up--and it only includes a certain model and you need to add their advertising).

But let's get onto some product prices. Here's a copy of text from one site I actually found with price lists:

Body By Vi Transformation Kit - The "Transformation" Kit is packed with the ultimate in shaping and nutritional ingredients to help you see and feel maximum results. This Kit contains a 30-day supply of everything needed to help transform your body for a healthier, happier you. Included in this weight loss kit: 2 (30-serving) pouches of Vi-Shape™ Nutritional Shake Mix; an assortment of our Health Flavors, to add flavor variety, and added health benefits to your shake,1 bottle of Vi-Slim™ Metab-Awake Tablets; 1 box of Vi-Trim™ Clear Control Drink Mix; 1 box of each flavor of ViSalus NEURO™ Smart Energy (Lemon Lift and Raspberry Boost flavors); and 1 bottle of our Vi-pak Omega Vitals capsules. Product Fact SheetPrice: $249.00/month

Firstly, what the heck is a "shaping ingredient"?

It does also come with on-line support, etc. But $250 (rounded up a dollar) per month for 2 daily shakes and vitamins with a safe weight loss of 1 - 2 lbs/week that you could do many other ways without paying this premium for and without starving yourself?

Personally, I like to know what's in my "meal replacements". I often have a smoothie in place of a meal when I'm too busy to make something else, and will include frozen fruit, wheat germ, yogurt, almond milk and a banana. You could also include things like protein powder (though I don't see this as necessary for the majority of people) flax, soy/hemp/coconut milk, hemp hearts, vegetables... the list is endless, totally customizable to your own body and resources and, once you have a routine down for doing it, relatively inexpensive and easy. Here's a link to 101 Protein Shake Recipes!
That's not the pretty, tidy little package that could arrive at your door complete with a box of promises and additional revenue stream for whomever sold it to you but, with the money you save, you could invest in a few months of an exercise class to get you into an active habit, monthly sessions with a personal trainer to keep you on track, or a good bike to ride to buy your shake supplies at the local grocery!

(If you are considering any extreme diet modification and/or diet products I strongly urge you to go over the ingredients/plans with your doctor to ensure the product/plan is safe for you.)

Ed: Well, this post was marked "spam" by someone on FB. I stand by this post--I did as much research as I possibly could and posted only after long consideration and due diligence. I absolutely invite you to comment with your experiences--good, bad or indifferent. I would love to hear more points of view on this product or any other diet products you may have tried!

Ed2: One of my readers also noted that this company is not a member of the Direct Selling Association which companies such as Avon, Shaklee, Tupperware and others belong to - check out Thanks Melina!

Another thread on ViSalus at:


WJ said...

Thank you for this blog. My friend's wife started selling it and I just started getting into a workout routine so I thought about it. However the more research I do the shadier it seems. I know enough about the human body to know that if you replace a meal with a 'shake' but don't stick with it your weight gain after quitting will be huge! Metabolism is something you can mess up quite quickly, so I'm going to stick with my work out routine and keep eating what I eat so that my body can adjust accordingly.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for the information. It was very informative. It seems as if the company has taken over the internet with their positive only reviews.

Laura said...

I just came across this post and wanted to add... becoming a member of the DSA is not a difficult thing. Many illegal pyramids were members of the DSA before they were taken down. I'm not saying Vi is a pyramid, just that being a member of the organization doesn't always mean they are legitimate!

Verna said...

Thanks for your comments! I haven't checked back in a while but really appreciate feedback!